Nightclub Photography Tips: Lens

When you do a search for nightclub photography lens, chances are most of the advice you'd see in the forums suggest using a prime lens because they're fast. Prime lenses are great, but I don't think they're versatile enough for nightclub photography. I prefer not carrying a bunch of prime lenses and I also don't want to change lenses in a packed nightclub where a lot of inebriated people can bump into me. If you accidentally drop a lens, getting it repaired or replacing it won't be cheap.

In a nightclub environment, your lens needs the flexibility to shoot wide shots of big groups and close up shots of one person. I suggest using a zoom lens that at least goes to 18mm on the wide end especially if you're going to be using it on a crop body. Nightclubs can get really packed and there may be not much room for you to move. The telephoto end should go to around 50mm.

The zoom lens should also be fast. The lens should have a fixed aperture of f/2.8 at all focal lengths even though you'd most likely be using f/3.5 to f/5.6 when you're shooting. It's always better to have the option to shoot at f/2.8 if and when you really need it.

To summarize, 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.

I highly recommend the following lenses for the Canon 7D, Canon 50D, and all of the Canon Digital Rebel series.

If you're using a full frame camera body such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, then the lens of choice would be one of the following:

I think that the best lens for nightclub photography when you're using a 1.6 crop Canon digital SLR body is the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS Lens. It's fast and it's in the ideal focal length. It also has image stabilization (IS) that comes in really handy. This is the lens that I always recommend to Canon users and it's also the one that I use!

If the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS Lens is too expensive, my second choice would be the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L Lens. It's not very fast considering it's only at f/4 and it's also doesn't cover as much in terms of the focal length, but I like sticking with the Canon lenses. This is an "L" lens so it's got a pretty solid build. The lens doesn't get longer or shorter when you zoom in and out. This is actually my backup lens.

If you're going with a third party lens, then the next obvious choice would be the Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 VC Lens or the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS Lens. They're both fast and they have vibration calibration (VC) or optical stabilization (OS). They're similar to Canon's image stabilization (IS).

Lens accessories:

I normally don't shoot using a filter, but I do in nightclubs. There are a bunch of people holding drinks and I have to take that into consideration when I'm shooting. People could accidentally spill their drinks and whatnot on the lens. Using a filter and a lens hood is a way to protect it.

It can also be relatively cold outside and pretty hot inside the club, so the filter would get fogged up when I go inside the club. I would much rather clean the filter with a napkin than clean the front element of an expensive lens with just a napkin. I also don't have to worry about my lens getting scratched accidentally.

In summary, use a filter and a lens hood when shooting in nightclubs to protect your lens. Just make sure you buy a filter that fits your lens. Check your lens for the filter diameter that it accepts.

When I have to clean any of my lenses, I use the Hakuba MiniPro II Lens Pen. I think this product is pretty awesome! You'll see what I mean when you use it yourself.

Anyway, here's a lens cleaning tip that's pretty helpful if you absolutely have no choice but to use a napkin.

"Stop at the nearest bar, ask the bartender to moisten a clean, soft cocktail napkin with vodka, and proceed as if you had lens cleaning fluid and tissue." (Popular Photography & Imaging, January 2007)