What club photographers really think of you

A lot of editing goes into that squad Facebook photo

It wouldn’t be a night out without the swift untag, the photos sent down your WhatsApp group, the drunken “please can I see it before you put it on Facebook”. Club photographers are as integral a part of your night as asking the taxi man if he’s been busy, or fighting with your mate Lorne in the smoking area. But what do the men (and women) behind the lens really think of our drunken aesthetic?

Stuart Ridley (AKA The Lancaster Photographer), is the go-to club photographer for the hot-bed of nightlife which is Lancaster clubbing, and covers Dalton Rooms, Apothecary and Sugarhouse in the town. We asked the 23-year-old for his candid thoughts on our candid pics.

How did you get into club photography?

Basically, the club photographer was ill one day and I happened to have a video camera with the ability to take stills and the ambition to get off the bar. One thing led to another, a few thousand pounds later and I got to where I am today.

What’s the most annoying thing people say and do to club photographers?

In all honesty, it’s just plain rudeness that grinds my gears. I always try to speak to people with manners and respect, so when somebody doesn’t want a photo, a simple “no, thank you” would be better received rather than the usual “Fuck off” or “pfft you’ve got to be kidding. I’d rather die” or just ignoring you like you don’t exist.

Apart from that, it’s the equipment. Do NOT touch it. It’s worth more than a month’s wages. Honestly, taking photos with good equipment in a club is like wearing a £2,000 necklace that everybody wants to grab hold of.

Should you ask a photographer to take another photo if you don’t like the one he’s taken?

Of course! It’s our job to make sure you want to tag yourself in our albums. But as Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” and the same goes for your club photos. Don’t do the same pose every time.

Having said that, unless your photo is showing nudity, violence or any other sort of offensive behaviour, don’t message the page demanding it be deleted. Nobody gets paid to go around removing their work. Seriously though, people’s messages are so rude sometimes.

Here’s a good insiders’ tip: If you un-tag yourself on Facebook, you can never be tagged again, so there’s really no need to remove its existence, other than it may not match your selfie fakery should someone ever stumble upon it.

Should you ask to see the photos?

I rarely give people chance to see their photos straight away. There are reasons behind this: Firstly, I use off-camera flash which basically makes it impossible to do anything other than take the photos, as I have a camera in one hand and a flash-gun in the other, connected by a cable. Secondly, drunk people will literally have you stood there for 5-6 retakes (it’s not edited yet either) and then still demand it be deleted right away.

While they’re fussing you’ve just missed a whole load of shots that you won’t be able to get again.  My job is essentially to get attention and hits on the clubs’ Facebook pages — so making people search for their photos, rather than letting them see it on the night, does this job perfectly.

How do you feel about photobombers?

They’re heroes, and they can crack on. It really does make my day when someone gets in the background of a load of photos pulling some stupid faces and I don’t even notice until the editing stage. It’s comedy gold.

But only if it’s in the background. Jump in front of my subjects and you’ll really piss me off, and waste my time when I have to redo the shot.

Who are the most fun people to shoot?

Literally everybody is fun to shoot if they’re having a good time, so please don’t be miserable. People spend too much time trying to look like models. It’s not about that.

What’s the most annoying pose?

Lads taking their bloody shirts off, and sometimes other things for the “locker room” pose. Stop it. You’re sweaty and I’m also a guy, it’s pretty awkward.

In general how should you behave if you’re a clubber and you’re trying to get the photographers attention?

Just be nice. Please don’t grab me, please don’t repeatedly tap me when I’m clearly looking through the camera lens at another group of people and finally, please wait your turn.  

Other than that, we’re pretty observant, we can see you waving us over. Just be patient because there’s probably five people between you and me that have already asked.

Have you ever had anyone say anything really horrible to you or threaten you?

Plenty of times. Threatening behaviour really doesn’t bother me that much, there’s doormen everywhere. You’re only going to ruin your own night and probably your clothes in the process if you’re being aggressive.

I think the worst experience I ever had was about a year ago, I had just taken a photo of the whole crowd in Hustle when some very aggressive girl came up to me demanding to see the photo I had just taken (she wasn’t in it) and nearly ripped my camera off my neck in the process. This girl would not let go, I was terrified.

Do you have to edit the photos to make people look better or do you post them as natural as they’re taken?

I spend around two to three hours editing every album I produce, it’s a lot of PC work the next day after a late night. usually by the time I’ve finished, daylight has been and gone.

Do you encourage people to dance or play up to the cameras, or do the best shots come from candids?

No. If you see a photo of mine with the crowd absolutely going off, it really happened that way. I think it’s important to capture the moment with these kinds of shots, every picture tells a story after all.

What’s your favourite club shot you’ve ever taken?

I don’t think I can say I have a favourite, every night I take something that gets me a little bit excited for editing the next day but here’s one from a while ago I really loved at the time: