We live in a hedonistic society where people are enjoying themselves at all hours of the day and night – especially in big cities. Think birthday celebrations, office leaving parties, stag and hen parties, works nights out – in fact any excuse for a few drinks. Throughout the year, people spill out onto the streets which leads to even more of a party atmosphere and sense of fun. And December is a particularly lively time.

A project like this needs some planning. Don’t just wander out onto the streets hoping something interesting will happen: think about what you want to achieve and then plan your approach. Let’s suppose, for example, your project is based on the pre-Christmas office party season. Your approach might go something like this . . .

  • What’s your vision for how the project will look? What ‘tone’ will it take? Will you show people in a good, bad or indifferent light? Colour or black & white? Landscape, portrait or square format?
  • If shooting after dark do you plan to use ambient light or flash? Try not to mix the two in the same project.
  • Do you plan to have people looking to camera or will you shoot candidly? Or a mix of the two? Both styles have their merits but it’s good to set your own ground rules before shooting.
  • You’ll probably know the areas in which the office parties and ‘bar crawls’ will take place; visit these areas and get a feel for the environment; work out where the good light and the best backgrounds will be.
  • Now consider how the project end up: a book?Zine? Blog article? Set of prints? It can be helpful to work back from this end-point as it could influence your approach.

Unless the situation seems uncomfortable or threatening in some way, get as close to the action as possible and don’t be too concerned about being ‘outed’ as a photographer; if people are having fun they will barely notice you and, if they do, the chances are they’ll play up for the camera.

Here are some additional tips . . .

  • For the best results you need to be close to the revellers so use a 28 or 35mm lens (full-frame equivalent).
  • If using flash, bear in mind you will be highly visible. You may find it more comfortable (and more visually pleasing) to whack up the ISO and use ambient lighting.
  • Travel light and don’t look like a photographer! One camera and one lens is all you need.
  • Be discreet. Emotions can run high and party-goers + drinks = unpredictable behaviour!
  • Take care when shooting at night and always think ‘safety first’.

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