A Year in Photo Passes

Q&AThe all-important photo pass: the Golden Ticket of concerts. What it is, what you can can do with it, and who gets them.

Hi Todd,

What is a photo pass, and what does it allow me to do exactly? Also, do you get photo credentials from all the bands on a bill, or does approval from the headliner cover for all the bands?


Anyone who has attended a performance by a touring national act is probably familiar with a ban on “professional” cameras at these events. More often than not, special authorization is needed to photograph the performances under these conditions. The physical form of this permission is a “photo pass.”

What is a Photo Pass?

A photo pass is a credential that identifies an individual to security and event staff as an approved photographer for an event. Photo “passes” most often take the form of a fabric sticker, but they also come as wristbands, laminates, or pieces of paper.

Ultimately, the main goal of photo pass is to generate images for use as editorial content, which can in turn generate publicity for a tour or relevant album.

Who Gets a Pass?

By virtue of their purpose, photo passes are intended largely for media outlets, ranging from newspapers and magazines to online sources like webzines and blogs.

The process of approval may depend on several factors, including the size of the publication one is shooting for and personal relationships with those controlling the media list.

What Does It Do?

In most instances, this photo pass simply allows you to shoot for the allotted limit for a concert. Three-songs is a common limit for many national acts, while some performers may dictate shorter or longer shooting times for concert  photographers.

If there is a designated area for photographers to shoot from, such as in front of a barricade at the front of the stage, a photo pass will grant access to these spaces.

Contrary to the popular belief of adolescent girls in the front row, a photo pass doesn't get you backstage or onto the band's tour bus.

Individual Approval?

Whether individual approval is needed for each band on a concert bill may depend on the acts performing and/or the venue policy. For some tours, approval from the headlining band may grant access to shoot the supporting bands. For other acts, individual approval is necessary. Ultimately, honoring a photo pass secured through one band is up to the venue and the management of the other bands performing.

My Camera DSLR and Lenses for Concert Photography

Nikon Z 7:
I use two Nikon Z 7 for my live music photography. A true do-it-all mirrorless camera with amazing AF, great speed and fantastic resolution.


Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8S:
The 24-70mm is my go-to lens. The range is ideal for stage front photography and the image quality is superb.


Nikon 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 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.

See My Full Kit for Concert Photography

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