Standing behind a giant person at a concert is an old, analogue problem. Today’s audience angst comes largely from a blinding mass of giant phones. All around us undulates a constant sea of LCDs. Annoying! You can use your smartphone at a concert, but don’t be unbearable.
It’s simple to understand. The experience itself isn’t worth as much anymore — but the opportunity to take a blurry picture of a guy singing? Worth any ticket price. We all do it, because the experience of sharing stuff has begun to usurp the importance of doing stuff. We have no qualms about distracting ourselves and others from the actual live music in front of us if it means a decent YouTube upload or Facebook shot on the way home.
Let’s try to be better, people. A few things to consider:
You’re Probably Not Going To Get Any Good Pictures
Here’s the most important reality: Concerts are held in dark rooms with occasional pulses of extremely bright lights/lasers/smoke machines/flames/sequined dresses/etc. It’s almost as if camera manufacturers conspired to create some doomsday scenario for photography — these places couldn’t be any less ideal for photography. Especially if you’re using a phone.
Today’s phones take pretty stellar shots — enough to render the ol’ point and shoot useless. But your iPhone or Nexus is still stuck with a relatively dinky sensor and lens compared to cameras the pros use. In the low light of concert, you’re almost certain to get a picture that’s either blurry or noisy, and likely both. It won’t look like Katy Perry — it won’t look like much of anything.
Here’s a photo NYT photographer Robert Caplin shot when The-Dream performed in New York earlier this month.
Here’s a shot I took at the same concert with my iPhone. Of course, Caplin is a professional, and I’m not, but he was using a DSLR. A real camera. That makes all the difference.
But If You Absolutely Have To Take Pictures…
And who can blame you? It’s natural to want a digital memento. Stick to these rules:
- Wait for light. Give the camera a chance to make something that isn’t a smeary mess. Wait for a flare, or strobe, house lights, pyrotechnics, or something else to brighten the stage.
- Use both hands. Extra stability may be the difference between a waste and a winner.
- Skip the flash. You’re not close enough to the stage for it to make a difference, and you’ll just blind people around you.
- Shoot in bursts. Don’t peek at each picture you take. Just snap as many as you can in a row. Bump up your odds.
They probably won’t look or sound very good. But if you have your heart set, try to keep them short — a song, not an entire set. Odds are some other jerk is doing this exact thing, and it’ll on YouTube the next day. How about a nice, inconspicuous voice memo?
Don’t overshare. Your followers don’t need a constant social barrage of digitised concert documentation that probably sucks to begin with. You’re here to watch music, not talk about music. There’s plenty of time back home for that.
Don’t call a friend when a song you both like is on to hold the phone up so they can “listen with you”. They can’t hear jack and it just rubs in the fact that they’re missing the show.
Unless your family’s life is being threatened and the only way to guarantee their safety is to do bring an iPad to the concert, don’t bring an iPad to the concert.
User Manual is Gizmodo’s guide to etiquette. It appears as if by magic every Saturday.