How club photography made me a better photographer

On how I stumbled into photography, I talked about how unprepared I was on my first night as a club photographer, which ultimately led to me bombing that night. I also talk about how i decided to hit the books and learn the tricks of the trade, which then helped me take better club photos. But here’s the thing. See, no matter how prepared I could have been for my first club gig, I still think I would have done a terrible/mediocre job. This is because, club photography must be the toughest kind of photography there is. From having to navigate through a packed scene, to directing your subjects over loud music and dealing with drunk and rude individuals. You can already see why working in these conditions makes other types of photography seem like a breeze.

The three things i learnt as a club photographer which made me a better all around photographer!

Numero uno: Club photography helps you learn/master your camera faster.

In a club setting, you literally have a few seconds to take a photo. This also includes directing your subjects and having them in place. If that photo is no good, you at most have another 2 to 3 seconds to adjust your camera settings to retake the photo. Your recent settings best do the job, because after one retry, it starts to look unprofessional and like a photoshoot. Having to adjust camera settings in such a short period of time, helps you learn the ins and outs of your camera, making you more comfortable with your equipments.

Numero dos: Club photography helps you understand the impact of light on photographs quicker.

Lighting is almost never the same throughout the club, and at times, constantly changing. Photography being all about light, lacking the control of it, makes it very difficult. When one has no control of what the light would look like next, external or camera light meters become useless. You are forced to read ambient light with your own eyes and make the necessary adjustments on your camera. This is a skill that comes with practice, and the club scene allows you to do that.

Numero tres: Club photography helps you learn how to be aware of moments as they happen, and capture them.

Given that you only get one or two shots per person or group, timing is everything. You wont have the luxury of shooting in burst mode and firing multiple flashes to make sure you capture every moment. This forces you to be aware of the environment and your subject as you take your photos. You become more poised as you direct your subjects, and wait for the distractions of people passing by or talking to simmer down, before you take the photos. This will help you take better quality photos, and fix what needs to be fixed during the photoshoot and not in post when its too late.

So, where do you go from here?

It’s hard asking for a job that you lack experience for. So my advice is to contact all the clubs you like, and if that don’t work, contact the clubs you don’t like as well. Due to the lack of portfolio, you probably should volunteer to cover the first night for free, and let the club manager decide whether they would like to keep you as their club photographer or not. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t work out, that just means, there’s still alot to learn :). Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, or wish for advice!