Photographing children’s birthday parties can be great fun, with priceless expressions and lots going on. As a parent, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement (and organising things!), but it’s lovely to have a documentary record of the day to look back on – especially in the years to come.
Luckily we have award-winning children’s photographer, Heather Neilson on hand to share her top 5 tips for photographing your child’s party:
1 – Take some photos before the chaos starts: Remember to get some photos of your child before everyone arrives and the chaos starts! Maybe these can be taken outside where there is more natural light. On a sunny day I would recommend photographing in the shade which gives a wonderful luminous quality to the light. Also take the time to photograph the little details you will have probably spent weeks getting together – the cake, balloons, party food and decorations!
2 – Light, angles and key moments : Once the party starts, it’s best to photograph people near the windows where there will be more light than other parts of the room (avoiding the need for flash photography). Window light is also gorgeously pretty and soft! Mix up your angles and perspective; when photographing children I always get down to their level – which often means sitting or even lying on my belly (not particularly dignified I know)! If you have a long lens (85mm or more), use this to take candid shots of people arriving and interacting with one another without being intrusive. As the party progresses, don’t forget the key moments of blowing out the candles and opening presents – it’s best to get close for these and use a more wide-angle lens (50mm or less). Remember to photograph the adults at the party too, especially grandparents, but try not to photograph adults talking or eating – this is never a good look! Catch them when they are smiling or listening to someone else.
3 – Don’t forget to mix things : Make sure to get a mix of candid as well as posed images. Grandparents love a posed family portrait (and these have their place), but the true authentic moments are usually those un-posed candid ones when children don’t realise you are looking! It’s easier to capture these later in the party once the kids have warmed up to you and your camera. Hang out with the kids a little before photographing them – it’s amazing how different expressions are once children have relaxed and are comfortable with you.
4 – The time for funny pictures: Once it’s all over the little darlings will be tired, but this is a great opportunity to get some humorous photographs of the messy aftermath… it’s all part of documenting the day!
5 – Last but not least…the boring technical bit: know your camera’s manual settings, even just the basics of setting an appropriate shutter speed (I always suggest a speed of 250/second or higher with kids on the move), and your ISO which will need to be high (probably around 400-800 depending on the time of day and how much natural light there is indoors). As birthday parties tend to have backgrounds that can be distracting, I would always photograph on the “widest” aperture (F Stop) available on your lens (maybe this is only f3.5, but on more expensive lenses might be more like f1.8). This will give a beautifully blurred background – and allow more light into your lens too.