Shot in the Dark: Put Down Your Phones and Watch the Show

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Take a picture, they say. It'll last longer. But fans weren't always able to do that. Only in the last five years or so, with the rise of digital cameras and smartphones, has photography even been an option.

Even now, some artists insist on no photography at their shows, and a few venues still ask customers to leave even purse-size digital cameras in their car, but it happens less and less. There are just too many of them -- and people need their phones, like for emergencies and stuff -- that many places have decided they just don't need the hassle.

So you go to see your favorite band and you want something to remember them by besides a T-shirt, so you bring a digital camera or take some video on your iPhone. And you're far from alone. But why? Sometimes all those flashes and LED screens all at once make a cool visual effect, but most of the time, to those of us who are trying to just watch the band (or, perhaps, take notes for a review), it's just annoying.

And pointless, we would imagine. Do people really take the time to upload all that video they take to YouTube, or to watch them on their phones later?

Considering the quality of smartphone photography and sound (good for some things, not so good in environments like a dark room with a bunch of stage lights and a loud band nearby) and especially video, why would anyone besides you want to watch that stuff?

These are the kinds of questions that keep us awake at night. Rocks Off was curious about what our professional photographers think about the sea of iPhones and point-and-shoot cameras they're confronted with each time they shoot something for us, so we asked them. We also asked them to send us one of their favorite pictures of a Houston or Texas artist they've taken in the past year or so.

If you want to see some better pictures than you can get on something that fits into your pocket, come to our Shot in the Dark photo show next Thursday, May 17, from 7 to 10 p.m. at War'Hous Visual Studios. We hope you can join us. Remember, it's free -- complimentary beverages, too, and music by DJ Elroy Boogie -- but we'd still like you to RSVP.

Mark C. Austin: It can be rather frustrating to see a sea of camera phones. Not because it gets in my way, but rather that those people should be watching the show with their eyes and concentrate less on taking some terrible photograph. You spent $150 on tickets, $40 on beer and $60 on T-shirts.

At least try to enjoy the show. If you need to try to remember the show, just get up the next morning and go to Rocks Off and get a professional recap including photos. We gotta eat too.

Marc Brubaker: Honestly, I have relatively no qualms with people using their cell phones. As a concertgoer, it can get annoying, especially if your view is frequently blocked. But as a photographer, it doesn't bother me. Sometimes it actually provides me a nice crowd shot. Either way, I know that I'm there as a pro, with the proper gear and knowledge to get me the shots I need and want.

Groovehouse: Cell-phone pics I know will be pretty shitty, so I don't really care. Cell-phone video is worse. Is the video even audible considering how loud some of these shows can be? Most of the time I will go to YouTube and look for concert videos from shows I've shot and they are pretty nonexistent. Everyone holds up a camera or a phone, but those videos and photos are almost never publicly available. Put your phones away and enjoy the show.

There are some point-and-shoot cameras that can yield a good image, but you have to know how to work your equipment to get that good image. When I see people shooting and their flashes are going off, I'm not in the least bit worried, I know those photos will mostly be of heads in the crowd.

You can't get a decent shot with a flash unless you are on the barricade, otherwise you are just going to light the people around you and they will be in focus while your subject is out of focus or not even be visible.

Jody Perry: Sure, your phone camera can take nice pix, but can it do this...

Marco Torres: I'm cool with it, I guess. If I didn't have my DSLR, I'd probably be doing the same thing. But not for the WHOLE DAMN SHOW like some rude people. I'm in the pit most nights, so I get my shots then I'm gone. What does bother me a bit more is when people take their iPad to the venue and record video on it. I think that's unfair.

Jason Wolter: It's slightly annoying that the crowd can video or photograph an entire show when we are limited to three songs. Some of the best photo opportunities come late in shows when artists have found their stride and really start to cut loose.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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