Being a concert photographer is like being the smart kid in school: nobody likes you and other nerds—in this case, other concert photographers—compete for your GPA (Great Photo Access). Sure, us nerds have little stickers or paper bracelets that allow cameras into the venue, but most of us have to frantically prove we're supposed to be on the list before anyone hands the credentials.
Enter: Johnny-Concert-Goer who rocks out with his iPhone out during the entire show. If I'm lucky, Johnny only spills beer on my shoes. After the show, you cool kids stumble back to the parking lot with dead cell phones full of blurry pics and shaky videos with horrible audio.
I'm the only chance you have for seeing decent live shots of the band after the show, so why not play nicely? Here's a plea from your friendly concert photographer on how to avoid becoming a concert bully:
Sometimes there isn't a designated photo pit for your friendly concert photographer, which means I must enter 'your' pit and risk pissing you off in order to get my shots. I get it—you stood in a line for over 5 hours to make sure Trent Reznor can see your NIN tattoo, and now someone with a camera is going to sabotage your chance of making eye contact with him. I am aware you think you own the ground beneath your feet, but I only need a decent view of the stage for three songs. It won't kill you to refrain from elbowing me or—better yet—if you can see over my head, allow me stand in front of you for, like, three minutes.
Don't Pick a Fight
Please don't headbutt my 70-200mm lens (i.e.: the long one) and blame me for clunking you in the head. If I wanted to purposely piss you off, and ruin my equipment, I can think of more creative ways than to whack you in the head with over $5k of camera parts while you drunkenly headbang. No matter how many Instagram followers tell you you're pretty, right now you are sloppy-drunk, unaware of your limbs, and half of your mascara has been removed by other people's sweat—so let's call a truce to avoid a cat fight.
Let Me Out
Trust me: I am not trying to steal your spot, brah. If you see me under your chin, trying to shimmy my way out of a crowded pit with a 12-pound bag teetering on my shoulder and a DSLR held high above my head, please take one step back so I can get the hell out. I am not trying to be unreasonable—I know it's crowded—but you can spare a few inches, so please back up instead of purposely cementing your stance and refusing to move.
Don't Ask Favors
Please don't ask me to remove things like set lists or guitar picks from the stage. If you are in the front row and I purposely don't make eye contact or small talk with you while I am waiting for the band to go on stage, it's because I don't feel like being asked to balance my equipment so I can take a photo of you and your bestie with your iPhone or put your beer/purse/poster on the other side of the rail. It's bad enough I have to feel obligated to toss an inflatable beach ball back into the crowd in order to avoid being boo-ed by you animals, so don't ask favors, I can't get you backstage.
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Quit Giving Me The Stink Eye
I get it—I'm standing closer to the stage than you are, therefore you hate me until I'm escorted out of the pit and you resume being the alpha male/female of your headspace. Sure, I got into the venue for free in order to pursue a job I love, but I am earning below minimum wage (after you factor in an hourly rate) and—after you pass out on your couch—my job is only half-complete. After the show, I review hundreds of photos, edit and upload the selects, and—on top of that—possibly write a review for you to piss on when you wake up.
As for the concert photogs who act like pompous VIPs (that's what happens when you're used to being teacher's pet), security will knock them from their mini-step-ladder thrones one chord into the 4th song.