Shooting clubs is one of those phases that a lot of photographers go through when they start out. It’s almost like a right of passage. It comes after you buy you first DSLR and you’re done with shooting flowers, cats, dogs and you’re family barbecues. It comes when you’re DJ or Promoter friend asks you for a favor and you think, “What the hell” lets give it a shot. You start learning about speed lights balancing the exposure between the ambient and the flash. You may then venture into off camera flash and remote triggers and now you really think you’re pushing the envelope. Some other promoter/DJ starts to like your photos and asks you to shoot photos at his club and you think, “Hey, let me charge this guy”, but instead he offers you free entry and a couple of drinks. Now, this is the probably the point where you start realizing that photographers are a dime a dozen and all of them have a similar style and there’s not really much innovation and creativity happening in the field. At least around you’re geographical areas.
Now you’re at the crossroads. Should you go down this path and see where it leads or should you turn back focus your efforts elsewhere. My advice is to go down that path. Take that first opportunity with free entry and a couple of drinks. This opportunity is your access to a crowd of people that will potentially see your work. This crowd of people will include models, make up artists, stylists, and other artists you can collaborate with and learn from. This crowd of people probably has your next crew of likeminded individuals that you’ll partner up with and potentially even start a business with.
After a couple of months you’ll find that you’ve got a few steady paying gigs and different clubs on different nights of the week. You’ll start getting bored of the same style you’ve been doing and decide to really dig for inspiration. At this point, here’s another piece of advice; look at what everyone’s doing around your area and DON’T DO THE SAME THING. In Dubai, someone came up with an idea of attaching an LED strip to a hoola hoop with a battery and an on/off switch to create a gigantic ring light. The result was beautiful and I applaud the person that came up with it. However, every other photographer started doing it, which resulted in all the photos from all clubs looking exactly the same. You couldn’t tell which photographer it was, even worse, you couldn’t even tell which club it was!
For me, this was around the time I re-connected with an old friend of mine called Ariya Behjat, one of California and, frankly, one of EDM’s (Electronic Dance Music) most accomplished photographers. We grew up in the same city (Abu Dhabi) so when he came back to visit one day he started to mentor me. My style changed completely from that point on and that’s when I had my big break. I got hired as the resident photographer in the country’s largest club. I had developed a style unique enough among my peers that some of the top clubs even asked me to be exclusive to them. I declined.
Side Note: My style was unique where I was from, however, it was so close to Ariya’s style that we almost had a falling out because of it. We’re cool now though, and planning a few collaborations. Stay tuned.
If you’ve gotten this far you’re probably thinking, “Where does Fujifilm come in”. Well, this was my second break. I had branched out into portraits and products and just about every other type of photography and my Fujfilm X-T1 (at the time) was my go to camera. I would only use my Canon 5D Mark III for clubs because of the IR assist beam on my flash trigger. This is probably the only shortcoming (for nightlife) that Fujifilm continues to have; the lack of support for triggers with IR assist beams. One day, after 250,000 clicks, the shutter died on my Mark III and the dealership was going to take 2 weeks to fix it. All I had was my humble X-T1, however, I always advocate that the camera doesn’t make the photographer so I thought, “You know what, challenge accepted”. This lack of speedy autofocus lead me to learn about things like “hyper focal distance” and “circle of confusion”. If this sounds gibberish to you then look it up, it will open your eyes to what matters and what doesn’t. I learned that conveying an emotion doesn’t mean that you have to conform to the publics’ standards of tack sharp focus and noise free images. I had finally developed a style that I can call my own.
Some of my favorite images captured on both the X-T1 and X-T2 are in this article. It was the fact that these cameras forced me to shoot in a way so different than everyone else who had Canons and Nikons that contributed to producing a unique style.
Do reach out to me and let me know what you think and ask me any questions you have. I’ll be happy to help. My info is below:
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