Beginner Which lens for Nightclub/event photography (no flash)

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Martina
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#1
Hi,

I wondered if anyone could advise a good lens/lenses for nightclub/event photography (with no flash). I own a Sony A7Mk2 with a FE 3.5-5.6 - 28-70. Although I caught a few good shots my initial test runs have come out washy and I'm struggling to get enough light and lots of shots are grainy and blurred. I assume I need a faster shutter speed to get those crowd and artist action shots? (which I would also like for wildlife photography) and also the extra light needed. Any advice greatly appreciated, with info on adapters if I need them. Thank you.

M x
 
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#2
35mm 1.4, 28 mm f2, will be good starting points, if not using flash then you need the widest aperture lens you can afford, the samyang 35mm 1.4 is excellent value
 
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#3
On your test shots what kind of range are the shots taken at ?

But in basic as above you need to widest aperture your wallet will allow, but refer to question one on subject distance.

Also the mention of wildlife photography? Are you hoping to get one for both as this might be an ask at best ?
 
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Martina
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#4
Thank you for your replies and advice.

I can usually get within a couple of meters of the artists, and for now in smaller venues and settings so the focal range I don't think would need to be too long. Some would be close up shots of the DJ equipment etc & portraits etc. I would like to aim for clarity of crowd shots I think from around 10 meters distance? As you can see from the 3rd image I'm not managing currently. And hopefully you can see the washiness and low light that I'm struggling with (I have far worse shots to share but sure you know what I'm getting at) Would love to be able to shoot some crowd reactions from a distance, and not too much messing for close ups too.

And yes I would be fine investing in a separate lens for Wildlife in a few months time.
 

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#7
:plus1: The trick is to know what you need as Juggler says. Buy when you no longer need to ask what to buy is a good rule.
 
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#8
Very good point! I thought a new lens would help me learn, but I just need to work harder I guess and get my head around the camera and the one I have 1st.
 
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#9
You are working in the margins, in low-light. The first thing is to recognise that... you are working near the limits of possibility. It's like trying to bail out a sunken boat, and saying "I think I need a bigger bucket!" At some point, you have to recognise that it's not just a matter of having the equipment, or how hard you try. The niggle is simply the lack of light. And here, a wider aperture does not 'make' more light.

To get a little technical here; the F-number is a ratio, of the aperture diameter to the lens' focal length. So, we have a low-light situation, and don't want to chuck more light in there with a flash; but want to get as much of the available-light into the camera as possible. A low F-No here, is probably going to help, but, that is a ratio, and the wider the lens, the more of the scene we are getting light from, whatever the aperture.... note, 'aperture' not 'F-No'.
Sample shots provided would seem to be fairly tight crops of the scene..... so how much 'zoom' were you using?

Most zoom lenses have a variable aperture, hence the duel rating, say f3.5/4.5. f3.5 being the ratio at the wide-side of say 18mm focal length, f4.5 being the ratio at the long-side, maybe 55mm. This means that a lot of the time, to get a lower f-no, you don't need an alternative lens, you just need to use less zoom, to make the lower f-numbers you have, available. But its a double whammy. Using less zoom, you are framing a larger area of scene, which means the camera sees more light, OR you have to zoom with your feet, and get closer, which means you don't have more area of light, but, the light you are getting doesn't have so far to travel, so by something called the inverse-square-law, its brighter.

NOW! That little nugget feeds back, and may steer your whole approach to the situation. Step back, shoot a little wider, don't try get so tight, and add some extra 'context' to the composition...

Also worth noting that the difference between an f3.5 and an f1.4 is only two and a bit 'stops'. That means you may be able to keep the shutter-speed up a bit, or the ISO down... but, you would have to be on the stops for either or both for that to make much odds, meanwhile, the effect on the Depth-of-Focus, will be far greater, and the shallow-focus effect may be something you actually want, but on a tight crop, in low-light, is likely counter-productive, making focus that much more critical and and risking oofing ears and nose or both, if you crack focus on eyes.. a problem that becomes more pronounced the more zoom you use..... which begs, suggestion of perhaps backing up, using less zoom, aiming for more 'context' rather than subject 'impact'... which back around the loop, might make the issue of the F-No mute anyway.

So, it's not a question of working 'harder; but working 'smarter', the first bit of smart being to recognise where the buffers are, and rather than trying to go beyond them, changing your approach and ambition to do what you can within them.... and in that, idea that a new lens will encourage you to 'learn' is another bit of skew logic. The likely lesson is to teach you that when you hit a problem, you need buy something new, not do something different with what you got, and either get the most you can from it.
 
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#10
I think... you shouldn't buy a lens until you've refined your technique for getting the exposure & focusing sorted; that'll give you a better idea of what you need from a lens. You might have to whack the ISO right up, of course, but the Sony should cope just fine.
Agree with Juggler on this, in the summer months I do the indoor gig shots and it is hard. You have all sorts of different coloured lighting coming from everywhere then you have to make sure you actually nail the focus points, on indoor gig shots I have my camera set to Spot metering as I find it does help, and don`t worry if you have to shoot at a higher iso to get the shot, then I sort out the white balance in editing. Hope this helps.
 
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#12
Here's a question for the experts: with regards low light photography without flash. When using matrix metering, the result is a photo which seems a lot brighter than where you want it to be. Do you shoot at a higher ISO as per metering and bring it back in PP reducing the exposure by say 2 stops to get where you want to be with final exposure, or do you bring down exposure compensation in camera so the resulting photo is about right without downward exposure adjustment later in PP? Which gives the best result - a photo with metering adjusted before it's taken, or an 'overexposed' photo adjusted back down in PP?
 
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#13
Use exposure compensation - it 'should' always be better to get it right in camera first and foremost. :)
 
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#15
Here's a question for the experts: with regards low light photography without flash. When using matrix metering, the result is a photo which seems a lot brighter than where you want it to be.
The metering 'mode' is based on the presumption that 'on average' most scenes will be 'about' 18% grey, and so the 'settings' suggested by the metering method will suggest something to make the picture that 'averagely' bright.
Pedants will be muttering about that and what the exact % may be according to different manufacturers and or metering modes, but... if you go to a very basic hand held meter, in 'ambient' metering mode, measuring the intensity of light falling on a scene, that basic presumption is still at work, an the settings you get off the calculator wheel are those that will reproduce something close to an averagely lit one....
So its all a question of experience and judgement and preference and NOT taking the meter-reading, whatever the mode or the method, or whether that's a Through-Taking-Lens 'reflected' metering on the cameras internal light-meter, or an ambient reading taken on a hand held meter, as inflallible... its not... and there's a range, or possibly three or more full stops either side of the the metered 'suggestion' that could all produce a decent, if not 'better' exposure in your display picture. (see: "Exposure - Exposed!")
How you react to that sort of revelation, is then pretty much up to you....
If you know that a 'coupled' internal meter, making aperture and shutter and possibly ISO settings for you, based on a TTL metering, is likely going to make the display photo brighter than you'd like..... a little exposure compensation to pull it down a bit, is as good a ways about as any. Alternatively, if using a full-manual mode, no-one says you 'have' to take the meter reading as gospel and can set the aperture/shutter/ISO you like, and can pull the exposure in the display picture down by just taking it on 'advisement' rather than gospel, and using a bit less aperture or shutter or aperture or whatever. In between, you might use any other metering mode or method... eg: spot-metering, and getting an EV for highlights, another for shaddows, and deciding for yourself what 'average' in the middle you actually might preffer.
Me? Personally? Well, when I decide not to take the meter-reading as offered... which isn't all that often, it normally wouldn't disagree with me very often or very much, I probably just dial in some exp-comp, or, for one-off shots, I might go full-manual, and possibly even chimp-it on the back-screen to see whether I prefer what I get from it.
It all 'depends', and is situation dependent, and knowing when and when not to rely on the technology in your fist.
 
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#16
The metering 'mode' is based on the presumption that 'on average' most scenes will be 'about' 18% grey, and so the 'settings' suggested by the metering method will suggest something to make the picture that 'averagely' bright.
Pedants will be muttering about that and what the exact % may be according to different manufacturers and or metering modes, but... if you go to a very basic hand held meter, in 'ambient' metering mode, measuring the intensity of light falling on a scene, that basic presumption is still at work, an the settings you get off the calculator wheel are those that will reproduce something close to an averagely lit one....
So its all a question of experience and judgement and preference and NOT taking the meter-reading, whatever the mode or the method, or whether that's a Through-Taking-Lens 'reflected' metering on the cameras internal light-meter, or an ambient reading taken on a hand held meter, as inflallible... its not... and there's a range, or possibly three or more full stops either side of the the metered 'suggestion' that could all produce a decent, if not 'better' exposure in your display picture. (see: "Exposure - Exposed!")
How you react to that sort of revelation, is then pretty much up to you....
If you know that a 'coupled' internal meter, making aperture and shutter and possibly ISO settings for you, based on a TTL metering, is likely going to make the display photo brighter than you'd like..... a little exposure compensation to pull it down a bit, is as good a ways about as any. Alternatively, if using a full-manual mode, no-one says you 'have' to take the meter reading as gospel and can set the aperture/shutter/ISO you like, and can pull the exposure in the display picture down by just taking it on 'advisement' rather than gospel, and using a bit less aperture or shutter or aperture or whatever. In between, you might use any other metering mode or method... eg: spot-metering, and getting an EV for highlights, another for shaddows, and deciding for yourself what 'average' in the middle you actually might preffer.
Me? Personally? Well, when I decide not to take the meter-reading as offered... which isn't all that often, it normally wouldn't disagree with me very often or very much, I probably just dial in some exp-comp, or, for one-off shots, I might go full-manual, and possibly even chimp-it on the back-screen to see whether I prefer what I get from it.
It all 'depends', and is situation dependent, and knowing when and when not to rely on the technology in your fist.
That I all get and agree with - however what I meant was whether there would be any benefit - quality wise by using more ISO than needed as per unadjusted metering to later bring it back to an acceptable exposure after the photo has been taken - in Lightroom for instance? Or should you always go for settings in your camera to achieve your desired result in the first place?

The photos the OP has shown us are clearly under exposed - which would result in grainy photos should she try to increase exposure in PP, but would there be benefit in 'over exposing' (but not as to clip highlights) and then to bring it back down in PP or would that too give poor results.
 
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#17
TBH the kit lens is really not at all suited to this kind of photography, and the OP has correctly identified that as being a part of the problem - yes there's a gap in her experience, but only practice with a suitable tool is going to help fix that.

Martina - the suggestions made already are good, but I'd also consider the little Sony 50 f1.8 if you need to save money. A 50 isn't good for crowd scenes, but does work well when you want to get a little closer.

Use spot metering, and point it at something you don't want blown out through excessive brightness. I'd also use a central focus spot, because generally camera AF will guess wrong if it's allowed to choose the subject. I would also set ISO to something high-ish (3200/6400) that shouldn't make the shadows too noisy or blow highlights too easily.

Example from a friend's birthday party - 50mm f1.8 lens:
Helen 50th-6561
by Toni Ertl, on Flickr
 
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#18
what I meant was whether there would be any benefit - quality wise by using more ISO than needed as per unadjusted metering to later bring it back to an acceptable exposure after the photo has been taken - in Lightroom for instance? Or should you always go for settings in your camera to achieve your desired result in the first place?
OK, top of the list. IF you use any form of exposure compensation, whether that's using a nice neat exp-comp button on the elektrickery bit; fudging the metering on an old film camera setting a different film-speed to what's actually loaded, or simply NOT taking the meter's reading as gospel, and picking your own aperture/shutter/ISO settings in manual mode, OR you adjust the exposure in post-process.... in ALL cases, you are admitting the fallibility of the meter and any 'coupling' of that to the aperture/shutter/ISO settings.... to get the brightness/exposure you want/prefer.

Dealing with post-process first.... its post-process or after the event. If there is any significant quality to be lost... by then it probably already has been. The aim 'should' be Clean-in-Camera, getting what you want up-front, at the time of exposure, not relying on adjustment/recovery, if even possible, after the event.

That begs the suggestion that if you want it as good as can be, then get it CinC, and of needed apply the 'compensation'; you need/want upfront, either telling the meter and coupling to over/under expose the scene and make settings you think would likely be more appropriate, or taking a meter reading on advisement only, and making the settings you think you will prefer, at source, CinC, NOT leaving it to the electrickery, chance or serendipity, to make your decissions for you.

If you leave it to the elektrickery? Well that is your call, and that is in itself a 'decision'..... to leave it to the elektrickery.... how much confidence do you have that the electrikery will get it any more 'right' or even know what you'd prefer than you do?

See tutorial. There's probably at least two or three stops 'latitude' around any metered 'exposure value'. Shift the centre and whatever range of shadow/highlight you have is going to be shifted, and you risk merging shadow-tones or blowing high-lights..
What's the range of tones in the scene you want to photo? If its wider than you can capture, its got to over-flow the end-stops and blow highlights and or merge shadows. If the scene is more compressed, then you will have either a lot of high-lights or a lot of shaddows.

Where is the detail YOU want to capture? Decision time; which are YOU more happy to loose? Where do YOU want the centre? And how best to put it there?

There's no right or wrong way, or necessarily better or worse, just what YOU prefer more or less... and the decisions.... YOU make..... to get it...

And that includes the confidence you have in any particular bit of technology, be it a hand-held meter, a camera's internal TTL meter, and any setting controls it may be coupled to, or whatever digital-darkroom you prefer to use for 'post-process'...

But.... you can only get it right first time, the first time..... what you might do down-stream IS only adjustment.. and if you haven't got it at point of capture, you haven't got it at point of capture, and there probably isn't much you can do in post to try salvage or adjust that back to what you want.... hence aim should be to get it right first time, Clean in Camera... then post-process adjust ability is rather mute... 'cos it shouldn't need any adjustment!

So, aim for settings to get what you want, 'right first time' clean in camera. when you press the shutter release.... and if that means not trusting the meter? Well you know best what you want... the programmers of the cameras elektrickery don't; they are at best only guessing and working on what 'most' people, 'probably' prefer in the focus groups..... and they cant see what you can or imagine what you are... you can, so make decisions..... that's where 'control' of the camera is found, not necessarily in the buttons or dials or sliders on a computer screen!
 
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#19
Why no flash in a nightclub?
When your shooting a gig, the band or singers don`t want to get blinded with a flash going off hence why some say NO Flash at all.
 
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#20
Why no flash in a nightclub?
When your shooting a gig, the band or singers don`t want to get blinded with a flash going off hence why some say NO Flash at all.
To be honest the question occurred to me too.
The title is misleading - it should have read gig photography, because nightclub / event photography conjures a completely different set of circumstances.

Further, from the samples posted, metering and understanding exposure is more an issue than the wrong lens.
 
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#21
To be honest the question occurred to me too.
The title is misleading - it should have read gig photography, because nightclub / event photography conjures a completely different set of circumstances.

Further, from the samples posted, metering and understanding exposure is more an issue than the wrong lens.
I do LOADS of gig photography and yes, flash is "Frowned upon". Nightclub photography however...
 

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#23
Also worth noting that the difference between an f3.5 and an f1.4 is only two and a bit 'stops'. That means you may be able to keep the shutter-speed up a bit, or the ISO down... but, you would have to be on the stops for either or both for that to make much odds,
eerm . whEn working in low light "two and a bit 'stops'." is massive.. If you work in good light a two stop difference at iso 200 for example is nominal and as you say doesn't make much odds.. but at really high iso a one stop is massive.. 2 and a bit is the difference between a shot and not...
 
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#24
No mention of gigs, bands or singers...just "Nightclubs" ie (To my mind.) flashing lights, dancing and recorded music.
If I was a DJ as in the images, I`d not want a bright flash going off in my face :)
 
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