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Nightclub Photography Quick Reference Guide

Please go to for the updated and more comprehensive version of my free nightclub photography tips. It covers the following topics:

I have also added a forum on my Facebook page. Please check it out and post something today! Let's use this as a way to connect with each other and learn more about nightclub and nightlife photography.

Nightclub Photography Tips:
Quick Reference Guide

Camera Gear

Remember that good photography doesn't necessarily depend on the best camera gear, but the photographer behind the camera. Keep my suggestions in mind as you browse through some of the camera equipment from the links provided below.

Digital SLR

You need to have at least an entry level digital SLR. If you have to choose between getting a better DSLR camera body or a better lens, get the entry level DSLR and buy a better lens. Entry level DSLRs are quite affordable and packed with features these days.

Zoom Lens

In a nightclub environment, your lens needs the flexibility to shoot wide shots of big groups and close up shots of one person. The ideal lens for nightclub photography is a fast (f/2.8) zoom lens in the 17-50mm focal length for a cropped camera body.


The built in pop-up flash in your DSLR is not good enough for nightclub photography. Avoid using it at all cost. Get an external flash unit where you can tilt and swivel the flash head so that you can can bounce the flash off the ceiling or walls.

Memory Cards

Memory cards are pretty cheap these days too. Make sure you have enough when you're shooting so you should be using at least a 1GB card.

Recommended Gear




I use the Black Rapid Strap RS5 because it has compartments for extra storage. It has zippered pockets with a phone compartment roomy enough to accommodate even larger smart phones. The zippered pockets can hold extra memory cards and business cards.

I normally don't shoot using a filter, but I do in nightclubs. I would much rather clean the filter with a napkin than clean the front element of an expensive lens with just a napkin. Use a filter and a lens hood when shooting in nightclubs to protect your lens.

The Sto-Fen Omnibounce is a small, versatile, lightweight, and very affordable flash diffuser.

Camera and Flash Settings

I assume that you're already familiar with photography and you know how the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO affect the final image. If not, please read some introduction to digital photography books to get a better understanding and appreciation of how the camera settings work to get the desired final image.

Exposure Settings

Mode: M (Manual)
I shoot 100% on manual mode.

Aperture: f/3.2 to f/5.6
I usually shoot at f/3.2 for individuals and up to f/5.6 for large groups.

Shutter Speed: varies (usually somewhere between 1/2 - 1/40 sec)
It depends on the room I'm in and what mood I'm trying to capture.

Play around with the aperture and shutter speed settings till you get the results that you like.

ISO: 800
You only really have to worry about noise if you don't get a good exposure. My pictures don't have much noise since I'm getting pretty good consistent exposure. If your pictures are underexposed and you try to fix them later in Photoshop, you'll find that's when you get a lot of noise.

Camera Settings

White Balance: Flash
Nightclubs are typically pretty dark so your external flash unit would probably be the main light source. Having the white balance set to flash would get you accurate colors so that you don't have to spend a lot of time doing color corrections during the post processing.

Picture Style Parameters:
Sharpness: +1
Contrast: +1
Saturation: +1
Color Tone: 0

I set my parameters to lessen the post processing. I pretty much get good results straight from the camera.

Flash Settings

External Flash Unit: TTL
I don't use any flash exposure compensation. You might want to try rear/2nd curtain sync if your flash/camera body is capable of doing it. The results you'd get would be a bit different from 1st curtain sync.

The flash is bounced off the ceiling or wall at various angles when I'm shooting with the flash on the camera.

The flash is held with my left hand and positioned it at different angles when I'm shooting with the flash off the camera. The flash is pointed directly at the subject and not bounced off the ceiling or wall.

See the slideshow below for samples of my work that demonstrate the results you'd get from my nightclub photography tips. Also check out my portfolio. Enjoy!


Got questions about nightclub and nightlife photography? Nightclub Photography FAQs has the answers! Check it out!

Send me your questions using my email form. I will answer your questions to the best of my abilities. I'm more than happy to share my knowledge about nightclub and nightlife photography! Ask away!

-Nightclub Photographer