Trying to capture an energetic afterparty in your photography? Try these ten easy tips from the pros for shooting authentic images of nightlife.
The digital age has fundamentally altered the way we experience parties and concerts. Within moments of an evening on the town, we post images on social media and share them with friends from around the world. In place of classic bars, studies show that young people prefer Instagram-friendly pop-up beer gardens and trendy music festivals.
In 2019, a night out should be entertaining, but beyond that, it should be photogenic. We interviewed five outstanding lifestyle photographers to see how they capture fresh and compelling nightlife images. Luckily, they agreed to share some of their secrets. Read on to learn exactly what it takes to create trendy, dynamic images buyers will love.
Image by DisobeyArt. Gear: Sony A7 II camera, Sony Zeiss 55mm lens. Settings: Exposure 1/200 sec; f1.8; ISO 3200.
1. Location, location, location!
The location will set the mood for your entire set. Make sure it’s timely and current. “The location has to be trendy,” Niccolò Pontigia (aka DisobeyArt) tells us. “If it’s summertime, for example, it’s best to shoot outdoors.”
Once you have the location, it’s time to think about how you’ll light it. “If you can, shoot without lots of artificial lights,” Pontigia adds. “I only use a standard soft flash on camera when the faces of the models are lost to shadow. Too many artificial lights can make the images seem fake and less authentic.”
Image by DisobeyArt. Gear: Sony A7 II camera, Sony Zeiss 55mm lens. Settings: Exposure 1/125 sec; f1.8; ISO 3200.
2. Bring some props.
As Pontigia points out, having fun props like sparklers on hand will help you to tell a story. Additionally, it will also give your models something to do. Anything that distracts them from the camera, whether it’s balloons or funny glasses, will help draw out their real personalities.
Image by astarot. Gear: Canon 6D camera, Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens. Settings: Focal length 24mm; exposure 0.3 sec; f2.8; ISO 250.
3. Select your models carefully.
In order to get natural-looking photos, your models must feel comfortable in their surroundings. “Try to work with models you’ve worked with before,” Dragan Radojevic (aka astarot) suggests. “In my case, I work with friends. We already have an established rapport, and the models know each other, so they have an immediate connection.”
Image by Jacob Lund
4. And make it fun.
“I try to approach photoshoots as if I were planning a birthday party,” Radojevic continues. “I am the host, and I want my guests to have fun. I trust them, and they know it’s okay to let loose. Once, when we were in a nightclub, they even used CD players to put on their own music.”
Image by Max Belchenko. Gear: Sony a7rII camera, 35mm 1.4 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/320 sec; f2.5; ISO 400.
5. Communicate clearly.
For Max Belchenko, organization and communication are the key ingredients of a successful photoshoot. “Remember to set clear goals and tasks for your models,” he suggests. “I stay organized by planning the pictures I want to make in advance.
“The most important thing is to find active, enthusiastic young people and communicate your ideas with them effectively. When they are invested in the stories we’re creating and feel comfortable together, the final frame feels natural.”
Image by Syda Productions. Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera, Canon EF 35mm 1.4L lens. Settings: Exposure 1/160 sec; f9; ISO 200.
6. Watch those settings.
“When shooting nightlife photos, make sure your shutter speed is fast enough to create images with good focus,” Lev Dolgatsjov, the Managing Director at Syda Productions, explains. “It’s sometimes tricky in low-light conditions, especially if you use auto or semi-auto modes. But if you’re shooting dynamic images, where models are moving, it’s essential.
“Also be aware that high ISO settings create much more visible noise in low light. And remember not to blind your models with too many bright lights!”
Image by Pressmaster. Gear: Canon Mark III camera, Canon 35mm 1/4 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/50 sec; f5.6; ISO 200.
7. Keep an eye on trends.
“Look at photos from top party venues to get an idea of popular techniques and poses,” Pavel Lahtachev, the Creative Director at Pressmaster, advises. If you can, attend fancy events yourself and take note of what people are wearing and what activities they enjoy the most. Trends can change on a dime, so look out for fresh ideas, and incorporate those details in your shoots.
Image by bbernard
8. Stay authentic.
“Being natural is now on-trend globally,” Lahtachev continues. “People aren’t looking for ‘picture-perfect’ photos, and some photographers even shoot on film. What is more, real partygoers are a must-have for your cast of models. The models should actually have the time of their lives dancing and hanging out during a photoshoot, instead of merely pretending. Loud music and screaming are key.”
Image by Piotr Piatrouski. Gear: Canon 5D Mark III Camera, Sigma 50mm ART lens. Settings: Exposure 1/320 sec; f2; ISO 2500.
9. Branch out.
Nightlife photos don’t have to take place only in bars, and they don’t have to be planned or staged. “I should say that the majority of my concert shots are not posed,” Piotr Piatrouski tells us. “I am fond of the atmosphere at live concerts and music shows, and I always take my SLR camera to these events.
“Of course, it’s not very comfortable working in a real-life crowd, but the result is worth it. It can be quite complicated to focus the camera, but with practice, you’ll get the hang of it.”
10. Be yourself.
Once you’ve planned everything out, it’s okay to enjoy the moment. Stay organized, but also leave room for spontaneity. When you’ve captured all the poses on your shot list, take more, this time following your instincts.
“I just record what is happening around me as if I were a photojournalist,” Piatrouski adds. “As a result, my shots are very natural. There is no pretense, and all the emotions are real. I made my most popular shot at one of the European music festivals. That’s one perk of this job. You may be relaxed and having fun, but you still can get interesting pictures.”
Top Image by Max Belchenko
Want more tips for shooting portrait photography? Check out these articles:
Why You Should Get a Model Release for Every Shoot You Complete
The Ultimate Guide to Artificial, Natural, and Mixed Lighting
Composition and Lighting in Portrait Photography with Kyle Cong
Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot
Shooting Portrait Photography That’s Anything but Ordinary
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