A Guide To Nightclub Photography

A Guide To Nightclub Photography

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;

  1. Open up – F3 or higher (the higher the better!)
  2. ISO set as high as possible…1600 or above
  3. Use a flash!
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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.

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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.

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Different Perspective

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).

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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?!).

What’s Occuring?

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.

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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;

  1. 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.
  2. Get to the venue early, firstly to set up, but also to get some shots while its quiet.
  3. Take LOADS of shots, I took 400 photo’s in about 3 hours!
  4. Be confident and introduce yourself to Staff/Managers etc
  5. Ask questions about what your subject is doing, the more you know the better your photos will be.
  6. Mix up styles and angles and use different filter etc
  7. Take spares (batteries, memory card etc)
  8. Watch your kit, leave it safe and keep your camera on you!

What I learned for next time

  1. Take a flash next time (just in case)
  2. Take a step ladder (if allowed) for overhead shots etc

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Lastly, if you need a superb DJ/DJ’s then check out 4-DJ and VITRO.

 

Written by Barry Chignell

I believe that advice should be free, with this in mind FPR contains over 500 photography articles covering all aspects of the photography world, from Wedding Photography to HDR and interviews from online retailers to professional photographers. I am always interested to hear from anyone in the profession regarding new and exciting ideas and ventures and am happy to help photographers publicise their work. If you would like to discuss your photography and how FPR can help, email me at bchignell@gmail.com.

46 Comments

  1. Simon Knibbs

    Cool photos, Barry ! I know the DJ and i know Barry! Both work with me and i think Barry has done a great job of capturing the atmosphere here in the club and got some great angles too. Nice one Barry!
    When you gonna take some more photos of my car so i can hang them on the wall at home!!!!

  2. Barry

    Hi Prithika! I sharpened up the photos a little in Photoshop and Used LucisArt for some to bring out the edges and emphasize the highlights. Other than that the only thing was removing any noise (but there wasn’t much anyway) ;0)

  3. Barry

    Hi, it was using Aperture priority and during the day so it was quite fast. The great thing about Photomatix is that you can set it reduce ghosting on the photo and so any movement is usually greatly reduced if not eradicated.

  4. Sarah

    I have recently started doing nightclub photography and just found your website, I’ve found it really helpful and full of great ideas, the effects work so well.

  5. Zhu

    Turned out to be a great set!

    I rarely use my flash. I love taking pictures of live music and I find a quick shutter and big aperture are the best way to capture the scene. I bump the ISO too but I tend to see noise.

    Great advice!

  6. mejo

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/417610_265134613559045_205441252861715_666183_192662953_n.jpg

    Heya,
    I liked your tips you have shared here. Is really amazing. Can you please tell me how can I take pictures like this. I mean without causing any shake to the people whom you are shooting how can we give effects to background. Is that possible with camera tricks and can you give the name of best software to add logos in a batch of photos.
    Thanks a lot.
    Mejo.

  7. kenny

    @Mejo

    The picture u are referring to:
    1. A flash is used. Prob a speedlite with a bouncer.
    2. Rear curtain flash is used. Meaning flash is activated just before the shutter close, instead of when the shutter opens.
    3. Lightroom is perfect for adding logos to batch of photos.

  8. Barry

    Hi Kenny, thanks for your comment. I agree with your points however in the images within the article only one used a flash, all others were using the available light at the time.

  9. SAM

    Hi I am new into photography and i am getting mostly night club shoots, well i have Nikon D5100 and currently using internal flash with 50mm 1.8D,

    most of the time i wont get focus on the crowd due to low light i tired with many settings but no good results, all photos come with blur if some are clear then grain is the issue.

    please suggest me what settings should i use, also as of now i can not afford new flash gun may be later i can.

    please suggest

    thanks a lot

  10. We Were There

    @ SAM Turn on the in camera focus light. It is annoying for some people but they can’t complain about a little light in their face !

    @Barry How did you get that smooth lighting on the third photo from the top? Its amazing!

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