How to photograph a black light party

Glow Party Photography - How to shoot amazing black light photos

Taking photos at a black light UV party is a little different to taking photos in regular white light. Ultra violet light is not part of the visible light spectrum so you cannot actually see it. The ultra violet light is absorbed by certain colored objects (neon colors work best) and discharged as visible light. So what you will actually be photographing is the visible light reflecting back from these items, rather than the Ultra Violet light itself. You need a dark room to see these reflections. The glowing effect will fade, when you bring normal light into the room you are working or partying in. This presents a photography challenge as there will be very little light for you and the camera to work with.

How to take photos at a black light party for beginners

If you are not a professional photographer and are just wanting to take some cool glowing photos at your black light party, there are a few simple steps to follow.  You will not need to purchase any expensive equipment, however a DSLR camera with basic camera function settings will work a lot better than taking photos on your iPhone.

How to take black light pictures with your phone

If you do not have a DSLR camera available and need to take photos on a phone we suggest you try a few different models to see whose phone works best. We recently had a black light party and I discovered that my friend's samsung phone took much better photos underneath the black lights than my iPhone. The iPhone 8 is due out soon though, so that may change things as the iPhone camera is being upgraded, but the point is try a few different phones to see which one picks up the color the best in a dark space.


There are three settings to play around with that will help improve the quality of your black light photos. The photo below gives an example of a menu that you may find on your camera. This image is from a Canon EOS 600D but any DSLR camera should have a similar menu. You will need to set it to manual mode to adjust these settings explained below.


1. ISO

ISO controls how sensitive the sensor on your camera is to light. Selecting a higher ISO number will often make it easier to take a good picture in a dark space. You will need to play around with this setting though as it can reduce the quality of your images if you set it too high.

2. Shutter Speed

Shutter speed controls the amount of time the shutter remains open when taking a photo. The longer the shutter remains open the more light the camera can get and the clearer your picture will be. You should find that when using a long shutter speed you don't have to use quite as high an ISO number so the image quality will be better. The catch is that with a longer shutter speed you will need to have a very steady handy, and be taking photos of very still people/objects, as movement will tend to distort the pictures. If possible you can use a tripod for best results to hold the camera steady.

Shutter speed and movement can actually produce some really cool effects in a black light room, as the distortion will create neon ghost like images. Have some fun with it and see what you end up with. You can either have the subject moving or move your hand as you take the pictures.

3. Aperture

Aperture determines how much light travels through the lens and hits the camera's image sensor. It is measured with an F number. A small F number on your camera is a large aperture and creates a shallow depth of field. If you want the subjects in the front of your image to be clear but you are not so worried about the background you would use a large aperture.  A large F number on your camera causes small aperture and creates a shallow depth of field. If you want the background in the picture to be clear you are best to use a small aperture. To create more depth of field (a clearer background) you will need more light so you may have to increase your ISO number.


Most cameras have an exposure compensation setting. This is a smart feature that adjusts the three exposure elements listed above for you simultaneously. It will adjust the ISO and shutter speed together to prevent you from selecting a setting that will make the camera too shaky to hold in your hand. If you play around with this setting you may find you get the results you are looking for without needing to adjust the elements individually. 

The video below gives a detailed guide to black light photography with some extra advanced tips not mentioned in the text above. Thanks to Pieke - PhotoandGrime.

What to photograph under black light?

There are many exciting things that you can photograph under black light. Certain plants will glow, you can make food and drink that glows, dress people up to glow, even scorpions will glow under black light. Set up your UV black lights and see what works. You might be surprised. 

If you are a professional photographer, or an inspiring amateur photographer, check out the video below which steps you through some amazing props to use to take ABSOLUTELY STUNNING black light photos. Thanks to COOPH

Having a black light party? You need to check out these black lights!

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