…how to get the party in your party photos.
we all know a flash will light up the subject or can be used to ‘stop’ motion.
Some will also know that using a flash with a longer exposure will bring in ambient light and thus create a photo with a little more atmosphere.
“Dragging the shutter” is the term most photographers use.
This can be done in two ways.
1) first curtain sync: the shutter opens, the flash is fired and the shutter stays open during the remainder of the exposure.
For example when you would photograph a passing car, the car is freezed in its motion at the beginning of the exposure. However, the light trails that are captured by the long(er) exposure will be toward the front of the car making it look like it is reversing.
2) rear (or second) curtain sync: the shutter opens, ambient light is absorbed and just before the shutter closes the flash is fired.
Taking the same example of the passing car we will now see that the light trails are the first to be captured, at the very end of the exposure the flash fires and the car will be freezed in its motion giving it a feeling of forward movement/speed with the light trail behind it.
In party photography we can use this same technique to freeze people at the end of the exposure and be creative with any ambient light sources that are often present. For example at the dance floor of a club or the late night party of a wedding. The reason to use rear curtain sync is to keep your subjects from blurring.
What do we need besides the camera itself:
A wide angle lens, e.g. 24mm.
An off camera flash (wireless or by means of an extension cord) if possible set to manual flash output as we will need adjust the output to the ambient light.
A shutter speed of anywhere between 1/15 of a second to 2 seconds (somewhere around 1/10 of a second is almost always perfect)
Aperture of f/4 to f/8 to get a big enough depth of field (area in focus).
ISO setting depends on the venue and flash output so it can be anywhere between 100-800, experiment to find the right setting. If the image is too bright, increase the aperture a step or two before reducing the flash’s power.
if you have a good low-light Auto Focus capable camera it is possible to rely on it, if not pre-focus on a subject about 6ft (1m) away and switch the camera to manual (zone focus) or keep the shutter half pressed to lock focus.
Now when you find yourself an interesting subject or scene quickly move your camera as you click the shutter (the slower the shutter speed, the longer the light trails). The key is to move your camera as fast as possible and in different ways. It is quite easy to predict what the movement will do so you can own the light trails and make them go wherever you want.
Make sure to check your images and adjust if necessary.