8 Simple Rules for Shooting a Gig

Kevin Goss-Ross has been photographing gigs around the country for years now, and he’s finally had enough of poor photographer etiquette. Kevin wrote this guide to shooting at a music event, and we think he makes some damn fine points.


Loopy from Fruits and Veggies pulls middle finger


After Saturday’s show at Live- The Venue, I decided it’s time for someone to come out and say this.


For a while now the fact that South Africa seems not to have any rules or etiquette regarding photographing live music has bothered me. At one stage during the gig, I counted six photographers/videographers on stage. I get why you’re on stage. The dancing, moshing crazy crowd can be rough, and the opportunity to photograph the band with the crowd in the background can yield powerful images. But this same crowd didn’t pay to see you shoot their favourite band. The crowd didn’t pay money for you to be a poes and shoulder your way to the front of the stage because you were kept at the bar.


In recent months I’ve slowed down on taking live music photographs for a couple of reasons. The front row at any gig should be filled with dancing lunatics. If you’re a photographer who wants to take photographs of the gig, you have to put up with that with a smile. I’ve seen photographers bitch when someone bumps into them or accidentally spills a drink on them. It’s part of the territory. I’ve watched photographers stand straight up between the crowd and the vocalist to get a close-up shot. I’ve seen guys with massive LED light panels shooting video into the crowd.


We’ve all done stupid shit, and I wish there was a guideline when I started out. The ethics of this perturbed me enough to make the trip to Pretoria to speak to the big names in music photography in South Africa like Liam Lynch and Sean Brand about it in 2010 and discovered that our views were very similar. So in the interest of all involved, here is a list of Do’s and Don’ts.


1. Remember the show isn’t about you. You can show off with your pretty photographs afterward. If you need validation and attention on stage start a band.


2. Wear dark colours. Hide behind things. Stay on the side of the stage where you’ll be less noticeable.


3. Don’t get in the way. If a musician dances into you you’re too close.


4. Don’t force your way to the front of the stage, poking people with your flash. Be patient and slowly make your way to the front. Alternatively get there before everyone else does.


5. If you can, try not to flash the crowd or the artists in the face. We’ve all done it, but at least try not to. Be aware who your added light is affecting. If you are using continuous lighting, keep in mind that you’re affecting the planned stage lighting. In venues like Live, it pains me to see beautiful light ruined by a big block of white LEDs.


6. Try be less tall.


7. Don’t go for the Hail Mary. This is when you stick your camera up in the air and pray that you get the shot. Unless there is an obstacle right in front of you and you have a specific shot in mind, don’t do it. Chances are something will be chopped on the image and you won’t use it. If you’re going to do it, do it quickly and be aware of whom your actions are affecting.


8. Just don’t be an asshole.


This little list more the start of a conversation than it is a set of rules. I’d love to hear the views of photographers, venue owners, musicians and gig-goers on this issue. This might not be the popular opinion, and really isn’t aimed at anyone in particular but it needs to be said.


Photographers on stage with musician Photographers crowd Jack Parrow - Kevin Goss-Ross

62 Responses to “8 Simple Rules for Shooting a Gig”
  1. Sarona says:


  2. Ozzie says:

    All sounds good. As a muso, mega props to Gareth Freer Bargate who seems to magically morph out of nowhere, get his shot, then melt back into the darkness.

    One more rule – It’s always appreciated when photographers let the band know photos of their gig are up.

  3. Jet says:

    Well said !

  4. jess says:

    words of wisdom..

  5. Don says:

    Well said! Those photographers at Live on sat were ridic! Keep the fuck off the stage you daft pricks!

  6. Steemo says:

    Ya bro. I was getting super annoyed at LIVE on Saturday with all the dudes running around on stage and getting up in the view of the band, I know I wasn’t the only person getting over it. Well said KGR! ous must know!

  7. Matt S says:

    I wish I had read this when I started. Shooting gigs was the biggest learning curve I have ever experienced after going to college and trying to find the clit for the first time. I am guilty of all of that shit. I did however always try to be mindful of where I was, what my flash was doing, and who I was in front of. I always apologise before stepping in front of a member of the crowd to take a few snaps, and I try to get out of their way as quickly as possible.

  8. Rhyan Rockingrolling Rudman says:

    Well done Kevin. It gets me so fucked off, I went to watch Taxi Violence at the Late UNIT 11, this stupid chick kept sticking her fucking camera in the vocalist face, takes a shot, then looks at her shot and then repeats the same action over and over again. Take your CAMERA and FUCK off already. Clubs and venues need to put a stop to this. The bands should issue written permission to photographers to take pics. That will stop all this crap I want to watch a live performance not a whole punch of wanabe rock n roll photographers. Kevin has been on tour with me and he never ever gets in the way of the artist one of the reasons he gets such good shots and he is SKILLED

  9. Skeg says:

    Stoked someone wrote about this…i haven’t noticed it ever being as bad as it was on Saturday at LIVE..during Shadowclub (3 piece band) there were 10 people on the stage in total, and at one stage a dude filming with a fat square LED light would stand right at the front of the stage between the two front-men shooting the crowd, and that’s all i could keep my eye on!!

    As a band member i can honestly say there is nothing better than getting some rad live shots, but just respect the fact that anyone on stage is going to catch the crowd’s eye, and if you need to be up there, tuck behind amps, curtains, or whatever, just does be kak and get up in the band or crowds faces and ruin the bands on-stage performance…nice work DIY and Goss-Ross

  10. Erin says:

    Well said!

  11. Russell says:

    I dig this hard. One thing I need to add though: I think Live needs to get a bit heavier on people IN GENERAL being on the stage. Stage diving is fine. Jump on stage, and launch off. 5 seconds on stage at the most. But this business of people getting up there and dancing around trying to show how ‘in with the band’ they are needs to be snuffed out ASAP.

  12. Tam says:

    I agree. Girls (and boys) dancing on the stage in amongst the band… If being on stage, performing in front of an audience gets you off, get your own fucking band, dance group or become a stripper. That way, we can decide if we want to watch or not. Next time, I’m bringing rotten tomatoes and eggs.

  13. Mark Fuckerberg says:

    Live should also arrange a circle jerk with their lighting and sound.

  14. wololo! says:

    Well said Kevin!

    Who was that twat with the backwards peg brand cap showing off his lens collection on stage?
    He was a classic case in point.

  15. Louis says:

    Well said Kev Dawg, Sounds like the stage had its hands full.

    That first photo depicts your point well for me, i only realised after going back to the image again that the guy on the left wasnt a vocalist and that was a spotlight above him haha

  16. Megan says:

    Awesome! People must know!.

  17. photoleek says:

    You all need over fast lenses and to bounce your flash up… Then convert to black and white… The stages pretty lighting will take care of the rest.

  18. photoleek says:

    Who was paying al nicoll and why wasn’t he at sasha?

  19. Michael says:

    Awesome. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Venues should stop letting people in with cameras unless you have permission from the band or venue owner. It would add more value to the photos afterwards as well.

  20. gustaf says:

    Bob Perfect’s Comedy is shit!!

  21. xdoomx says:

    Funny enough, on Saturday we remarked amongst ourselves how many photographers were on stage and almost another band themselves. Pretty weird seeing a dude in the middle of the stage taking photos. Didnt look like he knew what he was doing though

  22. Flyinghorse says:

    Nice one Kevin. Well said.
    I think venues should also try to control the number of photographers going up onto the stage too, when they can. I’ve sometimes stopped shooting and packed up because there are just too many people on the stage blasting flashes and getting in the way. I kinda agree with what Rhyan Rockingrolling Rudman says above, but we all started somewhere and I wouldn’t like to see the live music avenue cut off to newcomers, because you learn some seriously good shit shooting in the dark in front of a live band. There needs to be some guidelines though and these are really good.

  23. mynameisgrant. says:

    camera control at venues!!! please for the love of god…

  24. Nem says:

    Right on.
    Kids have to quit thinking they deserve special attention and treatment just because thier parents can afford a fancy camera. This does not make you a photographer.

  25. Kevin Goss-Ross says:

    Well I’ll be. I was getting ready for a hate shitstorm there. I’m not more qualified than anyone else to make these rules and guidelines. I read over transcripts of the interview I did with Lynch again while I was writing this. He sums it up best: “they (inexperienced music photographers) seem less inclined to tell the story than to be a part of it”.

  26. Sarah says:

    Usually people who are up on stage and watermarking their kak, oversaturated, overexposed pictures with things like ” Shutter Hippy Photography ” or ” Minx imaginations ” as soon as they get home have zero
    connection to their work anyway.

    People like you, Lynch, Erin W … You guys have some sort of holy connection to your cameras
    and with that comes respect for the things you’re taking pictures of.

    It’s a fad that will wannabees with the “scene” and hopefully involve them with their favourite Dirtbin band.
    As you say, a fame trip. I’ve yet to grasp what the appeal to that sort of thing is.

    Always with the wisdom, K-dawg. <3
    Hopefully these twats will consider some of it.

    PS : I love your Loopy shots . I think she loves you too .

  27. Sean says:

    Kevin, thank you for getting this out there. Hopefully the hordes of cats with 5D’s and a speedlight will be a little more courteous to bands and gig-goers. I spend half the year shooting for a music magazine in London and the rules there are very very clear. If you’re lucky enough to have wangled a photo pass in the first place (simply owning a camera, unlike here, isn’t enough) you’re allowed into the front for the first 3 songs and you’re not under any circumstanced allowed to use flash. The gig is for the paying fans, not the media. Their job is to document as best they can under the circumstances offered. Obviously here in SA almost all our gigs are in tiny dark-as-hell clubs without a photo pit but this business of photogs getting on stage has to stop. Its completely unacceptable. And for those who’ve been requested by the bands need to heed your advice here, the most important being keep the flash to an absolute minimum and for fuck sakes wear black. One of the few gigs I’ve worked at in London where there wasn’t a photo pit was an Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster show and after 2 songs the singer started lashing out at photogs with a heavily booted foot and telling us to fuck off, the gig is for fans. Fair enough. Retire to the bar, get a beer, enjoy the show. I know it’d probably be impossible to enforce in most venues here but the 3 song rule is worth looking into. Get in, get your shot, get out and let the die-hard fans at the front have a ball.

  28. Kaz says:

    I’m glad someone finally listed some rules. I’m in a band, and we’ve played gigs where there were about 5 photographers and 2 video cameras on stage, squeezing past us and getting in our faces. We love having some cool pics after a show, but I think there are just way, way too many budding photographers trying to do the same thing at the same time, and maybe due to the competitive vibes between them, they forget all about the etiquette and don’t realise (or don’t care) that they might be spoiling the show for the crowd and the band.

  29. Ry says:

    Goddamn Kevin, why didn’t you impart this knowledge many moons ago?!
    Would sure have been helpful in sustaining the dream.

    The only problem with “camera control” (Goieie Nag, Meneer. Kan ek jou kamera-pas sien, asseblief?) is that most newbie photogs need this practical exposure. Many a (contemporary) great photog in this country got stared snapping local shows and whatnot to build their portfolios. There’s such a fine line to be walked (schnarfed?? what do i know!) in regards to this. If you’re gonna limit the amount of cameras in the club; what criteria do you define the parameters with? Do they need Bob to sign an indemnity form for them?

    CameraClubbers are a necessary evil and are not going anywhere soon. Just keep dancing on the dude, eventually he’ll bail in fear for his equipment.

  30. Samora says:

    Well said jesus, and good dialogue!

  31. jack says:

    What about the band review?

  32. Bob says:

    Band review is coming later today.

  33. ben says:

    Durbanisyours again with the negative criticism, the fact is durban hosted an awesome band infront of a packed house at an amazing venue but all you guys can do is criticize photographers. For all you know the people covering the event photo and video wise were all pushing their own product just like you guys do at DIY. They weren’t getting paid like the 1 that was and the 1 videographer their were 10 photo/video guys their and only 2 were booked so that’s 8 extra flashes and people to contend with mustve been hard competing with 8 freelance people out to get the shot. Also consider the publicity that the band and venue get from all the video and photos, is this not what you want as “live music bloggers” we all saw what happened to live venues around durban throughout the years and this nay saying and criticism adds to the lack of development throughout the local durban scene. Having your strong sense of entitlement to critique bands and events is not unique as most self righteous pricks think that their opinion is worthy to be read by everyone. The article does raise some very good points though that I do agree with but in all honesty I don’t come on this website to read this shit, review the band keep it as positive as you can. Remember you appeal to a certain market and not everyone is going to like what you say and that’s what you call “haters” don’t be those guys.

  34. Bob says:

    Hey Ben

    A couple things.

    1) “the fact is durban hosted an awesome band infront of a packed house at an amazing venue but all you guys can do is criticize photographers.”

    It’s not all we can do, in fact, our review of the show will be up soon.

    2) “Also consider the publicity that the band and venue get from all the video and photos, is this not what you want as “live music bloggers we all saw what happened to live venues around durban throughout the years and this nay saying and criticism adds to the lack of development throughout the local durban scene”

    Crap booking, shitty marketing, bad timing/bad luck, our city’s horrible licensing process and good old fashioned bad business closes venues. Nay saying and criticism helps, it gives venues and bands an idea of how they can improve. The fact that so many comments agree with Kevin here shows that his finger is on the pulse and the sentiment is felt by more than just him. Now a smart venue and a smart photographer would read this and take the hints so that they can get the photos without the crowd going “Fuck that guy.”

    3) “The article does raise some very good points though that I do agree with but in all honesty I don’t come on this website to read this shit, review the band keep it as positive as you can. Remember you appeal to a certain market and not everyone is going to like what you say and that’s what you call “haters” don’t be those guys.”

    You don’t come on the site to read this shit? That’s fine, don’t read it then. The introduction says exactly what the article is about, it’s not in the review section, so at no point did we trick you into reading it. Plenty of other people enjoyed the read and agreed with it, many bands, live music lovers and photographers shared the article because they enjoyed it. Not everyone agrees with what you say, clearly. If you think we appeal to a certain market, and that that market is you, you are so fucking wrong. We’re not haters, we’re realists. We post positive stuff, we post negative stuff and then we post articles like this that just need to be said. The review will be up later and it will be clearly marked as such, hope it’s to your liking, but if it’s not then feel free to start your own site that provides the content that you want to see, it’s what we did.

  35. Bob says:

    “Having your strong sense of entitlement to critique bands and events is not unique as most self righteous pricks think that their opinion is worthy to be read by everyone”

    I hope you see the irony in this comment. I really do. Our articles are written to start discussions, it’s why we’re so stoked that our comment section gets used so much. We have our say, and everyone else has their’s. Our voice isn’t all that unique and we don’t feel any entitlement, we just put shit out there and people can either agree with it or disagree, like you have chosen to do here. Nobody has to read this, people choose to come on here or to like us on facebook or follow us on twitter, of course we want people to, but at the end of the day, that’s your choice.

  36. Ugh says:

    love this article. as a gig-goer I totally agree and have never understood why so many photographers think they have some sort of unarguable authority to stand in front of those who made the effort to get themselves to the front row in time. Be a little concientious, take your shot and then move out of the way. Then we can all love each other and I will try harder not to spill my very sticky green drink on your very expensive looking camera.

  37. Ben, I’m not saying that the other photographers shouldn’t be there or that I have more right than anyone to photograph the musicians. I’m just saying that it’d be great if everyone was on the same page in terms of what is acceptable and what isn’t. When I spoke to Sean Brand in 2010 he said this: “I have never thought of myself as important and that someone is getting in my way – we are all equal. They have to learn and practice somewhere. It is apparent though, that many see a media pass as a way of getting closer to their idols … The biggest joke for me is the obsession with newbies to shoot from on-stage… some artists don’t even offer any cool shots up there, but give 90% to the crowd. These camera-carriers look but don’t see”. I’m really glad I went to see Sean and chat to him about this. It merely cemented these views with me.

    As for posting it on here, why the hell not? If it is going to effectively improve the situation for the venues you seem to be so keen on protecting it should go on here. It’s relevant. Originally I was going to put it on my blog but realised that a far larger group of people would see it on DIY.

  38. ben says:

    point taken.

  39. The Lappies says:

    Thanks Kev

    Its been noted and we will be enforcing the photography policy soon, same as the stagediving policy, thing is when you got 6 photographers in a venue with killer lighting and they all trying to get the best shots they are bound to get in each others way so we will be restricting numbers in future.

    Cameramen should not be seen or heard, lol…

  40. great article says:

    Interesting to read – it was “very” ,aha

  41. You can call him Al says:

    where the fuck is Al Nicol when you need him?

  42. You can call him Al says:


  43. The Lappies says:


  44. 50mm says:

    Hi Al 😉

  45. Tyronne says:

    Most people who seem to be doing the commenting/blaming seem to be forgetting that you cannot only blame the photographers.

    Its simple.

    Stage/Backstage passes are to be given to those with permission/experience to be in those areas. Promoters/Club owners/Venue owners are responsible for keeping access to these places in check.

    There are photographers (Al Nicol) for example who know what to do, where to do it.. and how to do it.. without interfering or getting in the way (as labelled in the points in the article).

    Its called experience. And young/amateur photographers generally are not/or may not be as well equipped with the knowledge of industry etiquette as the likes of the experienced guys, alas getting in the way or making a nuisance of themselves.

    One way to solve it. a Promoter/venue operator/club owner decided on 1 or 2 photographers for the stage/band etc. And the others earn their way through the ranks throughout the rest of the crowd.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Every gig/venue will be different based on size etc.

    I just dont see how promoters/club owners can just allow 6 or 7 photographers to prance around freely on the stage/backstage doing their thing without any sort of control.

    Inexperienced people are nervous… and nervous people make mistakes… its natural.

  46. The Lighting At Live says:

    Lappies darling. We’re not ‘killer’, we’re fabulous!

  47. 50mm says:

    Well put Tyronne. There are valid points in the article, even if they come across a bit harsh.

  48. Jolling! says:

    Why the fuck are people jumping on Al Nicol’s dick? Dude has one photo and it’s not even a good one.

  49. SniffSniffs says:

    Lights – The Venue

  50. kenny says:

    Hey key,
    I’m planning my 18th birthday party and I’m struggling to decide on a photographer,
    which do you think is best, Big Red or [WokShots]?

  51. kenny says:

    sorry i meant to say Kev Goss-Ross

  52. sampam says:

    once again Durban Is Yours is killing everyones vibe, what is the point of this fucking blog?

  53. Bob says:

    Mostly to win awards, start discussions, interview artists and share their work with people, give photographers and writers a chance to be seen and heard, expose Durban bands that don’t have much presence online and to annoy people like you. But mostly just to win awards.

  54. Damien says:

    FTMFW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WELL SAID!

  55. Daisy says:


  56. Kile says:

    A very valid article indeed!! I myself have not been shooting live acts lately based on the exact same frustrations. I try my best to utilize the available light at a venue unless its waay too dark. In that case I’ve taken a page out of your book and try to strategically place my strobes out of everybody’s way. Unfortunately very few toggers in the country actually pay attention to etiquette and I feel that is the reason why so few are able to actually earn a real living. Keep preaching the good word, maybe a few assholes will start respecting the muso’s and crowds that they need to earn their living! Peace

  57. Sophia says:

    Some wise words. Another thing: since when did owning an SLR become synonymous with “photographer”? I’d like to see a flock of Coolpix owners shove their way to the front at the next gig please.

  58. ohsotrue says:

    Very true and valid a point, considering that as a photographer we must consider our surroundings. We are not the act. peace be to Durban Photographers and the move

  59. PMB says:

    Let me tell you,I’ve been doing wedding photography for quite ã while now and we have almost EXACTLY the same problem…like seriously dudes…standing between the couple and the church is soo not on,at the reception …using waay too bright ights kills the mood…fair enough uve been paid to take good pics and maybe even like me…are Paid ã hec of a lot for good pics don’t be stupid and go and tottaly outside the venue’s lighting…also to all those who have recently acquired an SLR…it is Not kewl especially at wedding for you to be in the way of the photographer ALL THE TIME damn that’s the pits,I’ve actually had to start asking the couples to announce that they have hired ã photographer and that the guests are to please not get in the way…so yeah we all have our problems…most are common across the spectrum

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