If there's one event that almost everyone shoots every year, it's a birthday party. Whether you're photographing the cake, the opening of presents, or just the interaction of family and friends, there's always a camera out and in use during a birthday party.
However, this isn't always the easiest time to shoot photos. The lights might be low when the birthday candles are lit. There always seems to be something in front of people's faces, whether it's a plate of cake, a candle flame, or wrapping paper.
Then there's the difficulty in capturing just the right emotion on everyone's faces. All parents want that shot of their child as they open the gift that's the biggest surprise, but, even if you avoid all of the previously described obstacles, it's tough to time it just right.
Hopefully these tips will help you have more success photographing birthday parties.
- Be sure to shoot a lot of photos. As people move around during a party, you'll find a lot of different people interacting, giving you a great chance to shoot a variety of group combinations. By shooting a lot of photos, you'll have a much better chance of capturing the groups that you want.
- If possible, try to get up high and shoot a photo of the entire group from above. This will give you the best chance of seeing everyone's faces. Use a ladder, or try to get to the top of the stairs.
- Everyone shoots the "blowing out the candles" photo, but not everyone receives the best results. Try to maneuver your position so that you can see both the top of the cake and the child's face. If you shoot from too high of an angle, you may only see the top of the child's head, missing the emotion. If you shoot from too low of an angle, the candles and flames may obscure the face.
- When shooting the photos with the candles lit, consider trying a couple of shots with the flash turned off. The glow from the candles should light the face of the subject, while the other objects in the frame are dimly lit, creating an interesting looking photo.
- Because you'll probably have to shoot most of your other photos at the party with the flash, "red eye" could be a significant problem. To hopefully save yourself a lot of editing time later, be sure to activate the red eye reduction feature on your camera.
- As you shoot photos using the flash, be sure you know the effective range of the flash unit. If you are farther from the subject than your flash can effectively work, you'll end up with underexposed photos.
- If the lighting isn't too bad and you don't need a flash, you may want to shoot some photos using a "burst" mode. That way you'll have the best chance of capturing the perfect emotion on everyone's faces. For example, during the time of the party when people are opening presents, considering moving the birthday boy or girl near a window, so you can take advantage of some daylight. Just be careful that you don't underexpose the subject because of a strong backlight.
- If you have a relative who could not travel to attend the birthday party but sent a gift, be sure to shoot a few photos of the child opening that relative's gift. Then send your relative a copy of the photo with a quick note from the child as a personalized and fun "thank you" note.
- Shooting a photo of a child's party will be quite a bit different than shooting photos of an adult's birthday party. The adults may not want to remember all of the gifts, but they'll want more of a set of interaction photos with others at the party. The children will want photos of the games they've played and the gifts and the cake.
- Finally, make sure your camera is ready at all times. You never know when you'll see the perfect emotion on the birthday girl's face or capture a great action shot, so have that camera ready.