Nightclub Photography Tips: Quick Reference Guide

Exposure Settings

Note that these are just guidelines and not rules on how to get proper exposure in a nightclub environment.

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.

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 the 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 get you accurate colors so that you don't have to spend a lot of time doing color corrections during post processing.

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.


Camera Gear

Remember that good photography doesn't necessarily depend on the best camera gear, but the photographer behind the camera.

Digital SLR

You need to have at least an entry level digital SLR. If you have to choose between getting a better DSLR camera body or a better lens, get the entry level DSLR and buy a better lens. Entry level DSLRs are quite affordable and packed with features these days.

Zoom Lens

Use a zoom lens because your lens needs the flexibility to shoot wide shots of big groups and close up shots of one person in a nightclub environment. The ideal lens for nightclub photography is a fast (f/2.8) zoom lens in the 17-50mm focal length for a cropped camera body.

Flash

The built in pop-up flash in your DSLR is not good enough for nightclub photography. Avoid using it at all cost! Get an external flash unit where you can tilt and swivel the flash head so that you can can bounce the flash off the ceiling or walls.

Memory Cards

Memory cards are pretty cheap these days too. Make sure you have enough when you're shooting.


Resources

Creative Live Courses