Shooting from a press pit at a festival can be both exciting and challenging. With crowds, loud music, and limited access, it’s important to be prepared and follow the rules. In this blog post, I will be sharing my personal press pit photography tips, explaining what photography from a press pit at a festival entails, including the usual rules, useful techniques, and the best lenses to use.

Press Pit Photography Tips: Rules for Photography from a Press Pit at a Festival

Before you start shooting, it’s important to be aware of the rules and regulations of the festival. These may vary depending on the event, but here are some general guidelines:

1. Always wear your press pass, wrist band or whatever ID you were given:

One of the most obvious, but seemingly sometimes overlooked of my press pit photography tips is to always wear your press pass. This will allow you access to the press pit and other areas designated for media. Wearing this at all times will save a lot of hassle and delays. You do not want to miss out on your chance to get some amazing shots because you’re fooling around trying to find your pass!

2. Respect other photographers:

As far as press pit photography tips go, this one should be a given. You’ll be sharing the pit with other photographers, so be respectful of their space and equipment. In particular, try hard not to stand in front of other photographers trying to take shots.

3. Follow the instructions of security and event staff:

They are there to ensure the safety of everyone at the event, so it’s important to follow their instructions. If you don’t, you stand a very good chance of being kicked out.

4. Don’t block the view of the audience:

While you’re there to get great shots, it’s important not to obstruct the view of the audience. They have paid to be there – you probably got in for free. Remember that.

5. Know how long you can remain in the pit:

Bands often stipulate just three songs, then get out. Some will stipulate fewer songs, or not care how long you stay there so if you’ve not been told, ask somebody.

They paid to see the artists, not the back of a photographer’s head.

Photograph by David Robinson

Press Pit Photography Tips: Useful Techniques for Photography from a Press Pit at a Festival

Now that you know the rules, let’s talk about some useful techniques and press pit photography tips for shooting at a festival:

1. Shoot in burst mode:

Festivals are fast-paced environments, so shooting in burst mode can help you capture the action as it happens.

2. Use a fast shutter speed:

To freeze the action and avoid motion blur, use a fast shutter speed. I have written an entire guide about How To Freeze or Blur Motion in your images, so if you’re unsure of the best techniques, be sure to check that out before jumping into the press pit.

3. Be aware of your surroundings:

I’ve spoken about situational awareness before, and how being aware of your surroundings can help to keep you safe whilst out and about. It’s worth remembering that these tips still apply whether you’re at home, or travelling abroad. With crowds of people and other photographers, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and anticipate any potential obstacles or distractions. 

4. Get creative with angles:

Don’t just shoot from eye level – experiment with different angles and perspectives to capture unique shots.

5. Learn to anticipate potential shots.

If there’s a guitarist who keeps flicking his long hair back, a particular stage light that comes on at predictable moments, or an act known for jumping in the air etc, be ready to catch it.

Sir Bob got in this pose twice – third time I was ready and waiting.

Photograph by David Robinson

Press Pit Photography Tips: Best Lenses for Photography from a Press Pit at a Festival

Next on our list of press pit photography tips, I’m talking about lenses!

Choosing the right lens can make a big difference to your festival photography. One lens is almost never enough, so it’s common to go into the press pit with two camera bodies, each with a different lens. This both saves you time when swapping lenses and also reduces the chances of lens/camera damage. So, here are some lenses that are particularly useful for shooting from a press pit:

1. Wide-angle lens:

A wide-angle lens can capture the entire scene, making it ideal for capturing the atmosphere and energy of the festival.

2. Telephoto lens:

A telephoto lens allows you to zoom in on the action, making it ideal for capturing close-up shots of performers or details of the stage. A fixed length telephoto lens will usually be more crisp and often be better in low light than a zoom lens, so it’s a handy option to have.

3. Zoom lens:

A zoom lens gives you the flexibility to switch between wide-angle and telephoto shots, making it a versatile option for festival photography. Something like the Canon 70-200mm is ideal, enabling you to get close-up and personal, as well as shots of performers with the background providing context.

A telephoto zoom allows you to get close up and personal: Jaz Delorean of Tankus The Henge.

Photograph by David Robinson

Press Pit Photography Tips – Final Thoughts

Photography from a press pit at a festival can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it’s important to follow the rules and be prepared. By using tried-and-tested techniques and the right equipment, you can capture amazing shots that will capture the spirit of the festival.