The Dance Recital

Annoying Photography Companies at Dance Recitals

One thing that REALLY makes me angry is when I go to a dance recital and they tell me I am not allowed to take photos.  And I’m not just talking about “flash” photos — but NO photos at all.  It’s because they do a deal with crappy photography companies that forbid other parents from doing so to artificially increase the sales of their video or photos.  It is, perhaps, the most insidious of all practices that photographers undertake.  The idea that a parent can’t even take a photo of their own child on stage is, well, insane.  I wish 1,000 years of bad luck on all these photography companies that undertake these methods… and you will forever have my wrath.

Daily Photo – The Dance Recital

I feel like I go to about 20 dance recitals a year!  If you have a daughter in dance, then you know what I mean.

This was a cold one, and I mean supa-cold.  It was about 20 degrees outside, and then recital was, for some reason, outside.  I was going to go sit down and cover up, but the blanket was only big enough for the rest of the family.  So I decided to keep moving and take a lot of photos.  I went back behind the crowd to get this one just before the show began…

  • Glad you got this shot anyway Trey! I don’t understand this either – ‘in the olden’ days it was never that way – we all had our ‘brownie’ cameras! 🙂

  • Wow, you’re really passionate about this topic! ”
     and you will forever have my wrath.” lol

  • Funny… I just noticed Susan and I contradicted each other.  I consider this “old School” yet she doesn’t recall it from the “olden days”.
    This was a pretty common practice at my school when I was growing up (90’s).  Honestly though… does anyone really refrain from taking their own photos? lol

  • Anonymous

    Hey, nice pix of the cute kids.  My granddaughter is in sports and band in high school.  There are photographers taking pictures and videos  for sale, but they don’t forbid the parents from taking their own.  Must just be those dance recitals.  Or maybe its a Texas thing.  Have to feel sorry for those photographers these days, though.  With today’s  auto focus and auto everything even the point and shoot cameras take some amazing pictures.  When my kids were little we had to manual focus, guess the f stop and aperture and wait for the prints to come back from the drug store before we got our under/over exposed blurry pictures back. Maybe we got lucky and a couple of them came out fairly sharp.

  • Casper van Zyl

    Well as my daughter grew up I was able to take some nice shots but when they had a photo shoot you were not aloud. That is why I travel, so as a tourist most don’t mind  there picture taken.Its the Anglo Saxon countries that are a worry sometimes. Once in Soho they said they would bust my camera over my head ,so I move very quickly not looking for trouble. “Nice photo of a happy snap “

  • Scott Wylie

    Is it acceptable to ignore what most people would consider unreasonable restrictions on photography? I believe it is… To give you two examples, one was Brockwood cemetery in England where photography is banned – as far as I know this is the only one in the country that has this rule (and certainly the only one of 100’s that I have visted) which I chose to ignore as I feel there is no basis for it as the cemetery is no different to the rest in England, there is nothing unique about it that warrants a ban on photography. Another was the nuclear bunker at Kelvedon Hatch in England where they want you to buy a £5 photography permit – I chose to ignore this because there was no-one around to enforce it and I don’t feel the owners are making enough of an effort to maintain the facility (I don’t think this is through lack of funds). I’d be very interested to hear others opinions on this – do I need a reality check and it’s me that’s being unreasonable?

    In the case of the dance recital I guess I would have weighed up whether the majority of the people there would have had an issue with me taking pictures and would have gone ahead if I felt they would be ok with it – the ‘rules’ wouldn’t really have come into it.

    I guess the reason is that I’ve never been confronted by anyone for breaking photography bans, and I always observe common sense rules such as no tripods in museums, no flash in aquariums etc.

  • Keith Moyer

    I fell your pain!!!  With a daughter in dance, we have several “competitions” a year and they have the same rule.  I still shoot and try to be discreet.  I am with you…1000 years of bad luck to them all!!!!

  • Stephen DeLillo

    The video part is what kills me the most. So now I have to buy a $40 video that has one angle of the entire stage for the entire recital, except every once in a while they follow the kid who is going off in the corner to cry because they thought she was going to do something.  Although I would love to be able to take photos as well.

  • Trey Ratcliff


  • Contractually-permitted mediocrity is all it is. If the official photographer has no competition, why do they need to bother putting the time and effort into high quality images? It’s unacceptable, and absolutely requires violating.

    Would you consider pulling your daughter out of the recital last-minute in protest? I’m not quite sure if that makes more of a statement than it does feel like it’s punishing her for the school’s misdeeds, though… If old enough, perhaps she could understand that parents (especially photographer parents) NEED those images of their children without being beholden to some schmuck with a nice lens and probably on-camera flash? Maybe that’s expecting too much, haha.

    Glad you’re publicly flouting this rule, anyway.

    PS. Typing this reply led me to discover the wonderful phrase “syntactic pleonasm.” Which makes it worth it all by itself, really.

  • Ben Hollingsworth

    Unfortunately, Sogo, no, they won’t.  Parents these days are so conditioned to enjoy Facebook-quality photos that they don’t give a flying rat’s hiney if your photos are amazing.  As long as their blurry iPhone photo looks more or less like a human dancing, most parents are content with that rather than paying for something else, regardless of its quality.  It’s really sad, but that’s where we are today.

  • Anonymous

    Amen brutha.My daughter is a competitive dancer and I cannot begin to tell you how much I hate this policy.I have heard every single excuse in the book as to why the hired company is the only allowable taker of pictures (ie confidentiality-can’t have someone taking pictures of children that aren’t their own, no flash as it distracts the dancer-ignoring the fact that anyone with half a clue can shoot with available light)I call BS-it’s so the companies running these comps can profit share with the photography company.Because comp entry fees just aren’t enough to profit from 😉 This isn’t just a Texas thang either-we’re in Canada.
    So you get a disinterested 20 something with equipment that isn’t his on a monopod in the middle of the auditorium snapping uninteresting garbage.Grrr!
    And a word of caution for those how do *sneak* photos- most companies running these competitions state in their rules that the child dancing when a photo is taken can be disqualified from the event. Not worth breaking your dancer’s heart over IMHO!

  • Cindy Holcomb

    I have always hated this. I would go to the dress rehersal the day before and take photos, not the same but it was ok. I never paid for the video. Thankfully, my daughter decided she was not having fun with dance anymore and quit 3 months ago.

    Trey, I really like your work!!

  • Lauren Smith

    So the solution is to force them to buy your photos?

  • Anonymous

    Amen on the hate for photo bans.  That goes for dance recitals and ancient castles that want to sell you postcards.  It’s all bogus.  But not being able to photograph your own child performing?  That’s a whole new level of bogus.

  • I don’t understand. Why are you just upset with the photography companies? Shouldn’t you be at least as upset with the dance studio? 

  • Patrick Mc Donnell

    My daughter dances.  I take photographs.  Only time I was challenged I requested that the person challenging me show me their police clearance  (a requirement for any work with underage children in Ireland like sports coaches etc.) – he went away and I continued to photograph. 

  • I agree with you. It’s the same thing with my daughter’s cheer competitions. I shoot at all of her competitions except one that forces our cheer gym to buy a $100 media package to allow me to shoot so it’s either overpay for their crappy shots or pay a ridiculous amount of money. I refuse to do either. 

  • It generally doesn’t have anything to do with the studio itself since the recitals usually have several in attendance. There’s typically a company that sponsors these events that are behind the rules prohibiting photography and video. 

  • Rodney Campbell

    I’m so feeling this 🙂 Two of my daughters do dance.
    I resort to shooting lots of images wide open with a fast lens more surreptitiously (LCD off, focus assist off (of course), quiet mode, etc) – which I’m now fine with – being discreet with the 70-200/2.8 is … lets just say interesting. I generally make up a gallery and supply my images for free to the other parents which they appreciate so that’s an extra win in my eyes. It’s not necessarily the dance studio either – I supply the images to the studio as well so they know I take them – when I’ve spoken to them it’s the video part that appears to be the concern.

  • My oldest is a competitive Irish Dancer, and there is NO photo or video at ANY competition.  However, this is not because there are pros there – it’s because the Feis Commission in Ireland has banned it completely.  Reason being?  Some schools will actually steal other schools’ dance routines.  The competition is so fierce that it came down to that.

    But what pisses me off more than anything is that people will whip out their cell phones and say crap like, “Oh, it’s just one shot for…” or some other BS excuse.  I respect the rules, and it’s beyond reprehensible that other people feel that they are entitled to break them.

  • Todd Sisson

    Just hitting this myself – gymnastics competitions for my 4 year old daughter looming large.  I now know where the G+ inverse time field resides. Instead of an hour seeming like 11 minutes, 11 minutes feels like 3 hours.  Never struck such a gaylord photographic monopoly myself – that bites. Pretty snazzy stage setup though Trey – I doubt the Royal NZ ballet has that sort of budget 😉

  • My daughter was in that show…loved it.  Great shot, Trey.  – cw

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