As a professional music photographer, I spend a lot of time at concerts looking at the stage through my camera's viewfinder. I love music-- especially jazz-- and I love that I've been able to make a career out of photography, but I have a confession to make: I miss getting to put my camera down and just be there. But it's my job to squint through the viewfinder and fiddle with buttons and dials and experience the concert secondhand through my screen-- so what's your excuse?
Before smartphones, if your favorite band was playing in concert and you shelled out a bunch of money to see them, you'd make sure you enjoyed every second of it! You'd take in the incredible music and light show. You'd "put your hands up in the air!" You'd dance like nobody was watching. You'd never take your eyes off that stage. The beat of the last song of the night would be your pulse for days after.
Today it's much different, and not for the better. As soon as the band comes on, I see a better portion of the audience bust out their camera phones and hold them up for (most of) the performance, snapping photos and taking video. They're blocking the person behind them, looking up at their phone instead of at the human beings playing live music in front of them, and most of all, missing out on the immersive "experience" of being at the show. Why not just stay home and watch everyone else's videos of the concert on YouTube? It would save you money!
Taylor Swift ©Brian Friedman for iHeartRadio
If you're tempted to record obsessively at a live performance, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Will you watch the videos ever again or is it just to post on social media to show your friends you're at the concert? How many times have you totally forgotten you even have them on your phone until you need to delete them to free up space?
2. Is the footage actually any good or are the lights blowing out your exposure? How's the sound quality? Unless you have professional equipment, it's not going to look or sound anything like actually being there in the moment!
3. Did you have a good time watching the concert through a little screen? Would you have had a better time singing along and dancing with your friends and watching it firsthand?
Ms. Lauryn Hill ©Brian Friedman for Brooklyn Bowl
4. If your phone didn't have a camera, would you have brought an actual camera to the show? Next time you go to a concert, imagine your phone is an old 35mm camera that shoots film you have to develop. See how it changes the frequency and subject matter of your photos.
5. What do you think the artist would rather see when looking out into the crowd, especially at smaller venues: Your excited face or a sea of Apples and Androids?
I'm not saying don't use your phone to capture your favorite song or snap a few cool moments of the show, but my general rule (when I'm not on the job!) is "Take One and Be Done." Try it next time and see what great memories you can make without recording them!