Dear Fans: Please, Put Down Your Cell Phones

Atmosphere during Steve Aoki's performance at the Pageant in St. Louis on February 1, 2012. (Todd Owyoung)

This is a public service announcement and an open letter to fans who insist on shooting photos and video at concerts, despite the fact that they look awful. Dear fans: Please, put down your cell phones.

Dear Concert-Goers,

Please, put down your cell phones and stop shooting blurry photos and awful video at concerts. Wait – how rude of me. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Todd Owyoung. I'm a professional music photographer.

I've photographed everyone from Aerosmith to ZZ Top. I've been published in Rolling Stone, SPIN, the New  York Times, Billboard, and a bunch of other totally impressive-sounding publications.

This is just a friendly reminder to say: Don't worry about photographing the show with your phone. In fact, I've got it covered for you. This is my job and I swear, I'm awesome at it. So are my friends.

Let's be honest – your phone takes mediocre snap on a good day. I'm not blaming you (I, too, have an iPhone) – but your phone's camera sucks. Besides, no one behind you wants to stare at your upheld arm unless you're throwing up metal horns. And maybe not even then.

Listen. I've got the telephoto, the wide angle, and yes, even the ultra-wide angle. I've got the big ass cameras. But more to the point, I'm going to make your favorite bands look awesome.

I'm going to nail the jump shot, the stage-dive and the part where the singer is screaming and you can see spit flying out of his mouth. Even if some gets on my gear or flies into my own mouth – promise.

Go ahead, post my images to your Facebook page. Link to them on Tumbr. In fact, make them your desktop background. I'm psyched already.

After all, I do it for you, the fans. My job is to make the images you love of the bands you love, even if it means you steal them. But whatever you do, just please, put down your cell phone. You might just enjoy the rock show a little more.


Todd Owyoung
Professional Music Photographer

End Notes

You know this is just in good fun, guys. The proliferation of cell phones with cameras means that they're a constant fixture at concerts – this is evident to any fan at a show. At any given moment during a even a club show, there seem to be at least a dozen phones raised up. It's kind of an epidemic.

The real point of this letter is simply that if you want to hang out at your next show, and raise up the devil horns instead of your phone, or hold a beer instead of being glued to your phone all night long, go ahead. Music photographers all over the world have probably got you covered.

As Rob Zombie put so eloquently at a show I shot, “Let me show you how to be a badass. Put your cell phone down and put it in your pocket. You can watch shitty videos of this on YouTube anytime you want later.”


However, if you're on the other side of the fence, please check out my article how to shoot better photos with your phone:

How To Shoot Better Concert Photos With A Point and Shoot

PS: I am not actually advocating that you steal my images. But whatever.

 (Todd Owyoung)

My Camera DSLR and Lenses for Concert Photography

Nikon D750:
I use two Nikon D750 for my live music photography. Amazing high ISO performance in a compact body with tons of pro features.
nikon-24-70mm-f28-lens-squareNikon 24-70mm f/2.8:
For most gigs, the 24-70mm is my go-to lens. Exceptional image quality at wide apertures and super-functional range.
Nikon-70-200-squareNikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR:
A perfect pair to the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, I can basically shoot any job with the midrange and this lens. Superb image quality.
nikon-14-24mm-f28-lens-squareNikon 14-24mm f/2.8:
Ultra-wide perspective, ridiculously sharp even wide open at f/2.8. I love using this lens up-close and personal, where it excels.
More Gear Recommendations

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There are 90 comments

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  1. Paul Crutchley


    What a great letter, totally agree, went to see The Cult on Saturday evening and people in front off me had their phones out, annoying yes and you are right the images they produce are pretty poor.

    Thanks for highlighting this.

    • Todd

      Hey Paul,

      Thanks for the comment on this article, I appreciate it. I’m sure we’ve all been in the position you describe at a show (as a fan). Sure, taking a pic or two during a show isn’t going to hurt, but when you a sea of camera phones out hovering above the crowd, it makes you scratch your head.

  2. Danny Sambuca


    Great letter – spot on with your points!

    I swear so many people spend far too much times these days filming the gigs they are at so they can watch it back later that they actually don’t really remember or feel that they are were even actually there.

    Let the professionals get on with the work capturing great shots of your favourite bands and shows that you can enjoy and talk about later and just enjoy the show whilst you are there and you can!!

    Keep up the good work dude – always keeping tabs on your portfolio from over here in the UK!


  3. Adam

    Ah Todd!, just last night I heard a fan lay in to a tog in the pit (I think it was his first gig however and not aware of the respect to fans or others, either way he knew it was first 3 only, I could hear him muttering while SAT on the barrier so not in the way “They’ll be gone after this song” Even though the other two including myself kept well out of the fans way. Anyway I digress, this particular venue, you can get a view from side of stage ( ) after you have finished. I could see this particular gent, for the next few songs that I observed him constant filming on his phone, we were clearly blocking his view for the video, he had no enthusiasm for the show.

    • Todd

      I think you bring up a good point – the lack of enthusiasm that’s so often observed when people are shooting from the crowd. They’re often so focused on recording the event that they’re far removed from the visceral experience of the show itself, which is the whole point of live music, right?

  4. Jason

    Hmmmm. I dunno. Seems kinda futile. Cell phones have almost become an extension of our bodies. I saw a beautiful image of a sea of iphones capturing the Macy’s fireworks display. As photographer, I thought it was a really cool image that told a story about pop culture. An ironic example of how we forgoe the real thing to see it through a 4″ screen. I’m not really upset at all by this trend, more fascinated than anything. In the end, who am I to say how people should enjoy a live event. Thanks for the awesome shots and interesting articles, I’m a big fan of your work.

    • Todd

      Hey Jason,

      I agree with this completely: “In the end, who am I to say how people should enjoy a live event.” If people would prefer to shoot photos with their phone during a concert because that’s how they enjoy a live show, that’s up to them. This letter is intended as a joking suggestion – this trend of iPhonography isn’t going to change, it’s only going to become more pervasive.

  5. Reverend Justito

    It’s people like Todd who make me want to burn puppies and shit into the eye sockets of Mother Theresa. Just because you have a lil sticker that let’s you take photos of Brett Michael’s nose hair for three songs doesn’t make you special. Sure, someone sitting in the back row of whatever corporate amphitheater you shot that photo at won’t get as pretty of a shot as your fancy camera. But you know what? Give it a few years and they will have photos just as good as yours. It’s time for a new career buddy because your time is up and you know it. It’s why you wrote this letter. It’s the fact that everyone who went to the show now has the power to take their own memory from their own point of view and you are now about as useful as a one hour photo booth in the parking lot of your local strip mall. Oh and the best thing about the photos fans take? You don’t have to look at some ugly watermark.

    I would like to point out one more thing. Photos were so 20th century. We are in a new age where video is the new photo. Thanks to technology I am no longer stuck seeing just what comes through my market. I can watch my favorite bands play all over the world. If a band plays a song in Boston but not in Los Angeles I don’t have to miss out like I did 15 years ago. Now I agree that certain fans could use a few lessons as far as getting a good shot but much like the technology fans are getting better and better and creating quality live tapings.

    So look for me the next time you hit a show. I am the guy who now has an equal playing field as you. Best of luck in your next career :)

    P.S. I ALWAYS remember the joy of the show regardless of how long I watch it through a camera.

  6. Rick Priest

    I’d rather they hold them up and take pics than “Head down, well lite face, texting, SpaceBook’ing, surfing web…..” while the show is going on. See ‘m all the time, even at the rail looking at their little screen. Must piss the performers off to see this. Rude! Some front men take objection enough to say something to the abuser.

  7. Chris

    The issue with this post that you selfishly did not consider is WHY people take pictures with their phones. Avoiding the fact that it disrupts YOUR photo, it is a memory for them to look back on. Sure, the photo might not be great but whilst you are parading around your large camera (and ego) maybe consider that those fans who are not working and are thoroughly enjoying themselves would like to have something to look back on and remember that concert. I, being someone who has attended hundreds of concerts, cannot remember them all but the minute I look at a photo I took during, the set comes back to mind and I can nostalgically smile. I understand the point of this post and the frustration to you as a photographer, because I also am a professional photographer, but the days my camera is not in my hand I humbly like to be another normal concert goer and snap pictures with my iPhone for later remembrances.

    • Todd

      Hey Chris,

      Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it. This post was written in humor. I fully understand why people take pictures with their phones at concerts. After all, aside from professional photojournalists or wire photographers who get into music photography as an assignment, most live music photographers started off as fans who love gigs as much as any other fan.

      Nowhere in the post do I say that it disrupts my photos. In fact, it’s often photographically interesting to have crowd shots of people holding up their phones, which is why I have examples of this practice in the first place.

  8. Caren

    Thanks, but I prefer to take my own pictures. Yes, the pros get some fantastic shots, and yes I have major camera envy, but alas, they only shoot the first 3 songs. A lot can happen after that. And really the photos just don’t mean as much to me, if I didnt take it. There’s nothing like catching that great moment yourself, and I don’t shoot with a cell phone, I have a real (point and shoot)camera. I know my photos don’t have the same image quality as the pro shots, but I think that I have managed to get some great pictures. :)

    • Todd

      Hey Caren,

      If you love shooting photos while attending a gig, I say go for it. Believe me, I understand. Thanks for the comment and sharing your thoughts, I appreciate it.

  9. JP

    I get that this plea is a little bit of fun and a little bit of bravado while being a legit burr under your saddle – but I’m guessing that you weren’t always a professional concert photographer. There might have been a time when you were just a fan – and then one day you brought your little pocket camera to a show. OK, maybe that’s not you. Maybe that’s me. Maybe that’s a lot of folks who do it professionally now. Maybe it’s a lot of folks who read your blog with hopes of doing what you do one day. So, let’s not take a dump on the amateurs and their sub-par equipment. After all, you can’t be at every show. Someone has to pick up the slack.

    • Todd

      Hey JP,

      Thanks for your comment, I hope you read this as a little bit of fun more than anything. Part of the irony of music photographers complaining about P&S and people snapping on phones is, as you point out, that we all do it because we love music. Whether you’re a fan shooting with an iPhone or a Canon S100, or a pro in the pit, we all make images because we love live music, right?

      This is definitely not dig at anyone shooting with the gear they have available to them. I shot my first gig from the crowd with a consumer DSLR and a prime, but it might have well been an iPhone if was around.

  10. Eli T.

    I thought this was humorous in the manner it was intended, and I do agree. I myself get frustrated with my local venues on this matter on a regular basis. For me to be able to bring in just one camera I must have permission from the venue and the band management, and I understand why. I have had such prior permission and have been escorted out on multiple occasions per show only to be escorted back in with an apology but the sea of cell phones are left with no issues.

    I agree with other comments about the rise of video popularity but I must disagree that this art form is on it’s way out. The love of iconic images created in the realm of music will always be a major art form that will be sought out, not just by fans but also by the performers themselves. And when it comes to memories, hey that is what they created merch for, this way you can wear the memory any day of the week and not have to search through thousands of blurry pictures to find that one moment.

    None the less, I think the letter was very well written and I liked the humor. This will help me take a deep breath next time I am shooting a local venue and get knocked in the head by somebody and their IPhone.

    Thank you Todd, keep the awesome work coming and thanks for being an example to the rest of us.

    • Eli T.

      Oh and on a personal note, being all of 5’2″, I would prefer to watch the concert than have to stare at the numerous phone screens in the air. I think they are annoying from a fan point of view. Just sayin’.

  11. Robert

    Funny you write about this. Last Friday I went to see Amon Tobin’s “ISam” show. It was an amazing experience. For a lot of the show people had their phones up in the air. I couldn’t understand why people would pay this amount of money to see this type of show and not even really experience it. Get your face out of your phone and be in the moment, people! They were missing great moments because they were too busy concentrating on their phones. And I’ll admit, I too did take a couple photos but I as soon as I took it I put my phone away. I didn’t want to miss the show.

    Anyway, you hit the nail on the head with this one.

  12. Logan

    I’m afraid I missed the *reason* you don’t want people shooting their own pictures. You make it quite clear that you want people to stop, but why? Is it because it makes your own pictures look bad, having people holding up phones in them?

    You see, people aren’t likely taking photos at a concert to try to sell to a magazine. The major reason people like taking their own photos is that they’re capturing memories that they can use to remember later, or show their friends to prove they were really there, and that shot is actually what they were seeing.

    Looking at someone else’s photos is kind of like experiencing someone else’s memories. Sure they may be magnitudes better photos, but they lose that personal touch of the experience.

    • Jason B

      I think the point Todd is trying to make is that people can easily forget to enjoy the show that’s happening live because they’re too busy constantly snapping with their phones. He’s saying, “hey, there are pros in the pit photographing the show and you’ll be able to go back to enjoy those images later – and a bonus is that they’ll be richer images than what you could ever hope to get with your phone…so why not focus on the most important part of why you bought your concert ticket in the first place – to watch the show with your own eyes.” I am a music lover and semi-pro photographer. I guarantee that I’ll snap an image or two with my phone when I go to a show, but then I’m done and I’m focused on singing, dancing, listening, and enjoying the moment. Cheers!

  13. rj

    well, that’s the fan’s right. they can do whatever they want even if their phones are crappy. they paid for the tickets and that includes you. mind your own business and let the fans do what they want it is for our own enjoyment not yours. douche!

  14. Visakan V

    A Van Gogh gallery came to my country this year- and you won’t believe it, people were taking pictures of the paintings. That are all available online. It’s ridiculous!

    It’s like we value the evidence of an experience more than the quality of the experience itself.

    People just want to share pictures of the gig on Facebook- “Look, I was there, hah!”- and somehow this has become more important or valuable than actually enjoying the show. Experiences are collectibles now.


    nope, I fought for my tickets, I spent 5 hours, suffered through two terrible opening acts just to get to the front row to take my photos and videos of the experience. Ill shoot what I want! I can say that because…

    Ive Produced music videos been on stage w/ Paula Cole and in the pit at Willie Nelson when I helped produced the show where I caught his bandana (cause it didnt reach the crowd) but in good spirit STILL threw it back into the crowd. along with others like Korn, SM3, Queensryche and more…

    STILL some of my favorite photos however are STILL gorilla photography as a FAN NOT VIP Photog bitchin about what they want… thanks to the simple PURE “glory” of the Rockin Fan experience… & and most recently At Pearl Jam at Made In America Festival (can you find me lol) where I caught the Guitar Pic !

    What Im saying is I know your side of it enough to truly be able to say LONG LIVE THE FANS who are ROCKING… ! vs those VIPs that are being PAID to work vs those who already WORKED to earn their Rocking RIGHT to EXPERIENCE it ALL !

    amen. rock on!

  16. AnneElliot

    While I do enjoy seeing professionally taken photos of my favorite bands on websites & in magazines which have bought them they are not exactly the same as taking my own pictures at concerts which I have paid to attend. As long as the venue & band give permission for me to take photos then I should be able to take as many photos as I’d like during the show. Pardon me for not having a professional camera or a press pass or professional skills. I happen to have abilities in other areas which you might not have. Are you a licensed teacher? If not then you should leave the teaching to those of us who are and settle for taking your photos. My photos might be a little blurry and dark but they remind me of MY memories of the concerts I have attended. They capture the moments which were important to me, which I want to look back on with joy & nostalgia. I don’t take them just to show off on Facebook. I take them because they are my little part of the show which I can take home. And sometimes I have to take a lot because I want a couple of good ones & my lack of professional camera & skills mean I have to try harder & take more shots. My money for my career goes into buying other things for school, for continuing my education, for purchasing supplies. Your money goes toward your cameras & lenses, etc. When I have a little spare money & a band I love is coming to town I joyfully spend my hard-earned cash to buy a ticket. You get to go for free & then sell your photos for money. So please don’t begrudge me the right to take pictures of something I paid to attend. People who use their flashes or shove through to the front to take pictures of someone’s pores are the rude people who need to stop. I try not to get in people’s way or intrude on the stage or have the flash going off or the screen shining in the crowd. Saying we should all be content with a pro-photog’s photos, which capture the show but not our own memories, is like saying we should be content with reading stories about the shows or watching them through the windows of the venue rather than attend them ourselves. My memories are mine, from my experiences & view. I want my own photos to remind me of them. I agree that people who spend the entire time looking at their cameras & phones are missing out on the actual show. That’s their problem though. You don’t have the right to tell them they have to react a certain way. I’m really tired of the arrogance of pro-photographers.

  17. Allen Ross Thomas

    While I agree completely on photo quality and it is annoying (for us selfishly) that we shoot for 7-10 minutes and publish 20 quality photos and fans shoot the whole set and publish 300 blurry photos – fans do enjoy capturing their own images. Pictures capture memories and moments in time for them. They’ve worked hard for days, weeks, months, years maybe to pay for those tickets, fees, 12.00 beers or 5.00 waters and bless them. Live shows and merch are all that keep artists alive these days and without the fans, there would be no shows for us to shoot. You, Me or them, it is about capturing our experience with the artist.


  18. Anette

    I do agree to your comments, I too have been annoyed at all the cameras being pointed in the air blocking the view. However, as an amateur photographer it’s hard to drown out that “oh, this would make a great shot” thought. But after having gone to countless concerts and taken thousands of pictures I have discovered that unless I’m front row the photos will be crap, so I try avoiding taking any pictures unless I am front row. What I want to point out here is that my personal DSLR camera (Nikon D5100) is NOT ALLOWED into venues (unless I have a photographer’s pass, in which case I can only stay front row for the 3 first songs and then have to move to the back), and what options am I then left to capture the moment with? I bring my pocket cam for such occasions, but more often than not the phone is easiest to grab. Especially if it’s one of those “special moments”. And boy, you should see some of my pictures..

  19. Rob

    Nice article,

    Rather than stealing your photos how about this as an alternative. All photographers at gigs submit say 10 pics per gig they attend to a pool of photos that are free for use. These can then be used by people like myself who are run fan sites and often need to use these grainy pics and crappy video.

    These photos are then provided royalty free by you guys for fansites that have no official backing or budget behind them, this is in return for your ticket to the show which after all you got for free. Yes I know there is a cost in getting to the show but then you still make cash out the pics you sell.

    There obviously would need to be some kind of work involved as to who can use them so the like of Rolling Stone don’t just lift photos from the stock as well.

    What do you think? Workable?

    • Rhonda


      A ticket might be provided free to the photographer, but photo credit does not pay the electric bill, food, and the rest of the monthly bills. Professional photographers actually do this for a living. Not every photo taken is sold. Sometimes you can photograph several shows without selling a photo. Add in to the mix the time photographing, and then countless hours editing images and getting them ready to submit, paperwork, and constant emails and calls to publicists and tour managers preparing for the next show. People really have no idea what goes into photographing a concert.

    • juice

      So, just to check that I’ve got this right, you want people to give away their professional work, from which they derive income in order to live, because it would be nice to do so?

  20. Izziebell

    The irony of this article was lost on 90% of the people who read it, apparently, and I’m chuckling at everyone who’s whining about Todd’s “ego” and him violating some imaginary right to preserve their live music memories with their mobile phone cams.

    Concert photography is not amateur fan photography and the professionals spend years learning to perfect their craft. Plus, there is a very valid reason why many bands/venues don’t allow fans to take photos and this has more to do with the artist’s desire to protect their professional image than anything else – they want to be presented in the best light (pun intended) possible in the media.

    While I don’t deny that some people do manage to get very unique, interesting shots with their mobiles, I do get Todd’s point here. It’s annoying when you’re trying to shoot and some jackoff with a crappy mobile sticks his arm out in front of you and completely kills your shot(s).

    If you’re going to shoot mobile, at least learn some basic concert photography etiquette — like making sure you’re not ruining someone else’s photo/live music experience.

  21. blackshadow

    Amen Todd!

    It’s long been a bug-bear of mine.

    Yes I’m a music photographer, but first of all I’m a music lover and I go to plenty of shows without a camera and you won’t catch me waving my phone around trying to get shitty photos/videos.

  22. Shawn Perry

    This letter sounds like a plug for how awesome of a photographer Todd Owyoung is. I deal with music photographers all the time. They act like they’re doing God’s work. Sorry, but anyone can take a picture, even people with phones. While I appreciate fine photography, as a music journalist, I think writing about music requires a lot more skill and know-how. You don’t see too many people with cell phones writing reviews and interviews, now do you?

  23. Shawn Perry

    Let me add to my previous comment that digital cameras are so automated and featured-packed, that anyone with the means and desire can take great photos. I have a list a mile long of people who want to shoot for Vintage Rock, but when it comes to writers, they are far and few between. Probably because writing about music is a lot more difficult than taking pictures of it.

      • Shawn Perry

        Really? So you think the craft of writing, something you can do without a word processor or any equipment at all except a fertile imagination and the ability to put words together clearly, is that easy? I dare you to give me 2,000 words of original copy on the top five bands out of New York in the 1970s by the end of this week-end and then tell me it was as easy as snapping 50 pictures from the photo pit…

        • blackshadow

          You obviously consider the art of photography to be just having a good camera turning up and pressing the shutter button.

          Of course writing isn’t about having a decent word processor, just the same as photography isn’t about having a great camera.

          There is a huge difference between someone with a camera and a photographer. As an editor you should know this and it’s a wonder that any true photographers wish to contribute to someone who puts so little value on their skill and craft.

          • Shawn Perry

            No, you have it all wrong. I place a high value on good photography and if you were to look at my web site, you would see some exceptional rock photography. But it ain’t art or rocket science any more than writing a concert review. My initial reaction to this article was that despite his fine eye as a photographer, the writer came off as a bit of a pompous blowhard and quite frankly there are more than enough pompous blowhards running around calling themselves professional rock photographers who don’t have two nickels to rub together. I guess you’d have to be in my shoes to get the joke.

            I will say this though. It’s a lot harder to find a decent writer than it is to find a photographer. I get a dozen emails a month from photographers who want to shoot for my site, but I can’t seem to find reliable, well-versed writers as easily. You’re obviously not going to write the 2,000 word article I challenged you to write, but I’ll bet you or anyone else on this thread who’s a photographer would gladly take a photo pass and shoot a show for me, given the opportunity. I wonder why that is…

    • Jason

      Shawn. Sounds to me like you are stroking your own ego and plugging your own publication. How arrogant and misled are you to post on photography centric page about how easy photography is. You sound pretty bitter. Feel free to link us to some of your amazing photography and show us just how easy it is.

  24. Libbi Rich

    I am a pro concert photographer, but I’m replying to Todd’s post as a fan.

    I’m 5’4″ tall. Just. I’m pretty darned good at getting to a barricade, but sometimes I just don’t make it. You know what I see when that happens? The view in front of me is a sea of writing arms with glowing screens attached at the top. I’m lucky if I get a glimpse of the musicians as they move in the spaces between those arms.

    I paid for my ticket. I’m a FAN. I’ve been going to concerts for almost 40 years. I wanna see the damn show.

    So, yeah, put down your crappy cell phones or your super-duper cell phones, or your crappy and/or superduper point-and-shoots. Sure…snap one or two memory photos; then enjoy the show…isn’t that what you came for?

  25. Libbi Rich

    I am a pro concert photographer, but I’m replying to Todd’s post as a fan.

    I’m 5’4″ tall. Just. I’m pretty darned good at getting to a barricade, but sometimes I just don’t make it. You know what I see when that happens? The view in front of me is a sea of writing arms with glowing screens attached at the top. I’m lucky if I get a glimpse of the musicians as they move in the spaces between those arms.

    I paid for my ticket. I’m a FAN. I’ve been going to concerts for almost 40 years. I wanna see the damn show.

    So, yeah, put down your crappy cell phones or your super-duper cell phones, or your crappy and/or superduper point-and-shoots. Sure…snap one or two memory photos; then enjoy the show…isn’t that what you came for?

  26. Allen Ross Thomas

    Shawn –

    While I support the fans side of this very tongue in cheek “open letter” – there is not a more challenging genre of photography to shoot than live music. 10-15 mins, all manual, unpredictable lighting, performers, taking your gear to the max – all for little to no pay (regardless of the illusions we like to portray). Kudos if you are a good writer – that is equally challenging creatively.


    • Shawn Perry

      I’m not really a photographer, but I’ve shot concerts from the pit with a nice SLR and a telephoto…it’s more of a hassle than anything else, which is partly why I hand off photo passes I get to other photographers. Yeah, I’m a professional writer, but I don’t make my money writing about music (no one does) and I don’t go around telling people I’m awesome. A brain surgeon, a pilot, a relief worker in a third world country…those people are awesome.

      • Rhonda


        Either you really did not read Todd’s letter, or you were absent the day they covered sarcasm in your writing class.

        I would like to see your photos taken from the pit with a “nice SLR and telephoto lens” I bet they come nowhere close to Todd’s.

        • Shawn Perry

          Thanks for filling me in sarcasm. Guess I’ll have to go back re-read my Jonathan Swift to bone up on how witty and masterful Todd’s use of irony and sarcasm is. And I’ll be sure to tune into the hilarity of his awesome links to his own portfolio, which further illustrate his awesomeness. I can’t believe I didn’t get the joke!

          All kidding aside, I think the writer is an excellent photographer and I wouldn’t think twice about putting what little I shot against his. No one’s really interested in old shots of Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Genesis and Alvin Lee I took with my Canon AE-1 anyway.

          I’m really sorry if all the photographers are offended by some of my comments. Maybe the irony got lost in the translation. I love great photography, but I was a little thrown by the lack humility (irony) in the article and the process itself. I could sit here and list off all the major musicians I’ve interviewed and written about, but at the end of the day, it’s the work that tells the story. So I’ll leave you this: Todd, you’re an awesome photographer, you have an awesome portfolio and your article has generated a tremendous buzz. Keep up the good work :)

  27. Joey

    You have the best job in the world and I would love to do what you do..I have some good pictures of alot of bands but I dont have the best camera and most of the time cameras are not permited in shows..I would love for you to check out some of my work on facebook and let me know what kind of cameras and lenses would work the best for what we do…Thanks alot bro, keep up the good work.
    Do you sell any originals ???

  28. Kal

    I feel rather conflicted reading this post.

    I love going to shows and I love taking photos at shows but I never (ever!) look back at the photos I took with a compact camera or cellphone in years past. That said, I’ve been shooting with a better camera from the crowd now for a few years and absolutely love the music, the show and the photos I produce. I do actually spend ages looking back through the photos I’ve processed from shows over the past few years.

    I do see why people shoot with their cellphones or compact cameras to capture their view and their own memories of shows but those pesky arms holding up a shaky cam blocking my view and my shot annoy the hell out of me. I really don’t understand why people film though, especially with those shaky arms and cameras zoomed into the lead singers face making what will end up being some rather barf-worthy video with splitting sound.

    My pet hate with shows is the restrictions put in place around the types of cameras allowed. Why should I not be allowed to bring a small DSLR into a show and shoot from the crowd? You won’t see my with my arm in the air taking photos or shooting shaky videos. Okay, maybe a restriction on the size of lens might be fair (a restriction that was in place for the London 2012 Olympics) but hell, I’m only using a relatively cheap consumer camera.

  29. Greg Fahey

    The silly irony is that if you shoot a show, you are forbidden to use flash.

    You’ve got the best gear, work ethic, are considerate of the band members by not using flash, and everywhere around you…people with P&S’s and cellphones using flash! I know you touched on the “catch a flash” and I have used this with success (thank you).

    Not that you’d even want to use flash considering the high ISO capabilities of the gear nowadays. But, perhaps bands ought to rethink the ban on flashes considering there are thousands of people behind you doing just that. Looking at the superb shots of KISS, you are for all practical purposes, in a studio taking advantage of the great lights. Not all shows are like that of course but, point being, 99% of the fans have no clue that their flashes are not going to give ONE candlepower of illumination at their distance and up against the stage lighting!

    Like I inferred, you would most certainly NOT need flash at a KISS show and would look like an amateur with one. The time has come to at least allow photogs the option to use it in some situations where poor lighting is at play.

  30. Traci

    I understood the humor and the point of the article. I’m just a fan who likes to take pictures. By no means am I a photographer and I am envious of the skill and coordination it takes for someone to successfully shoot manual in such crazy lighting and high energy environment.

    I don’t stand with my phone in the air, although I might be known to take a fun picture to post as a “wish you were here with me” photo for my family. The great part of ME taking some pictures is that while they obviously aren’t as good as yours or other those of other pros, they are what my eyes saw. When I review that memory later, telling my kids about the first show I went to was or whatever, the crappy picture that I took is exactly what I saw.

    I love the close shots: sweat dripping off, grins and grimaces showing clearly. Unfortunately, that’s not what I was seeing most of the time. Taking your advice, I’ll still take some pictures of my own… and then I’ll go home and look at how great yours are too. Because you’re right, there’s no need to strive to get a perfect shot for me. I have my own pictures to refresh my memories, and yours to show how fantastic the show/artist was.

  31. curtis b

    I have no problem with anyone taking shots with cell cameras but way too many people think this job is easy. At the big shows where lighting is great it does become a bit easier but try to shoot a club show with a phone camera. I’m constantly adjusting shutter speed, iso and aperture settings to get usable images with almost nonexistent lighting. I know I can nail a good shot quickly where a person with a cell camera knows they have to take hundreds of shots in order to get a good one. This is where it becomes annoying to the people behind you.

  32. Judy Tilley

    Todd, Rob Zombie has said he hates those (expletive) cell phones. At a music festival where in VIP you can mostly shoot any band with few restrictions, he called for the women to come up on stage. I went up with my D700/70-200, nothing said, but he yelled at some poor gal to put that effing cell phone away, emphatically. Could be an act, but people obeyed.

  33. Pete

    Yeah, my response to this is basically…grow the eff up. If you’re such a “professional” then people’s cell phone photos shouldn’t be much of a threat. Quit your whining and do your job.

  34. Jerry A

    Let go the anger.

    Some of you just don’t get Todd’s point and his humor. Just enjoy the show already.

    As a shooter I see the sea of hands with phones all the time and I feel bad for those who have no choice now but to watch the band/artist through someone’s crappy 4in screen as their field of view is blocked. Pro shooters don’t care about cell phones or someone with a DSLR in the crowd, we already have the best vantage points all clear of any obstacles and are usually not in anyone’s way. On top of that, we all hope one day you too get the privilege of making it into the pit. We all started on the other side of that wall too. To us all these hands and phones just make for an interesting image. For anyone stuck behind someone with their hands and phone up all night it’s going to be a drag (I hear the complaints from fans all the time). They too paid to SEE and enjoy a live show just like everyone else. All the haters here with their phones in the air dumping on Todd are in reality telling the people behind them, too bad, so sad. That you’re more important than they are. From when the first note is struck, pro shooters are usually gone after about twelve minutes or so and respect the fans and the band while there. You (the haters) on the other hand are annoying the hell out of the people behind you as well as the band for the whole show. So who is worse, Todd for pointing it out or you for not giving a dam about anyone but yourself?

    Here is a link to a quick video I shot (iPhone 5) from the side lines (and out of everyone’s way) at the end of Rihanna’s 777 Tour show in Toronto. I shot it to show friends because the sea of phones made me laugh and sad at the same time. There were so many people trying to watch a great show through the tiny screens of their crappy little phones, how sad. Rihanna was awesome live and no poor quality video or photo will help you remember the show any better.


  35. barg79

    What if you can’t find the photos later of the concert that you were at…and you didn’t take any of your own because you said “stop..?”

  36. MlleFantine

    Thank you very a necessary and timely article, Todd! It’s too bad a lot of these folks just don’t have a sense of humour.

    If I might add a non-professional opinion: not only can Todd take a WAY better photo than a crazed, iPhone-wielding fan, not only is it annoying and somewhat disrespectful to other fans and perhaps even the performers themselves, not only can you see the band in HI-DEF right before your very eyes (see Louis C.K. on this one)…but none of your friends want to see your crappy, fuzzy, blurry, red & blue live concert photos. In fact, it makes me want to unfriend/unfollow you. You aren’t ever going to go back and look at those photos yourself, why clog up the news feed and make all your friends suffer?

  37. Joey

    Thank you for this! I had the same issue at the ‘secret’ Queens of the Stone Age show last Friday in Brooklyn.

    For real… that band put out TONS of free live concert footage. WAY better than anything you can take with your crap phone. I would have said something but I was on mushrooms, and if anyone were to have give me lip I would have flipped out. And I did NOT want to go to a Brooklyn jail on mushrooms.

    Other than that it was an amazing show.

    I actually found a video of one of the db’s on youtube and I was the only comment saying how bad it was and the reply was “my views are going up” REALLY? is that what matters… maybe I should have gone to jail and beat the piss out of that “person”

  38. Morgane

    Cool article Todd, I agree…mostly
    What is certain is that people are allowed to enjoy the show the way they want, as long as they don’t stand in the way of other fans… As a music junkie and festival goer I totally hate all those people who never raise their noses up from their smartphone and block my view of the show. BUT as an amateur photographer I have to admit I spend a good time of each show recording AND shooting the artists live with my camera. The only difference between you and me is that you have a pass (lucky bastard^^)Ok another difference is you are a pro. It’s a big one I know …. Oh I found another one: you don’t have 20 drunken idiots jumping up and down in front of you, it makes shooting good photos kinda difficult, even when used to it.

    Anyway, I dig this article and I agree with you
    And as a big fan of your work I’d like to say: I hope to be as good as you one day and for that, I have to start somewhere
    And this “somewhere” is for me in the middle of a sweaty crowd, clutching to my hybrid camera and hoping to make it through the night in one piece

    Because this, my friend, is rock n roll

    • Curtis Ballendine

      Morgane, if you want to work on your skills I believe you should try a different avenue. Go to small clubs or pubs and shoot the bands playing there. The lousy lighting will be a great test of your skills. Try shooting and focusing in manual mode. You will either give up or amaze yourself that you could pull off a great shot in those conditions. I’m only a few years into this and hopefully will shoot some big shows in the future. Cheers

  39. Adey

    The people who spend their time filming gigs on their phones are sad lonely attension seekers imo. If they want to make friends why not experience the show properly and get to know the people stood around you, instead of being anti social and annoying them. Others have paid good money to ENJOY the gig.

  40. blackshadow

    Todd I thought of this last night while at a show by The Hives.

    Frontman Howlin Pelle took anyone’s phone that he saw filming the show and put them on the drum riser saying “we are going to try something new, it’s called experiencing the show”.

    I hope this attitude catches on!

  41. Daniel

    Todd, this is a fantastic article. Straight and to the point, that’s why. I compared some footage of Slipknot from Download Festival (UK) from 2005 to Knotfest this year. Big difference? People weren’t posting images to Facebook, weren’t taking shaky videos with awful sound quality, and they looked like they were loving every second. Fast forward to 2014, and the audience looked bored, and were more fussed about telling their friends they were there then they were about enjoying the show. I went to see Periphery not too long ago. For the entire show I was stuck behind a guy who filmed the whole thing, his man-tits sagging over the railing of the balcony I was forced up onto (my own fault for getting there later than I intended). Not once did he applaud, not once did he smile or show any emotion about what he was witnessing (which to my own eyes and ears was a fantastic show). I’m hoping something changes – but I’m not holding my breath.

  42. Abigail Watson

    From my perspective, I agree with the idea of most musicians and artists disliking cell phones and cameras at concerts. That takes away from the experience that the other concertgoers want to have (namely, the ones that prefer to watch the show with their own eyes instead of through a viewfinder of a camera or cell phone).

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