Photographing night events offers a ton of exciting opportunities, not to mention the chance to get dressed up and attend a party, music festival, concert, or a wedding. However, this opportunity also comes with plenty of unique challenges. Low light, tons of noise, and busy, unpredictable crowds can make it difficult to stay focused and capture some great shots.
To achieve a professional result with your night event photography, you’ll need to keep a few tips in mind as you head out for the evening. Shooting live events at night can be a lot of fun, especially if you’re well-prepared.
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The key equipment you’ll need to shoot captivating event photographs at night is a fast lens. Ideally, you’ll use a lens with an aperture of at least f/2.8 or faster. Professionals might have a fast telephoto lens already in their arsenal. But for hobbyists or photographers who are just getting started, a prime lens with a wide aperture might be your best option.
Check out the equipment you’ve got on hand and choose a lens that you know will perform well in low-light conditions – fast focusing, crisp sharpness, and reduced noise. The lens you use will also depend on the situation. For an outdoor wedding, you might want a macro lens that will allow you to tightly frame intimate details. With a concert or a party, a wide angle might give you a better opportunity to capture the excitement and atmosphere of the event.
Your camera should ideally be able to handle a higher ISO setting, at least 1600 or higher. If you don’t already have a full frame DSLR and you plan to do a lot of night event photography, you might want to consider investing in one of these models. The larger sensors will capture more light, enabling you to use extreme ISO settings without excessive noise.
To capture as much detail as your camera is capable of rendering, you’ll want to make sure you’re shooting RAW. That way, you’ll be able to make adjustments to things like exposure and white balance in post-production. It can be difficult to get your settings exactly right at night events where lighting conditions might be frequently changing.
Crank up your ISO as high as your camera can handle. While you can clean up some noise in post, there’s nothing you can do with a blurry, out of focus image. You want your shutter speed to be as fast as possible, so a higher ISO setting will help you achieve this, as will opening your aperture as wide it can go.
As the photographer, you don’t want to be intrusive and disturb the guests who are trying to enjoy the event. This isn’t about you; it’s about a performer putting on a show, a couple getting married, or a ceremony. Be calm and polite when you’re working with the crowd, even if it means missing a couple shots.
Also, some events, like religious ceremonies, and even concerts, will have specific rules around photography. Make sure you know what the rules are so that you can be sure to abide by them. It’s important to make a good impression, as you never know if this event could lead to your next big photography gig.
Different night events will showcase different moments and your job as the photographer is to capture them. If you’re at an outdoor party, find people who are laughing, talking, and engaging in an expressive way. At a concert, look for impressive solos, interesting lighting, and interactions between the band and the crowd. At a wedding, keep your eyes open for emotional relatives or intimate glances and touches between the newlyweds.
These are the kinds of photos that will be captivating, dynamic, and eye-catching, even to viewers who didn’t attend the specific event. If your captures contain vivid emotion, you’ll speak to any audience.
Make sure you’re always aware of what’s going on around you so that you don’t miss any of these key moments. Find locations where you can benefit from a solid vantage point and avoid some of the distractions of these kinds of events, and where you can offer a unique perspective on the scene.
You probably won’t have an entire memory card filled with great shots after your first night event, but if you follow these tips, you’ll have one or two solid images that will motivate you to keep working at your new skill. You’ll figure out for yourself what works and what doesn’t the more you practice, so don’t be afraid to take some risks and try new things.
The great thing about digital photography is that you have plenty of room to experiment with different equipment and settings until you achieve the results you’re looking for.