Nightlife Event Photography Tip Series #1 – Equipment

For years DNA Imagery has been providing some of the premier photos in the Southern California area.  From bars to clubs to music festivals, we’ve covered it all.  Documenting an event with still pictures isn’t for everyone. Even experienced photographers who routinely take technically perfect, well-composed, sharp and well-exposed pictures don’t always cover events effectively.  We wanted to teach a few basic tips in case you were interested in taking a crack at event photography yourself.

In this article, I’ll assume that you’re already familiar with the basics of photography and you own a DSLR camera.  So lets get started on the equipment you will need to shoot nightlife event photography.

1. External flash
With the power of the built-in flash it becomes really difficult to illuminate “wide” angle shots and thus the edges of the photo remains too dark. With external flash you can get much higher range of illumination. Additionally an external flash has its own set of batteries thus enabling it to recycle faster so that the flash doesn’t drain the cameras batteries.

It is important to understand that the effective distance of any flash depends on the Aperture and ISO. Indirectly the range can be increased by decreasing F-stop and/or using a higher ISO setting. But both the methods come at a cost –

  1. less depth-of-field and
  2. increased digital noise

2. Gary Fong Light Spere
The Gary Fong light sphere eliminates the use of the hard direct flash and allows the flash to change the output shape, direction and size. With its sphere shape it allows the light to travel in multiple directions creating a lot of fill and  softer light that covers a greater area. With this bigger light source there will be less contrast and more evenly lit photos.

3. Wide angle lens
A wide angle lens can be beneficial for nightlife photography, especially when the event is crowded and there is not much room to step back to get the frame you want. Not only will a wider lens help you with the amount of distance to your subject; it will allow you to capture more of the surrounding environment along with your subject. It is important to capture the whole feel and vibe of the party and that can be captured with a crowd shot, showing all the people attending and the whole environment from the DJ to people dancing..
One thing to be cautions of when picking a wide angle lens is distortion. A lot of the wider lenses stretch out the edges of the frame; placing a person even close to one of these stretched edges will cause them to look proportional. 

Now you know the proper equipment!  Grab your gear and start practicing! We’ll have a follow up article on some photography tips later this month.  Practice makes perfect!

Extra wide angle lens.
Gary Fong sphere on a standard external flash.
What do you think?