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HOW TO: Dark Room Party Photography

I was asked to do photos at a 13th birthday party. The music was pumping all night, and honestly it was a little bit loud for me (I feel so old saying that), but I still had fun.

As I was shooting photos, I began to think of people that didn't have the knowledge of how to shoot in low light situations. It would be extremely difficult for them. Even pop-up flash would have been difficult without a back light.

Good photos always happen in good lighting. The room I was in was really dark and the DJ was pumping out a weird red color on his overhead party lights.

Below, I have broken down the different ways that you could take pictures in this kind of situation.

First of all, you need an DSLR with at least a 50mm 1.8 lens. The room was so dark! I had my aperture to 1.4 the whole time! You also need to shoot at shutter speeds less than 150, so that your flash is not caught halfway in your shot. Therefore, you need to have your ISO to at least 800.

Secondly, you must own at least ONE external flash (I use two or three depending on the size of the room). The reason I say ONE, is because below I show you how an external flash will fire another flash in the back of the room, if you have it set up right. I use one on my camera and one in the back of the room. But I'll talk about that later.

What flash do I use? This is my Yongnuo $65 flash from amazon.

If getting an external flash is too difficult to use, then use a LED light, or a video light: I have used these for weddings in a pinch as well.


Here is what the room looked like with NOTHING: So dark! Even instagram couldn't make this look pretty (below)! (Probably worse)

Here is what the room looked like with just the DJ lights (below). Still so dark, but now really creepy.

Here is what the room looked like with just the my pop-up flash (below). Getting better, but not vibrant enough.

Here is what the room looked like with just the my external flash pointed up to the ceiling (below). Getting a lot better. I can really see people's faces now. But I still wanted to do better. The images didn't scream "party time" to me. I really wanted my viewers to see fun, lights and party.

This is what the room looked like with a back flash and my pop-up flash going at the same time (below). I turned on my pop-up flash and took a picture while my flash in the back was turned to S1 mode (slave mode). I was liking the look. I probably could have ended there. But the pop-up flash made it really bright for me. I really wanted the back light to be brighter than the front light. The DJ lights were gone in the shot too. I really wanted to keep a little tint of them in.

This is what the room looked like with a back flash and my exernal flash going into the ceiling at the same time (below). I love how the light going into the ceiling is subtle. I like how I can still see the DJ red lights, But the back light is so sweet and party like!

I kept moving my flash in the back of the room so that I could get different angles. Try to use a sand-bag or heavy weight to weigh it down. And always remember to turn the sensor of the light toward your external flash sensor. You don't know how many times I mess this up! You can can't fire a flash that is facing the wall!

I love how my photos turned out. I do have to say that I have to take over 700 photos in the dance room to be happy with about 250 of them. Getting middle school girls to have fun, let loose and dance is very difficult. Most of the time, they just were on their phones taking selfies and snap chatting about it.

I use all of these concepts when I am doing a wedding too. It's the same principles.

Or as a bonus, if the DJ lights are really cool, you can just have no flash all together: But make sure that your still! turn that ISO up!


I would love for you to let know if any of these tips have helped you in your photography journey!


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