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Digital photography certainly makes taking pictures of family events much easier. No fumbling with settings, focus and lighting; they all work automatically. You just have to point and shoot. Although that is mostly true, there is still some conscious planning you must do and specific techniques to follow, especially when photographing your child’s birthday party. These are the pictures that all parents want, which is why you may have purchased a digital camera. To capture the best memories, however, you must work amongst the chaos and excitement of kids at a party (stoked on sugar).
Follow the tips below not only to improve the quality of the photos of your child’s birthday party, but also to record the images that so many parents overlook.
Much like the holidays in December, when parents spend plenty of time decorating and wrapping presents that are torn asunder in a matter of minutes, the setting for your child’s birthday party starts to disappear (disintegrate) as soon as it starts. Children spill beverages on the tabletop or themselves, re-arrange/disturb the carefully set table and turn the home into a playground. Your first photographic opportunity, therefore, is to shoot the pristine setting before the party starts.
Take individual photos of the cake, with your child’s name, age or whatever wording on the top is clearly readable; the various decorations; and the display of gifts. Then, compose a few wide shots (a wide-angle lens is best) of the table setting and the decorated main room. You can also ask the birthday boy or girl to pose in a few of these pre-party shots with the cake, etc., so you have his or her total attention before guests arrive. This is also an opportunity to make sure your exposure, white balance and other settings are correct, so adjustments during the party are unnecessary.
Remember a point in many PhotographyTalk.com articles about taking pictures of children: lower you and your camera to their level, so you don’t duplicate all those pictures of your child-age birthday parties that your parents took while standing.
You may have to boost your ISO setting for low-light conditions. It’s better to discover this adjustment before the party starts. Use your burst, or continuous-shooting, mode and check that there is plenty of space on your camera’s memory cards. You may even want to use a fresh set of batteries, just so you don’t have to stop shooting to change them suddenly.
Be Ready for the High Points
During the pre-party period explained above, it’s also a good idea to talk with your child and let him or her know that you want to make sure to capture the blowing of the candles and other high points of the celebration. Tell your child that you will give a signal when you are ready to shoot these shots, so they will be the best possible. You may have to remind your child at these moments, but this prior planning and his or her cooperation are critical to the most important images of the day. You also want to be ready to record the big smile following the extinguishing of the candles. Have a plan in mind for the opening of the presents. Pick a good spot where your child will have plenty of room, everyone can see and you’ll have close-up access to his or her excitement and surprise. Look for interesting pictures of your child interacting with his or her guests; again, you may want to sit on the floor to shoot from their level. As the party comes to an end, be aware of possible shots of exhausted children (and parents!), which make for fun images that everyone will like.
With Family Members and Friends
Try to schedule some time to arrange photos, even casual portraits, of the birthday boy and girl with his or her parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members in attendance. You can also pose additional shots of your child with individual friends or small groups of friends. Once they see these pictures, everyone will be happy that they took the time to follow your directions. The best method to record all these images is to schedule brief, five-minute periods when you can courteously ask your child and others to pause from the festivities for these pictures. Often, family members arrive before other guests, which gives you a small window to photograph your child with them, individually and in groups.
The challenge at any family gathering, such as a birthday party, or a paying gig, such as a wedding, is to make sure you capture the required photos, but not become intrusive. Put the techniques into practice in this PhotographyTalk.com article and, many years from now, you’ll be happy you did.