If you've ever seen a concert or festival, you've probably noticed that most stage hands and crew are wearing black. The same rule generally applies to music photographers. If you've ever wondered why, here's the reason concert photographers always wear black.
Why wear black clothing as a concert photographer?
There are a few reasons for wearing all black as a photographer if you're part of a crew, part of a production or tour.
- You don't stage out on stage
- Not distracting to the artist
- Less distracting to fans
- Crew looks uniform and professional
My friend Allen is a professional guitar tech who has spent the last decade on the road touring with arena and amphitheater-filling acts. When I asked him about the etiquette for anyone with stage access, he replied:
“For those of us crew people that might have to go on stage, anything we can do to not draw attention to ourselves is welcomed.”
This is a great quote on the simple approach for roadies and music photographers to wear all black — also called “stage blacks” or “show blacks.”
If you show up to a new gig or new tour as a music photographer and you aren't wearing black, it's going to raise some eyebrows.
The reason is simple: the musicians on stage are the stars. For everyone else, the less attention you draw to yourself, the better. While this point applies to crew and anyone working for the production, most press photographers in the photo pit adopt this same dress.
You'll notice that video crew in photo pits take the same approach — all black. The same philosophy applies — bright colors or lighter tones easily catch one's attention in a dramatically lit concert.
Even if you're a music photographer working from the photo pit, it's still best to wear black as a courtesy to not only the production as a whole, but specifically the fans behind you, to be just a little less obtrusive. Your fellow photographers will also appreciate you wearing dark clothing.
For any wide shots where the photo pit is visible, anything other than black stands out sorely, so if for no other reason, wearing black is respectful of your fellow photographers and their images, too.
Other Clothing Considerations
Pants vs Shorts
Aside from wearing all black, one other common question is the issue of pants vs shorts. For climate controlled venues, pants are always preferred. For people with stage access, pants provide more coverage and thus make one blend in with a dark stage that much more.
For tours playing outdoor venues like festivals and amphitheaters, wearing shorts can be more acceptable. It varies from tour to tour — some productions can be much more strict about what stage crew wear.
Long Sleeves and More Extreme Coverage
When in doubt, more coverage is never a bad thing. You'll see some video crew on stage wearing black long sleeve shirts, black pants and even black gloves or a black hat. This is an extreme example but one that very clearly places priority on the being as invisible as possible. Some photographers will even go to the extent of wearing a hat if they have brightly colored dyed hair.
Ultimately, stage black clothing is about respecting the artists on stage as well as the fans. It's about being discreet as possible as someone who is not part of the performance and isn't the focus of the event. It means not distracting the artist on stage as well as minimizing your appearance for fans and fellow photographers.