Hey, Photographer, Get Off the Stage!

By David A. Barber
Author of Gigging, Everything You Need to Know About Playing Gigs (Except How to Play Your Axe)


This one is aimed more at Photographers and Videographers than musicians, but since musicians commonly invite these guys/gals to shoot, I’m including it here.

Time and time again we see these wannabe big-shot photographers and video guys jump up on the stage while the band is playing and start shooting.  They all get really annoyed when we ask them to get off the stage as if we’re disrupting their constitutional right to get a certain shot (commonly of the drummer). We calmly explain to them that the people in the audience have not paid to watch a photographer’s butt, they paid to watch the band.  As a representative of the venue, we are more concerned with the show happening on stage right now than how cool the video will look on youtube later on, or how likely the photographer is to get the shot in some crappy online magazine.

If they argue, we go on to explain to them then that we have taken ten of thousands of photos in the very same venue and never once had to get on the stage, much less kneel down in front of the lead singer. Additionally, we explain, how many actual professional photographers we know, who actually do get their shots published in the Rolling Stone, or wherever, and not one of them ever had to jump up on the stage.

These pros rarely venture into the clubs, as they are far too busy shooting national acts at Red Rocks or other amphitheaters/arenas/festivals.  They also are acutely aware that they would likely be blacklisted from the arena if they ever dared to venture out on to the stage.

The fact that you, photographer, think you need to get on stage to get that shot only proves that you are not a very good photographer.

Please don’t ask if we can turn up the lights, so you can get a better shot.  If you want the respect of the venue, do what the pros do: Get great shots with whatever you have available. If you can’t get good shots using the available light, then learn some more about your camera, lenses, and photography in general.

We also routinely have to get photographers down from having climbed up on barstools, tables, bars, etc. because they feel they need to get up higher to get a  good shot.  We have actually yanked these guys off of chairs after they ignored polite requests. The point here: Do what the venue personnel tell you to do.  The band does not own, operate or control the venue.  They don’t pay the extra insurance costs associated with drunk people falling off things and they don’t have to answer to the lawyers after a customer has tripped over your extension cord and hurt himself.

Teams of video guys are even worse, there are commonly a half dozen of them and they run all over the place including all over the stage trying to shoot stuff.

To the bands/musicans: If you need a video shoot, schedule it for some time when the club is closed, then we don’t care about the show and you can have the video guys bring in truckloads of gear and lights, etc. and have them run all over the stage or wherever.  In fact, this is how the professional video guys do it.  They bring a huge boom and all kinds of gear and the end result is an MTV quality music video.  You aren’t gonna get that with a pack of morons carrying handheld video cameras.

At the very least, please ask the venue manager first before unleashing an onslaught of photogs and video geeks to capture your performance.  We are happy to accommodate your photography/video needs as long as it doesn’t distract from the performance, impose on our customers or cause a safety hazard.