Low Light Photography for Clubs or Parties

Updated: May 19

Using a strobe and rear curtain sync mode, you can produce well lit photos even in dark venues. During this shoot, I was responsible for taking photos of guests before a private concert.


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In low light scenes the challenge is to light your subject and get a sharp photo without losing the atmosphere provided by the ambient light. Generally, it's best to use a shutter speed faster than the focal length of the lens you're using. For example, if I'm using a 50mm lens, then I should use a shutter speed faster than 1/50. For sharp photos, I generally use 1/60 and faster, depending on the lens. But if you did this in low light situations, you could lose the ambient light and the overall feel of the event or venue.


To get a good exposure of our subject without losing the ambient light, I set my flash sync mode to rear curtain snyc. This means that the flash will go off at the end of the exposure rather than the beginning. This allows me to use a slower shutter speed to capture the ambient light first. Then when the flash goes off at the end of the exposure, it captures the subjects. Since the flash on my subjects will be brighter than the ambient light, it overpowers the ambient light and your sensor captures your well lit subjects.


I had both a Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 6D with me, but I chose the 6D because it seems to handle low light a little better. I knew I would be moving a lot and wanted to have a free hand, so I mounted my 600EX-RT in the hot shoe. The 6D allows a high ISO without adding too much noise. On other cameras, you may want to keep a lower ISO, like 400, and lower the shutter speed even further to capture the ambient light.


GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 24-105mm F/4, Canon 600EX-RT

SETTINGS: 1/30 sec at f/5.6, ISO 1600


In the next photo I got away with a little faster shutter speed, but I had to lighten the photo later in Lightroom. I always shoot in camera RAW to allow for adjustments like this.


This photo could have been much more interesting if we had pivoted and used the stage as the background like the photo above. Since the stage and its lighting is usually the highlight of the event, your photos will be much more interesting if you include it.

GEAR: Canon 6D, Canon 24-105mm F/4, Canon 600EX-RT

SETTINGS: 1/80 sec at f/5.6, ISO 1600


For more insights into challenges of club and part photography, check out this article.


?What other questions can I answer about low light photography?


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