Shooting Techniques for Nightclub Photography

Nightclub and Nightlife Photography Course



Lesson 5: Shooting Techniques

Nightclub photography moves at a much faster pace than other types of photography so that people can continue partying after posing for a quick second or two.

It's much harder to compose the picture because you've got to keep in mind all the stuff happening in the background. It's also harder to see what's in the viewfinder because it's so dark. It's common to get some out of focus shots here and there because the auto focus was hunting in the low light.

The biggest challenge is figuring out how to get the best light possible especially when the club is dark. You have to be able to "see the light" and think on your feet quickly. Follow the light to capture the party of the nightlife.

In short, do the following:

  • Pay attention to the light.
  • Simplify the composition.
  • Use the rule of thirds.
  • Vary the angle.

Focus on capturing the fun of the nightlife

Here's a list of a few things to photograph in a nightclub and some sample nightclub pictures to give you a better idea.

  • Candid pictures of people dancing
  • People dancing in a nightclub People dancing in a nightclub People dancing in a nightclub

  • Bartenders shaking and pouring drinks
  • Bartender shaking a drink in a nightclub Bartender pouring a drink in a nightclub Bartender pouring a drink in a nightclub

  • People taking shots, having fun, laughing and smiling
  • People raising their drinks in a nightclub Babe taking a shot in a nightclub Drinking beer in a nightclub

  • DJs jamming while they're mixing
  • DJ spinning in a nightclub DJ spinning beats in a nightclub DJ mixing in a nightclub

  • Posed pictures of groups of three or more
  • Myrna Star and other babes holding a drink in a nightclub Babes wearing sexy outfit in a nightclub Group picture in a nightclub

  • Posed pictures of couples
  • Jennylee Berns in a nightclub Babes holding a bottle of drink in a nightclub Good looking couple posing for a picture in a nightclub Two hot babes posing for a pictures i a nightclub Couple posing for a picture in a nightclub

Stay away from:

  • Ghetto, trashy, or people that are just way too drunk
  • Anyone making disrespectful gestures

Advanced Nightclub Photography Techniques

I'm going to provide tips on how to shoot amazing nightclub pictures and some examples with the settings I used.

  • Pay attention to the light; make sure that there is some light behind your subject
  • You should position yourself so that the light is behind the subject. Use a slow shutter speed and set your flash to 2nd or rear curtain sync. The flash will illuminate the subject while you're capturing colorful backgrounds from the ambient lighting.

    Women dancing the night away Aperture: f/4
    Shutter speed: 1/3 sec
    ISO: 800


  • Drag the shutter, use 2nd/rear curtain sync on your flash, and move the camera around
  • Dragging the shutter means having a slower shutter speed to let more ambient light in. You would get some interesting light trails by moving the camera around: left to right, right to left, up down, clockwise, counter clockwise, rotate the camera from portrait to landscape, zoom the lens in/out, etc.

    Turn pictures like this:

    Babes posing for the camera Aperture: f/3.5
    Shutter speed: 1/5 sec
    ISO: 800

    Into this:

    Babes posing for the camera Aperture: f/3.5
    Shutter speed: 1/5 sec
    ISO: 800

    As you can see, the camera settings were the same. The pictures were taken just seconds apart. The only difference is that I rotated my camera from portrait to landscape to create a more interesting background. The slow shutter speed let me capture the light behind the subject as I rotated the camera. The flash froze the subject in place.



  • Bounce the flash off the ceiling or wall at various angles when shooting with the flash on the camera
  • The room was pretty dark except for some rotating DJ lights. However, there was a disco ball hanging on the ceiling. This was a great opportunity to bounce the flash off the ceiling and hit the disco ball to light up the room.

    Guys partying in a nightclub

  • Shoot with the flash off the camera
  • I've used a Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash and a Canon STE2 Speedlite Transmitter to shoot with the flash off the camera when doing nightclub photography.

    The Canon STE2 Speedlite Transmitter is a wireless flash controller for the Canon 420EX. It goes on the camera body's hotshoe where the external flash unit would normally go. This means that I'm free to hold or put my flash anywhere as long as the transmitter and the flash are within range of each other and not obstructed by anything that would prevent them from communicating with each other. I find that this technique is more versatile than using a bracket.

    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. By the way, the flash is on slave mode.

    Shooting with the flash off the camera would allow you to create more dramatic lighting. Vary the angle, simplify the composition, and allow the subject to pop out by contolling the light.

    Liliana Benavides wearing a mask

  • Play around with the aperture and shutter speed settings till you get the results that you like
  • The best way to learn is by doing. You would get to see the results right away on the LCD of your digital SLR. If it doesn't turn out the way you had imagined, change the shutter speed and try again.

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