a good lens for clubbing photography for D40?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by thomasbooth, Sep 1, 2008.

  1. I have a D40 and the kit lens that it came with, and i am not generally happy with 'all' the photos i produce, and I go out regularly to do
    photography in clubs and the such like for dontstayin.com and would like to improve the pictures i take.
    I know the D40 isnt the best of nikons but still.

    I was just wondering, what would be a good lens for clubbing environment, bright lights, lots of movement e.t.c.

    yeah i am an amateur, i just do it because i love it!

    Many thanks in advance!

  2. Hi Thomas. I think what you're looking for is a very fast lens, something like the Nikon 50mm f1.8, which will cost a little over $100 used. The reason I say that is because you're saying there's lots of movement, and I'd think you'd want to use a fast shutter speed to free the action. Also would work well when lights are not so bright. I'm not sure if it will meter on the D40, though.

    Also, it would be useful to be able to edit your photos using a photo editing program such as Nikon Capture NX2.
  3. You'll want something fast, since clubs are often very dark. The 50mm f.18 is a tack-sharp, cheap lens ($110) and fast. I think that its a bit tight for clubs, I'd want something a bit wider, say wiith the range of 18-35mm. To get something that wide and fast like f2.8 or brighter you'll probably have to drop a lot of cash.

    I find shooting in clubs frustrating since they're usually so dark and the high sensitivity/iso pictures look pretty crappy. Also I find the colors to look awful afterwards. There are a lot of threads about shooting in bars/clubs/live music so search around.
  4. I'd recommend the Sigma 30mm 1.4 or the Sigma 50mm 1.4 which will AF on your D40 unlike the Nikon 50mm's
  5. Have you looked at the Sigma 30/1.8 prime. It will AF on your D40 where the Nikon 50/1.8 you will have to manually focus. I have read where the D40 does well at the higher ISO's.
  6. The 50mm will likely not be wide enough in a club environment and manual focusing may be difficult, especially in low light. The Sigma mentioned above is likely your best choice.
  7. I shoot nightclub stuff on the side so I wanted to offer some notes from the field.

    I have the Nikon 50mm f1.8D. Love this lens, on a DX body the crop factor makes it a 76mm. Having an aperture of
    1.8 is fast but you're going to want your shutter at 1/500 or faster to freeze action. Is freezing the action
    important to you? Are you going to be taking photos mostly of people who stop and pose for you?

    You may need a wider lens depending on the venue. Also, I really hate taking shots where I'm not looking into the
    viewfinder, but sometimes the dance floor is so packed that you really have no choice but to throw up your
    camera, point it down at the crowd and fire. Again, this depends on how popular the venue is, what night you
    shoot, etc.

    I love the 50mm 1.8, but the AF will be too slow to AF-servo a (drunken) girl dancing wildly. Manually focusing
    this prime lens is a challenge.

    It really depends what kind of shots you want to take. If you want to take artsy photos with crazy blur,
    streaking and noticeable grain then I can suggest the prime. I shot a nightclub this one time with my friend and
    he brought a monopod and except for shots of people at the bar, the 'pod didn't make a very big difference in
    cutting down blur.

    Consider getting a speedlight.

    I would say keep and use whatever lens you have and pick up a speedlight. If you're using a lens that's over
    100mm long you will get the len's shadow in the photo if you are using the D40's pop up flash. The pop-up flash
    isn't too bad, either, if used correctly. You have infinite film for testing (shoot and delete) so play with it
    and see if you can come up with something that works.

    From there it all comes down to how you command the light, diffuse it, bounce it, and there are tricks like
    dragging the shutter to capture the ambient light of the club. Play around with it; come back here if you need
    more help or google the strobist. Good luck!
  8. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The club photos on donstayin, like most club photos these days, are shot with flash. You don't need a fast lens, you need a good flash and good flash technique and an understanding of lighting. I suspect most of the posters above other than Joshua haven't done any club photography.
  9. >> "I'm not sure if it will meter on the D40, though."

    It will meter on the D40. But its lack of AF already largely defeated its effectiveness in action-oriented shooting situations.

    Besides the huge 200 f/2, there's not another Nikkor faster than f/2.8 that will AF on the D40. I doubt even if a f/2.8 lens will be nearly as fast as you would like/need. The Sigma 30 1.4 and 50 1.4 are two good options, but they are not cheap.

    The lack of AF competibility in the D40 was one of main reason why I upgraded to the D300.
  10. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I doubt even if a f/2.8 lens will be nearly as fast as you would like/need.
    Why? Anyone who has done "club photography" as it is referred to here knows it is done with flash.
  11. jeff is right, an sb-600 or sb-800 and lots of practice with rear curtain sync setting will produce pics with the club 'look'' with your current lens. however, you may still want something faster, like the tamron 17-50/2.8 w/ micromotor, which has better IQ than the nikon 18-xx kit zooms, or the sigma 30/1.4 HSM. those are good for no-flash indoor pics, such as band shots, and will AF on your D40. it's always nice to have the option to shoot no-flash
  12. and a no-flash shot capturing the DJ bathed in blue light
  13. one more typical club shot
  14. >> "Why? Anyone who has done "club photography" as it is referred to here knows it is done with flash."

    Well, with flash things are going to be quite different.
  15. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Did you look at the site he referenced? Have you seen what is currently called "club photography"? This would give you a clue as to what is being discussed.
  16. Get a wide angle zoom. The best would probably be the 12-24 zoom (or heavy 14-25) and then you can just go crazy. Upgrade to the d90 and then you'll have access to the fantastic d300 sensor. This camera will open up a whole other world to your lowlight photography. After that get a 135mm fixed lens for those sneaky candids where you will shoot your prey without them even knowing it. My 2 sense, cheers - Alex.
  17. not sure why you would want to 'club' someone with a lens.....
  18. here's what i get At the moment.

    <img src="http://epyhjv9m9oszc.6hops.net/f55cb6ec-dcbd-42af-bf84-f7880fd52e61.jpg">
  19. then i get some shots that are, unclear, not as sharp, an its not just the one off bad photo, its a regular thing

    <img src="http://epyhjv9m9oszc.6hops.net/e19646f8-af77-46be-ae56-bf08d38bb0c9.jpg">
  20. sai


    I think it's all about getting a good flash, bounce or diffuse it. You'll stop the movement with the flash and then you play with the available light for the background.

  21. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    What are you using for flash? It looks like you don't have enough flash output in the second one. In the first one, you may need to do some post-processing to bring down the shirt.
  22. i have a flash gun, nothing Great.


    cheap really, but im only a barman, don't make much money.
  23. there are basically two ways to light indoor scenes in dim conditions: either use available lighting or supply your own. or both, which is actually three ways... looks like you need some more practice using flash...are you using the built-in flash? maybe a speedlite, a flash bracket and/or a remote speedlite would be more of a need for you than a lens.

    the first shot looks OK, rear-curtain sync focused on the DJ and gave the background motion blur for that club 'look.' a w/a or fisheye lens would have maybe made the second shot more 'scenic' but you're also at the mercy of hazy blue club lighting with very little ambient light surrounding it. what makes this a difficult composition from a technical standpoint isn't your flash or your lens, but your composition. you're trying to shoot directly through that hazy glow which crosses the frame diagonally.it looks like it diffused your flash a bit, resulting in a 'cooler', almost underexposed, feel.

    in the first shot the lit knobs/buttons on the DJ's equipment worked to your advantage. in the second shot, you just dont have a lot of background light to work with. also, the dudes are posing, so the sense of motion blur is limited. as far as available light, you've got the glow-stick in his hand, the neon sign, and the blue haze. no bright reds or yellows, and very little high-contrast colors which could have offset the blueness of it all.

    if possible, you might want to try framing the scene next time so the high overhead blue light is behind them and not off to the side which would give them a more backlit appearance. bouncing the flash may or may not have helped (depending on how high the ceilings are) and off-camera flash may or may not have helped. practice makes perfect.
  24. Thanks for you help eric!!!

    it's all been noted down.

    cheers mate.
  25. This is pretty much what I do for a living.
    It's a matter of style really, but if I can advise anything, is that you should have a fast-and-wide lens. Now, I'm not on the Nikon system (Canon here), but what I use on Canon is the venerable 16-35 f2.8 L.
    Now, I know what you're saying, and that is that "Dan, why the hell do you bring a $1,000 piece of glass into a noisy, dirty nightclub?"
    Well, what it came down to me was that the 16-35 was the most robust lens for the price for the performance. It's tough, goes wide, and used, the price isn't horrid for what essentially became my permanent walkabout lens as well.
    Prior, I had a 17-55 f2.8 IS (EF-S) lens. It's a wonderful lens, and the stabilizer was great for those epic "room shots".
    I got rid of it, simply because it wasn't robust enough considering what I paid for it. After about a year of heavy use, the stabilizer seriously acted up (it "stabilized" even when the camera was sitting on a table), so I got it fixed, took the hit, and traded it for the much-simpler, but more robust 16-35 L. I just had to remember how to work without a stabilizer.
    Now, the 16-35 2.8 is very versatile. It works great for ambient-light images:
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] ...and for the occasional grin-and-grip-not-worth-a-damn-except-to-those-in-the-photo shots.
    Flash? Whatever you use, get it off the camera. It's fun. Now, if you're smart, you can work with and without flash. If there's enough ambient light bouncing around (the club's light tech is your friend), screw using flash, especially with DJs or performers. They get irritated easily when people pop their flash. I've gone and retained all my EXIF if you want to save the images and see what my settings are. You'll see a confirmation of a flash all the time since I have an ST-E2 mounted.
    Now I know this is the Nikon forum, but this does seem to be a bit more of a general question...it was on the front page, after all!
  26. I find the 300 f2.8 to be of sufficient weight and size to club the crap out of almost anyone.

    oh you meant photographing clubs ;)

    But seriously, the sigma 30 1.4 would probably be about the best option in my opinion.
  27. dan--i like shot #3. nice. david -- i find a monopod works better than a telephoto lens in terms of clubbing people upside the head. thomas-- here's an example of using backlit stage lighting to frame the main image (shot incidentally with sigma 30, no flash -- this venue doesnt allow flash so i had no choice). you have to 'line it up' correctly to time it when the artist steps directly in front of the lights while moving around onstage. in a club this can be easier since you can position your subjects where you need them to be (just ask them), or just angle yourself in the best possible position to take advantage of available light, which is as important a compositional element as the people you're shooting.
  28. now here's a more typical DJ shot w/flash, which didnt need rear-curtain
  29. ...and a rear-curtain shot which emphasizes movement by using intentional blur. in general, compositional elements are what make shots good, and it's nice to have an array of tricks up one's sleeve to vary things a bit. sometimes nightlife websites want a certain 'look,' but i get bored if every shot looks exactly the same.
  30. one last pic--this one was shot during a carnaval after-party inside a club. ambient light and low shutter speed allowed me to capture all the movement with no flash. ps thomas -- save your tips and get at least an sb-600 so you can use Nikon CLS. down the line, a fast, low-light lens like the sigma 30 should be on your want list.
  31. pps meant to say i like shot #4, dan. i'll have whatever she's having!
  32. Thanks!

    In my experience, the nightlife sites that are looking for a certain "look", it's not worth bringing out expensive gear for, per se. If they just want 75 grin-n-grip girl portraits, you can accomplish that with a bog-standard kit zoom and a flash on a bracket. Don't kill yourself for what is probably crap money too. I've had a lot of experience with those sites, and it's not pretty dealing with their methods. I'll leave that for another thread though!

    Now, if you have the freedom, I'd definitely go with mine and some of the other recommendations on here for gear.

    To distill it down:

    - wider the better. 16 to whatever you can get.

    - fast. 2.8 or better.

    - flash? Get it off the camera. You Nikonians have it easy in that respect.

    From there, the sky's the limit.

    Have fun!
  33. If you're going to club someone with a lens, I recommend at least a 500mm for total throw-weight.

    < / humor break>
  34. Brad, i agree and think that the D40 is inadequate due to its cheap plastic and weightless qualities. Get a D3 for heft, or for more power, switch to the F4e.
  35. Tom, shooting nightlife is way more about technique than gear. You don't need a top of the line lens. Learn to use what you have. You will need a good flash. Nightlife exposure is all about balancing flash with ambient. Look at my gallery and my website www.shotbyjamie.com. A buddy of mine at first refused to use flash until he saw my shots. You need to be able to bounce and swivel your flash. Learn how to cut the output with compensation, bouncing, or diffusing. I'm not a huge fan of the current trend of blasting people with light. You don't need a $1000 lens. Shooting at 2.8 all the time isn't as great as you might think. With that shallow of depth of field, you focus has to be spot on and chances are it won't be. Most of the time mine is at 4-5.6. Put you camera in manual, pick an aperture, and adjust your shutter speed to balance how much ambient light you want. Remember you're gonna be shooting at REAL slow speeds so you need to work on your holding technique. Try shooting a 2 second exposure handheld and you get an idea of what I'm talking about. Feel free to contct me outside of PN.

    Good luck, and have fun above all else.
  36. " Get a D3"

    because a barman on £5.70 an hour can afford £3,000 lol
  37. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It's probably the worst piece of advice on this thread. And there are few other doozies, so it's pretty bad.
  38. I would go with a wide angle zoom like a 12-24 or 10-20 or 11-16 or just a 17-50 kit lens + rear-curtained on-camera
    flash. I think one of these lenses should fit your d40
    In a club setting, I'll expect there to be lots of flashing/swinging lights & that's where the beauty is. Set your aperture
    small to get a sufficiently long shutter speed to capture the ambient & some motion blur in the bg. At the end of the
    exposure the flash will illuminate your subject nicely ... oh I set my flash to manual power & use the GN formula to
    estimate the power needed. You could just chimp :)
    In the beginning, I was "advised" to get the fastest lens I could afford. Looking back, I think I was ill-advised. I burnt
    a hole in my pocket & still got blur/noisy pictures with no "club" feel.
    Oh the other thing is a short focal length / wide angle lens will come in very useful to give your images a wacky in-
    your-face kinda look, which I think is most appropriate for clubbing imagery. Not to mention the usually cramped
    quarters of a clubbing environment
    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2259/2349597498_a758e2dc0d.jpg">
  39. You can get along well with a bargain lens. But be prepared to replace it. A lot. I went through 3 or 4 bargain kit lenses before I saw the light, spent the extra money, and got an L. With L, you're not just paying for the quality, but the robustness.

    Depending on how you shoot, you stand a good chance of screwing something up.

    So yeah, a $1,000 lens might be necessary. You just don't get the build quality at a lower price point.

    As far as flash usage? Depends on what you're looking to do. I personally avoid it unless it's for a grin-n-grip shot, since most clubs are disgusting with the 'harsh light of reality' turned on. Yeah, even your $10,000/table joints on South Beach look and smell like you-know-what with the house lights turned on.

    But again, it's always your choice.
  40. Spend some money and get the Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8 ED lens, and an SB-800 flash, and a monopod, and shoot some slow-sync/rear-shutter shots. You’ll love the results:
  41. Let me see if I can make that shot look a little better. It really makes a difference which image host you use:
  42. You're going to have to purchase an expensive zoom or upgrade your body. Your D40 won't focus with primes. Try the 35mm f1.4. If you want to fire up the harsh speedlight, then you can use anything, but unless you take the flash off the camera, use rear synch, you'll have a tougher time getting shots you want.
  43. Sigma 30mm f/1.4
  44. John:

    You manage to carry a monopod with you in a nightclub environment?

    (golf clap)

    My "stabilizer" is leaning against something and hoping for the best.

    Oh, and Nikonians, does your wireless flash system permit rear-sync?

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