How not to photograph at a gig
A while ago I came across this YouTube video (also shown below) of a concert photographer taking photos during a band’s set. From the video, I could tell that it was a small gig at a small venue with few people. People initially criticised the photographer for his obnoxious behaviour, then people criticised the person who shot the video because of his irrelevant vertical video recording, then other people deemed the photographer’s behaviour as right because his photos turned out good.
Let’s take a look at this. Before I had read any of the articles siding with the photographer, I constantly showed people this video because I felt that it made a point.
After reading those articles, I feel that it still does make a point.
I’m a concert photographer.
At large venues, generally for larger bands, you can only take photos during the first three songs. This is often a rule set by the venue, out of respect for its visitors/the audience. It can also be put forward by the publicity or media team for any of the bands, who may not want photographers to be present (or at least photographing) for the entire show. There is a limited amount of passes that can be given out. You can’t just give a media pass to everyone and have fifty photographers in the pit.
Yes, it’s a total struggle to take photos in the dark. I know exactly how that feels. I also know the unwritten photographer’s rule to “Just what you want unless/until you’re told not to”, because it’s “better to be told to stop than to ask and be rejected”. Still, it should be obvious what is okay and not okay to do.
It is not okay to use flash when:
- You have been told by anyone (such as the person in charge of media, or the person at the door to the venue) not to use flash.
- There are already stage lights. Sometimes you have to make do with what you have, and only use flash when absolutely necessary.
- You are taking multiple photos from the same spot.
- You are continually walking around non-stop, taking photos.
Some people supported the photographer in the video by using the argument “but his photos were good”. It is hardly a valid argument for doing something that is regularly disapproved of in most concert situations. Regardless of his style of photography and how he takes photos, he was being disrespectful to those around him. If he had any sense of respect, he would have toned it down a little, and kept the flash use to a few minutes.
He didn’t seem to be doing much composing/preparation before taking a shot. If he’s good at what he does, he wouldn’t have had to walk around so erratically and use so much flash. He could have chosen a better opportunity to do this kind of shooting, in a situation that wouldn’t annoy everyone else. Obviously the person who filmed the video was irritated by the photographer’s behaviour, and that person paid money to watch the show.
I also attend concerts.
Before I started photographing concerts, I attended them. I still attend concerts when I am not assigned to cover them, simply for enjoyment. I know what it’s like to be behind the barrier and not behind a lens.
I respect photographers. They are doing their job. I know how it feels to have to weave between people to get good shots. I used to get annoyed at them, but after knowing the hard work behind it, the best I can do is let them through if they want to get past, and let them be in my face for a few seconds to get some good shots. I don’t have to see an artist’s face 100% of the time. Security guards are always standing in front of the stage, and people usually have their hands in the air, either empty or holding phones and cameras, so why should I complain about someone with a camera only being around for a short period of time?
I pay to attend a lot of shows, and sometimes it annoys me when people in the audience use flash on their phones to take photos. Usually I let it slide, because they don’t continually take photos for more than a minute using flash – not like the photographer in the video. Those people around me paid to watch the show, so they should be allowed to take a few photos.
I’m also a musician.
Yes, this is a valid point. Before you might criticise anything I have already written, know that I have performed on stages and in front of an audience. I have performed mostly as a dancer, but I have had experience playing an instrument, or singing, in front of an audience. The stage lights, as well as the lights that shine on your face for the audience to see you, can be really bright. They can be so bright that you cannot see any faces in the audience. Imagine the flash from a camera hitting your eyes as well. It’s not just about blinding people; it’s about being a distraction.
Not every artist will have a problem with flash, and most people expect flash from a camera when you take photos in the dark. You may expect people to take photos during a performance, but if you’re in the middle of performing, constant flashes of light from one source in the audience can be irritating.
Just be a good sport.
If you’re a photographer, regardless of whether you’re being paid or not, know that there are people in the audience who paid to watch, and that there are performers who are working hard to impress, and have put in a lot of preparation.
If you’re in the audience, don’t hate on all the photographers, because they are just doing their job. Most of them have absolutely no intention of getting in your way or pissing you off. They just want their photos, and aren’t going to need photos of every minute of the show. This photographer obviously took it a little far.
Also, just a PSA: next time you’re at a show, enjoy it. You don’t need your four-gigabyte phone photos or ten-second videos of a circle pit. Just get in there and have fun. I have zero photos or videos of the Violent Soho gig I went to last week, and it doesn’t bother me. Look at all the silly people who posted their over saturated crap on Instagram, while I have these awesome visual memories in my mind of the audience running around like mad freaks because I kept my phone in my pocket while I sat on Dylan’s shoulders during Neighbour Neighbour. Heheh.
I hope you learned something, especially if you aren’t familiar with concert photography.