5 Tips for Warped Tour Photo Pit Etiquette

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I’m headed out to Warped Tour again this summer with the Natural High team! We’re kicking off our summer starting in San Diego today then making our way through Pomona and Ventura for the next couple days. In the past, I was asked a lot of questions about shooting shows, so with Warped Tour now in full force I figured this would be a perfect time to compile a guideline to photo pit etiquette.

5 Tips for Warped Tour Photo Pit Etiquette

01. Be Mindful of Others

Everyone in the pit is trying to do a job. It might feel like survival of the fittest in there, but looking out for each other and being courteous of personal space is key to living harmoniously in the photo pit. Try to take up as little room as possible, with both your gear and your body. Big bulky camera backpacks are obnoxious because you’ve likely smacked five shorties like me in the face without even realizing it. And keep your elbows and other extremities close to your body while shooting. There’s nothing worse than aiming for that near-perfect shot of the frontman screaming into the mic only to find someone’s arm has made a debut across the image. It should go without saying, but keep your camera near your face. Holding it up in the air and shooting randomly hardly ever results in a good shot; you just end up in the way of everyone else’s.

02. Courtesy Tap

The pit gets loud, crowded, and everyone is focused on getting their shots. If you need to pass someone, a simple tap on the shoulder should get you by. The Courtesy Back Touch (don’t make it creepy) is also a good way to let someone know you’re passing by so they don’t back up into you. In the chaos of the pit, these simple gestures maintain some form of order.

03. Give Others a Shot

Before the band even starts their first song, it becomes very obvious which spots photographers like to flock to in hopes of getting their best shots. You’ve got three whole songs to get your shots, so don’t be a spot hog. Give others a chance and move on to explore other angles. I’ve always greatly appreciated it when another photographer taps me on the shoulder and offers to let me swoop in their spot, so I make sure to pay that forward to other fellow photogs whenever I can.

04. Don’t Be a Dick to Security

Some people may get a little caught up in the “Eff the Man! Eff authority!” mantra of Warped Tour, but if security tells you to do or don’t do something, don’t be a jerk about it. These guys are just doing their job and you throwing a bitch fit won’t change anything, except possibly get you thrown out of the pit. One time (not at Warped), the band wanted me to video their third song, but the bouncers kicked all the photographers out after only the second song because the crowd was getting too rowdy. Because I was kind and courteous to the bouncer before hand, I explained the situation, and he let me stay for the extra song and made sure everyone was out of my way. A smile and friendly conversation goes a long way.

05. Just Be Nice

All in all, general respect and common courtesy for everyone around you, including your fellow photo and press, security, and the crowd, is what makes for a pleasant pit experience. Make friends with the people around you before the set; look out for each other during the set; and respect when security tells you it’s time to leave. Follow this basic guideline and it should be smooth shooting for you and everyone around.

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Extra Tips

✳︎ Shoot at a smaller format

This is just a personal preference, but since I will shoot thousands of images throughout the day, I opt for shooting in medium RAW so I don’t burn through my memory as quickly and have as much footage to archive later.

✳︎ Keep hydrated

Too many people pass out from heat exhaustion at Warped. When bringing in your own water bottles, security usually won’t allow open containers or they’ll take your cap. Bring an extra cap with you if you plan on buying water at the venue so you can refill and reseal.

✳︎ Douse in sunscreen regularly

Unless you like looking like a lobster. I like bringing those quick dry spray kind from Costco so dust doesn’t stick to me when applying and a friend can easily get my back for me without having to rub me down.

✳︎ Get yourself a pair of ear plugs

Trust me. If you want many more years of enjoying shows, protect yourself from jacking up your hearing. And when you’re that close to the speakers, ear plugs actually filter out excessive sound so you can hear the music better.

✳︎ Look out for flying objects and flying people

Because there will be lots of them.

Any tips I’m forgetting?

Let me know in the comments below if you have any other questions about Warped Tour guidelines, show etiquette, or live shooting tips. Hope everyone has fun this year! Come say hi at any of the SoCal dates if you see me at the NH tent or in the photo pit! In spite of my bitchy resting face, I promise I don’t bite. :)

Design Student Diary – Lessons I Learned This Semester

My fourth year at university is officially over! This has been one crazy semester, jam-packed with learning, growth, and definitely a lot of stress. At the start of the semester, I made a few goals for myself, and if I’m being honest, I only met 1 and a half of them. But mistakes are lessons in disguise, as they say. I’ve definitely learned A LOT this semester – about things I want to improve and things I want to avoid doing again. Here are just a few:

Lessons I Learned This Semester

01. Stay on Top of Projects

And exercise better time management. I set out to keep one step ahead on everything because I knew stressing to the last minute handicapped my workflow and creativity. But sure enough, I got lazy and fell behind on my largest semester project. I ended up finishing half a semester’s amount of work the night before the project was due. While I still got an A, I wasn’t happy with the end result and it’s not something I’m proud to show off. In such a competitive industry where every project you work on should have the potential to be portfolio-worthy, you have no time to be wasting and creating mediocre projects that don’t showcase your best efforts.

02. Develop Concepts

Spend more time building a strong theme first before any initial design or layout takes place. My instructors kept telling us, “You can be a skilled designer, but if you don’t have a strong concept in mind, you’re just pushing pixels around.”

03. Process Makes Perfect

I wrote about this once before, and I’ll say it again. Process is incredibly important, not only in the development of the project, but also when later displaying the work in a portfolio. Potential employers or clients want to see how you work, how you get from point A to point B, and what goes on in your head when you’re creating. Sketch A LOT, try out multiple solutions, and document everything. While browsing through the senior portfolio gallery, I was most impressed by the books that showed off great preliminary work over the ones that simply had nice-looking final designs.

04. Spend Less Time Searching for Inspiration and More Time Creating.

This is a big lesson that I’m still working on. It’s safe to say I’m addicted to browsing design inspiration sites. While there’s nothing wrong with seeking a little creative stimulation, how much time are you spending looking at other people’s work versus creating your own? Be intentional about your search for resources and then make a conscious decision to sign off and start sketching what’s in your own head.

05. Make Time for Personal Projects

This was one of my goals I made at the beginning of the semester that I really failed hard at. And my creative sanity definitely suffered as a result. Most of the top designers today know the importance of making time for yourself apart from your client work. My packaging design instructor went to the TYPO conference in San Francisco last month and came back super inspired by designer Erik Kessels’ keynote talk. If you have an hour to spare, I highly, highly recommend watching it here on typotalks.com. His self-initiated projects were full of passion, experimentation, and creative freedom, and in turn they fueled his commissioned work.


I’m already putting these lessons into action now so I can make the most of my final semesters. Only one more year of school to go!

What have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned this semester? Did you stick to any of your goals?

Design Student Diary – Process Makes Perfect

I’ve officially concluded my fourth week of school at SDSU! Getting to this place has been one hell of a journey and I’m pleased to say that so far it’s been well worth the struggle.

The graphic design program at State is intense. We work on a handful of portfolio worthy projects and are challenged to meet industry standard expectations. Even though I’ve been working as a freelancer in the design field for over 5 years, I’m still constantly learning and being challenged by these courses. As I work on each project, I’ll be posting about my process, some insight I’ve gained, and any tips I think might be helpful to other novice designers.

In my Graphic Design II class, we’ve been working on branding a neighborhood in San Diego. I was lucky enough to be assigned El Cajon Boulevard, which runs right along where I live, so I’ve become pretty familiar with the area.

If there’s one thing State has taught me, it’s that process is incredibly important. I had to learn this the hard way last semester when a project I worked my butt off on was given a D+ just because I skimped on the sketches. Since then, I eat, sleep, and breathe the early stages of developing a design. Here are a few of the steps I’ve been following for the process of creating a brand:

Process Makes Perfect

1. Gather References & Inspiration

Probably a good 50% of my time designing is spent on gathering inspiration and becoming acquainted with my subject. Seeking out visual stimuli gets my creative juices flowing and studying the content sets my brain in the right direction for developing a proper design. For this project, I walked around El Cajon Blvd with a camera in hand, snapping up all the reference images I could to inspire the feel of my design. El Cajon Blvd is a historic route, shaped by the evolution of the automobile. On every street corner, retro style signage point to auto shops, and neon lights evoke the nostalgia of an era when driving was for entertainment and not just convenience. I wanted my design to embody this throwback to old cars and 1950s drive-thrus.

2. Create Sketches (and lots of them)

I sketched at least 30 combinations of cars, old signs, typefaces, and whatever other retro insignia I could imagine. Sketches are a huge part of the early design process and the amount of effort you put into the exploration of your idea truly dictates the final result. Your first idea might be great, but there could be an even better idea lingering on the tip of your pencil.

3. Make Variations

I don’t do this all the time; in some cases, time just doesn’t permit it. But giving yourself a variety of “semi-finished” designs may open your eyes to something you overlooked in your sketches. I was originally going to go with my first sketch of the car at a slight angle, but after sketching a few other versions in Illustrator, I actually found that the last car I sketched translated the best as an icon. After I decided on my icon, I made several more variations with type and then even more with color. Exhaust all your efforts until you find the one that works the best without a second thought.

Even after all of that, I’m still working on several revisions of this design. This project is a work in progress for the next couple weeks, so I’ll make a new post when the design is finished! Stay tuned!