The Policy of Banning Only DSLRs from Concerts is Ridiculous


Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros are due on stage in 15 minutes and I walk up to the doorstaff ticket in hand. They tear the ticket and ask to look in the camera bag for deodorants and liquids. I’m not too sure why. This is the Trinity Centre in Bristol with a capacity of 650 and normally holds community events.

The doorman tuts and says “Interchangeable lens.” I’m a bit confused. “Tour manager has said no interchangeable lens cameras, sorry.” I returned to my car, out the equipment in the boot and went back to the gig.


I have been covering gigs and festivals for 4 years for local newspapers and magazines and it’s taken me all over the UK. Sometimes it is pre-commisioned, and sometimes like this gig it’s freelance. Occasionally you’ll get the odd musician that will ban photographers from the pit. Sometimes venues ban long lenses. But I have never heard of DSLRs being banned at the door.


Once inside I spotted two people with DSLRs happily snapping away in front of the door staff, no credentials in sight. When the band came out hundreds of people lifted smartphones and flashed the band. I even spotted one girl with an iPad and another filming all their songs.

The band were terrific and like everyone else at the gig I took a photo with my smartphone to see what all the fuss was about:

July 18th copy

It’s horrendous, I do not understand why people do it, I can’t even make out that it’s a stage with people on. People in the front row were openly filming and taking photographs. That footage is already on Youtube including one girl who has uploaded 10 songs from the second row. A similar search on Twitter reveals dozens of photos.

It left me wondering the reasons behind why the tour manager has banned DSLRs from the gig. They cannot stop photographs being taken. Nobody in their right mind would ban smartphones from venues and while there are smartphones at venues there will be film and photographs being taken. With the power and capabilities of bridge cameras which are not interchangeable, along with point and shoots, the DSLR ban makes no sense. It is just discriminating against music lovers who own the wrong type of camera.

I carry a DSLR over a point and shoot as you never know where you’ll be placed in the venue. Sometimes a prime lens will get the job done and other times you’ll need a 70-300mm lens.

A photo of Elvis Costello I shot at a concert that didn't ban DSLRs

A photo of Elvis Costello I shot at a concert that didn’t ban DSLRs

A photo of James Morrison I shot at a concert that didn't ban DSLRs

A photo of James Morrison I shot at a concert that didn’t ban DSLRs

A photo of Professor Green I shot at a concert that didn't ban DSLRs

A photo of Professor Green I shot at a concert that didn’t ban DSLRs

A photo of Sting I shot at a concert that didn't ban DSLRs

A photo of Sting I shot at a concert that didn’t ban DSLRs

The article I wrote was a glowing review of one of the best bands I’ve ever seen, yet it did not get picked up by any news outlets as it did not have an accompanying photograph. The only real loser I can see having DSLRs banned is the musicians themselves.

About the author: Luke Plastow is a photographer based in Oxfordshire, England. He is a creative person who also paints and writes. Originally from Essex, he is a Multimedia Computing graduate from Staffordshire. Visit his website here and his Facebook page here.

Image credit: Marlango by auggie tolosa, TelePhoto Shooter by Jsome1, IMG_5044 by V31S70

  • Frank

    I’ve been shooting concerts in North America for over seven years, and the “no detachable lenses” policy has been a given for any venues above bars/small clubs for all that time. you want to bring an SLR into a show, you should expect to have to get accreditation. You may be able to sneak it in but you may not. Security has bigger concerns than debating camera types, so it’s easier for them to just say “no” and go about their business.

  • Lukep

    Your advice was read and noted. I’m always willing to listen to other photographers when they offer advice.

    One thing I would appreciate though is less of the condescending tone and insults about lame articles. I’m sure you wouldn’t walk up to someone in the street and insult them just because you disagree with their opinion so don’t be a keyboard warrior.

    My contact details are on my website if you wish to email me about this further.

  • Lukep

    It’s ok, which gig were you at out of interest?

  • Lukep

    What this person said. I work for a number of local newspapers in my area. Mainly festivals. On this occasion I got the phone call only a few hours before the gig asking to go down but was told they didn’t have time to sort the accreditation but could get tickets instead.

    I tried my best with what I was given. This has happened a few times before and I’ve never been stopped taking photos from the crowd. It appears form whats been said I to have been lucky in the past.

  • Lukep

    Is that the same as all football teams in the US?

  • Lukep

    I’ve heard this happen at Disney a lot as well.

  • Lukep

    I already shoot for a few outlets. This was a last minute gig request and they couldnt get a photopass but could secure tickets.

  • Lukep

    That was what I was getting at before the comment were hijacked by people insulting me.

  • Music Photographer

    I photograph music for a living and its definitely not unusual for people who do not have the appropriate permissions from artists to photograph shows to be refused entry with a DSLR. I am a little unsure what the point in this article is, if the author has in fact been “covering gigs and festivals for 4 years for local newspapers and magazines” “all over the UK” he would be well aware of the industry wide standard rules and regulations…

  • forgot-about-income-taxes

    The quality is the whole reason. They want exclusive control of the best media related to the concert, whether it be professional-quality photos or professional-quality recordings. If you’re taking unlicensed, professional-quality photos of the event, you’re potentially able to profit off of their intellectual property without compensating them.

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    If you already shoot for outlets and have been doing so for years then you would already know that the DSLR wouldn’t be allowed without prior approval. That’s common sense.

    And I’m not trying to sound rude or condescending, but this response sounds like a made up excuse. Why wasn’t it mentioned in the original article?

    To quote you: “The article I wrote was a glowing review of one of the best bands I’ve ever seen, yet it did not get picked up by any news outlets as it did not have an accompanying photograph.”

    This basically says that you did not have a request, but that you were hoping someone would pick it up.

    If you DID have a request to review the band you could have written the review and published the article with a photo from an accredited photographer. Corbis, Getty, WireImage, Film Magic, etc… Licensing a photo for non-exclusive web usage is super cheap.

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    I’m not trying to be condescending. And I’m definitely not a “keyboard warrior”. If someone was on the street saying this I would definitely tell them what I thought of it.

    I’m not going to to your site searching for your email. All I did was offer you my advice as a professional concert photographer.

    And if you can’t take public criticism, don’t post articles in a public forum. Especially ones that make you sound like a petulant child that had his lolly taken away.

  • logic

    you’ll probably use a flash less (or not even use one at all) if you have a DSLR with a lens faster than f/2.8… cellphones have flashes on them, compact cameras have built in flashes for the majority of cameras, and pro dslrs (1dx, 5d, etc) have no built in flash. so what’s ur point? just ban the fuggin flash.

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    As a professional it’s not the image quality that is the problem with crowd sourcing. It’s the PRICE. Most editorials will choose an “ok” free photo over a “killer” photo they have to pay for.

    As an example I had a relatively high profile publication offer me $60 to cover a THREE DAY festival. When I told the editor the price was completely unreasonable he said, we’d rather have you do it, but “photographer I won’t name” will shoot it for free tickets. That photographer is capable, but not great. I didn’t do the gig.

    So your comments about “becoming a better photographer” are irrelevant. The truth is that it is about the bottom line. It’s about $$$. It’s about the people who shoot for free so they can see their favorite band. It’s about people shooting from the crowd an giving away photos to get their name on a website.

  • Lukep

    If I don’t reply you bad mouth me. If I do reply you bad mouth me. It is no win here for me.

    I have accepted your advice and appreciate feedback from other photographers, I really do….. but that doesn’t seem good enough for you. You just need to keep going. This is your 10th post on this article. I think you’ve made your point.

    My email is [email protected] if you wish to discuss it further drop me a line.

  • Lukep

    It wasn’t mentioned in the original article because the article was about how it seems discriminatory to ban one type of camera. If I had known my reason for being at the gig was under such scrutiny I would have spent a paragraph detailing the phonecall, the meet for tickets, the drive down, etc.

    The small local papers round where I live often have staff layovers. The editors are different but the reporters go between them. There was a reporter due to go but as I was the nearest person they passed it onto me.

    I agree about the photo licensing, I’m not sure why they didn’t purchase from one of the accredited companies. But then I’m not the editor.

    I hope this satisfies your need to know why I was there and in what capacity.

    Thanks for reading the article despite your annoyance at it, all feedback and criticisms have been taken on board.

  • Scott

    I take it you don’t shoot metal? I’ve never heard my shutter during a metal/rock show.

    For Jazz, classical and very tame rock I can see it being an issue.

  • Brodie Cole

    No my point was DSLRS should be banned for random people as they don’t know gig etiquette.

  • jrconner

    The best camera is the one that takes the photograph. If DSLRs are not allowed, use a camera like the Canon G16 or the Nikon Coolpix P330. And get a press pass.

  • Dave Haynie

    It’s a line in the sand… they’ve decided they don’t want random pro-quality shots taken. But they can’t exactly put camera experts at every gate. So most venues these days have a “no interchangeable lens” policy, which does very effectively weed out all of the best cameras.

    Thing is, it’s affecting the image quality, but as you say, there are plenty of good P&S models out there. I was using “travel zoom” type pocket cameras for some years… they’re cheap enough, I didn’t cry when my Panasonic TZ5 got knocked to the ground. On the other hand, the difference between that and an my 6D or even my Olympus E-PM1 is profound… not to mention all the reasonably priced longish f/1.8 lenses you can get for m43 these days.

    So these days I have a Fujifilm X-S1 bridge camera for this… the lens covers all the ranges I’d need at a show, and the 2/3″ 12Mpixel sensor hasn’t going to the ridiculously tiny pixels of most of the travel zooms these days. It’s also got a real viewfinder, albeit an electronic one, so I’m not contributing to the “smart phone” problem. And I’m not dragging 25lbs and $5000 worth of bulky camera gear through festival crowds… it’s not all bad.

    Photography, like any art and craft, demands the correct tool for the correct job. If you’re a working pro with press credentials, sure, bring all those big white L lenses along… you may not be there for the music anyway. When you’re made of half musician, half photographer DNA like me (that’s mom and dad in that order), you want some great photos but also not to the extent that it prevents any shots (eg, you didn’t sneak that camera in or get lucky at the gate) or prevents you enjoyment of the show.

  • Angelgreg

    I have been to the last 2 Kenny Chesney concerts at Anaheim Stadium. I took my Nikon DSLR to both with no problems. I guess it is up to the artist.

  • Robert Gonzalez

    I’m not a photographer at all. I own a point and shoot, and a smartphone, of course. I am attending a Katy Perry concert in a few weeks. I’m sitting fairly close to the stage, but would still like to get the best pics possible. My wife forked over quite a bit of cash for the tickets. As long as there’s not tripod or 2 foot lens involved, people should be able to bring whatever the hell they want. ;)

  • James

    And that is the real reason. I went to a McCartney concert last week and the ticket said ‘no professional cameras allowed’ so I had to leave the 5d at home and take horrible/noisy images with my smartphone.