How To Shoot Night Events

Katy's Palace Bar Signage

Capturing the delight and drama of after dark events is a skill all its own, made that much more pleasurable by a characterful venue. Katy’s Palace Bar in Kramerville, Johannesburg, falls perfectly into this category. The ambience and decor are rich in quirky character and eclectic colour, providing a vibrant backdrop for photos of guests, as well as accent images. We had fun there recently, photographing a fabulous 50th birthday party for a special client.

Essential equipment for shooting night events includes an excellent speedlight (flash) that is mounted at a slight distance from your lens in order to prevent the dreaded red-eye effect. It’s important to get to grips with optimal positioning for your speedlight, which should allow you generous scope to point it in different directions depending on your shooting angle and the subject that you are lighting. A solid tripod is also key, but if you don’t have one handy, then play with increased ISO settings and underexposure to bump up your potential shutter speed.

Entrance to Katy's Palace Bar

Because event photography typically requires spontaneous pics of people, you will likely shoot a lot of images freehand with a speedlight and without a tripod. The flash ensures that you capture clear pics of everyone, taken at relatively fast shutter speeds (min 1/60 sec if you’re using a focal length of 60mm, as a general rule of thumb) so that their movement doesn’t ghost. If the room is rather dark, you may need to increase your ISO setting to 400 or 800 to accommodate this shutter speed, even at quite a large aperture setting of f/5,6 for example.

Various settings are available on more advanced speedlights, but you can use a basic option that works well for most scenarios. It’s also important to include some non-flash images that capture the mood of the setting more effectively than flash can. This is where your tripod comes into its own, allowing you to shoot a clearly focused photo at a slower shutter speed and lower ISO setting than you can without it. Bear in mind that movement may ghost, making for funky effects on the dance floor. The bottom line is that character and colour are all yours for the capturing.