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 Sinclairification by Grant Sinclair

Photographing Live Performances (Concerts, plays, etc)

30 Jun 2008

If youíre traveling and have the chance to see a live performance, you may be tempted to bring your camera along.  Either that, or you may end up going to a performance at the last minute and you might not have time to get back to your room to drop off your camera gear.  If you want to photograph live performances, these tips might help.

First and foremost, venues may not be keen on letting people bring photography gear or bags of any kind into the venue.  Bags they do allow in may be searched, so donít try to sneak anything in to the show.  While most sports arenas (and sports arenas serving as concert halls) are pretty good about posting their rules regarding cameras and photography, it can be a little more difficult to get that information for music venues.

Your best bet, if you have the time, resources, opportunity and someone who speaks the local language, is to phone the venue and inquire about their photography policy.  Donít be surprised if they donít have a photography policy, as most people who come to that venue come to listen to music, not to take pictures.

Photography is generally not allowed for a couple reasons.

1) Flashes firing the in faces of the performers is both distracting and irritating to the people on stage and the audience.

2) Because each performance is copyrighted by the performers, it may be a copyright violation to photograph and/or sell images without the performersí or venueís permission.

If you do manage to bring your photo gear into a live performance of any kind, the following tips will help you get some good pictures and enjoy the performance.

1) Make sure you have permission to bring and use your gear into the venue.  If you arenít allowed to take pictures and you do so anyway, there may be repercussions, such as having your gear confiscated, getting arrested, getting kicked out, etcetera.

2) Some places may let you bring your bag in with the caveat that you donít take any photos (probably for the reasons mentioned above).  If they tell you not to take photos, DONíT!

3) If you are allowed to take pictures, be aware of the rest of the audience.  They came to see a performance, not to have you get in the way.  Be courteous.

4) Turn off your flash and switch to a faster shutter speed or ISO.  Better than that, practice before hand with photography in low-light conditions.

5) If possible, set up your tripod.  The best places to do this are in the aisle or at the back of the room, so you are not in anyoneís way.

6) If you go to the back of the room (behind the audience), be sure to use your zoom lens.

7) Start early and stop early.  Unless youíre on assignment, take some photos and enjoy the rest of the show!

8) Make decisions.  Do you really need to take pictures of the event?  If not, only bring you small point and shoot (if anything) for an exterior shot of the venue and a few shots of the band, then go on inside and enjoy yourself!

9) Be aware of people who are at the event taking photographs professionally and try not to get in their way.  They are there to make money and make a living.  Be courteous and let them do so.

10) Some people in the audience may not be courteous to you while youíre trying to take pictures.  Donít get angry with them if you get bumped, pushed or even yelled at.  Theyíre there to see a show.

If there is a bag check, you may want to use it if you donít want to bring all (or even any) of your gear into the venue.  When you do check your bag, be prepared that the bag check people may not be gentle.  You bag might get dropped or thrown, or even rifled through. 

Remember that in this day and age of perpetual alertness, that your bag will most likely be opened and searched for dangerous items, or, in some places, anything valuable.

To help curb this activity, try these following suggestions:

a) Offer to carry your bag to the location where it will be stored. 

b) Use luggage locks to lock the zippers shut and/or a Pac Safe kit to close it up and lock it more securely, or, if given the change, lock it to a stationary object at the bag check (like a shelf, chair, table, etcetera)

Like the Sporting Events article mentions, you have to decide if youíre there to see the performance or to take pictures of it.  If youíre going for fun, go have fun and leave your camera behind and enjoy your evening.  If youíre going to take pictures, youíll have to carry your camera around all night long and look after it, but if youíre willing, then go ahead.

Our suggestion is to bring a small, handheld point and shoot camera, take a few exterior shots of the venue, a few interior shots of the venue (if so allowed) and a few of the band (again, if allowed.  Please donít break any rules.  And turn off the flash!) and then put the camera in your pocket and enjoy the performance.

Plays, operas and other live performances with actors are different than concerts, where as at a concert, there is usually a lot of activity and band/audience interaction.  At a play or opera, the interaction happens mostly on the stage.

Therefore, all the attention is focused on the stage and if someone takes pictures at a play or opera, especially if they forget to turn off their flash, not only will everyone know about it, but it could ruin the performance, not only for the audience, but for the actors.

If you want photos from a play or opera, consider purchasing a photo book or program of the event.  The pictures are better than what youíll probably be able to get (because the person who took them was invited and did so during rehearsal) and it saves you the trouble of trying to get the right shot. 

Not only that, it makes for a great souvenir.  It talks about the performance and when you show it to people at home, they have something they can hold in their hands and read at their leisure.

So go into the theatres, opera houses and live performance venues of the world and enjoy the show.

© 2008

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