Nightclub photography is a great part-time job to get into at University if you own a DSLR with a flashgun and fancy a good challenge. This is exactly what I did whilst studying my final year for the nightclub on campus. The difficulty with this type of photography lies in making people look glamorous with low lighting conditions and all types of house lighting rigs (including lasers and strobes on occasion).
Word to the Wise
Before stepping into a nightclub with your lovely DSLR I’d recommend you insure it first. I on the other hand did not and fortunately still use mine to this day with no issues, however, I nearly cried one night when one drunkard unloaded their beverage over my camera’s body. It had no faults which was a stroke of luck but it could’ve been a lot worse.
Here is a quick list of what you will need to get great shots of nightclub customers:
- a DSLR camera body with an ISO that goes up to 1600;
- a wide angle lens (18-55mm works fine);
- a flashgun with a bounce card, diffuser, swivel and tilt;
- and photo editing software.
My setup was a Canon 1000D with an 18-55mm lens and a Jessops flashgun which worked perfectly well as you can see from the image above.
The flashgun’s diffuser and bounce card are essential to light the subjects (people) without using a harsh light source. The swivel and tilt also helps to subtly light your subject without blinding or white washing them by pointing the flash in a direction you’d like the light to be reflected from by your bounce card.
Using the Club’s Lighting
One of the most popular types of club photo taken involves dragging the camera in a direction (usually to the left or right around the lens) during a photo that has long exposure (1/10). If any light sources from the nightclub are caught during the exposure of the shot then they create light trails adding extra atmosphere to the completed frame.
Additional settings that contribute to the creation of this style of image are setting your flashgun to 2nd curtain shooting, reducing the aperture to around f/4, and setting the ISO speed to 800. You will also want a fairly wide angle focal length if you want to catch some of the party atmosphere so about 35mm or slightly less will really capture a light filled moment.
Manual Focus Won’t Work
Using the camera’s manual focus setting won’t work because of the lack of consistent light in the environment so you will have to rely on your camera’s auto-focus feature. Keep it simple and set it to focus on the centre of the frame rather than let it automatically pick a focus point because you could end up with some random shots by the end of the night.
Based on my experience I’d recommend using Adobe Lightroom because of its versatility and range of settings that will allow you to compose a well balanced image. Also, if the club you are taking photos for require them fast there’s a pretty quick batch adjustment feature that allows you to apply the same filters to all photos and adds a custom watermark to them. This can produced mixed results so check over your final images again before sending them to the nightclub for use.
Article by Randal Whitmore
This article was written by Randal Whitmore based on his experiences as a nightclub photographer at UBS Nightlife. He currently writes articles relevant to design for The Solopress Printing Company.