How to Take a Photo at a Seated Rock Show Without Being (Too Much Of) An Asshole

It’s okay. We all want to do it. The show is amazing. The mood is wonderful. You want to remember it. And hey – it’s the 21st century. You CAN remember it. You can take a picture. Ten years ago, this may have been considered the height of rudeness, but there’s no getting around it now. It’s too much to expect the general public to refrain. The thing is, however, that you are most likely still completely annoying to others while taking this photo. But with a few simple tricks, you can get a decent photo without seeming like (too much) of an asshole to those around you. 

Follow these simple rules!

  1. Be aware of your surroundings. Not all rock shows are the same. Seated theater shows, especially, require additional consideration. It’s one thing to stick your camera phone in the air when everyone is standing and screaming and waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care. It’s another to do it in a dark theater, at a show where everyone is having an emotional moment with a sensitive artist.
  2. Turn off your fucking flash. Seriously. It doesn’t work. it makes your photos worse. And it’s annoying as shit to everyone around you. And the artist you supposedly love. Every time someone takes a photo of a rock show with a flash, a kindly grandmother gets punched in the face. 
  3. Turn off the sound on your phone. No one wants to hear your stupid shutter click sound, and YES, they can hear it. 
  4. Turn the brightness down all the way on your screen. The most annoying thing about others taking photos is how ridiculously the light it creates in the darkness (see rule 1) drawing EVERYONE’S attention away from the stage and pulling people out of the moment. You don’t need to do this to anyone. There are people behind you. There are people RIGHT behind you. You are in a dark room. The bright screen does not make your photos better. Bonus: Longer battery life. 
  5. DO NOT USE A FUCKING iPAD TO TAKE A PHOTO. Seriously. This is not allowed. A camera and an iPad are not interchangeable.
  6. At a seated show, there is no real reason to hold your camera way up in the air. Try and block the screen with your head for the people behind you. If you must raise the camera to get a photo, follow rule 7. 
  7. Now. here’s the tricky part. Put your finger on the shutter button. Raise the camera, and align everything. Then rapidly take 3-5 pictures in a second or two. Then bring the camera down. This is the most important thing. You do not need to hold the camera up the whole show. You will not get a perfect shot by waiting with the camera in the air. If it makes you feel better, it’s not you. The shutter button has a tiny delay that basically makes this impossible. 
  8. Lay off the video. It’s gonna look like shit, it’s going to sound like shit. You’re never going to watch it again. Someone else there is doing it better. This is really just for the pros. I have, once or twice, shot a live rock video on my phone, posted it to YouTube and gotten a couple thousand views. But you’ll notice that a) they still look and sound like shit, b) these were at outdoor festivals where I wasn’t annoying anyone and c) there are still better versions on the web. Plus, you are being totally annoying to everyone around you
  9. Don’t bother putting the photo on the web until after the show. Seriously. First, you’re totally missing out on a band you paid a bunch of money to see. Second, you are being totally annoying to everyone around you, and finally, really, any bragging rights you’re getting from the photo you can get just as easily if you put it up after the show. If this is something that you vitally, absolutely, need everyone to know you’re at RIGHT NOW, you have two options: either post the obligatory blank stage photo before they band has started, saying how excited you are, or go out into the lobby and post it from there. 


  1. Often, much of the stage is dark. Dramatic lighting looks cool in real life, and experts can capture it with good cameras, but your camera phone isn’t going to do it justice. The only time it’s worth trying to take a photo is when the whole stage is brightly lit. Wait for these moments. Take your burst of photos then. Quickly. Put your camera phone down the rest of the time. 
  2. Don’t bother trying to zoom. Take the whole stage. You are not going to get the beautiful close up shot of just the singer that seems to be in so much vogue with Brooklyn Vegan and Pitchfork.* If you must zoom, you can zoom when you are putting the photo into Instagram, as Instagram generally has a lower resolution than your camera’s phone, and you can do so then without loss of pixels. Consider artistic compositions with the stage, lights and crowds. If you’re REALLY far back, a slight zoom of maybe 10% is acceptable, but it’s still gonna probably look worse. 
  3. If you have an iPhone or any other phone that allows for touch exposure control, touch the darkest place on your screen before you shoot one burst, and on a second burst touch the brightest place on the screen (assuming you have followed bonus rule 1). 

Thank you! Follow these simple rules and not only will your photos come out much better, you will be far, far less annoying to the people around you. 

* I’m not sure what’s going on with this. It’s like the music pubs own little version of the loudness war. If the trend continues, eventually music pubs will be publishing photos of the nose hairs of our favorite singers. I suspect it’s the one way the pros have a way to highlight just how great their access and equipment are. Personally, even when shooting pro I like a 50 mm F 1.2 lens, from further back, catching the atmosphere and, you know, the rest of the band, who actually do matter. 

Rick Webb knows his shit.

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