Night event/party photography


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Jul 3, 2004
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Here N There
I don't know if this is supposed to be in the beginner forum or here. Basically I would like to be educated on photographing night events or parties.

Last weekend, a friend of mine who is a DJ asked me to take photos of him DJing at a party that he was hired to perform. I have very little experience with DSLR having shot 35mm for the most part and was a little intimidated by the request. We managed to get hold of a Rebel Xti with just kit lens and the onboard flash and I decided to give it a try since it could be a learning experience for me as well.

The whole night I was playing with the settings trying to strike a balance between flash level and exposure time. I find that the shorter the exposure and higher the flash, I get more still shots but with very dull lighting. The opposite yields a lot of motion blurs but nice saturated colors. Tripod helped in terms of capturing moving people in still scene, but when it comes to mobility, it was a pain. Plus, tripod is quite bulky in tight environments.

I haven't downloaded the photos yet so I don't have anything to show.

Not that I am trying to steal trade secret, but what will be the general way to photograph a night event? Until I get myself a DSLR, I think this will be hard for me to try since negatives are expensive.

Thanks in advance!
Depends.. Is this party well-lit? I'm assuming not, considering most DJs usually have the dancefloor dimmed with their own lights overhead. In that case, I highly advise you to get an external flash and lenses (pref. wide angle) that allow you to get down to f2.8. Good luck!
get an external flash on manual mode and set it to rear-curtain sync. This will allow you to keep the shutter open for longer ,to get the ambient light and colors, and flash at the end of the exposure to get your subject frozen and in focus. If you notice that the flash is too bright then lower the flash power or use a higher aperature setting.
The ways of getting the right exposure in low light with a DSLR are essentially the same as with any film SLR. Higher ISO, Bigger aperture, slower shutter speed, or a combination. In your case a slower shutter speed is, as you have found, not really so suitable. So instead, the best way to get the right exposure would be a larger aperture, and probably higher ISO.

Having a quick look at the gear list in your sig, it seems that it would be advantageous for you to use a Nikon DSLR, rather than a Canon. That AI-s 50mm 1.2 will work with any of Nikon's DSLRs. If you only have access to the Canon Rebel with the kit lens however, you can pick up adapters on ebay that will let you mount Nikkor lenses on Canon EOS bodies. You might as well use what you have when you can, and that maximum aperture of 1.2 will definitely help in low light.
There is no difference between film and digital cameras when it comes to principals of photography. Both work the same way.

The camera you have (Canon xti) with a kit lense (assuming 18-55mm) won't help you. That lense will not open up more than f/3.6 at the widest end. Camera's onboard flash is also useless. You can bump up the ISO but up to what? My guess is that your highest usable ISO is 800. You can try 1600 but pics will be noisey.
If the ambient light is low (I assume it is really low) and your flash is not effective, you have no choise but to get a fast lense (like RobWyse recommends).

I have done lots of low light shoots. I tried not to use flash. I have a similar camera. I used 50mm lens at wide open (f/1.4) and ISO at 1600 (more than what my camera can handle) and the results were still not okay.
I was shooting couples dancing and about 8-9 out of 10 images have motion blur.
If I had a camera that can handle 3200 - 6400 ISO, I would pull it off. So I had to use flash (not the onboard flash).
I assume it will be similar in your case. Even if you use that f/1.2 lense with high ISO, you will still get motion blur forcing you use flash...
Success on low light photography on moving subjects comes down to good equipment unfortunately.
You might think onboard flash is useless, but it's actually very useful, at least better than nothing. By no means is it great, but it is an essential part of every camera. Sometimes, you can get really good results using rear-curtain sync flash.

In night events / parties, situations are always way too dark for any setting on the camera. Even if you have a very wide aperture and using ISO 1600, with a good camera you will still get some noise and blur. In some circumstances, that's alright, but sometimes you would also want to use flash. Sometimes you can get really cool effects by doing that, your subject would be bright sharp, while background lights would curl around the photo.

Another method is to bounce flash onto the ceiling or diffuse flash. A cheap way of doing this is to get a piece of plain white paper and holding it in front of the flash, or have it slanted to bounce the light.
Maybe it wasn't the correct way to say "Useless". Everything has some use for sure but that on board flash will lack many things. It is very weak. You have to get very close to your subject which results ugly red eyes. And if you fire it a few times in a row, it will get overheat leaving you alone.
I used it once only and it was enough for me to get an 430EX...
Well :)
Try this: ISO 800, 1/60, f/5.6 with flash bounced, just Adjust the flash power. But since you shot film you should know all that & going to film isn't hard just need to get used to crop frame.

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