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

  • Adam Cross

    every show I’ve been to in the last 3 years hasn’t let me in with my DSLR, or any camera other than my phone – they just don’t, at least not here in London – unless you have photo creds to shoot in a pit etc.

  • Mick Anders

    Agreed, so silly. I totally understand no flash photography, but to blanket ban DSLR’s is insane.

  • mgear

    Advantage of mirrorless!

    An NEX or Fuji X would probably be fairly good concert cameras since they don’t even look like SLRs.

  • stephanie

    weird.. just saw edward sharpe and got to take some great pictures with my dslr! :( sorry

  • Deacon Blues

    So let me get this straight… you go to concerts without an accreditation and take pics as a freelancer, hoping to sell them later?

    Well, you can be really lucky you don’t live in Germany then. Unless you have press credentials (issued specifically for the concert in question), you can’t even take any kind of “prosumer” gear into concert venues over here – forget about taking a DSLR.

  • Steve Waslet

    Pre-commisioned = Representing one news outlet
    Freelance = representing multipe outlets

    Where I’m from it’s common practice for reviewers to go without credentials as it means they get to experience the gig without being watched or pined over by the venue,

  • oldtaku

    And the annoyance factor from one guy taking some shots with his DSLR is nothing compared to the a-holes who film the whole thing by holding their freakin’ ipads up over their heads.

  • Jody Rodgers

    You can rarely get into a venue in Seattle with a DSLR without being prearranged by the venue or band to take photos.

  • Rabi Abonour

    I don’t think that’s what he meant. From the sound of sound of it, by “pre-commisioned” he meant “freelance” and by “freelance” he meant “on spec.”

    Why would you pay to go to a concert to shoot it for publication? The rate your going to get for the photos probably wouldn’t cover the ticket…

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    Where have you been for the last 10 years? Just about every venue bans DSLRs without a photo pass.

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    Freelance = working for yourself.

    I shoot for multiple outlets but I’m still commissioned and I put in my press request and if they deem the publication or publications worthy then I am approved and I shoot with a DSLR.

    It IS common for REVIEWERS to be without credentials. I generally get a reviewer ticket as well as a photo pass. But a REVIEWER is not a photographer.

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    You can be “pre-commisioned” and still shoot “spec”. That’s what wire photographers do. We still have to request under the agency’s name.

    If you email a PR person and say I’m a freelance photographer, I want to shoot the show for my blog and maybe I’ll try to sell the photos to someone you probably wouldn’t get an answer.

  • Natalia

    here in Greece I’ve taken my DSLR and long lens or primes to gigs and taken pics and movies with flash without a problem, without pre-arranging it (I just show up at the door with my DSLR on my neck) and without credentials (I just upload to flickr and facebook I’ve never sold any photo lol). But I have been able to do this because I go to less-popular gigs and there are few people with DSLRs here, probably most people don’t even realize a photo is something that can be sold.

  • gig goer

    but why do venues restrict DSLRs or other kinds of photography and why do they require credentials to let you shoot? what is their motivation for doing that?

  • Rabi Abonour

    That’s fair, but in this situation you are still getting a press pass. No wire photographer I know would buy a ticket to a show to shoot.

  • Paul

    This is a bad thing…. My wife has a Canon camera that is not interchangeable lenses but has a 640mm lens on it.
    Apparently Mississippi State football team has the same kind of ban at their football games.

  • Frank Drebin

    Its the right thing to do, if you want to enjoy a music show!

    I´ve been at a jazzconcert yesterday and it was really annoying to hear all DSLRs snapping especially during the quiet parts of the show. Don´t get me wrong, i love taking photos, but that really spoiled my experience!

  • Nikola Josipovic

    They don’t want you to be able to sell your photos later

  • Gill R

    Thank you! And not just the noise but I really don’t want to have my view of a show or concert hampered by people wavng slrs and big lenses around. The bloody iPhones are bad enough :(

  • Luci

    Hmm not sure where you’re coming for here. I’m 20 and have been going to gigs since I was 13 and been interesting in gig photography since 15, and I’ve always known that ‘professional’ cameras are a no no since only the pros with permission from the tour manager/ Press and a photo pass are allowed to use professional equipment. And rightly so, photography is harder and harder to become successful in since everyone has a professional quality camera these days. I’d like to know, when I manage to bag a photo pass, that my work will have more substance because I’d be one of the few who took professional quality photos, and would therefore be more likely to be seen.

  • Luci

    Also, I know that when you’re freelance it’s harder to bag passes but if you collect press emails then it’ll be easier to get passes without having to go through a publication won’t it? That’s what my friend did and he ended up running a successful online magazine.

  • gochugogi

    Modern society is enamored of rules and regulation. Parks, malls, and restaurants have DSLR bans and so it goes. I was tossed out of a university in Seoul for merely walking on campus with a DSLR around my neck. I hadn’t taken a single picture and probably wouldn’t have as it wasn’t a photogenic location. They had no problems with cellphones…

  • Leif Sikorski

    True, or the OM-D with its nice stabilisatiion and F1.8 lenses. But at some places they already changed the rules to “no cameras with interchangeable lenses”

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    It’s to try to keep the images at semi-professional quality. Bands, PR, and festivals getting stricter every year and I’m all for it.

    And as someone else mentioned, the cellphones an point and shoots are annoying enough. Imagine 500 people at a concert using Live View hold up their Rebels with 70-300 lenses on them clicking away the whole time.

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    For what it’s worth, many bands are starting to ban cameraphone photography and point and shoots as well. She and Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward) recently imposed a ban on crowd photography.

    I back camera bans 100%. If I paid to see a band last thing I want to do is have to peer around everyone’s phones and point and shoots, the add to that giant SLR’s with telephotos click-clacking at 12 fps so some “photographer” can get a hail mary shot. Forget that. I’d be livid if I paid $30 and had to deal with all that.

    “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.”

    Honestly, even if you had requested a photo-pass it would be highly unlikely for you to get one if you’re “reviewing” the band for yourself and hoping someone might pick it up. Very few news outlets care about concert reviews and if the concert was newsworthy the outlet would have it covered. If you have no immediate benefit to offer the band you are of no use to them. It’s that simple. This may sound harsh, but it’s just simple truth. It’s the way the business works.

    Here’s the best advice I can offer you. Find a online magazine to shoot for. You get your photo-pass, you can bring you DSLR, you can write your reviews and have them published. Or start your own music review site. If you have time to write op-ed pieces for PetaPixel you can start a Blogger account. Instead of complaining about the “NO DSLR” rule, find a way.

  • tarsus

    It’s the DSLR click clack noise. I shoot a lot of events and have switched to a high level silent camera as I became aware of the disturbance I was causing. Imagine dozens of DSLRs going off in the crowd. I note that DSLR users are an arrogant bunch, myself included until I woke up, who somehow have the right to get the shot no matter how it bothers the other patrons. I also fully understand performers now banning cell phone cameras as all you can see sometimes is sea of small screens held high.

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    No legitimate reviewer I know would buy a ticket to review a show.

  • Rabi Abonour

    Aside from minor semantic issues, I think you and I are on the same page here.

  • Rowe Lee

    OMG the stupidity is spreading… Used to be that this only happens in the Philippines. I infer it has to do with money– pro photogs having ties with the organizers only, and they’re depriving anyone else from having good pictures and enjoying the events. The ones they should really ban are those huge tablets that block the view of others when tablet owners lift up their tablets for a picture.

  • markz

    In Australia in recent years (maybe the last 4 years) the only show that didn’t ban “professional” cameras unless you were press or had prearrangements with venue or band management was the last outdoor shows by the Pixies, even bands who’s gigs are more driven by word of mouth rather than radio play or payed ads like TMBG and Reverend Horton Heat’s gigs had “no professional cameras” either explicitly printed on the ticket or enforced by door staff even if not…. yet half the audience it seems stands there with their phone snapping away images that are instantly forgettable.

  • markx

    I work at a university in Australia and one of my jobs is to document buildings and grounds with in the faculty/school I work with.
    When I worked with my DSLR or medium format film SLR almost always I had security descend on my demanding to know who I am and why am I taking photos and several times threatening to confiscate gear and detain me while they call the police, this is despite the fact the university has no “no photography” rules, the grounds are public (state) land and It’s actually part of what the university employs me to do. Apart from it being degrading it affects your ability to produce quality work if you’re stressing about another confrontation.

    And yet if I grabbed a Leica M8 or M9 owned by one of my co-workers and go shooting with that I got nothing from security…. I may as well have be invisible to them despite the image quality being equal or better to my DSLR.
    So I now I just shoot with a Micro 4/3 camera.
    Or sometimes with just a cheap point and shoot and if management complain about quality it’s a “sucks to be you, you want better then you reign in your idiot security staff”.

  • markz

    you must go to quieter gigs than I do…. most bands I go see I wouldn’t be able to hear a motor drive and mirror clack of an old film SLR like my old F4 banging away (not to mention its “electric screw driver focus”) when I was shooting it my self let alone if it was being used by someone else in the crowd. Only reason I knew the camera made the shot was the viewfinder black out and/or the vibrations from the shutter and motordrive.

  • Victor

    BTW, “prime” lens does not mean normal or short lens.

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    You should get your hearing checked. I stand in the pit right in front of a rock band with the PA, amps, and monitors and I can still hear the mirrors slapping from DSLR’s from photographers standing next to me.

  • Mark S

    Sorry, I may have missed the point to this article. The two other mentioned photographers without photo passes aside…You didnt have permission by way of a photo pass to professionally shoot the gig, so that is probably why you were refused entry with a DSLR.

    Am I missing something?

    Near enough every venue I shoot at in the UK bans DSLR’s for the general public. If youre covering the gig (i.e. working) then you can get a photo pass prior to attending the gig.

    For all you complaining about this ‘new’ rule (which has been around for decades.) Think about all the professional photographers who are having their livelihood taken away from them due to ‘crowdsourcing’ of images….now If everyone in the crowd was allowed to take in a DSLR with a zoom lens, just think what would happen to this niche of photography.

    This a pointless article, so pointless in fact that I’ve questioned myself three times as to why the hell I’m responding….


  • Bill

    Not saying this is right or moral, but just a way to bring your DSLR into any event.

    You have to use psychology when trying to get in. It’s not 100% but a little work and you may get in without any issue.

    I usually walk around the venue first to see how many entrances there are and try to spot out the security personnel who look like they are not they savoy when identifying camera equipment.

    Carrying it around your neck is not going to work. You need to split up the parts and not bring it in a camera bag.
    A friend or friends help in this process. placing the longer or bigger of the parts the furthest at the bottom of the bag and usually wrapped in clothes like underwear helps. No security guard I have ever seen will touch underwear.

    Now bring in a 800mm f/5.6 just is not going to work, but if your lucky, you might be able to sneak in your 70-200 or similar.

    Again, I am not condoning doing this to break any laws or to take photos that are banned for legitimate reasons. Also remember, just because you may get your gear in, you could possibly get tossed out if you are caught.

  • Ed Lynn

    If you shoot for publications, even occasionally, get one to issue you a press credential. Problem solved!

  • David Becker

    They ban SLRs because they can find them. Most of the seated (as opposed to club shows) I’ve gone to in the last few years start with an announcement about no recording or photography of any kind. Then the lights go down and every third person whips out a smarphone or point-and-shoot. Security would be buried if they tried to confiscate those, but an SLR is easy pickings.

    And SLR users can be just as dickish or more so than the average phoneographer — like the guy at the Stanley Clarke Trio show last night who was bouncing his focus-assist lamp off the back of my head half the night.

  • ChapelHeel66

    Standard operating procedure at every show I have attended in the US. I think it is silly, but it isn’t unusual, and I have become accustomed to it.

  • David Reid

    From the point of view of the performer they should be concerned about people shooting video rather than photos.

  • rexel99

    Here in Australia they are going down the DSLR rout and generally accepting smart-phones in the door knowing they can record but anything of quality is restricted. At one recent concert, even though I checked first, when I got there got stopped for my lens over 200mm in length so I coat-checked that and enjoyed the night. In another example, some bands are anti-filming altogether, they will actively stop people with smart-phones or anything within the venue.. it all seemed strange at first and perhaps a bit of a wasted effort, but soon enough nobody was recording and everybody was actually watching and experiencing the concert. Between the sponsor, venue and artist they all have the right to restrict what you can do at the event as a viewer and participant of the entertainment.

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    You’re right. It is absolutely pointless. This “article” is nothing but the whining of a concert-goer who wanted to bring his DSLR and wasn’t allowed.

    I’m not sure why I replied either. I even offered some advice. Of course advice is usually ignored because it would require the author to be proactive and try to DO something rather than just write some lame excuse for an article.

    I always regret clicking on a link from twitter when PetaPixel pops up.

  • Genkakuzai

    Sweden Rock Festival (pretty major music festival) dropped the entire idea of trying to ban certain cameras a few years back. Basically, bring all the lenses you want, take all the photos you possibly can. Also known as, the way it should be.

  • Genkakuzai

    I’d say there’s a huge difference between a jazz concert and a rock concert though, regarding the general volume. If a proper rock band is playing there’s not a chance in hell you’ll hear any shutter sounds.

    Also, there IS a difference between smartphones and dSLR’s, in that pretty much everyone has a smartphone, while those of us who have dSLR’s are still a minority. So I honestly doubt we’d see some forest of tele lenses if some venues relaxed their camera restrictions (far from all venues have them to begin with).

  • Genkakuzai

    Also, if you, as a professional photographer, honestly can’t compete with crowd sourced photos, get a new job or become a better photographer. People need to understand that adaptation is the key here. Trades go in and out of fashion, very few trades are permanent. And if you’re going to have the slightest chance of making a living as a photographer, you’ll need to be better than the average Joe snapping away next to you, despite similar equipment. Thought this would be perfectly clear since people love to throw around the whole ‘it’s not about the equipment’ argument all the time.

  • Jordan Butters

    I was at a recent premiere event with two big stars performing where mirrorless and compacts were also banned – only smartphones were allowed. The ironic thing is that the company hosting the event actually make the cameras that were banned. I couldn’t use their camera at the event but I could use my iPhone, which is made by their rival company.

  • Martin Joergensen

    It surely is a battle against windmills to ban SLR’s or any type of camera for that matter. If the managers and concert venues (it’s rarely the artists themselves) want to avoid quality pictures to be shot at their gigs, they have a Herculean task in front of them. I watched a Robbie Williams concert from O2 in London on TV yesterday, and the crowd was barely visible because of the number of phones and iPads being waved in the air above people’s heads.

    The quality that these gadgets produce makes any ban of “better” equipment useless. Any concert is being photographed and filmed beyond what you can imagine, and having a few SLR’s in the crowd makes very little difference.

    Trying to control the way artists are photographed is much like trying to control where and how their music is played. It’s not allowed to play Daft Punk on the beach, and Beyonce cannot be listened to using earplugs…

    It’s time the music industry woke up and smelled the coffee. Times are changing, and you cannot control how your artists get photographed, recorded or digitized in manners you can’t even understand. Adapt and live with it and aim to please concert goers rather than making their experience on of rules and bans that have no effect anyway.


  • bob cooley

    Agreed – I’ve shot concerts for over 15 years in the US; and if it was a venue bigger than a bar you always have needed prior permission from the production/promotion team at the venue.

    I’ve shot plenty of shows that I wanted to shoot on spec, but always did so by contacting a publication that I have a good relationship with and offer to toss them an image in return for using their name for credentials (yes, I’d give them an image for free, but my purpose was to shoot the images so I could sell them to a wire service or other publications). 90% of the time the venue will give you the credentials (for bigger names and arena shows you may need a publication with more juice for credentials) – but it’s always been pretty easy when you play by the rules.

    One note – NEVER say you work for a publication or company that you don’t and haven’t arranged prior permission with to use their name on every instance – promoters will spot-check, and if they find you’ve lied you can be blacklisted from the venue. I’ve seen it happen.

    Bottom line – photo access w/ professional gear has always required pre-permission and credentials.

    Agree with you and @jdennisthomas:disqus – this “article” sounds like the whines of a tourist. Photography in a private venue is not an inalienable right…

  • Scott Spellman

    If you actually respect the artists, then you have to respect their decisions on the rules of their performances. There is a standard process to get approved for a media photo pass and receive the special permission to use pro gear and get special pit access. Every real media professional including the author should understand that. There is a time to do approved work with special privileges and a time to be a fan. Artists perform to please the fans and grow their business-not for the media or the author.

    DSLRs can easily be used to create unauthorized high quality photos and merchandise that can quickly damage the value and income of the artist. There is really no value to the artist to have unauthorized high quality photos easily available to the public.

    Prohibiting DSLRs is a standard security restriction for thousands of major festivals, concerts, sports teams, and political events. The prohibition of DSLRs is easier for security to enforce. It separates the legitimate media from people who just want to take pictures but not follow the rules. The author and other complainers are free to support other artists with less restrictions, but instead lost all credibility when he actually attended the concert.

  • Brodie Cole

    I dont think DSLRS should be allowed at concerts unless you have been setup with a media pass. Strictly enforcing the first 3 songs / 15 minutes no flash is a must imo as well. Recently i had been commissioned to shoot a gig and at this gig some girl with kit lenses was a) taking photos the whole gig (standing in front and blocking people) and b) using her flash the whole damn time.