I have taken thousands of photos in nightclubs using a wide range of kit from simple mobile phones to SLRs with off-camera flash. There are many valid reasons why an SLR is the preferred tool for many nightlife photographers but I have also seen too often, tutorials and guides stating that anything smaller than an SLR will produce an "amateur" result and to stay away from on-camera flash at all costs.
I don't believe that such advice is fair and there is definitely a place for smaller cameras in nightclubs. Here are my 5 reasons to use a compact camera for nightclub photography.
Slip through the crowds
Anyone who has worked in a club before knows the weight of an SLR, large lens and flash unit can become tiring after a night of shooting. Keeping it above head height as you move through the crowd so that no one spills a drink onto it. It's an expensive bit of kit that has a lot of removable and breakable parts. It just takes someone to slip up and grab a strap on the way down for it to end in pieces.
A compact camera can fit in the palm of your hand, can be put in a pocket and is so light you'll forget that you're carrying it.
Loads of fun!
Get on the dancefloor and bust out your best moves! It might have the crowd laughing but you'll win them over with your attitude. Building rapport when shooting any portraits can mean the difference between a shot that is published or one that is not.
Equal image quality
There was a time when a bigger camera meant better quality but this is no longer necessary true. Sensors in compact cameras are getting better and even mirrorless full frame is an option now. The glass in a fixed compact lens can be just as sharp as a heavily priced wide angle SLR lens.
Draw less attention
A big camera means a big presence and you'll have people calling you over from the other side of the club to get a photo of them having a great time with their mates. There's no problem with this but when you're shoulder is getting tapped the whole night it can get really annoying. With a smaller camera you can just slip by and get on with doing your thing.
Clubs are full of people having a great time and when the atmosphere is good it just begs to be captured. Another benefit of drawing less attention means that you can capture more natural moments without being noticed by the subject. A lower flash output is often passed off as a passing disco light or strobe light.
This series was shot using the Ricoh GR.
Off the Record, every Thursday at MSA.