Photography

My Photos of Taylor Swift's 'The Eras Tour' Went Viral. Here's How I Took Them


It’s been a long time coming, but I finally attended Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour last week. In the days following the show, the photos I posted online were — much to my delight — liked and shared tens of thousands of times across Instagram, X and TikTok, including by dedicated fan accounts. But what really stood out to me was the response to the photography itself. As one fan noted: “The quality is better than my eyesight.”

I won’t lie — I was proud of the photos I captured on Swift’s first UK tour date this summer. I’m not a professional photographer by any means. I just had a little help from a piece of tech I’d never used before, but that’s quickly become a must-have concert accessory.

With nearly a year to ready myself before Swift took the stage in my hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland, my preparations for the show were extensive and highly tactical. As I had early-entry standing tickets for the first night, I knew that once I secured a good spot near the barricade, I wouldn’t be leaving again. 

In my bag, I packed energy gels, painkillers and electrolyte tablets to keep me going. I also had two phones with me — the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Xiaomi 14 Ultra. The former was my regular day-to-day phone, while the latter I borrowed just for its camera.

Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour - Lover Era Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour - Lover Era

The majority of Swift’s Edinburgh shows were performed in daylight.

Katie Collins/CNET

Many of the best photos and videos I’d seen of The Eras Tour ahead of attending my show were taken on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Some attendees even said they’d been influenced to upgrade to the phone specifically because its camera was so good — particularly the zoom.

I asked CNET phone expert Andrew Lanxon whether it’d be worth trying to get hold of an iPhone 15 before my shows — or if I should consider a compact camera instead. (Cameras with interchangeable lenses are not allowed at the shows.) He had a better idea and pointed me to a piece he’d just written, calling the Xiaomi 14 Ultra “the best camera phone I’ve ever used.” He even still had the review unit to lend me.

And so, on the morning of my show, I set off at 7:30 a.m. to spend all day in the front-standing VIP queue, so I could nab a prime barricade spot. When I took the Xiaomi 14 Ultra — complete with camera grip — out of my bag during Paramore’s opening set, people around me were curious about whether the phone was in fact a compact camera. Then, as soon as I started snapping away, the people behind me who could see the photos started “oohing” and “ahhing” over the quality.

How to capture the best photos of ‘The Eras Tour’

Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour - TTPD era Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour - TTPD era

She can do it with a broken heart.

Katie Collins/CNET

Being very close to the stage was one of the main factors in helping me capture my best photos, but the 14 Ultra did much of the heavy lifting. 

The phone has two optical zoom lenses, both with 50-megapixel sensors. For my very best photos, I was zoomed in to the max, even when Taylor was just a few meters away. I made sure to use the camera in pro mode for both photos and videos, so I could capture every shot in raw, as well as JPEG. 

My one criticism is that there was occasional shutter lag, making it slightly less responsive than I would have liked. In spite of this, I managed to grab some exciting moments from the show — especially during The Tortured Poets Department era, with its high-contrast black-and-white costumes and stark lighting. It made for some very dramatic shots.

Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour - TTPD era Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour - TTPD era

The Tortured Poets Department set made for dramatic photos.

Katie Collins/CNET

My photos from earlier in the show were much softer, thanks to the abundance of daylight we get during the Scottish summer evenings. Depending on the latitude, the weather and if your stadium has a roof, you could be dealing with different conditions. The 14 Ultra didn’t struggle when it got darker, though. In fact, it adapted to the changing light adeptly, without me having to fiddle with any of the settings.

Even on the concert’s small screen, I could already tell that the depth of detail the 14 Ultra captured was far better than any shot from my iPhone. After the show, I gave my favorite images to Andrew, who is also a photographer, and he helped polish them up so they looked their best.

Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour - Folklore era Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour - Folklore era

The shots I captured in full daylight were much softer.

Katie Collins/CNET

Not every photo I captured was a keeper by any means, largely because I was dancing while shooting. I snapped away very haphazardly while also trying to do heart hands during Fearless and raising my iPhone flashlight during Marjorie. The Xiaomi 14 Ultra proved to be extremely forgiving, with the optical image stabilization compensating for my movement. It did make me wonder whether I could have captured even more spectacular photos if I’d been concentrating, but I have no regrets.

That brings me to perhaps my most important piece of advice for capturing amazing photos of The Eras Tour — or any other event — which is perhaps not what you would think. It’s to first and foremost, above all else, really make sure you enjoy the show. 

Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour - Red era Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour - Red era

Be sure not to watch the whole show through your phone screen.

Katie Collins/CNET

The person standing right next to me at the barricade filmed the entire show with their phone, singing along, but never really looking up at what was happening. This kind of coverage of the event isn’t really necessary. The Eras Tour movie already exists, so you don’t need to use your own concert experience to remake it. Capturing moments here and there for social media and your own memories is one thing, but not at the expense of soaking it all in.

I say this not to shame the person who was doing it, but I felt like they missed out on the best bit of being right at the barricade. I can’t count the number of times Taylor looked right at me during the show, and there were several moments when I made extended eye contact with the other performers on stage, too. It felt like we were dancing together, and in those moments, amid the melee, I was getting a really personal one-on-one experience.

Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour - Confetti shot Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour - Confetti shot

This confetti shot is one of my favorites.

Katie Collins/CNET

If I’d been looking through my phone screen at them, I would’ve missed out on that and the feeling that comes with it. It’s why most of the in-focus photos I did manage to take of Taylor are from the side rather than the front. At those points in the show when she was facing me, I prioritized being in the moment over immortalizing them.

When I’m back in the front-standing pit at Taylor’s London show on Aug. 17, I plan to use the Xiaomi 14 Ultra again with a little more concentration and effort. If I’m lucky, she’ll stick her tongue out at me or give me a shimmy with her shoulders, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to capture it for posterity.   





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