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I was at a large prestigious high school music concert this past weekend where I wanted to record the audio on a hand-held audio recorder, as my daughter was performing with one of the groups. I was quite a distance away from the performers (it was held in a large basketball arena) who were performing without amplification, so having a quiet environment around me was important to get a recording worth saving.

Unfortunately, the gentleman seated in front of me kept taking pictures with his DSLR and telephoto lens during much of the performance, probably taking 100+ pictures over the course of a 30 minute performance. This DSLR (make/model unknown) was quite noisy, both with the focusing beeps, as well as the noise of the shutter and mirror. In listening to my recording once I got home, his camera's noise was very distracting and completely ruined the recording for me as all I could focus on was the noise of his camera. All I kept hearing was several beeps of focusing, then a loud shutter/mirror click. Then a few seconds later, he'd do it all over again, or do a multi-shot burst.

Should I have said something to him while I was there, asking him to not take so many pictures due to the noise of his camera ruining the listening for others around him? I have no problem with him taking some pictures, but is there some sort of courtesy he should have considered with the camera making noise being a distraction to others. I would have been fine with a few pictures every once in a while, but several pictures per minute in such a quiet listening environment seems like huge selfish gesture by him.

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    Were there any guidelines provided by the event organisers? Otherwise, there is no correct answer. Some people would see nothing wrong with taking the photos, some people would see nothing wrong with telling the guy to stay quiet. – osullic Nov 20 '17 at 18:17
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    Just a suggestion if you want to try to save your recording - if you can isolate either sound (the beeps or the shutter slap) with no singing or other noises at the same time, you can invert the waveform and add it in whenever it occurs to remove it without affecting other sounds. – user1118321 Nov 21 '17 at 2:42
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    In case this question gets closed, please re-ask it on interpersonal.stackexchange.com where it would be very much on-topic, cheers! – Nicolas Raoul Nov 21 '17 at 3:34
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    When I record a performance, I place my hand-held recorder directly in front of the stage or front row; use a small tripod, a gorillapod clinging to the isle rail, gaffer’s tape, or just on the stage floor next to some lights. My own in-audience noise issues are little kids talking over the performance, and that does get picked up clearly by the camera’s microphone. – JDługosz Nov 21 '17 at 6:11
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    "...the gentleman seated in front of me..." So there's a good chance that he wasn't even aware you were there? Seems like if you know he had a camera, the spot you picked to do the recording was less than ideal. Chalk the bad recording up to a learning experience and move on. – Blrfl Nov 21 '17 at 12:24
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To me, this is a case where an amateur photographer and an amateur sound engineer were each sharing space. A professional photographer might have behaved differently. When nobody is a professional it is unreasonable to expect professional behavior and hold people to professional standards.

The camera noises were not sufficiently audible during the performance for anyone to mention it. Because the photographer was not asked to change their behavior, it is unreasonable to expect the photographer to behave as if it were problematic. This is a case where ignorance is an excuse. It excuses the noise from the amateur photographer. It excuses the recording of that noise by the amateur sound engineer.

In terms of public spaces, audio recording probably has a greater burden of accommodation than photography due to wire tapping laws, statutes and regulations. As always, talk to a legal professional familiar with the requirements of the jurisdiction. Legality aside, audio recording individuals without consent is probably "ruder" than photographing them. This is because the time in which others may have to monitor their behavior is of much longer duration than a few snapshots.

The most professional thing for a photographer to do is for them to position theirself so as to not interfere with the behavior of others. The same is true for an audio engineer. But when both are amateurs, that should not be expected.

  • Wire tapping laws would have effectively no jurisdiction in the case being described. They are designed to prevent surveillance, not recording of a performance. Recording audio of a performance to capture it for artistic reasons is no different than if you were recording video of it. Even if it was somehow considered surveillance, presumably his daughter knew he was recording her, thus making it fine and anyone else captured incidental. There are various IP rights that may be an issue for making a recording if the piece being played is still under copyright, but that's about it. – AJ Henderson Nov 21 '17 at 5:05
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    This answer misses the point. At a concert, attendees have a responsibility to not interfere with others' enjoyment of the concert. Since a concert is primarily about sound, this absolutely includes not making gratuitous noises. Doing so is simply rude, whether those noises are made with a camera, talking, tapping a pen against a chair, or some other way. – Olin Lathrop Nov 21 '17 at 12:13
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    @benrudgers ok, I think I see where you are coming from now, but I think you and everyone else (who is answering anyway) have a completely different read on the question. What it seems that Michael, Olin and myself see is that the OP was frustrated by the situation, but wanted to know how he could do better in the future with handling it. It wasn't just a complaint about what happened, he himself wasn't sure if it was fair for him to approach the photographer or not. – AJ Henderson Nov 21 '17 at 17:38
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    Instead of answering that question, you took it as a complaint and instead say that the OP has no reason to have a complaint because the photographer isn't a professional (which doesn't explain the impact of basic courtesy), go off on a tangent about how the OP was being less considerate and possibly breaking laws (which is entirely inaccurate), The one kernel of value from the answer is that you shouldn't EXPECT that a non-pro user will know how to mitigate their impact, but that doesn't mean it isn't fair to politely let them know and offer them an alternative which they should take. – AJ Henderson Nov 21 '17 at 17:41
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    @benrudgers I agree it was somewhat borderline on being an interpersonal issues question. I didn't close it because I think the key to the question is if there was anything the photographer could do differently. The op seems to be reasonable to me and wants to know if there is anything that could resolve the situation for both parties. – AJ Henderson Nov 21 '17 at 19:38
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The quantity of photos he was taking I don't think are unfair, however, I think he should have been more aware of the noise his camera makes. On most DSLRs, the focus beep can be disabled and the amount of noise the camera makes can be reduced. Some may also offer quieter shooting modes that avoid further noise.

When attending a performance, particularly one that is largely audio based, it is impolite to make more noise than necessary. This isn't some etiquette rule that requires you to be a professional photographer to know. It's simple common sense for attending an acoustic performance. Since it is almost certain that he could have accomplished taking his photos with much less noise, I think it would have been fair to ask if he could turn off the beeping and use whatever the quietest settings for his camera were. He may, however, have not been aware of the fact he could make his camera quieter, so I'd approach it politely and try to be instructive as to how to look for focus confirmation beeps or other similar settings.

  • I turned off the noises on my DSLR last month. It shipped with them on. This makes some sense since it was my first DSLR and that's the market segment it was designed for. I turned them off because I watched Moose Peterson talk about practicing wildlife photography and followed the advice to shoot birds in my yard. The beeps and bonks disturbed the birds and I am familiar enough with my camera that the feedback isn't useful. It's easy for people to forget what it is like to be a beginner and should on others. Eventually people learn. But they only learn through feedback. Here it was absent – user50888 Nov 21 '17 at 16:26
  • @benrudgers - which is precisely why I say that "he may, however, have not been aware of the fact he could make his camera quieter so I'd approach it politely and try to be instructive". My point is that I agree with you that the photographer may not have realized they could make less noise, however it would also be perfectly fair to approach them and ask them to please take the steps that could be taken and suggest what those steps might be and how they could access it. Now, that might be of limited value if the OP doesn't have an idea of how to help with that, but I can't fix that. – AJ Henderson Nov 21 '17 at 17:33
  • The audio problem is recording from a noisy location. The audiophile could more easily and surely solved the problem by relocating. The social problems are akin to those of adults at youth sports, i.e. "I have a problem" is followed by "with you." Some people go to their children's events with a predisposition to being angry. When it ain't the camera, it's something else. – user50888 Nov 21 '17 at 19:07
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    @benrudgers my take on the question is that the cameraman was loud enough to be noticeable to other listeners in the area. I think the op was willing to deal with this as they felt someone wanting a permanent record was worth some noise, but then realized that noise interfered with their own permanent record. They wanted to know if it would be reasonable to talk to the photographer about the disruption they were causing. – AJ Henderson Nov 21 '17 at 19:34
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Should I have said something to him while I was there, asking him to not take so many pictures due to the noise of his camera ruining the listening for others around him?

Yes, it's certainly impolite to make enough noise that you're bothering the audience members around you, whether it's with a noisy camera or a crinkly candy wrapper. Being seated in the audience is probably also one of the worst places for taking decent photos -- indoor venues are always dark, and seats in the audience are usually too far away and partially obstructed. A smarter photographer would've found a better vantage point to shoot from, and that would've put him farther from the audience.

On the other hand, trying to make a decent audio recording from audience seating in a basketball arena using a pocket recorder is bound to fail. I doubt your recording would've been very good even without the camera noise -- just like your seat mate, you were too far from the performers and too close to the audience. And just as it's impolite to distract people from enjoying the performance by making noise, it's also impolite to impede their enjoyment of the moment by asking them to be very quiet so that you can get a better recording.

If you want to record the next performance, scout out the location ahead of time and find out if you can place your equipment somewhere close to the performers. You might offer to share your recording with the organization that's performing, so that the school (for example) and all the kids can get a decent recording of their performance. Or, if they're already recording the performance, you might be able to plug into their mixing board, or just get a copy of their recording afterward. If you're going to record, get there early so you can set up without being in the way, and start recording just before things start. You might run into some photographers scouting out the best vantage points, and you can let them know where your mic is.

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This isn't about professional courtesy. Not at all. It is about common courtesy and proper etiquette when attending a musical performance as part of the audience.

Here's the thing. An amateur audio enthusiast recording audio of the concert doesn't do anything to affect the ability of the other members of the audience to hear and enjoy the performances. An amateur camera enthusiast photographing the concert in the way depicted in the question diminishes the experience for everyone within hearing distance.

The issue is not about the amateur photographer and the amateur audio engineer giving each other "professional" courtesy. The issue is about both being able to do what they desire without disturbing everyone around them.

If you can attend a concert and record or photograph it without disturbing others, have at it. But if your activity interferes with the general expectation the members of the audience have that they be able to hear the music at a musical performance, then you shouldn't be doing what you are doing, regardless of whether someone else is trying to record amateur audio or not.

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    Exactly. The point is noise at a concert, having nothing specific to do with photography. The other answers are missing this, +1. – Olin Lathrop Nov 21 '17 at 12:14
  • The user who finds this answer "not helpful" obviously has no clue about proper etiquette at public events. – Michael C Nov 22 '17 at 0:10

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