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A friend of mine threw a birthday party, to which I was invited and asked to take pictures. No pressure, no pay, just an opportunity to test my skills in a new environment. The environment (a night club) turned out to produce images that were an editing nightmare.

I rented a lens for the party because I knew it would be dark, with odd lighting. I’d never been there before, so tried to be prepared. I knew a comedy jam was part of the agenda, as well as music/dancing. I have no speedlight, so the next best thing I could do was get a fast lens. The local shop had a Canon 20-35mm f2.8 L that I thought would work well, and I could not wait to try it out. I also used my  DIY diffuser made from a clear/white film canister.

Well…let me just say it was really difficult to shoot in this situation. What I thought were good images on the LCD screen, were lacking good focus because I pretty much kept the aperture on 2.8 the entire night. It was the only way to keep my ISO at 800 and SS at a speed that I could minimize camera shake – though most were taken at 1/50 or less. The camera had a really hard time focusing, and because I was using the on-camera flash, ended up being a total nuisance because it would attempt to focus (i.e. flicker flash, thus blinding the subject) and then fail…several times before I could get it to focus.

It was rather an uncomfortable situation – especially since I didn’t know anyone else there besides my friend/the birthday girl.

I was able to get some decent images after the post work, but overall it was a very educational experience.

Lessons learned from the party shoot:

  • Just because the prime lens opens to 2.8 doesn’t mean that’s the ideal aperture.
  • Bring a darn tripod (which really wouldn’t have helped much during the comedy jam. So much movement, I had motion blur in most shots, even at 1/60)
  • A white balance card may have helped in this situation, but the lighting varied so greatly within the club that I’m really not sure it would’ve mattered. What worked here, may not have worked 10 feet away.
  • I really really REALLY need an external flash for these types of shoots. There’s really no way around it.
  • Shots are boring when you sit in one spot and take pictures at the same angle for a long time. Get off my butt!
  • Oh yeah, it’s not easy to drink a beer and take pictures. 😉

I had a good time, and it was a good way to learn that I am probably not going to be shooting any wedding receptions any time soon!