Kit List for Nightlife/Club Photography

I’ve received a few emails recently asking what kit I’m using.

Virtually all the photos here and on Flickr were shot with a Nikon D200 or D300, although a few are from my Leica D-LUX 3 compact. I use the D300 almost exclusively now — the dynamic range and colour are vastly superior to those of the D200, and the metering is way more flexible. It’s a big heavy body, but I love it. Many of my favourite shots were taken with the D200, but I don’t miss it.

Most of the club shots are with on-camera (or hand-held) SB-800 Speedlight flash with the Nikon standard-issue diffuser. That’s powered from an old Quantum Battery 1+ battery pack, so I don’t have to worry about the flash dying or slowing down over a night of work. I occasionally use an SB-600 Speedlight for fill, triggered from the SB800 using Nikon’s CLS pre-flash triggering. I kind-of-hate raw, on-camera flash, and usually try to work with — rather than against — the ambient lighting, which is so integral to the mood of a venue/event. Recently i’ve been playing a lot with slow sync, camera movement and tweaked lighting ratios.

The stage work is without exception by available light.

My usual three lenses are a Nikon AF-S DX 3.5-4.5/18-70 G ED zoom (for general use), with a Sigma 50mm f1.4 EX DG and Sigma 30mm f1.4 EX DC HSM for the available light work. The fast Nikon prime is on paper a better lens than the Sigma (and certainly better built, with faster AF), but my best shots always seem to be with the Sigma: if I had to choose between them, I’d keep the Sigma.

I shoot 14-bit RAW AdobeRGB. with Adobe Bridge/Photoshop CS3 for processing. All my workflow is 16-bit, AdobeRGB — I only downsample to 8-bit and convert to sRGB for web uploads. I keep my Macs colour-acccurate with a Spyder 2 calibrator. Esssential software add-ons are Alien Skin’s rather fabulous Exposure 2 ‘film stock emulator’, and Imagenomic’s NoiseWare Pro. Almost all of my photos get fed through Exposure — for me, the ‘feel’ of the colour processing is a crucial dimension of post-production. NoiseWare is there to help rescue those few shots where there simply wasn’t enough light, meaning I’ve had to shoot at unfeasibly high ISOs.

That’s the nuts and bolts. I’ve just purchased some lights and am planning more studio shoots. I will update this list to include all that when I’ve decided what works best for me.

Questions? Ask them in the comments box below…