Why Music Photographers Wear Black

If you've ever seen a concert or festival, you've probably noticed that most stage hands and crew are wearing black. The same rule generally applies to music photographers. If you've ever wondered why, here's the reason music photographers always wear black.

My friend Allen is a professional guitar tech who has spent the last decade on the road touring with arena and amphitheater-filling acts. When I asked him about the etiquette for anyone with stage access, he replied:

“For those of us crew people that might have to go on stage, anything we can do to not draw attention to ourselves is welcomed.”

This is a great quote on the simple approach for roadies and music photographers to wear all black — also called “stage black.”

If you show up to a new gig or new tour as a music photographer and you aren't wearing black, you can be sure that some of the crew are probably judging you. The reason is simple: the musicians on stage are the stars and everyone else should be as discreet as possible. The less attention you draw to yourself, the better.

This was the pit photography team for the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival. Left to right: Greg Noire, Todd Owyoung (me), Brian Friedman and Jenn Devereaux. Note that we're all wearing black shirts and dark/black pants.

You'll notice that video crew in photo pits take the same approach — all black. The same philosophy applies — bright colors or lighter tones easily catch one's attention in a dramatically lit concert. Even if you're a music photographer working from the photo pit, it's still best to wear black as a courtesy to not only the production as a whole, but specifically the fans behind you, to be just a little less obtrusive.

Other Clothing Considerations

Pants vs Shorts

Aside from wearing all black, one other common question is the issue of pants vs shorts. For people with stage access, pants provide more coverage and thus make one blend in with a dark stage that much more. It varies from tour to tour — some productions can be much more strict about what stage crew can wear.

Extreme Coverage

When in doubt, more coverage is never a bad thing. You'll see some video crew on stage wearing black long sleeve shirts, black pants and even black gloves or a black hat. This is an extreme example but one that very clearly places priority on the being as invisible as possible. Some photographers will even go to the extent of wearing a hat if they have brightly colored dyed hair.

Summary

Ultimately, stage black clothing is about respecting the artists on stage as well as the fans. It's about being discrete as possible as someone who is not part of the performance and isn't the focus of the event. It means not distracting the artist on stage nor fans, simple as that.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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