I recently got to photograph Bring Me The Horizon and Sleeping With Sirens on the Threesome tour (see the photos here) and I simultaneously created a "How to Photograph an Arena Tour" vlog, but I figured I should turn it into a blog post as well, for my audience that prefers to read!
1) Photograph the line.
The first thing you should do when you arrive on location is to capture the line of people waiting to enter the arena. I say that this comes first, because it's on your way to the box office where you will go to step #2. Capturing the line will add more to the story of the show.
2) Pick up your credentials.
You will need to go to the box office or the designated area for picking up credentials (guest list window). If you get there too early they may not have the list yet. Unfortunately there may be something going on to make the show run behind, but give it a bit of time and you'll get your credentials. If you have any issues, be sure to have the number for your point of contact so you can either text or call them to sort it out.
3) Meet your escort.
You will have to meet up with someone who typically works on the band's crew or who is a staff member at the venue, who will escort you from the designated press meeting location to the photo pit. This often requires some movement behind the scenes of the show, so you'll get the opportunity to see the inner workings of the arena, which I always find exciting. There's something electric about the energy in an arena and you can feel it radiate throughout the building. It's quite fun. Once you get to the pit there may be an area off to the side or often times underneath the metal steps on the barricade where you can put your backpack. You'll have to trust that no one is going to nab your bag, but this is a risk we take with this job. Hopefully security keeps an eye on everyone's stuff.
4) Say hello to security.
It's important to say hello to security once you enter the photo pit for a few reasons, but most importantly, it's good to have them on your side. Being polite goes a long way in this dark world we live in. At least fist bumping, high fiving, or shaking the hands of each security guard is a great way to ensure that you have the best experience in the photo pit. Sometimes security guards have shitty nights too, so just be nice. Another reason to say hello to them is because they're there to keep you safe and you should acknowledge and respect that.
5) Get creative!
Once the show begins you will have the first three songs of each band's set to photograph or film (if allowed) the performance, so get snapping!
6) Don't stay in one spot.
Move around for goodness sake! You don't want 100 photos of the band from the same angle. Also, the singer is not the only member of the band, most of the time. Even if it's a rap show where the rapper is the main focus, try to get some shots of the DJ or live band members they have performing with them. If you're photographing a DJ you should also try to get as many angles as possible.
7) Don't get in the way!!
Often times at arena shows you can have upwards of 20 photographers in the photo pit. That's a lot of bodies in the pit, not including the five to eight security guards they will have for any given show in an arena. You will have to maneuver your way through the bodies and cameras in a way that is safe, efficient, and non intrusive.
Another thing about not getting is the way is being mindful of your camera. Don't lift your camera up over your head to get a higher angle without first looking around you to make sure there isn't someone behind you trying to get a shot. There's nothing worse than having part of someone's camera in your photo.
8) Get out quickly.
After the third song you should immediately grab your gear and any bag that you may have brought and exit the photo pit. You don't want to be in the way, because usually after the third song the crowd can get a bit crazier, especially if it's a heavier show.
9) Take crowd shots.
If permitted, which it most likely won't be, but if it's permitted, you should try to get some crowd shots. Bands love nothing more than to see the size of the crowd in an arena. If you get to shoot from the sound booth after the third song, even better. Some bands or arenas don't permit you to shoot from the sound booth, but if you get lucky you can snag some awesome crowd shots. Bands see photos of themselves every day, but they don't often get to show off the size of the crowds, so these shots go a long way.
10) Thank your contact.
Make sure to always thank the person or people who helped you get into the show. This goes a long way in the touring world. Word of mouth spreads fast, so if you're good at what you do and you're polite you will surely get more gigs.
11) Edit quickly.
Edit your content as quickly as you can. The band probably has another show the next day, but they'd love to post something from the night before on their feeds to thank the city for coming out to support them. The faster you can get your content edited and to the band or their publicist the more likely your chances are of getting a tag.