I'm in your arena, snappin' your picture.
March 3, 2007 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to sneak a camera into a sporting event or concert without it getting taken away?

So I know that every entertainment venue I've ever been to expressly forbids its patrons from bringing a camera along with them. However, there have been plenty of times when I've wished that I could snap a few pictures...David Wells' perfect game in 1998 with the Yankees and Tiki Barber's last home game with the Giants back on Christmas Eve, among others. I always see other people with cameras, so I know it's possible, but I'm too afraid to try it myself. With the Islanders acquiring Ryan Smyth this week, though, I'd like to get to a few of their games before the end of the season, and I'd love to get a few snapshots of Captain Canada and the rest of the team.

So, my question, O Hivemind, is this: is there a way to successfully sneak a camera across enemy lines and take the pictures I want? One suggestion someone once gave me was to bring a cheap disposable camera and have security take that away, so they don't think to look for another camera. That seems more like an urban legend to me, though. And, if they did catch me with a camera and took it from me, would I be able to get it back? $350 down the drain would make me rather upset.

(This is my first post on AskMeFi after reading it for ages. Hopefully, it's well received.)
posted by phaded to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might want to check, but while most *entertainment* venues forbid cameras, many sports venues allow them. My sample size is limited to venues in St. Louis, plus all the baseball yards in California, but there's not been a problem. Closest thing to a problem is when I bring a giant paparazzi looking lens, but that's just merited dirty looks.
posted by notsnot at 2:18 PM on March 3, 2007

Face it: there is no way you can bring your camera into a place where it is forbidden and not take the risk of having it confiscated, either while entering the stadium or while using it in the stadium.

As far as sneaking it in, I think the usual considerations apply: the more you can break it down into uncamera-like components the better, put it in places that are unlikely to be searched (so, a camera-bag looking bag is obviously a bad choice, down the pants is still a pretty effective technique in my book, if you can manage it... you could get a thick stadium cushion with a vinyl zipper cover and cut out camera-component sized compartments in the foam padding and...

You could probably find a number for stadium management, call them and say something like my wife brought her camera in her purse last week by accident and it got confiscated and we had to leave early, are we going to be able to get that returned? To find out if confiscated items are returned.
posted by nanojath at 2:26 PM on March 3, 2007

I've had places tell me to put my camera away, but never had them take it away. If you *really* don't want to lose it, you can always refuse to give it up at penalty of getting kicked out of the venue. But I've taken pics at plenty of events with no real problems. (At concerts it's always pretty easy once they start performing, since the lights go out and flash would be pointless.)
posted by raf at 2:27 PM on March 3, 2007

Definitely check with the venue. My mobile phone has a 3.2MP camera on it and no one bats an eye letting me in anywhere with it. Just turn the flash off so as not to draw attention to yourself and the flash is worthless unless you're taking pictures of something within 3 meters.
posted by birdherder at 2:28 PM on March 3, 2007

On preview, a lot of this was said already

Any specific camera? I mean, if you're trying to sneak a 300 mm SLR lens, I don't think we can help...

On the other hand, a smallish digital camera could certainly be placed in a pocket or purse.

Also, from the Photographer's Rights (just throwing this out there, don't know if it applies:
They Have No Right to Confiscate
Your Film

Sometimes agents acting for entities such as owners of industrial plants and shopping malls may ask you to hand over your film. Absent a court order, private parties have no right to confiscate your film. Taking your film directly or indirectly by threatening to use force or call a law enforcement agency can constitute criminal offenses such as theft and coercion. It can likewise constitute a civil tort such as conversion. Law enforcement officers may have the authority to seize film when making an arrest but otherwise must obtain a court order.
posted by niles at 2:30 PM on March 3, 2007

Oh yea, my favorite camera-sneaking-in technique: Most concert venues I've been to make you take your wallet/keys out of your pants and then just pat you down. If you put your hands in your pockets to take those things out and then just hold them loosely in your hand without drawing attention to them, they will assume they are keys/phone/wallet and not really look in your hands. That's where I put my camera: in my hand with my wallet. It's in a small leather case so it looks vaguely like a wallet, and they've never glanced at it.

(Obviously, this works only for a small point-and-shoot camera.)
posted by raf at 2:37 PM on March 3, 2007

But yea, they have no right to confiscate your camera. They have a right to kick you out if you break the rules, but they can't take your equipment. Just refuse.
posted by raf at 2:37 PM on March 3, 2007

At my local NHL arena (RBC Center in Raleigh, NC), they allow point-and-shoot cameras at Hurricanes games. I haven't tried bringing in my dSLR, but I'm not hopeful--generally if a camera looks too "pro" it has a lower chance. Also, they do the security check before the ticket-taking, so you can just turn around and put the camera in the car if they don't like it.
posted by statolith at 2:42 PM on March 3, 2007

I've also brought small point-and-shoot cameras into Nassau Coliseum to see the Islanders, fwiw.
posted by statolith at 2:44 PM on March 3, 2007

But yea, they have no right to confiscate your camera. They have a right to kick you out if you break the rules, but they can't take your equipment. Just refuse.

This may or may not be true, depending on the contract you agreed to when you used your ticket.
posted by oaf at 2:44 PM on March 3, 2007

It may be a different attitude in Australia, but I have only once seen cameras being confiscated at a venue, despite going to way too many sporting events/concerts where there are signs forbidding cameras. Even at the Olympic Games, where there were notices at least hourly expressing that cameras were forbidden, most people were freely waving around cameras and flashing away. I've been to many concerts where during the pat down, I've held my camera in my hands in plain view, or it has been clearly in my bag when it has been searched. The only time I've ever heard of cameras being confiscated was at an Evanescence concert a few weeks ago. My friend had to stand in front of security while deleting all photos/sound files on her camera, or have the camera confiscated. The same stood for mobile phones, which I found amazing, given the amount of people in the crowd with camera phones.

But an answer to your question: wear cargo pants. I find that pockets rarely get searched.
posted by cholly at 3:17 PM on March 3, 2007

This would only work for smaller cameras, but I once had a friend hide his camera in a cowboy hat on his head. The cowboy hat had a big buckle, so when they used the metal dectector wand thing on him and his hat beeped, they assumed it was the buckle.

I'm not sure how comfortable you are wearing a cowboy hat, but this is always an option.
posted by sherber at 3:27 PM on March 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've brought a camera into a Blazer game at the Rose Garden. They have some rule about "zoom" lenses, but the security people seem to have no firm rule about what that means. Some think if the lens sticks out from the camera (like on a DSL, as opposed to a little flat digital camera) that you are using a zoom.

Expect to possibly get hassled even if it's allowed.
posted by peep at 3:39 PM on March 3, 2007

They certainly have the right to prohibit taking pictures, but it has nothing to do with copyright. Private facilities have the right to do lots of things. It doesn't mean that there's any moral duty to cooperate.
posted by raf at 4:07 PM on March 3, 2007

I have a friend that was able to give the batteries to the security guard at a concert instead of having her camera confiscated, after having a small hissy fit about not knowing that cameras were not allowed. As soon as the guard left, she pulled the extra set of batteries that she brought along out of her purse. I wouldn't recommend this because I don't think most guards are that stupid, but it did work that once.
posted by donajo at 4:07 PM on March 3, 2007

Response by poster: Jesus, thank you all for the number of replies in the short amount of time since I posted the question. I like this place. =o)

Also, just to answer what was brought up a couple times, it's a Canon Powershot S500.
posted by phaded at 4:17 PM on March 3, 2007

They have a right to kick you out if you break the rules, but they can't take your equipment. Just refuse.

This may or may not be true, depending on the contract you agreed to when you used your ticket.

I'd like to see a set of ticket conditions that allow the venue to confiscate expensive equipment, rather than just making you leave. I'd also like to see them try to enforce that despite insistent refusal.
posted by grouse at 4:31 PM on March 3, 2007

For the ladies, dress/skirt + tights + the crotch work well, I've heard.
posted by dame at 5:05 PM on March 3, 2007

If you are going with a girl, give her your camera to hide in her purse and have her put a few personal items in there too. That should work out nicely.

You also might try placing a disposable camera in an easy to find location while keeping your 'real' camera hidden on you. They'll find the first camera and that'll be it.

As others have said, it really depends on the venue, the act, the security guard, and the camera. Don't try sneaking in a professional camera with six lenses and a tripod.
posted by Diskeater at 8:12 PM on March 3, 2007

OK. Here are two ways.
1. Hold the camera in your left hand. When they pat you down raise your arms. The rent-a-cops will never notice.
2. For a full size SLR and long lens, wear a jacket, sling the camera around your neck and down the center of your back. Most pat downs are pockets only.
posted by Gungho at 8:16 PM on March 3, 2007

I was allowed to bring cameras into a couple of concerts as long as there were no telephoto lenses.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:38 PM on March 3, 2007

I know you didn't ask about sneaking a camera into a theatre, but let me say this, for future reference; please, please, please do not use your cell phone to take photos during a play or musical. Also, NO TEXTING. I just experienced this this evening, several rows ahead of me, a young girl was texting someone periodically during the show and I was subjected to the glare from her screen. It was very distracting and incredibly rude. Luckily, someone else got to her at intermission before I did. I imagine that depending on the type of concert, the use of a cell phone camera there would be a disruption too.
posted by jvilter at 12:39 AM on March 4, 2007

Just a note on the suggested methods of purse- and jacket-hiding: at the NHL games I've been to over the past few years, they go through women's purses and make everyone walk through a metal detector, like at the airport.

But yeah, if she puts enough "personal items" in her purse along with it, the guard might not dig very deep.

But once again: point-and-shoot cameras, even those nice ones with the larger lenses, are allowed at games here.
posted by statolith at 7:54 AM on March 4, 2007

I would contact the venue, tell them you need to make arrangements to bring your camera. They will probably have you sign off on some documentation, inspect your equipment and you are done. I don't think the main problem, at sporting events, is the copy right protection issue but the threat of someone bringing in a bomb that looks like a camera.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:30 AM on March 4, 2007

I have taken pictures at many Islander games. Mind you this was when they were good and winning Stanley Cups every year.

The Nassau Coliseum policy page says that single frame pictures are ok at most events.

Cameras/Videos/Audio Equipment
Single-frame and flash photography are allowed for most events. Neither lighting nor camera support pods are permitted to be used by guests at the Nassau Coliseum. Video recorders, any camera deemed to be professional and audio equipment are prohibited. For event specific information you can reach a Nassau Coliseum representative at 516-794-9303. Please check with the Nassau Coliseum or Ticketmaster in advance via phone or online for the specific camera/video/audio equipment policy of the event that you are attending.

posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:31 AM on March 4, 2007

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