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What is a “professional camera”?

Many people in the Atlanta area are applauding the return of Music Midtown – what used to be a multi-generational and multi-cultural music festival. This time it is very much geared to the late 20 to mid 30 year olds. But this isn’t about the questionable non-diverse lineup. This is about the return of a stupid anti-photography policy and the inability of the music business to get with the 21st century.

The last Music Midtown I attended was in the mid-90s. I had just started learning to take pictures, and figured that I could get some fun shots with my Pentax P30T (which I still have) and Focal 35-70 lens (Focal was, literally, the KMart brand of add-on lenses). I was stopped at the gate and told that no “professional cameras” were allowed in the festival area. I first thought how cool it was that someone thought I was a professional and that I had a professional camera, then I quickly realized that I was really just learning how to take pictures, was far far from a professional, and no professional photographer would use the limited equipment I had. I protested, but my words fell on deaf ears.

Thinking, correctly, that was no real definition of what a professional camera was, I tried to get into another gate, and this time walked right in with no problems or hassles. I had a great time that day taking pictures of Adam Ant, the Kentucky Headhunters, the then up and coming Will Kimbrough (who I knew from my even earlier days in the music business), and various flashed boobs.

As the day drew to a close, I muscled my way into the throng of people to watch and listen to Al Green. I popped a few badly focused shots when all of a sudden I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. I turned to face one of the Music Midtown security apes guards who told me that “professional cameras” were not allowed in the park. I told the ape gentleman that I had been there all day taking pictures with no problems, and asked why it was a problem now. He gave me two choices – leave immediately with my camera, or pick up my camera at the security tent on my way out later. I left at that moment.

Cut to 2011. I checked the 2011 Atlanta Music Midtown website, and sure enough that vague and even more ridiculous restriction is in place.

*What items should I leave at home?
Professional camera equipment and recording devices are NOT permitted. No cameras with video capabilities.

In the day when commercial fashion shoots and even weddings have been shot with an Iphone, when even the most basic of digital cameras shoots video, when journalists are photographing and recording news events on their Androids, the question of what is a professional camera becomes irrelevant.

I once emailed the Atlanta Music Midtown promoters asking what a “professional camera” was, and they defined it as any camera with a removable lens. Based on that definition,  a person with the Leica M9 would get into the venue with no problem, but someone with a Pentax Kx would be turned away.

If the promoter is a backasswards thinker, a possible solution would be not allow “large cameras with long lenses”, and inform security to put an end to anyone they catch using their Iphones to shoot video. That’s kind of easy to do. If someone is holding their phone/camera at arms’ length for more than 15 seconds, they’re likely shooting video. Of course, that makes shooting video of your friends at the show against the rules, and the very real risk of tempers elevated by high spirits is increased making for some not-so-happy encounters.

If the promoter is a FORWARD thinker, perhaps they should encourage “amateur” photos and videos at the festival. F’rinstance, ban those big cameras with removable lenses, but turn the other cheek to the Canon Powershot G12, Nikon Coolpix P300, Androids, and Iphones and encourage folks to share their photos and videos of the event on the promoter’s Facebook page or website. Perhaps they could run a contest for best fan-shot video. They could even go the Maxim Magazine route and grab all reproduction and redistribution rights to any photo or video posted on their site or entered into their contest. (Thanks, Chris North, for that idea!)

The music industry has already proven to be stuck in a distribution business model that doesn’t work in the digital age. Someone needs to re-think this whole “no professional cameras” bit as well.

2 Comments
  1. These days, a professional camera need not look like an SLR. The Canon G series or the Olympus PEN, for instance. Just be thankful that they permit cameras at all, many do not.

  2. Hey, Thanks for making this article! I saw a few videos of the concert on YouTube and asked them how they managed to film but none of them answered me. I was thinking of bringing my Camcorder which is kinda bulky to todays standards since its from the 90’s but after I read the strict regulations on cameras im hesitating on whether to bring it or not. As for having a removable lens, it does not, so maybe theyll let me… idk i just dont want to have to leave the concert or let my stuff be in a securtiy tent with the possibility of getting my camera stolen.

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  • Photography by Ed Selby
  • Portrait and Pet Photography
  • 9645 Old Riverside Lane
    Ball GroundGeorgia 30107
  • 678-860-1546

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