I recently joined my friend (who is a DJ), at one of his gigs at a well known British Bar. He asked if I could take some photos of him, his DJ partner and the venue. He also asked if I could not use a flash as this may put them off of their mixing etc.
At first I thought “take photos in a dark room without a flash, you cant do that!”. It turns out, you can…..
I read a few articles which covered taking photos in clubs and bars where the light is dim but you need to capture images using a fairly fast shutter speed, they all pretty much had the same advice;
- Open up – F3 or higher (the higher the better!)
- ISO set as high as possible…1600 or above
- Use a flash!
I had the first 2 covered, my lens allowed me to go up to F2.8 and my ISO will go to 3200 (suprisingly without too much noise!). It was the third ‘rule’ that worried me, ‘use a flash’, I can’t though!?
Get there early
Firstly, when we turned up, because it was quite early and in the summer months there was still quite a lot of natural light from the large windows, this helped and I was able to get some good HDR shots of the venue. As it was ealry it also helped that the bar was quiet and I could get three exposures without too much movement from the people in the bar.
The DJ (subject) Preparing
Next I went back to the DJ area where my friend was setting up. This was the perfect opportunity to take some shots in good light, without too much background distraction and before he started to bounce around to his tracks. I tried to get an original angle and decided to take the photos from behind the DJ of him checking the equipment.
Mix It Up A Bit
Because I wanted to show the different styles that could be used to allow my friend to choose a preference for the next gig (if he had a preference), I took some shots in black and white, colour, HDR, slow shutter, with a Star or Zoom Burst filter etc etc. This meant that if he didn’t like a particular style of photo, he would be able to choose another one rather than feel that none of the photos were what he was looking for. Remember, the more types of photos you take, the more chance that one or two of them will fit the tastes of the person that you are taking them for.
One thing I tried to do was to get a different perspective on a couple of shots. For this I chose to take a picture of the DJ with his headphones on (typical image you think of about a DJ).
No Flash, Use the Available Light
One of the best lessons that I leanrt about taking photos in low light without a flash was how to use the light available at the location. The lights within the club (every club should have these!) helped greatly and using a Star filter I was able to make them part of the photo rather than just a part of the background.
I did have issues taking close up shots where there was no light within shot but I got around this by zooming out and then cropping in post production (is that cheating?!).
One thing that I found very useful was talking to one of the DJ’s about the order in which things happen. On his particular night they were taking it in turns to play. I learned that the best time to get shots of the DJ with his headphones on or mixing was between tracks and I could tell when this would be by the laptop timer etc. This was very useful for the future and is another option available to me for future shots.
Tips I used that worked
Other than high ISO (although see how low you can go and get away with, DO NOT assume you need to whack it straight up to the highest!) and opening up;
- Talk to the person that you are there to shoot, they will have experience of the situation and know when certain events happen that may make a great shot.
- Get to the venue early, firstly to set up, but also to get some shots while its quiet.
- Take LOADS of shots, I took 400 photo’s in about 3 hours!
- Be confident and introduce yourself to Staff/Managers etc
- Ask questions about what your subject is doing, the more you know the better your photos will be.
- Mix up styles and angles and use different filter etc
- Take spares (batteries, memory card etc)
- Watch your kit, leave it safe and keep your camera on you!
What I learned for next time
- Take a flash next time (just in case)
- Take a step ladder (if allowed) for overhead shots etc
Lastly, if you need a superb DJ/DJ’s then check out 4-DJ and VITRO.