Nightclub Photography Cheat Sheet: advanced nightclub photography techniques

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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