It’s been a crazy month for me, shoots almost every weekend and post processing during the week has kept me from posting as much as I’d like. But busy is good, I’m not complaining. I’ve got plenty of material half done for upcoming posts, but I felt I had to sneak in this short one in the meantime.
I’ve said this before, but I feel like it needs it’s own post to really drive the point home; when in doubt, leave your flash at home. As little as 5-10 years ago it would have been unthinkable for people to start popping away with their flash at many venues, but it seems that the more proliferate digital cameras get, the more people feel they need to use them anywhere and everywhere.
I was shooting the Orleans Festival last weekend and no surprise, almost everyone attending had a camera around their neck. Good, great… amazing even! I’d love to see everyone with a camera, the more the merrier, but what really blew my mind was the complete lack of respect I was seeing in the use of those cameras.
Please people, use your head. Just because a performance in an indoor, blacked out theater doesn’t have a sign specifically forbidding flash photography, think about what you’re inflicting on the performers and other patrons. I was shooting the above show, an amazing group of drummers and dancers, and there where dozens of people flashing away the entire show; including one young lady sitting right beside me, popping her flash literally every 20 seconds or so for the entire half hour performance.
First off, it’s just plain disrespectful to the performers. This wasn’t a rock concert where the people on stage are used to crazy light shows and strobes; this was the equivalent to a theatrical performance that happened to include music. And it’s disrespectful to your fellow patrons as well, having flashes going off the entire show kills the mood and can be blinding if it’s going off right next to you.
If at the end of the day you really couldn’t give a crap about either the performers or your fellow patrons, think of yourself instead. You’re really doing yourself no favours by using a flash. Have you even seen a stage with the house lights up? It looks like crap: dusty floors, ropes, wires, plywood backdrops… there’s a reason why the house lights go down during a performance. Using a flash is going to illuminate all that unsightly garbage and ruin your photos. And with most theatrical productions the lighting is plenty bright enough without having to resort to using a flash and your shots will look ten times better. Get yourself a nice fast and cheap 50mm and learn to use your camera. The shots in this post where taken using nothing but the stage lighting; ISO 1600, f1.8 and I was getting roughly 1/250th to 1/320th shutter speed, plenty fast enough to freeze the action. Granted a kit lens probably won’t cut it in this situation, but a fast 50mm is cheap and not having the right gear or skills to take a shot is no excuse for annoying the other patrons and blinding the performers.
I know that 99% of the time there’s no malice in this kind of behavior, most people just don’t think about how their flashes affect others. Some of the blame does spill onto the venues. The way things are with everyone having at least a phone and digital camera with them at events, you really do need clearly marked signs indicating where you can and can’t use flash photography. There’s many events where I’ve come to accept that people will be flashing away the whole time, but there’s definitely a time and place for that.
OK, rant over. Just remember, when in doubt, use your head. Put yourself in the shoes of the performers and those around you. Learn to use your camera and have the proper gear. Above all else, remember that sometimes it’s ok to put the camera down and just enjoy a performance once in a while!