What Jessie Did Next...

...being the inane ramblings of a mundane Yorkshire bird.

And so last night we went to see the Pet Shop Boys at Manchester Apollo. I’ll blog about that in a bit but this is a little more of a grouch, so deserves its own blog entry. Actually no, it’s a full-on rant.


I am absolutely sick to the back teeth of paying a fortune for concert tickets to go and watch a band, purely to have some village idiot in front of me holding his camera phone sky high so I can either watch his arms or see it all through the back of his LCD display. This applies especially to large concert venues with stalls, gigs with lots of visuals, or places where we’re all crammed together and dancing.

So, tips for aspiring photographers at gigs, please:

  • Remember people are standing behind you – they don’t want to see you fiddling with your camera all the way through. They paid just as much as you for a ticket (and may be shorter in stature as well).
  • If you do want to take a few photos (which is fine, I do it myself with the Canon G9 occasionally), don’t do it throughout the entire gig. At some gigs I get asked to photograph, I’m restricted to a couple of songs where I can take pics then I have to sod off (or at least not get the camera out again) – take the lead from that, the rule’s there for a reason.
  • Feel free to stand in the aisles, in front of a stairwell, next to a wall, somewhere like that and hold it high if you want – at least you’re not pissing anyone off behind you.
  • If you’re not backed by a wall, aisle, etc. then hold the camera at head height, not a foot and a half above.
  • If all else fails and you do want photos, take your pics in the cheering, applause, etc. when there’s no major performance going on – folks can’t really object to that when they’ve got their hands in the air cheering!
  • Turn the flash off! You will get shit photos with the flash on, probably of the backs of the heads of the two rows in front of you and unless you’re an aspiring hairdresser this will not be what you want.
  • Likewise they don’t want to smell your armpits. It’s hot in here, don’t make the experience worse.
  • Avoid taking video – the sound will be terrible (loud, distorted), the quality will be awful, and the bloke standing behind you will miss an entire song.
  • Hey, you might be on a hide into nothing anyway: unless you have brought a reasonable point-n-click your phone photos will be rubbish – blurry, lots of movement.
  • The gig photographers will do a better job than you, why not look on Flickr for the event tomorrow morning instead (I found some pics of last night’s gig which are lovely)?

So, last night I finally said something to the guy in front of me: “‘Scuse me feller,” says I. “Are we all going to have to watch the gig through your phone screen?” “Er, no. Sorry.” he stammered. At least he did shift it, and was suitably embarrassed. It’s just thoughtless.

This may strike you as hypocritical considering I profess to be a reasonably competent gig photographer (and get frequent requests from bands to take photos for them). Fair one. However, I try and be careful not to get in the way and I think I do that pretty well (doing stupid things like crouching next to million-decibel speaker stacks, and less stupid things like turning off the LCD) – OK there’s been one transgression (knocking a mike stand, thankfully in an almost deserted pub) which I duly beat myself up over for days afterwards but by and large I’m there to get in the way as little as possible.

Ergo, I’m not saying “don’t take photos” – I’m saying “don’t let it get in the way of other paying customers’ enjoyment of the gig.”

In other words, just be considerate eh?


  1. Well said – I watched an entire song bent down to see the stage under a bloke’s armpit last night cos he insisted on videoing it on his phone. Highly bloody irritating, but at least it was for just one song. Just think how much worse it would have been if we’d been unfortunate enough to be further back.

  2. John_R in Western Australia

    June 20, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Good rant, mate, and at a most deserving target. I don’t think most people go for the music, though; they go for the experience of being there. Face it, the vast majority of gig music is poor compared with a well-produced CD.

    I was impressed at the Cohen gig at Sandleford Winery: whenever anyone tried to use a camera phone or camera they were gently led to an area in an aisle where they could take a snap; they were restricted to one or two and they were told when they could do it (i.e. not in a quiet or emotionally moving bit). Mind you, we were in the extremely posh, rattle-your-jewelery, chardonnay-sipping seats.

  3. Completely agree. From where I am at gigs – the viewing platform / cripple pen – I usually have nobody behind me so I can do what I like. But after a few snaps when I want to watch the rest of the gig I look across an audience full of glowing screens to view the artists.

    NIN have an interesting camera policy; at their USA shows they have said you can bring anything along – DSLRs are fine – as long as you have no tripod and you are considerate about other people. I know this went down well with fans who wanted to get reasonable photos, but not sure if it meant that other people got driven mad in the process.

    I hope they have the same policy at the O2 next month; I am in the block nearest the stage and would love to get some good photos. But I want to watch the gig too!

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