I found this explanation of the three song rule for live music photographers interesting and if you read the rest of the interview you’ll see how he’s recently got out of it. Photo editor Nicole Radja interviews Chicago music photographer Paul Natkin on her blog called“In Studio On Location.”

Nicole: Another story I wanted to get out of you, was about our favorite three song rule. (Photographers are only allowed to photograph bands for the first three songs of a live show.) I know you don’t subscribe to that. I know you have a story of where this thing came from.

Paul: It started in the ’80’s with bands in New York, especially Springsteen. When a band played in New York, especially places like the Garden, they gave out tons of photo passes. At least half to paparazzi guys. Those people don’t know how to photograph, their only option is to put a flash on a camera. A lot of people didn’t even know how to change film, they knew they only had 36 shots. They were just doing it for the excitement of doing it.

Bruce would go up on stage, and there would be 50 photographers, all shooting flashes in his face. I don’t blame him, he walked off stage one night and said, we have to do something about this. Somebody said, why not just let them shoot the first fifteen minutes? Somebody figured out at a normal rock show, a song is about five minutes. Somebody said, let’s just let them shoot the first three songs. So it started with him and people in that era. It was also that MTV started around that time, and everybody wanted to look perfect, the way they looked in their videos.

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  1. hah! three songs is a luxury these days. we’ve come across a lot of mid to upper tier artists only allowing the first song or first five minutes.
    used to drive me nuts, especially in light of the audience being able to shoot away all night long with increasingly better point and shoots and cellphones.
    but there can only be so many jim marshall’s kevin mazur’s and danny clinch’s.

  2. @1 .. luxury indeed, and they normally add and “no F*** flash”.

    It’s actually got worse recently due to the widespread adoption of LED spotlights: chances were with the old style incandescent lights you ramp up the ISO and get away with it. It proved especially useful if you knew the band’s songs and could figure out when the lights would be flashed in time to the beat. If you could sneak in a little earlier and be there when the lighting guy did there light test, you could get a taste of what was to come.

    With LED spots, there’s no constant colo(u)r temperature, so it makes it difficult to get a decent balance. Unless you’re shooting B&W of course ;-)

  3. No flash can be fine, better in many cases, but its always nice to have a choice, especially when you have bands who clearly dont like photographers and so not to have decent lighting until after the 3rd song!

    The only thing that really sucks about the 3 song rule is that performances always build towards the end of the set and so you’ll invariably miss shooting the artists when its peaking for the crowd… although it does mean you dont get your head kicked my all the crowd surfing kids.

  4. I’m a journalist from Venezuela and I always wondered who invented the three song rule. I thought it was another disadvantage of being from an undeveloped country. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I freelance in Live Music Photography, and in many instances, it’s gotten worse. Last year in the UK, a well-known R’n’B singer insisted that photographers shot from the back and would only have 30 secs. Suffice to say everyone more or less had the same shot. The dumb thing now is that the guys in the audience at the front have those small digi cameras and not only flash, but also take video clips, pop them on the web and even give pictures away with no concept of copyright. Fun and games!

  6. Somebody told me once it had to do with kinda what Mark said about the show building towards the end. That the musicians wanted to keep a certain image and for the three first songs they’d hold whatever that image was, and then later on the energy would build and they’d do crazier and crazier things that might not fall in line with that, like drink on stage or throw things at the crowd or something. But I never really got that explanation, because I’m sure many musicians would like the shots of their best energy, best fan reactions, etc. So thanks for this post!


  7. Yep, three songs! Last June I was in Vegas to shoot Ben Folds for a now defunct music mag, and three songs is all I got. It was fun but very limiting. No flash and I only had one decent angle. It was a one time deal. Not my thing usually. I did meet another photographer there who’s job was to shoot every performance for every casino in town!

  8. Flash?!!! At a concert?!!! You’ve GOT to be kidding!!!! This is a performance that clearly is about the expression of the musician and her relationship with the audience. Popping a flash, not only is a distraction, but also changes the light. If you need to use a flash, you probably shoot Grip-and-Grins and need to be in search of your next handshake with check presentation.

    Before they became huge, Green Day was the toughest band I ever shot. They didn’t want me — or anyone to photograph them. After going back and forth all day, they finally said OK — but for only one song. And I had to shoot from the sound board.

    I took a 400mm lens. They played a song that lasted for about 30 seconds. I think they forgot to turn on the lights.

    Before being tapped on the shoulder and being told to leave, I had shot a half a roll of film and managed to get one sharp frame.

    I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that you don’t always get to shoot under perfect conditions. If you say you are a professional, be a professional. Make sure you have the right equipment for the job and that you know how to use it. Step up to the plate, identify your problems and then solve them.

    • @Tony Blei, Amen. I’ve always been able to get more than what I needed from the first 3 songs. In most cases, I haven’t been a fan of the band and didn’t want to stick around longer anyway.

    • @Tony Blei,
      YES! that is correct, and astute.Be prepared,be a professional, and know what your doing. I always at least listen to the band I am about to shoot before I shoot them, it helps give you an idea of where the energy and changes in the song are. As far as flash goes, 9 out of 10 of the concert photographers don’t know how to use their flashes correctly anyway.

  9. I think alot of times the bands get pretty sweaty under the lights during the course of the concert. The lights are hot and especially if they are moving around alot they might be concerned that they might not look as good after the first three songs.

    I’ve found different bands have different policies. When I shot the Strokes they had the three song rule. When I shot Robyn Hitchcock I was allowed to shoot during the entire show. When I shot the Killers and the Pussycat Dolls I shot their entire shows as well.

  10. The three song rule blows. I just shot a Flaming Lips show New Years Eve and they didn’t have a three song rule. It was so great. You could shoot to your hearts content and no one bothered you. Too bad there aren’t more artists like them…….

    • @Jason Campbell, They are one of the best bands to shoot period. It is incredible how it works to their advantage too. Everyone has good photos of them and they are always visually stunning. On top of that magazines always publish shots of them too. Its really win, win for everyone across the board with the Flaming Lips. They even interact with the guys in the photo pit too, throwing confetti and those big balloons at photographers when they shoot. Albeit it may mess up your shot, but they present the photographers with so many opportunities its one miss out of a few hundred other tries.

      • @Eric M. Townsend,
        The Flaming Lips position on allowing photographers to shoot the whole show is probably influenced by Michelle Coyne, Wanye’s wife. She is a great photographer and is shooting onstage at every show.
        I actually got to dance onstage a couple of years ago in New Orleans dressed as Santa Claus and shot with my Contax T2. Awesome Times.

  11. We’d be much better off if we said no now and then. Photographers seem to enjoy being pushed around. Sure we need them but they need us too.

    • @doug, Not sure about this. They don’t need ‘us’ as much as they used to. A lot of celebrities are going the way of pharmaceutical companies and doing ‘Direct to Consumer’ marketing. That is to say, they are connecting directly with their fan bas via the internet and bypassing traditional media, music magazines, etc.. I dare to say that they might even encourage images taken by fans with their cell phones. They can get the fans to ‘contribute’ the images to their fan galleries and add to the fan experience.

  12. There are 3 main issues that face concert photographers today.

    1) The “three song” rule.

    I’m a regular in the photo pits of most NYC venues and my experience speaking with many artists is much the same as Paul’s.

    The musicians themselves either don’t know about the “first three” rule or more often, they haven’t considered how it limits how the band is visually documented and perceived later.

    I think the heart of the issue is that the primary concern on the part of management and public relations is control over the artist’s image in the media. How an artist would like to be documented and how their agents would like them to be documented are not always the same. Even if the “first three” rule was born out of an overuse of flash, it has stayed because either the artists or their agents find it beneficial.

    2) Shoot from the Soundboard

    There are increasingly more concerts where the only place photographers are allowed to shoot from is the soundboard or some other remote location requiring a 400mm to achieve a half-body shot of an average person.

    When combined with the “first three” or fewer songs, it means that every photographer is going to get the same flat shot.

    3) Rights Grab Contracts.

    The recent trend among some management firms is to force photographers to sign a statement that gives the copyright for the images to the band and it’s agents. Many of these statements include language that allows the band and it’s agents to use the images commercially without crediting or compensating the photographer.

    The most extreme of these “contracts” technically bars the photographer from using the images in her/his own portfolio.

    The reason I’ve been given for these contracts is that artists are loosing too much money to piracy and that the contracts are designed to keep people from making unlicensed commercial merchandise.

    If this were actually the case, the agreement should simply say that the photographer isn’t allowed to use the images commercially.

    Photographers who are on assignment for legitimate publications like Rolling Stone or Spin should not have to give away their copyright in order to complete their assignments.

    I wonder what Jim Marshall or Annie Leibovitz would say if you told either of them that the artistic, historical and commercial value of their work was limited to the amount of their assignment fee?

    I think it’s important for every concert photographer to make sure they have the full support of their editors so that they can refuse to sign these agreements. Trust me, it works.

    • @Chris Owyoung

      Well said.

      Plus, concert photographers with passes are systematically excluded from the most interesting parts of the show. Publications are often looking for the encore, the costume change, crowd-surfing, and the special guests… which rarely happen during the first three songs.

  13. One of my most refreshing concert photography experiences was shooting King Crimson back in 1993-1994. Didn’t get to shoot the first 3 songs, but rather got to shoot the entire Encore at the end of the show. It was still only 3-4 songs, but at least you got more interesting pictures of the band thanking the crowd, etc. at the end of the show.

    Good thing I liked the band (to sit through the whole show) and that I didn’t have a early deadline that night.

  14. Every time I shoot a show like this I start to wonder why I bother, and I’m pretty damn good at shooting concerts. Paul’s a cool guy, I’ve met him in Chicago and had a couple good conversations with him. Jim Marshall wont go anywhere near a modern concert experience. Clinch rarely shoots anything live.

    Problem is very few people practice the art of concert photography and even fewer people appreciate it, and even fewer people than that pay anything for it. Bands want things for free, most magazines and websites want stuff for free or next to nothing, venues and arts orgs want stuff for free or next to nothing, eager photographers will even give away rights just to get a photopass. There’s no money, fame or glory in it but I’m always blown away by the small horde of shooters seeking notoriety. I wish a photo credit was acceptable payment at the grocery store, otherwise you have to go with food stamps.

    I think there is probably a talent drain as good music photographers go on to more creative, less restrictive, more remunerative and more appreciated things.

  15. Well said Jacob. I knew it was you before I even checked the link!

  16. Well said Chris and Jacob. Another thing to consider, with bigger acts, images are plentiful, and honestly, sometimes just getting a few good shots to complete the assignment is enough. If found that’s in smaller venues (most specifically ones without photo pits) its possible to shoot entire sets, and depending on the density of the crowd, not too difficult to get a range of perspectives, and a better sense of the whole show.

    In fact, as relieving as it sometimes is to have a pitted show, if **I** am allowed to shoot the whole show (as in a recent case of Of Montreal) I sometimes overshoot, and i’m sure i’m not alone. Especially now with digital cameras, photographers unchecked will probably create a glut of material (both good and bad quality) and that can also be damaging to the artist. Oversaturation can be just as problematic as under exposure.

    I often have to remind myself after being kicked out of venues after the first three that it is an honor and privilege to be allowed such ‘exclusive’ access, to see some of my favorite bands perform FOR FREE. We are not talking street photography here, these are not happening in public spaces. Paying customers are ALWAYS more important than the photographers covering them, no matter who you are shooting for. I do it because i love it, not because it pays the bills (it doesnt).

    I think one major issue today is the inflated sense of entitlement many concert photographers have about the relationship between them and their subjects. We are being offered a courtesy to have such access, too many egos out there forget that. Quite often I have seen Wire shooters (i.e. syndicated photographers) explode in a temper tantrum over being restricted from shooting however long they want, or in some cases from being able to shoot at all (Radiohead has notoriously barred syndicated shooters from pit access while photographers on editorial assignment were allowed in). Worst thing about that is, many of these guys do not even share a passion for the music. its **just** an assignment. Sigh.

    That being said, sometimes the first three song really sucks. But most of the time its more than plenty if the performer really knows how to bring it.

    • @Ryan, While you know I agree with a lot of what you say, in the same respect you know you especially are too good to “do it for free.” You don’t need to become the next millionaire music photographer (which does not exist) but you do need to pay your rent. Being a fan of the band can obviously be an added incentive to a particular shoot but you still are in a give and take relationship with them. Regardless of how much you like a group and feel privileged, you are still providing them with a valuable service called publicity. So in many ways it is a two way street.

      Also, what is most interesting about the wire guys is in a few years when a glut of, if not all, the major music publications are non-existent? Then even shooting for a wire will be a problem, because who will you be shooting for? No publication, no pass, but that too is subject to the ever evolving media world as we know it. It seems like the photo wire / entertainment photo market is collapsing on itself, fees are non-existent, magazines are closing up shop, ad revenues are in constant decline and it can’t be long before wire / entertainment coverage altogether slows to a near halt.

    • @Ryan,

      I’m sure you’re a great guy and all, and I don’t really want to be overly confrontational here, but I gotta say, a lot of what you’ve said here is a perfect example of why the business of photography, not just concert photography is so screwed up.

      Images are plentiful… yeah, I guess they are. So the proper response should be to make BETTER images than what are available. Right?

      Just getting a few good shots is enough? Having more time to shoot is a… burden?

      Why not shoot as long and as much as you can with the hope of making one GREAT image?

      I don’t think it’s an entirely poor idea to approach every assignment as a privilege or even an honor. I think that’s a good attitude to bring to your work, but it is work. It is how people try to pay the bills. Fighting with the PR types is a cherished tradition on both sides of the velvet rope.

      Photographers don’t fight for access because they want to do a poor job. They fight for access (whatever the event), because they want to make the best images that they can.

      PR people (or whatever you’d like to call the people limiting your access) aren’t rewarded for getting photographers the best access they can. They are rewarded for not getting yelled at.

      Really, what we’re talking about here is all a judgement call. There may be a “glut” of images out there, but from what I can see, there are very few great ones. Bands, their management, and the outlets that publish this work have made the same call that it seems you have made, that there’s plenty of usable stuff out there and we don’t have to go through the effort or expense to do any better.

      Paying customers are more important… well yeah, but what makes the paying customers want to be there in the first place? These same acts that limit your work still spend millions of dollars on music videos, album art, iTune picture albums, they know the worth of the visual image in the musical world. Why would you willing sell yourself so short?

      Listen, it might just be an assignment to many people, but you know what, and this is important, there are always fans who claim to be photographers hanging about. There are always guys that will just phone it in, or not work to get better access, but in the end, guys like Bruce Springsteen will still pay professionals, like Neal Preston to do the pictures that others can’t, and I promise you this, Neal never settled for three songs, or good enough, or worried about how much he was shooting.

      All I’m saying, is if you’re going to do this, do it well. Do the best job that you can. Over-saturation or how bands are viewed is not your concern. If you’re not willing to make the best images that you can, if you’re not willing to push the envelope now and then, maybe you’re doing more damage than good.

      Sadly, I think this is the case, not just with photographers, but with editors, writers and publishers. The content side of the business has been happy to phone it in for quite some time, and I think that is one of the main reasons this business is now finding itself disposable.

      • @Kenneth Jarecke,

        I’ll take a stab in the dark and assume I am a fair deal younger than you, so excuse my youthful ignorance about the “way it was” however there is nothing I can do to stop the world from changing into the unknown place I will grow old and die in.

        However, more to the point, when I said images are plentiful, I really should have clarified. What I meant is that for big artists, there is no shortage of material out there. Should I stress out because Madonna only lets you shoot the first three songs? Absolutely not. Should I try my best to make the best image possible within those shots? Absolutely. I’d like to think **I** do. With the case of my Of Montreal example, there were at least 10 photographers shooting the whole show. I cant speak to the quality, but I bet there are THOUSANDS of images from that night, from the “pros” alone. I’m not gonna pass judgement either way on the positives and negatives, but personally are you going to want to see hundreds of images (of varying quality), or are you could to want to see a handful of very high quality ones? Which is more flattering for the artist. I’d personally prefer the latter. If you are concentrating and paying attention you don’t need an hour set to accomplish this. In a lot of cases, i don’t think the three song rule is especially to shit on photographers, have you ever had someone (or 20 someones) taking pictures of you while you were trying to do you job? I haven’t but I can understand how it can be distracting for both the performers and the audience.

        That being said, my point maybe should have been, Why not focus on the new and unknown (where access is much more available as I pointed out in smaller venues), Instead of continuing to feed into the system that allows big artists to take these kind of liberties with their “star power”? you can make a dramatically more significant impact with your pictures by finding something new and unknown and sharing it with people (especially when it comes to music).

        Yes, there is a business behind all the picture making, but are you in it to make the biggest buck? Ir the best pictures? I’m in the latter boat. I personally have, and make no apologies for, having shot concerts for no pay. Only when the conditions are right (copyrights being chief among those). Somewhere down the line, if they are indeed publication worthy the idea is that there will be a payoff. In the past they used to call it working “On Spec” but I guess some people forgot what its like to do something risky, exciting, and god forbid FUN. (I kid, I kid, but seriously folks…)

        Lastly, If you take better pictures, you deserve to get paid more then the next guy. Sadly, thats not how the world works. So perhaps the real ‘problem’ isn’t that people like me are screwing up the system, but that the system was bloated and f***ed to begin with?

        p.s. On a more personal note, if you are trying not to be overly confrontational, maybe you should try not being so condescending in your tone when speaking to strangers.

  17. As a young photographer that is interested almost exclusively in concert photography, I can say there is no shortage of discussion regarding the modern day overhead required to shoot a show. These rules are already baked into my approach to the gig by reading thread after thread describing rights grab contracts, song limits, access limits, overzealous security, etc. If I’m starting out this way today, I can’t imagine what it will be like trying to get started five years from now.

    As much as I’d like to be able to “BS my way in” like the subject of this interview was able to do in the past, it is my realization that those days are over. Not that I’m totally opposed to having some sort of barrier to entry, but that’s another conversation. For now, I’m willing to put up with it and try my hand a making the next great shot. For now.

    But I’ll sell my camera before I sign a rights grab.

    • @Jason Sheesley, I hate to say this (and I will probably be unpopular) but I feel that concert photography is akin to shooting fish in a barrel. Their show. Their light. Their choreography. About all you have to do is show up with the right gear. There is so much more.

      You may actually have to sell your camera as it’s their show and their terms.

      • First, I agree with alot Kenneth Jarecke has said in here. And I’m a not so long shooter or old shooter. I started about 4 years ago with this system in place and don’t know better (at bigger venues anyway).

        Second @Tony Blei,
        That’s a really lame point you make. Like everybody with a D3 and a 70-200 lens will make same shot? That’s the whole point as long as you can still move around you can add so much yourself. If you’re forced to shoot from the soundboard with a 400mm and have 30 seconds then everybody will get the same shot.

        But if you can move freely, choose whatever lens you like you have a chance to be more creative then the next photographer and really standout (have better pics).

        The PR people usually know the photographers. I could imagin they could have a tighter selection about what photographers are allowed to shoot, but those photogephers would have more acces (time and room to move around). Less photographers, more acces = more quality = better for the band and for the photographer.

        • PS. sorry for the typos (not a native English speaker)

          Also what sets you apart with concertsphotos is ofcourse framing (has also to do with what lens), timing, editting (what shots you use).

          Also for me it helps to know the group I’m shooting. I specialize in hiphop, I don’t shoot rock. I know details about the people I shoot, that alot of photogaphers don’t and only see it as a boring assignment (the music photographers who are bitter and have been doing this too long for their own good). That’s why I don’t shoot rock, I don’t know the subtilities there and could only come up with technically (and esthically) correct images, but nothing more. PR people should be aware what photographer is good at what.

  18. I’ve got the answer guys.

    Shoot progressive rock bands.

    I’m sure that the whole of Rush’s 2112 would be classed as “1 song” :)


  19. I sometimes shoot concerts for the local paper, and the last couple of shows have been heavily backlit, and sidelit, and dimmer than they used to be.

    During the summer of 2008, I was shooting at 1/300 or faster, but a couple of shows lately, I’ve been at 1/125 or slower to be able to make out a face.

    Now, if I had a Nikon D3, I guess it wouldn’t be as much of an issue, but with a Canon 30D it is.

    If what they want the public to see is their best face, they need to put enough light on that face, imo.

    The only time I’ve been asked to sign a rights grab paper, I refused. We compromised on a ‘limited publication’ agreement, meaning I could post the pictures on the newspaper website, but not on my web site (I shoot freelance, not an employee of the newspaper.) The lighting was such, that I doubt there was a portfolio shot in the bunch, but still…

    The original paper said they owned the copyrights, and I flat-out refused to sign that. (As the newspaper employed photographer would have.) I was preared to shoot only the opening act and call it a night, or just go home without any photos of the performers at all.

    I very rarely even hear the music enough to enjoy it, as I’m concentrating so much on the visual aspect. I usually only hear enough to tell when the third song is up.

    An exception was a Kenny Rogers show last summer, where I got to hear much of the rest of the show as I was sending in the photos from the first three songs (and our crowd photos.)

    And the bands are also limiting the audience to low-end photos at some of the shows I’ve shot lately. At one concert, they allowed a person to take a camera inside only after they had removed (and taken) the batteries from the camera. Don’t know if this is a trend, though.

  20. Several times it’s been mentioned that if you’re a professional you should be able to get what you need in the first 3 songs, and allowing photographers to shoot the entire show will create far too many images.

    What do we want out of concert photography at this point? Do we only want media-acceptable images that can be used for the review the next morning? Do we want to utilize photography as a way to capture the experience that a particular concert is, the way a musician’s passion is revealed on stage, and those little music moments that happen throughout a show?

    If all we’re focusing on is the first one, then of course the first 3 songs are fine. It’s more than possible to get a good image in the first 15 minutes, with fine lighting, details, sharpness, etc. A good, technical, printable image.

    That’s fine, and maybe I’m being greedy, but I want more than that. I want those moments when the musician is completely lost in their love for music and forgets that I’m there. This rarely, if ever, happens during the first 3 songs.

    I’m based out of Minneapolis and 90% of the shows I shoot don’t have the 3 song rule. Honestly, most of the time I don’t even start shooting until after about the 4th song, when the musicians get over the nervousness of having to get up on stage and are in their groove, and I usually wait to start shooting until the second verse of any given song for the same reason.

    A good photographer knows how to edit down their images, and will only want to display their best shots. Letting photographers shoot the entire show isn’t going to create too many images, it’s going to create BETTER images.

    Concert photography should capture the feeling of what it’s like to experience a particular concert, how can we shoot that if we only see 1/8 of it?

  21. I guess I missed out on this rule, since I mostly shoot jazz musicians. They are definitely a really great group of people to photograph. Most of the time, they are barely into it and warmed up in the first three songs, and really only become more lively towards the end of a performance.

    I don’t use flash in my shots, though I do try to know the songs ahead of time. That timing allows me to be in many places ready for a particular section of a song. The idea for me of concert photography is to convey what it was like to be there at the performance. I think that is what fans and music enthusiasts want from the images, and not just some static shot of the beginning of a performance. I consider it a successful live jazz shoot when I have not fallen off the stage. ;)

  22. I have done concert photography (as a hobby), for a few years now and I seem to be gravitating toward the small venue/small band circuit. Mostly Jazz and interesting combinations of genres (aka weird shit).

    The good parts of this are that you get to shoot as much as you want during the show (no flash though, that is very annoying for both performance and the audience) and you can easily get backstage to talk to the musicians before and after the show.
    In general the atmosphere is great.

    The bad thing is that there is no money to be made. Most of the musicians, even the successfull and well-known ones, have “regular” jobs.
    In the past 2 years I have only seen a paid photographer in the jazz-club trice.

    On the other hand, the big shows in the large venues seem to be full with photographers. There is a 3-song-rule. There is a photo-pit. Atmosphere is good, but there is no direct access to musicians. You are more like a cog in the machine. However there is money to be made.

    A year or so back I decided that I would rather just do the fun smalltime shows, and have fun with some great people a few times a week then make money as a photographer.
    (I have a job as an engineer, so I don’t need it).

    • @Herman,

      “(I have a job as an engineer, so I don’t need it).”

      This is becoming the case for a lot of photography; not just small town venues of no-name bands.

      Photographers are going to need engineering jobs (or anything else for that matter) to feed their stomach and fund their projects.

      Fuck this business model.

      • @herman,

        every time a venue / client / magazine get work for free from hobbiests it becomes more difficult for professionals to earn money.. they will never pay again for photography.
        so whats bad about that?
        small bread and butter jobs go into the pot to work on longer term projects and greater bodies of work.. without the bread and butter we’re screwed.. the larger bodies of work disappear or become unlivable..

        and thats a shame.

        no photography for free.. even charging a token fee – 20 usd a print or some such, but for the love of god not free..


        • @db, @Say It Ain’t So,

          To clarify, I don’t provide free photography to the bands or the venues.

          I get access (including backstage, etc.) for a few local venues for free because they know me and because they like (free) publicity (I have some contact with some (local and national) music mags and I get asked for photo’s from time to time).

          However, on a monthly basis this earns next to nothing. So it is something I do as a (quite extensive) hobby.

          If I needed the money I would not be able to do photography. Or I would have to do the kinds of photography which I don’t like to do.

          • @herman, well.. thats what i thought you said you were doing and i don’t hold with it..
            a local venue where i used to live would have to pay at least 100 usd for a nights work.
            it’s good that you don’t need the money, but what about a local photographer who is not doing engineering or whatever.. that’s one less possible client for them.
            i could certainly have not afforded the work i had – break-even work – if hobbyists had taken even the lowest paying clients from me.
            i think you’d be surprised how ready people are to pay for good photography.. and also be surprised at just how much even the smallest bar can take over the weekend..
            maybe do some research on licencing of photos – see the value of your work.. think about selling instead of working for nothing, (press passes and gratuities do not constitute a fee).

            • @db, Again, to reiterate: I shoot for myself. The venue does _not_ get the pictures for free.
              They just like the fact that I sell to some media from time to time. (mainly if those media want pics of certain artists).

              • @Herman, my misunderstanding..
                they still could pay you as a resident snapper :ø)

  23. i’ve honestly never cared about the 3 song thing.. sometimes i’ve had to work with it and sometimes i’ve not..

    it’s not the point of my photography to create another photograph of someone who everyone knows..
    sometimes for promoters i HAVE to stay and photo a show, the truth though is that the most interesting photography is with the crowd.. the fans..
    i would much rather find their passion, spirit and adventure on the dance floor rather than sit in a sticky pit gazing up at some-such-person while they bang out a song which i may or may not enjoy..

    3 songs.. well.. sometimes i don’t even stay in the pit for that long, and am thankful i don’t.. other photographers smell bad.

    NO FLASH.. couldn’t give a rats ass, ever when we had to use film.. in the digital age using flash seems just daft.

    what i have noticed since digital is a whole bunch of ‘photographers’ sitting around throughout a show and gazing up at heros while the hairs on their proverbials stand on end… you know..
    i got a lot of work in music because i did the job and that involved a great deal more than sitting in the pit banging out flash photos of the moment the singer screamed into the mike.

    there is no rule which has even stopped me getting the folio i’ve sought.


  24. Jimi Hendrix didn’t burn his guitar during the first three songs. Most of the time, the best images are made outside of the rules.

  25. A couple of years ago we (5 or 6 photographers) managed to broke this 3/1 songs rule on one concert. It was a rock festival, here in Bucharest, Rock Your Mind, and we were getting ready for the press conference with the most expected band on this festival, Clawfinger. It was the most interesting press conference with the guys standing on their seats and us and the rest of the journalists (not so many) were standing on the floor. Strange, but a very relaxed atmosphere. It seems like we were a lifetime friends. One of the photographers, Andrei Pungovschi (one of the best photojournalists in Romania) poped the question. Why are we allowed to take photos for only one song? The guys from Clawfinger looked at us and they never heard of this rule. They promissed us to talk with the management and even if we didn’t believe there can be something done about it, we were allowed to take photos during the whole session. It was crazy!!! You can check some pics here (only the 6pics from the second row are mine) http://www.emagic.ro/galerie/foto/2/clawfinger/index.html#

    So, it’s up to us to make a statement.

    P.S.: At the Depeche Mode concert we were kept one hour standing in the sun, with no water and waiting to get infront of the stage. We were at that point when we were about to decide none of us to make photos at this event. But it was their first time in Romania…. They only gave us 5 bloody m inutes, all of us standing right next to each other, with no place to change the angle.

  26. […] Originally Posted by Dubya Can imagine it being the band not wanting a flash coming from right down at the musicians feet and distracting them whereas it might not be so bad from the crowd. Still weird though. Most photographers use a fast lens on stage rather than the help of a flash gun. Anyway, apparently this articles explains the three song rule: The Three Song Rule […]

  27. […] not forget, this time I was surrounded by big security guards to make sure I stuck to the standard three song rule. There is something about seeing a musician rise from one demographic of the industry to another.  […]

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