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Taking photographs in nightclubs, restaurants, parties and other such venues has become very popular among photographers looking to add some ambiance to their work.
Like most photographic techniques, it’s a strategy that can yield beautiful pictures when it works out. Unfortunately, that can be very difficult. As wonderful as the ambiance is in these types of low light locations, they tend to rely on low light to maintain that ambiance. This obviously doesn’t lend itself well to photography, but with the right equipment and techniques it is entirely possible to shoot gorgeous indoor photos in low light conditions.
As London’s leading location agency, we have provided some tips to help you, the photographer get to grips with indoor shooting in low light. SHOOTFACTORY has extensive experience of location management and production overseas. We source photo shoot locations, accommodation, drivers and more for Laura Ashley in Italy. Following on from this work, we have experience with music videos, catalogue and interiors shoots in Spain, Morocco and France.
We aim to support photo shoots in and out of London and as a result, promote England as a fantastic place to shoot and film. England offers some of the very best filming locations, crew, facilities and studios in the world – we can help your production to find and access them, and can liaise with local authorities on your behalf to ensure your shoot goes smoothly.
When left in auto or default mode, most cameras will produce enough light with a flash and focus on the subject of a photograph when used indoors to take a clear picture.
The only problem with this is that it may not produce the image that you want. The subject will appear to be “washed out” with bright highlights and dark shadows. Meanwhile, the background of the image will be too dark, effectively eliminating any effect you wanted the ambiance of the locale to provide. In the end, what you will have is an amateurish photograph that not only will be very unflattering to your subject, but one that looks like it could’ve been taken anywhere.
The problem with taking photos in low-light situations is that the foreground and the background require different exposures for both of them to come out clearly. Exposing just for the background will cause your foreground – the subject of your photo – to be too blurry. Exposing for the foreground will only cause the background to be too dark. Most cameras automatically expose the foreground, which is why the auto mode of a camera is not recommended for this kind of photography. Photography enthusiasts will know that it’s impossible to change the ISO and aperture of a camera during a single exposure, but this issue can be overcome by using a flash in second curtain sync mode.
This technique is the closest thing to using two different shutter speeds to take a single photograph. A flash in second curtain mode is also known as a “rear curtain sync,” and it can be created with a combination of a DSLR body, a fast lens and a hotshoe flash. It is recommended that you use an external flash that can be tilted and swiveled on the camera’s body since it will yield sharper images and more professional results overall. Some photographers also like to use a diffuser for their flash to keep shadows from appearing too dark.
When taking photographs in nightclubs or restaurants, chances are that you won’t have a lot of control over the ambient light in the venue.
As we said before, the light will most likely be very dim, a condition that often adds to the atmosphere of such locations. To maximize the light available to you, you should first open your lens aperture and choose a staring ISO of 200 or 400. From there, adjust your shutter speed until you can expose enough ambient light to capture the background as well as foreground.
Once you’re satisfied with your background exposure, lock in your settings and don’t change them unless you absolutely need to. Once you have your camera set up to accurately capture the ambient light of the location, it’s time to shift your focus on the foreground. Fortunately, this is pretty automatic for most cameras. Trust your camera’s meter and TTL to capture your subject as a sharp, clear image, set your flash for a second curtain sync mode and take the picture. As we said before, you might also want to use a diffuser to eliminate harsh shadows or red eye. In any case, this is the time to experiment with your surroundings, so don’t be afraid to try a few different angles to see what works best.
Taking photographs in low light conditions can be a challenge to any photographer, but with the right equipment and the right settings, it is very possible to take stunning pictures even in the darkest venues. Ambiance can add a lot to a photograph, so it’s in your best interest to capture that ambiance.
Be creative, and good luck.