I’ve loved going to see live music since I was 13. My first show was the band, Toadies, at some random nightclub in Orlando, Florida. I knew right from the start that I wanted to go to as many concerts as possible, and I’ve done my best to succeed at that goal ever since. Take into account my love for photography, and it only makes sense to mix the two together. And now I am proud to say I’m a concert photographer.

Since becoming a concert photographer, I’ve had tons of people asking about how I get into these shows with my camera. Because, as you all know, there’s usually a sign outside the entrance that says something along the lines of “No professional camera equipment allowed”.

The short answer to this question: I get in because I have a photo pass. But, I know it’s how I got my photo pass that most people are interested in, so I decided to write this blog post.

And then I got the idea – what if I turned it into a series?

I can share my experiences with my audience and maybe even help some of you get into shows on your own. Believe me, there’s tons of opportunity out there for a concert lover with a camera, especially if you’re willing to shoot in exchange for entry to the show.

Of course, you’ll never get rich doing this, but it will gain you some exposure, and you’ll get to see concerts without having to pay. And in most cases, you’re much closer to the band than 99.9% of the people at the show, so that’s a pretty cool experience in itself.

It can even lead to paying gigs if you play your cards right. (I’ll talk about that in a future installment of this series.)

For now, let’s focus on the most important part – getting your foot in the door.

Wanna take professional quality photos of your favorite bands?

Machine Head - Wooly's (10.18.18)

You’re gonna need a photo pass. Here’s how to get one.

I’m not going to lie to you here.

Getting a photo pass may or may not be the wisest decision you’ll ever make. Remember, in most cases, you’ll be risking expensive camera gear in exchange for ZERO DOLLARS. Sure, you get the experience and all, but is it worth potentially breaking a camera or lens? For me, the answer is yes, but I have accidental damage coverage on my Sony A6500 and the lenses I own aren’t the most expensive on the market.

Also, your results may vary, depending on where you live. Obviously, larger cities with more concerts are going to have a higher demand for photographers. I’m fortunate to live in Des Moines where we have a good mix of both.

So, there are several methods you can use to get a photo pass – the coveted sticker that gets you in between the stage and the barrier with your camera.

Let’s take a look at them below.

Arson City - Westfair Amphitheater - 8.25.18

The Mayor of Arson City, Patrick Wilson, at Westfair Amphitheater in Council Bluffs, Iowa on 8.25.18.

How to get your foot in the door

  • Know someone in the band – Okay, this one is obvious and not always an easy task, but if you know somebody in the band, just ask them. They can almost always have someone added to the guest list with a photo pass. Good luck getting into top-tier shows using this method. If it works for you – hey! That’s awesome! But it’s usually easier to get to know a local artist. Start out by messaging their Facebook Page. You’d be surprised at the results it can yield!
  • Become a house photographer for a venue or concert promotion – This is how it all started for me. I got in contact with a local concert promoter and asked if they needed help shooting any of their shows. They did, and the rest is history! But, that would have never happened if I didn’t approach them first, so be proactive about things.
  • Get a media assignment – Find a publication (online or print) that covers concerts. If they’re in need of photographers, they can usually get in touch with the right people to get you a photo pass. I also use this method – and I’ll explain how I found out about this method in a future post.
  • Contact the band’s management and/or PR rep – You’re going to have to do your homework here, and without a media pass (see above), there’s a good chance you’re going to get turned down, even if you do get in touch with the right person. But, it’s worth a shot. I’ve never gotten approved without a media assignment, but I’ve also never tried. I’d imagine lower-tier acts would be easier to get approval in exchange for shared photos. Do NOT expect to get into any well-known bands this way, though. In fact, don’t even waste your time trying – it’s not gonna happen.

So, you got your photo pass… Now what?

Godsmack - Wells Fargo Arena (7.29.18)

Godsmack at Wells Fargo Arena on 7.29.18.

I think this is a good place to say congratulations!

The hardest part is over.

You’ve got your pass, but you’re on your own for now. Get out there in the photo pit and take some banger shots! Just remember to abide by any restrictions put in place by the band, and you’ll do just fine.

And stay tuned, because I will be picking back up where I left off in the next post of this series. I’ll tell you what to expect, what to do upon arrival at the venue, and I’ll recommend some gear I think you should bring along with you – now that you know how to get it in.