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So I was taking photos downtown and an event manager for a local nightclub approached me. He wants me to shoot for his event at the local club on Friday. I said yes.

But I know I need to modify my set-up, because right now it's really simple. What I have is a Nikon D300s and a Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm 3.5 - 5.6 GED I DX lens.

Now, from my previous experiences in low-light conditions this lens isn't very good and makes getting shots hard without bumping up to a crazy ISO that introduces a hell of a lot of grain into the picture.

  • What lens do I need to get for nightclub photography?

  • What external flash / flash do I need?

  • What is important to research to ensure the best results?

  • What else do I need for this endeavour?

  • Is my D300s powerful enough in low light to get good shots?

I should also note, I'm not on a SUPER tight budget, but I do have a budget of about $500.


These are what the current photographer has produced, I don't see anything too special with the shots. There's definitely no crazy compositions or anything special here.

image image image image

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    $500, if you're buying gear, is about as tight a budget as size 0 jeans on a grown man. You'll want to rent. Also - are you expected to take photos like the ones linked or are you being hired because the owner wants something different than the previous shooter? – Hueco Jan 23 at 23:30
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    Why do you need a faster lens? All the pictures in your example were taken with a flash. Check B&H, there are fairly powerful Nikon compatible hot-shoe flashes available for a fraction of your budget... The Godox 350N for example runs ~$150 and has a zoom function that works with your lens. Or the TT350N for ~$80 – BobT Jan 24 at 1:47
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    35mm/1.8 and an around the lens ring flash (200 for the lens + x for the flash) should be in your budget – Horitsu Jan 24 at 5:30
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    @lijat Based on the sample images, that club has pretty much zero ambient light. There does not seem to be any sort of "disco" or "club" style lighting at all, but rather a few bare light bulbs on the exterior walls. – Michael C Jan 24 at 12:04
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    Possible duplicate of First time - Night Club Photography - what gear do I need? – Michael C Jan 24 at 12:05
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Firstly, your Nikon D300s is more than adequate for the job, but a fast-wide lens (zoom or prime) will definitely help in producing a more desired look. (more about this is a little later)

Secondly, for the Events Manager to approach you, suggests that he is not completely satisfied with his current image types.

So, the question is, what are the Events Managers pain points and what can you as a photographer do to satisfy his requirements?

Perhaps this is a question you need to ask before endeavouring on purchasing any new equipment.

With this out of the way, having worked on and off as a freelance events/wedding photographer for many years, this is my take on it.

  1. The current images do not show off the venue.
  2. These images can be from anywhere where people are gathered and having fun.
  3. There are no distinguishing features in any of the images that show off the club.
  4. The club does not look attractive or appealing.
  5. The flash has ensured that the light fall of is too quick and therefore leaving the background dark and unappealing
  6. If these images are shared on social media, it can be difficult to determine which club they belong to.

However, saying that, this maybe just what the manager wants; for his clientele to visit a gallery of themselves. Perhaps with a view to selling merchandise such as insta-prints, key-rings and other products.

However, this is not always the case and what the managers generally want, is to show people having fun inside a recognisable and attractive venue that potential clubbers will be attracted to.

In my experience, I found Managers always wanted to sell the venue and not just the clubbers when these images are shared on social media so that they generate popularity and more customers.

A fast-wide angle lens such as the Tokina AT-X Pro 11-16mm f/2.8 DX Nikon Lens for about $500 amongst many others, will ensure that you are able to capture the ambient beauty, the clubs appeal and the attractiveness of the venue whilst capturing clubbers and images of big crowds.

It provides sufficient focal range for both extreme wide angles for groups at close range and a 24mm full frame equivalent at the 16mm end for even closer shots with minimal lens distortion, all whilst maintaining a constant f/2.8.

If you are not keen on the ultra-wide look, then you have options for 17-50mm f/2.8 from Tamron at under $400 but you will lose quite a significant amount of FOV. Means you will need to be creative.

And then, by adding a cheap $50 flash to complement the ambient light you will provide an overall pop to the image and also not have to worry too much about camera shake.

  • Can you include a sample image to illustrate what you are talking about? – xiota Jan 25 at 20:23
  • On the other hand, if the club is as much of a dump as it appears to be in the sample photos, maybe the entire point is to not show the distinctive features of the club? In a club that dark, f/2.8 doesn't begin get it for using ambient light as the main illumination, either, particularly not with a crop body. f/1.4 or f/2 and a FF sensor is still going to need flash as the primary light source. – Michael C Jan 26 at 17:13
  • @Micheal C - Good point about not showing the venue, but the question remains, why would the manager approach someone else to take the pictures? OP needs to ask this ask question. Regarding using f/2.8, trust me, you will get a lot of ambient light, but of course, ideally f/1.4 will be better, but then the trade off happens between either a wide angle zoom lens at f/2.8 or a 28mm at f1.8 or 50mm at 1.4. I found the compromise in aperture compensated for the FOV when in tight situations. – Abdul Quraishi Jan 26 at 22:00
  • Well, that shoot went really well. Here's some pictures from the night. ibb.co/pwFmf5n ibb.co/vzLdNxS ibb.co/KbH9S4L – diece Jan 27 at 19:09
  • "... why would the manager approach someone else to take the pictures?" Because he wants someone cheaper/free? Because the other guy doesn't want to do it anymore (or maybe he got a real job to support his photography habit that requires working weekend nights)? – Michael C Jan 30 at 21:10

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