External light is your friend.
A lack of a reliable light source is the most common problem when shooting in a dark bar. “Your camera doesn’t see what your eye sees,” Kyle says, “so you have to trick it into doing what you want.”
Assuming you didn’t go to the bar alone, however, there’s an adjustable light right next to you: your friend’s phone.
“I’m most often using the flashlight on a friends phone compared to using an external flash, as friends usually have a phone with them and I’m not actively carrying an external flash,” Danielle says. “Pro Tip: If the light from the phone is too much, grab a cocktail napkin and cover it, you’ll get a cooler and more dramatic lighting tone.”
But avoid using your own phone’s flash at all costs.
“A photographer can bounce the flash off a ceiling or object, you don’t have the option with a cellphone camera because it’s right next to the lens,” Kyle says. “Bombarding light directly on your subject doesn’t highlight the things you want to see, it usually emphasizes the imperfections.”
Remember that tip to own it if you’re taking a photo in the bar? That doesn’t apply when you’re firing off 15 flashes and ruining the ambiance.
“No flash,” Rachel says. “Can’t say that enough.”
iPhone users beware: Use Portrait Mode carefully.
Portrait mode has its benefits, but it has its limitations as well. It doesn’t act the same way as a real camera does. Instead, a program identifies what it thinks you’ll want to be blurred then does it for you. Sometimes that’s a success, sometimes it means half of the stem of your Martini glass is gone. Just be cognizant.