Photography at dance events

This interesting article, Photographers Upset by ‘Ask First’ Stickers at BDSM Folsom Street Fair, is getting around the fb at the moment. It caught my eye for its focus on how photographers feel about being told no, they can’t just do whatever they want with people’s images. I’ve had more than one (male) photographer get the shits with me when I won’t let them have free entry to my dance event, and won’t let them take a zillion photos. They tend to assume that just because they have a big camera and a website, I’ll be desperate to have them take photos of my event, slap them online, so they can make money from them.
Soz, no, mate. That’s not the case.

I’ve been thinking about photography at dance events lately. There are a few photographers around the scene who use the title ‘photographer’ or ‘videographer’ to get free entry to gigs, to take lots of photos, and then wack them up on their sites, without honouring (or making explicit) a take-down policy.

Male photographers (they are always male) have approached volunteers at the door on the night at my events, asking if they can ‘take photos’ for free entry. Hoping, of course, that the volunteers will be flattered into saying yes.
HA. NO WAY, mate. All staff at my events are well versed in their rights, and in the rights of other dancers. Our OH&S policy is all about empowering peeps, and they know exactly what to do if bloke asks a dodgy question at the door.

Me, I hunt down photographers and ask them to take photos if I like their work. I’m absolutely not going to say yes to your last minute request to ‘take official photos’ just to get PR for my event. Because I will certainly have already seen your work, and if I haven’t contacted you, I don’t rate your work or your professional behaviour.

Friends are an exception: I’m happy to talk to newer photographers, or photographers who want to get a feel for working with dancers. But we talk about this well before the event.

For what it’s worth, better etiquette is:
– email organisers ahead of time to inquire about photography at an event
– outline your take-down policy, your approach, your ethos
– be ok if they say ‘no’
– if you want to do lots of photos, you will need either a) a professional role, or b) to pay for a camera permit/licence/ticket to the event
– ask in person (not through a third person like a door person on the night (!!!!)
– if you get a ‘no’, SUCK IT UP, pay the ticket price
– have, publicise, and honour a ‘take-down policy’ for your website.

A take-down policy:
– where you make it easy for subjects in photos to contact you and request you ‘take down’ the photo from your website
– you honour these requests immediately, no matter the reasons
– is important for respecting dancers’ choices about how their bodies are seen and ‘used’
-> are practical in a relatively small scene like the lindy hop world.

Common sense:
– don’t be taking up-skirts or down-neckline photos. Yes, we do see undies in lindy hop, but get your shit together on this one.
– if it’s a very personal moment (eg someone crying, a couple in an intimate embrace, etc), then think twice before publicising this photo.

1 thought on “Photography at dance events”

  1. Hi Dogpossum,
    Thanks for the article and for the link to the PetaPixel article. I hadn’t seen that yet.

    As a dancer, organizer and photographer myself I really appreciate your point of view.

    In europe I feel there is a lot wrong with dance photography but it seems that you are having different issues than I am. Are the photographers that try to get into your event dancers that also photograph or are they just there to make pictures and try to sell them?
    Here it is common enough to have dancers that are hobby photographers but they expect to pay entry. I also don’t think it’s common for many people to buy images, the hobbists do it mostly for themselves.

    If they pay the ticket price will you still ask them to limit their photography in some way? It’s quite common for phototgraphers here to put out hundreds of photos of any event and from a photography standpoint I don’t want to do that because I think it degrades the quality and is just lazy by the photographer.

    As to truly unwanted photographers that you feel are detracting from the event or that you do not want I believe that under most copyright laws if a photographer wants to sell a photo he needs the rights to the image. That means a model release for everyone in the photo and property releases if they are not shooting in a public space. Since you are the organizer of the event and the participants of the events paid you to get in I believe that the photographer needs permission from you to sell photos. Again I’m not sure about the legal aspect so if you want to explore that route please check it out where you are but possibly it could be an effective one.

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