If you’re stepping into the world of being a nightclub photographer or videographer, we’re here to help. The basic rundown is that, to us, photography is generally the more sought after but worst paid. Doing this kinda of photography in this kind of environment will no doubt teach you a thing or two about how to use your camera in low light settings, and help you get to grips with the capabilities of your flash gun. I’d recommend any photography to just do one shift in a nightclub to see just how different it is to your normal run and gun, day-to-day photography.
How do I land these kinds of jobs?
If you have a DSLR camera, a flashgun, a wide angle lens (not fisheye!), a wide aperture lens (1.8/2) around 12/35mm, decent editing software (Adobe Premiere Pro, Lightroom) and a continuous LED, you can do club photography and videography. If you want to give it a go, chances are your first gig will not be paid. Email your local nightclubs and ask for a non-paid shift, you’re almost guaranteed to get yourself a job, especially if you claim it’s to boost your portfolio. Failing that, email the local club photographers and ask to shadow them for a night. I’d let someone shadow me, so I’d expect fellow photographers to help out!
So, lets begin. And hope you don’t get your camera smashed up by a drunk in the process. (This has never happened to us ever… don’t fret!)
How to a be a Nightclub Photographer
You can work with whatever you want to work with, but if you want to let as much of that background lighting in as possible to make the club look vibrant, you want to be shooting with a slow shutter speed. We dabble with 1/8th; as it’s a nice balance between vibrancy and sharpness, paired with an aperture around f4 as to not have a depth of field too narrow so you don’t get everyone in focus, and ISO around 800, also… shoot in RAW to make the edits in Adobe Lightroom a bit easier. This often changes throughout the night, as when you’re shooting without flash and at the DJ booth to catch those hot action shots of fingers on decks, shoot at your widest aperture, 1/50th and your ISO probably around 800-1600. This generally works for crowd shots too, as soon as the big lights go on, you’ll want to be grabbing those massive shots of hands in the air!
Big group shots will require tinkering with the flash and the camera settings. You’ll need a smaller aperture, around f6, to get everyone in the shot in focus. Bump your flash’s brightness up too while you’re doing this to compensate!
In terms of flash settings, this is where you can really experiment. Some people pop the flash at 45 degrees, pull up the built in bounce/diffuser card, and go snap happy with low/mid brightness settings. Some people put their flash to shoot to the left or right, and bounce the light off walls to get a really creative effect, although this generally only works near walls or low cielings. If you’re new to club photography, stick with the former until you grow confident. DO NOT STEP INTO A NIGHTCLUB JOB WITHOUT A FLASH GUN. If you’re worried about the expense, a cheap £30-£40 from amazon will do you, you can definitely grab them for your Nikon/Canons/Whatever brand! If you’re unsure how to use it, experiment at home with the lights off at night on friends/family until you’re happy.
What do I do if the club is dead?
You do enough club jobs and this is bound to happen. This one is simple: shoot the DJ. It’s mainly going to be a case of getting a few shots of the DJ, hands on decks, and then walking around the club getting shots of branding/logos. Don’t worry, the club owners should understand if you don’t deliver whatever the quota is for a dead club night. Just keep hoping that some people will come in, and those that do try and take photos of them in a way that doesn’t make the night look completely empty. Get them up against walls, use the lights to your advantage. This is where you’ll have to get really creative.
Crowd shots, people shots, DJ shots, anything else?
If you’re running around the club and ticking all the standard picture boxes, you’re doing just fine. The owners will love to see shots of their night looking massive, with the majority of shots being groups together, looking happy, so they can tag away the day after for all their mates to see how cool they are. It’s a good bit of advertising for the nightclubclub, and at the end of the day that’s what you’re there for; advertising and marketing. If you’ve been paid to walk into that club, do your best to make it look like the biggest and best night on in the city.
If the promoters have paid for something special, try and get that on camera. On one of our jobs, above, they had fire girls come and perform. This was the ‘special event’ for each night, so grabbing that would have been a must. If a promoter has brought along a public appearance from a c-list celebrity, get them in as long as there is permission to do so. Try and avoid flash while they’re performing, as it can be distracting.
I’ll be saying this in almost all of my tips: the real power of the image comes out in the edit. If you edit well, you can turn an otherwise dull image into an exciting one. We generally put the contrast, saturation and vibrance up those little bits, making corrections to the exposure and white balance if need be.
In this shot, you can see the old (left) and the edited (right). I’ve upped the contrast, exposure, highlights, saturation, dropped the blacks slightly, added sharpness and done a little extra with the split toning and curves. If you have any questions, or if you want to buy one of our filters for clubs, sent us a message here!
The best way to edit is to simply look at an image and decide what it needs before you go mental with the sliders. Take your time, relax.
Lastly, without a doubt, you’ll need to insert the branding or watermark of the club or club night. This can be done easily with Lightroom. As you export your images, scroll down and take a look into the ‘Watermark’ section. Hopefully your client has sent you a transparent PNG logo to use or you’ll have a nightmare of a time cutting out the logo to use.
Arguably the more complex, least sought after of the two; but it you land a video job prepare for some work. Don’t walk into a club video job with the mindset of a photographer, as club videos are about movement – not stills!
The main aim is to capture everything a photographer would have to capture; queue shots, people shots, group shots, crowd shots, DJ booth, branding, but add movement into it while shooting with a final edit in mind for the nightclub – you’ve almost got to tell a story with the way you shoot. Check out our Basshunter video above for a little example!
You’ll be shooting with your shutter speed twice that of your frames per second to ensure you have the right amount of motion blur in your shots. For example, shooting at 24FPS 1080p, you’ll want to be shooting at 1/48th of a second shutter speed. Not a lot of DSLR’s have this precision, so 1/50th will do just fine. If you have a camera with 120FPS capabilities, you’ll need to shoot at 1/240 or 1/250 and so forth. Be careful with high shutter speeds and frames per second, clubs are already incredibly dark, shooting at those high shutter speeds will let less light in. Use it sparingly!
In terms of aperture and ISO, I recommend 800-1600 ISO (or higher if your camera can handle it with little noise) and the widest aperture your lens can go.
You’ll probably want to shoot with a ‘flat’ profile with your camera too – this is to just make the colour grading easier, as it’s easier to add to a clip than it is to take away. A flat profile simply gives you a blander image, research your camera settings to find out how to achieve the look.
This is where you bring your project to life. And where things can get complicated.
DON’T START YOUR EDIT WITHOUT A SONG.
Very important. Without a song, you have no structure, and nothing to edit to. You can cut up clips on a separate timeline no problem, but assembling clips without a track is a very pointless endeavour. When you come to adding your track, your clips will look lost and not synchronised to the beat. May we recommend, to get you started, the brilliant channel over at No Copyright Sounds for all your free song needs. Finding a good track to suit the mood of the club might be a job in itself, but there is always one.
With every edit, you’re bringing your own style to the table. Try your best to tell your story chronologically, from queue shots, to branding, to people getting tickets, to the DJ, to the song dropping and everyone going nuts in the crowd.
Your edit can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. Try and fit your edit to the budget you’ve been given, or show off – it’s up to you. The better the video, the more chances you have of being rehired. For extra points, learn a thing or two with after effects to get your style points up. It’s a very powerful tool to add more production value, like glitches, motion graphics, masks, text tracking and particle effects.
Believe it or not, video clips need the loving touch of colour and adjustments just like photos do.
Lumetri colour, DaVinci Resolve, Magic Bullet. There’s plenty of programs to work with, all of them much like editing an image. You can do simple adjustments like the ones above, or you can be a Hollywood level professional and perfect each frame. It’s up to you, but try to make sure each clip is edited alike. It would be very jarring to have clips next to each other with vastly different grades.
The best thing to do is to get out there and find out what you’re capable of. See other styles you like and try to achieve it. The more you try, the better you’ll become.
And that’s it! If you have any more questions head on over to our contact page and shoot us a message. We’ll be more than happy to help!