Photographing nightlife is a tricky mistress. Much like nightlife itself. You can prepare and have all the right gear, but ultimately you need to know what you’re doing if you want to get anything worth looking at. Some people aspire to capture the sort of “let’s all have fun” images that make any house-cat of a person feel like they could own the night. Those images are beautiful, difficult to capture, and often times very useful for marketing yourself as a nightlife photographer. Those images, however, are not what I’m here to discuss. I’m here to discuss the grittier side of it all.
I am not a nightlife photographer. At one time I wanted to be and was even accepted to do a university sponsored fine-art thesis project on the subject. These days, professionally, I do other things. I have nothing against nightlife work, but at a certain point I realized I had a similar outlook toward action sports photography: I’d rather be participating in the action than glorifying the action though imagery.
That doesn’t mean I don’t carry a camera when I go out. It just means I use the camera I do carry when I go out as an extension of my experience rather than a bases for it.
Through images I captured at a full moon party in Guatemala, let me offer the best tips I know for capturing the sort of night most attendees won’t remember.
1. Curb Your Judgment