There’s something special about night-time event photography. Understanding how to photograph events means you can freeze memorable moments in time. Stuck on where to begin? Read my night-time outdoor and indoor event photography tips. You’ll be camera-ready in any low light celebration.
RESEARCH YOUR EVENT AND LOCATION
Are you about to embark on club photography? Is it a low-key evening book launch or a night time market? Find out as much as possible about the event and location. Questions I often ask myself before venturing out include:
- Will I know other people there?
- Where are some quick and easy vantage points?
- Where are some unique vantage points?
- Will there be a place to park my car or bike?
- How safe is the environment?
- Is it a private space, or a public area?
- When does the sunset? From which angle?
- What kind of lighting will be available?
- How busy will it be?
- What’s the weather forecast?
Having answers ready to these questions will minimize surprises and help you prepare for all conditions.
EXPERIMENT WITH DIFFERENT LOW LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY ENVIRONMENTS
Photographing at night takes practice. Pack a picnic and photograph outside in the late afternoon. Continue into the evening. How did you change your settings?
Compare photographs made in overcast daylight, the golden hour, blue hour, and night-time. Make a note of artificial light sources and whether they enhance your photographs. Understand which low lighting environment suits your photographic style.
ATTEND AS MANY EVENTS AS YOU CAN TO GAIN EXPERIENCE
Make an ultimate list of upcoming night-time and low light events. It might include a casual birthday party, a public holiday celebration or a special rave in town.
Attend as many diverse evening events as possible. You’ll come up with loads of fresh night-time camera party photography ideas. You’ll also boost your social life!
INCREASE YOUR ISO FOR MORE LIGHT AND NIGHT
Photographing at ISO100 works best for minimizing the noise in your photographs. In low light, a higher ISO is often necessary.
Use the highest ISO that doesn’t compromise the quality of the photograph. This number depends on different cameras and environments. Using a flash? See if you can stick with ISO100.
WIDEN YOUR APERTURE TO LET THE LIGHT IN
Setting the aperture can be tricky in night-time event photography. When I’m photographing a group at an event, I use about f/5.6 to make sure everyone is in focus. If I’m capturing one person or a party detail, I use f/4 and lower. This results in a great bokeh effect.
SLOW DOWN YOUR SHUTTER SPEED
This tip can be hard to follow if you’re used to quick sharp images. Introduce creativity to your event or party photography by decreasing your shutter speed. This will let more light into your camera. But it takes some experimenting in fast-moving scenes.
USE CONTINUOUS SHOOTING MODE
If the action is moving fast at a club or party, use the continuous shooting setting. In the middle of the chaos, it’s difficult to review your photos and wait for the right moment.
Using continuous shooting mode provides you with a number of photos to choose from. Each one will show people in slightly different positions and places. This affects how available light reaches different subjects. The turn of someone’s head at the right moment might reveal the perfect contre-jour moment.
A party-goer’s dance move might expose more laser lights. It’s much easier to choose your best photo at the comfort of your desk afterward with a cup of coffee.
INVEST IN A TRIPOD OR MONOPOD
Not every low light or night event is at a gig or nightclub. Tripods and monopods are fantastic for art events and concerts in quieter environments.
They’re also a must-have if you want to take sharp fireworks photos. Unsure if you’ll need one on the night? Pack a lightweight compact monopod that won’t weigh you down. If you’re on a tight budget, invest in a mini tripod that will fit in your bag and won’t break the bank.
BEST LOW LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY LENSES
Photographing a relaxing night event with plenty of space? Grab all your lenses and use them all! Most events I photograph at night are crowded and full of energy. I have to change lenses fast so I stick with a nifty fifty and zoom.
These lenses allow me to be creative, convey the atmosphere, and capture ‘paparazzi’ style night-time event photography. Even when I only use two lenses, I still come home with both lens caps missing!
USE WHATEVER LIGHT SOURCES YOU CAN FIND
No matter how fancy your gear is, you’ll always need a source of light in your night-time event photography. Don’t rely only on direct conventional artificial light. Some more interesting examples include:
- reflected light on metal and glass
- screens and monitors
- fairy lights
- glow sticks
- other people’s camera flashes
- mobile phones
- illuminated artworks
WORK THE ROOM AND MOVE AROUND
There are times I’ve felt uninspired during event night photography. Usually when I’m trying to balance the aperture-ISO-shutter speed triangle in extremely low light.
The best way to rectify this is to walk around. It seems logical, but I always have to tell myself to do it! Try using different vantage points to find stronger and more unusual light sources.
EMBRACE MOTION BLUR
A little bit of motion tells a big part of your story. Don’t be afraid of the ‘imperfection’ of movement blur.
Nighttime events are usually happy and fun occasions. Capturing turning heads, waving arms, and dancing legs with a bit of blur puts the viewer in the scene.
BE AUTHENTIC WITH YOUR POST-PRODUCTION
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. When making post-production adjustments, recall how the lighting looked at the time.
You could dramatically lighten up the whole scene or brighten all the shadows. But was this what you experienced on the night? How does it change the photo’s narrative? Do your initial editing within 24 hours of an event when the lighting conditions are fresh in your memory.
CONVERT TO BLACK AND WHITE
Colors pop in night-time event photographs. But artificial lighting can wreak havoc on tones. Try converting your photo to black and white.
Adjust color sliders to increase light in different parts of the photograph. This gives you greater control instead of relying on the exposure slider. Black and white add a touch of cool and timelessness to event photography too.
INCREASE LUMINANCE FOR A SMOOTHER FINISH
Used a high ISO? Tweak the luminance slider in post-production to smooth out noise. Don’t overdo it though, otherwise, you’ll lose detail.
COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHING NIGHT EVENTS
How do you take good indoor pictures at night?
Keep your hand and camera steady to avoid camera shake. Seek out different light sources, and be prepared to try new techniques.
How do you take photos in low light events?
Practice, practice, practice! Understand the environment you’re in and use your manual camera settings to their best advantage.
Do you need a flash for event photography?
Yes and no. There are times when a flash really helps, particularly in formal event photography. The flash will enable you to keep your ISO low and your shutter speed fast. Check if you have permission to use flash photography (it may not be allowed for shooting at some concerts and events).
How do you photograph with flash at events?
Learn some basic tips about using a flash. You have many different flash options to choose from. I’m a fan of using an external flash gun attached to my Canon 5Dmii at night-time events. New to using a flash? Arrive at an event with plenty of time to practice!
Good night-time event photos make people smile. Invest in the right equipment, knowledge, and intuition. Your photographs will document important moments in our lives, and the zeitgeist of the time.
originally posted on expertphotography.com By Heather Joy Milne