Ethics of bans on photography: concerts, food, and weddings

A shot from Her's concert at University of the Pacific.

A shot from Her's concert at University of the Pacific.

From snapshots of food to a picture of our favorite musician on stage, many of us take opportunities to capture moments in our lives through photography. I've noticed a "ban" on photography in some places as the venues implement photography rules.


About a week ago, news surfaced that Kendrick Lamar was banning all photos from his "Damn" world tour. This ended up being partially false; professional photographers cannot take photos (except for Lamar's own workers) but fans can still use their smartphones. When I went to a Stromae concert several years ago, I wasn't allowed to bring in a mirrorless camera.

Even if Kendrick Lamar hasn't done this, other artists have. Many of them feel that the presence of so many recording smartphones take away from the magic of the concert. When an artist performs, they don't want to see a sea of phones staring back at them. This results in a loss of some human connection as some fans pay a large amount just to see their idol through a screen.

Part of me understands the other side. I remember recording small portions of songs during Stromae's concert, and I did the same for Muse's. Even though I recorded a bit, I was having the time of my life at the Muse concert with my best friend. I've looked back on the videos; the concert was only last year, so I can only imagine the nostalgia I'll feel in the years to come as I look back more. But looking back on it, I do wish I could have recorded a little less. I remember my best friend jumping up and down and singing more than me because I didn't want to have shaky footage, or a video of my voice drowning out Matt Bellamy's (lead singer of Muse). Even if I still had a great time, it could have been better.

Going back to professional photographers, I know that they need to get great angles which could mean blocking the view of fans sometimes. They could also monetize off of their photos, which some artists may not like. It is a little sad to hear that they are banned in some instances though. Photographing Muse would be a dream come true one day! There are many rules to concert photography; I'll make a separate post about it in the future.


From a cute cafe in Taipei, Taiwan

Snapchatting and Instagramming food have become a standard for some people. However, there are some restaurants that have banned customers from taking photos of their food or even the restaurant itself. Some models get their photo taken in front of a pretty restaurant wall but leave without buying anything. Other times, people taking too many pictures may disturb fellow customers. Here are a couple quotes from the article:

"A picture on a phone cannot possibly capture the flavours." - Michel Roux, Waterside Inn co-founder and French chef.
"It's food. Just eat it." - David Chang, chef at Momofuku Ko.

Another reason is that a photo could potentially downgrade the presentation and appearance of the food. When a photographer sends edited photos to a model and the model slaps a filter on it, the photo is no longer a perfect representation of the photographer's work. Similarly, the tones and saturation could make food look quite different than it does in person and doesn't accurately represent the chef's work.

I think each restaurant is free to set its own rules, so customers should respect their wishes. As for my opinion on photographing food, I don't have a problem with it because it's a small fun thing people do and it usually ends up being promotion for the restaurant. I can understand it being excessive though if people stand up on chairs for the perfect angle, or photograph till their food gets cold. And for the most part, the food probably wouldn't look too different from the original via a photo.


Esther and Yuriy's wedding

More and more people are recommending "unplugged" weddings where guests should refrain from pulling out their phone during the ceremony. If a couple spends hundreds or even thousands of dollars to hire professional wedding photographers, they most likely don't want to see the photographers struggling to find a good angle as they try to avoid a sea of phones.

The banner photo in the unplugged wedding article is a now-famous capture by Thomas Stewart. It showcases a groom craning his head to see his bride come down the aisle because of a few people with phones blocking his view. My photo above is a small example of that, though nearly not as bad. 

I feel like a couple of photos with phones wouldn't be bad; for instance, a photographer could capture the bride and groom and the phone screens in the shot (if you can see the bridge and groom in them) would make for an interesting composition. But more often than not, phones can ruin shots.

There's also the argument that capturing something with your own phone is more sentimental than that of a professional photographer. I think a good solution would be to allow a few minutes for phone photography, but the rest of the time should be phone-free unless the bride and groom allow it.

Have you noticed any bans on photography recently? What do you think of them?