There’s a reason you’ve put so much time, energy and hard-earned money into getting ready for your next event: It’s going to be epic. Whatever you’re headed to see—a concert, a game, an exhibition, a match—there’s a pretty high chance it will be memorable. You’re going to want to do everything you can to ensure that you’ll remember every detail when it’s over.
That means a production from your nearest AV Club—a.k.a. you. But taking a great picture or video at an event isn’t always easy. There are flashing lights and tens of thousands of people screaming all around you—not to mention rules and regulations that may limit the equipment you can take to the event. We’ve compiled a few things to keep in mind to help you document your incredible evening for eternity.
Use Your Smartphone to Its Full Potential
Today’s smartphone cameras take images of pretty amazing quality. What’s more, in some venues, your phone will be the only type of camera allowed in. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to capture some choice moments.
You probably already use Instagram, which allows you to easily share and cast your photographs in different moods with filters. But a few apps allow you to do useful things as well:
- Camera+ might be the best photography app for iOS or Android. It has a ton of great features such as image stabilization, a digital zoom, different shooting modes and setting adjustments that let you switch up exposure and focus.
- Google Photos is good for sharing lots of images without sacrificing quality. It also has a decent photo editor for those shots that didn’t come out perfect the first time.
Experiment with Smartphone Lenses
Just about any lens your average photographer uses to capture different images is available in a clip-on or magnetic attachment for your smartphone. We’re talking zoom lenses, fish eyes, wide angles, macro 10x, macro 15x—whatever you need, there’s a good chance one exists for your device. Some venues don’t allow any detachable lenses, but that usually only applies to DSLRs or other professional equipment. Check the venue’s policies in advance.
Check Before You Bring Your Tripod or Selfie Stick
Your event is going to be super fun, but you’re also expecting it to be super safe. Every venue has security at the door and a list of prohibited items. Frequently included on these lists are stick-like items, including tripods and selfie sticks. Check with the venue before you bring them.
Choose the Right Digital Camera
Your camera is going to play the biggest role in image quality. DSLR cameras with interchangeable lenses take great pictures, but many venues don’t allow them inside. Before you head out, check the venue’s list of prohibited items.
If you can, use a camera with an adjustable ISO setting, aperture and, most importantly, shutter speed—ideally one that can go up to 1/1000/second. The action on the stage or court is going to be incredibly fast, and you’ll want to snap shots with incredibly short exposures to avoid blurry images.
Choose the Right Camera Lens
If the venue does permit cameras with an interchangeable lens, there’s a strong likelihood that they will limit what kind of lens you can bring in. Often, it’s based on focal length, or the distance between the point where the camera registers or “sees” the image and the point of focus in the lens. The higher the focal length, the more zoom capability you will have. Focal length is not a measure of the length of the lens itself, but many venues limit lenses by total length because it’s easier to determine. Again, check the venue policies.
If the lens is limited to 7 inches, you have several options. Many lenses have a focal length of over 70 mm and are shorter than 7 inches. Even if you’re in the nosebleeds, a fully extended 70-200 mm will get you a fairly high-quality image. Also, you might want to bring in a wide-angle lens to grab shots of the whole scene at once.
Not Every View Is Created Equally
Is this your first time at the venue? Do you know the lay of the land? Some arenas, like the Bell Centre in Montreal, have tilted their seats forward so everyone can see the ice. Others are less than ideal. If you’re after some crisp, clear shots of the action, do some research on the sight line situation of your seat. Many venues have digital seating charts that also show you the view you’ll get.
Deal with Dim Lighting
Another challenge you may face taking pictures at an event is adjusting for different lighting arrangements. ISO stands for International Standards Organization and it alters your camera’s sensitivity to light. If you find that you’re having trouble with consistently dim shots because you have your shutter speed cranked up, boost the ISO setting as well.
Many venues ban flash devices and on-camera flash completely. It can be distracting to the players, performers and nearby fans. Some venues and events do allow flash, but at the end of the day, you don’t need it. The best policy is to learn to use your camera and adjust its settings so that you’re purely using the main light source in the venue. Not only will you take better pictures, but you won’t incur the frustration of others.
Check the Weather
If your event is outdoors or open to the elements, Mother Nature may impact your plans. Rain is always a possibility, not to mention hail, high winds, thunder or snow. Get some idea of what’s in the forecast and plan accordingly. You can still take great pictures in the rain; you just have to get a little creative. We’re partial to hat brims as rain shelters for devices. Also, check to see if your venue has a retractable roof they use in cases of inclement weather.
Respect Your Fellow Fans
Your fellow fans are the best people in the world. They know the same chants, sing the same songs and wear the same colors, and they don’t stand up in front of you hundreds of times within a 90-minute period to take pictures. You shouldn’t either.
Use these tips to enjoy your event and capture some downright frame-able material.