Archive for Photography

How To Take Club Photos

// September 28th, 2009 // 35 Comments » // Photography

I’ve been taking club photos for TillLate in London for half a year now, and I tried a few times at Club Illusion in Tartu, Estonia before that.  Early on, I remember struggling to find any good tutorials – as it turns out, the basics are pretty easy to understand.

What Are You Trying To Capture?

First up, consider why you’re taking the photo – to make the club look good:

f4.5, 1/4, ISO 800

For a straight club, make sure you are prioritising the following (in order):

  1. Hot chicks;
  2. Famous DJs (if any);
  3. People having fun (mixed groups, couples, interesting blokes);
  4. Cool venue.

What Kit Do You Need?

Very little, in SLR terms:

  • D-SLR camera with M(anual) mode and RAW picture format;
  • External flash with E-TTL (ie. an automatic mode);
  • Something to soften the flash – maybe a Stofen Omnibounce, or just a DIY bounce card.

You can in theory take club photos with a built-in flash, but you’ll look amateur and so will the photos.  Your choice!

f5.1, 1/10 second, ISO 800

Note that good flashes have Infrared assisted focus – they fire a red beam at the subject to work out the focus, which would take forever to find without the flash.  This is invaluable.  Make sure the focus assist works in Manual mode – for some stupid reason the cheapest Canons will let you use Manual or IR assist, but not both.  Ridiculous.

What Settings Should You Use?

Steal settings – track down club photos you like and read the EXIF data!  On Flickr, you find a “More properties” link it below the picture on the right:

How to find EXIF data in Flickr

To get started, all of my example pictures in this article include an overlay showing the settings.

Settings for People Photos

The first thing to realise – the flash only lights the people in the foreground. It simply isn’t powerful enough to light the room, and you don’t want it to!

f4.0, 1/6 second, ISO 800

If you just use the camera’s automatic P mode, it will expose for the foreground and the background will go black. To get that colour, turn to Manual mode.  Set a relatively wide apperture (f2.8 – f5.1) and a relatively long exposure (1/6 – 1/13 second) with a fast ISO (round 400-800).  Turn off any Image Stabilizer your camera or lens has, it will slow down focussing and gets confused by background movement in the longer exposure.

f4.0, 1/13 second, ISO 800

Your flash will freeze the foreground, whilst the longer exposure allows the background lighting to soak in and add depth.  Where possible, position the subject(s) between you and the lights so you maximise the spread of that colour.  Smoke, low ceilings, decorations and people in the background all provide surfaces to maximise that colour.

f4.5, 1/10 second, ISO 800

Remember to always show the photos to your subjects – always appreciated!

Settings For Crowd Shots

Don’t take every photo with the flash. You want a smattering of longer exposure pictures without a brightly lit person in the foreground – either pick up something solid like the DJ booth or just blur the crowd:

f4.0, 1/3 second, ISO 400

The beauty of digital is that you can just chimp away with different exposure lengths until you find something that works.  If you’re uncertain use the Info view of the photo to see the image histogram, which will tell you when you have a reasonable exposure.

f4.0, 4 seconds, ISO 800

Settings for Bar Pictures

Relatively long flash-less exposures can also pick out the neon often lighting bars:

f7.1, 1/5 second, ISO 800

Processing The Photos

Always shoot in RAW instead of JPEG – correct exposures are hard to hit when in manual mode with variable club lighting going off at random, and RAW gives you a much larger safety margin. You’ll need good processing software as well – I find Adobe Lightroom is pretty quick and easy whilst having a lot of power.

f4.0, 1/8 second, ISO 800

Don’t be afraid to crop out black backgrounds, and use tricks like adding Fill Light to pull out extra background colour which isn’t initially visible.

Finally, below you can see examples of my club photography improving over time – from the first shoot in Estonia to some relatively recent ones in London (the latest are here).  Practice really makes a difference – good luck!

Square Kiss Hair Girls Pucker Couple Feisty Face Scrunch Dancers Pole Dancing Blonde, Brunette Mine BJ Slowdance Look Me In The Eyes Fingernails Mirror Mirror Happy Clubber Illusion Green Smile Attitude Little & Large DJ Taps Couple Cyan Lights Purple Grrr Hmmm Smile Chicks DJ Pout Tiger Dancers Hand Stairs Red/Blue Green Three Card No Dancing On This Surface Hair Strobe Funky Chicken Green Pink Finger

Photos Published in Eurail Magazine

// March 3rd, 2009 // No Comments » // Photography

I’ve just had some of my photos from a Masabi photoshoot in Waterloo station published in Eurail magazine (issue 19, PDF here), to accompany Ben’s mammoth article on reduced cap-ex mobile ticketing rollouts for UK trains.

Cynics might say it’s the kind of magazine that is likely to end up as a guest publication on Have I Got News For You, but it was a pretty important article for Masabi and it’s always nice to see your work in print!

Eurail magazine Issue 19 Eurail magazine Issue 19

At some point I will do a post on how to get usable shots of in-context mobile phone screens – it’s not quite as easy as it looks!

Photos From The Shoot

Some of the photos from the shoot are available on the Masabi Flickr stream: