Posts Tagged ‘ Nightlife photography ’

Nightlife photography

Today I won’t be featuring a photo perse (of course I will post an image), but instead I’ll be featuring a technique instead. As you probably do understand nightlife photography is completely different then say; wedding photography or portrait. Nightlife photography brings a whole different concept. For one you can not only experiment and also get away with it, you also have to use you flash in a whole different way and you are most likely shooting at higher ISOs (800+). It’s ok if images get some noise, as long it’s not in the way of any detail you’re focusing on (and that’s not that pretty girl with the large breasts, mind you!). Nightlife photography is fun and exciting and if you’re photographing in a club you’re most likely having an awesome time. Of course you still have to remember you’re at work, so try to stay sober and lay low on the booze! Oh and please note, some of these aren’t images are mine. If it’s your photo and if you wish for it to be removed, please contact me!


For nightlife photography you need a very basic setup of equipment. You need a flash, and even tho your build-in flash may work it’s not recommended. Since a bare flash is never nice when photographing people you may want something to diffuse your light. A Stofen OmniBouncer works in this case and you may also want a bounce card or something similar (you can creat one your self, it’s easy!).

The techniques

There are several techniques you can use in nightlife photography all with different stunning results. Like I said before you can, or rather should be creative. But of course it all depends on the setting. For example if you’re shooting at a casual business party you should be shooting sort of formal and if you’re at a night club, well go creative!

In the samples I’ll list below I assume you want to use the techniques in a club and therefor all examples are demonstrated as club photography.

Freeze the action

Freezing the action of one person can be fun and can be done in several ways. For speed photography you need fast shutter speeds and a fast flash sync (refer to your camera’s manual on how to set the sync speed). A shutter speed of 1/100 sec will probably do the trick unless you try to capture very fast movement, but in most cases 1/100 sec will be sufficient to capture a person’s movement and a result that will not have any blur due to movement. Honestly I’d never use this technique since it doesn’t give a good overall feeling to the scene. However there are occasions that you might want to use this technique, such as the case on the picture to the right. I tried to capture the tension and emotion, and it worked out pretty well.

Photo by Glenn de Vaal

Ambient light

There are two different approaches possible here, one is to leave the shutter open long enough to expose ambient light but not the movement and one which captures ambient lighting and movement.

Using a combination of your flash and ambient light is in my opinion the best technique to be used in night life photography. The trick here is to freeze the movement of your subject by using your flash (partly as fill in) and leave the shutter open long enough to capture some of the ambient light. While the shutter stays open you capture the movement of anything that moves (excluding your main subject), this is of course only when you use a rather slow shutter speed. This leaves the focus on your main subject because everything around your subject is blurry due to the movement. If you don’t want movement in your pictures however, use fast glass, high ISO and experiment with the shutter speed.

Photo by Igor Barandovski

Rear curtain sync

By using rear curtain sync you can show of movement. The trick here is to keep your shutter open long enough for your camera to capture movement and just before the shutter closes your flash should go off. Everything that happens before your flash goes off is blurred, leaving trails of movement and when the flash fires it captures (freezes) the movement of your subject. Since words say more than a thousand words, check out the picture on the left. Of course Rear curtain sync isn’t specific nightlife photography.

Pit falls

Nightlife photography, of course, doesn’t come without them. They are always lurking in the dark and you usually find them when it’s too late — at home when reviewing your images. The problem usually in dark areas with constant changing of the ambient light is that you can’t meter correctly. Your camera meters XX values and at the time you press the shutter release button the lighting changes. My advice is to always use Manual mode on your camera and just ignore your on camera light metering device. You have to judge mostly for your self about the lighting. Take a couple of test shots to determine the ideal settings. One thing that’s also very important; when you measure for light make absolutely sure you meter your subject and not your background. If you meter for the background your flash will try to fill up the entire room resulting in your subject being way over exposed. What you absolutely want is to use high ISO settings. I go for 1000+ in order to get good ambient light.