Camera and Flash Settings

My assumption here is that you're already familiar with photography and you know how the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance affect the final image. If not, please read some introduction to digital photography books to get a better understanding and appreciation of how the camera settings work to get the desired final image.

I think that I've figured out the exposures to use to capture certain moods that I want to convey. Listed below are my typical camera settings. Note that these are just guidelines and not rules on how to get proper exposure in a nightclub environment.


Exposure Settings

Mode: M (Manual)
Shoot using manual mode so that you can control everything.

Aperture: f/2.8 to f/5.6
Shoot wide open at f/2.8 for individuals and at f/5.6 for large groups of 3 or more people.

Shutter Speed: varies (usually somewhere between 1/2 - 1/40 sec)
It depends on the room lighting and the mood being captured.

Play around with the aperture and shutter speed settings till you get the results that you like.

Changing the aperture will adjust the flash output on the foreground subject. Changing the shutter speed will let more or less background show in the shot. (Popular Photography, June 2011 issue, p.61).

ISO: 800
You only really have to worry about noise if you don't get a good exposure. Pictures won't have much noise if the exposure is pretty good and consistent. If your pictures are underexposed and you try to fix them later in Photoshop, you'll find that this is when you get a lot of noise.


Camera Settings

White Balance: Flash
Nightclubs are typically pretty dark so your external flash unit would probably be the main light source. Having the white balance set to flash would produce accurate colors so that you don't have to spend a lot of time doing color corrections during post processing.

Quality: L jpeg
If you get pretty good exposures and accurate colors, you won't have to do much post processing. Shooting in RAW would just slow you down. The turnaround time to edit and upload the pictures for nightclub photography is usually the following day.

Color Temp: 5200K
Leave it to the default value that was set for your camera.

Color Space: sRGB
Use sRGB since the photos are just going to be displayed on the web. Photos should be edited and optimized for web viewing.

Picture Style Parameters:
Sharpness: +1
Contrast: +1
Saturation: +1
Color Tone: 0

These parameters would reduce the post processing needed on the pictures and they pretty much provide good results straight from the camera.


Flash Settings

External Flash Unit: TTL
Don't use any flash exposure compensation. Use rear/2nd curtain sync if your flash/camera body is capable of doing it. The results you'd get would be different and much better than from using 1st curtain sync.

Bounce the flash off the ceiling or wall at various angles when shooting with the flash on the camera.

Hold the flash with your left hand and position it at different angles when shooting with the flash off the camera. The flash is pointed directly at the subject and not bounced off the ceiling or wall.