Nightclub Photography Cheat Sheet: the settings to use for capturing the fun of the nightlife

Capture the Fun of the Nightlife

  • Candid pictures of people dancing
  • Bartenders shaking and pouring drinks
  • People taking shots, having fun, laughing and smiling
  • DJs jamming while they're mixing
  • Posed pictures of groups of three or more
  • Posed pictures of couples
  • Pictures of good looking people

Camera and Exposure Settings for Nightclub Photography

Mode: M (Manual)

Shoot using manual mode so that you can control the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

Aperture: f/2.8 to f/5.6

Shoot wide open at f/2.8 or at the widest aperture available for your lens when photographing individuals and at f/5.6 for large groups of 3 or more people. Shooting at f/4 works when photographing two people.

Shutter Speed: varies (usually somewhere between 1/2 - 1/40 sec)

It depends on the room lighting and the mood being captured. The shutter speed is usually on the slower side (dragging the shutter) to let more ambient light in.

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

ISO: 800 - 1600

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.

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 give 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 for Nightclub Photography

External Flash Unit: TTL

Instead of using 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.