Photographing a birthday party - tips for parents

I have a six year old, so most of my weekends are spent going to birthday parties. Although I have never been formally asked to take pictures, being interested in taking pictures I always lug my camera with me and start shooting as soon as I get there. Lately I have been reviewing some of the old birthday photographs, and going through them brought some ideas to mind which might be useful to you in future. These suggestions are good not only for birthday parties, but for any large events involving a lot of people.
This kind of photograph of Dad and his daughter is not possible if Dad is the main camera man at the birthday party! From Jaya's Birthday 5/24/08 4:37 AM

  • If its your son or daughters birthday, then let some one else take the pictures. Otherwise you will be out of most of the pictures!! I know this because the above photograph is actually an exception. I am in very few of my daughters birthday photographs from last six years as I have been the main photographer for most of them!!

  • Have two cameras ready instead of one. Cameras are extremely cheap and you can get a decent camera around $100. Buy a couple for use at such events. Having two cameras instead of one gives you the opportunity to cover all aspects of the event.

  • If you have a friend who has an expensive digital SLR, ask them to photograph the event. Most amateur photographers would love to use the opportunity to polish their skills, as well as show off their talent.

  • Work with the photographer to have some memorable shots. This means, you need to be patient (and ask the vendor who is organizing the party for you to cooperate) to get some great shots of blowing the candles, cake with the child in the background, a family portrait. These shots take time to set up so don't be in a hurry to get through the event, and prepare to the child before hand to pose for these shots.

Shots like this one from a holi function, require focus of a dedicated photographer which as the organizer of the function you may not be able to do. From Jaya

  • Plan for the event. You are organizing the event so you know who is invited, where the event will be held, what kinds of pictures are possible. So discuss what you would like to see in the pictures with the photographers so that those events are captured. For instance, we don't want both the photographers on one side of the table during the cake cutting ceremony. Discuss such details with the photographers

  • Location: If the birthday is being held indoors, ask the photographers to take some photos outside. This will require some prep on your part - you will need to scout for a out door location close by where the birthday party will be held.

A photograph like this requires advance planning about the position of the child and the candle, available light, appropriate shutter speed and aperture etc, and cannot be rushed through quickly. From Blogger Pictures

  • Other than the birthday party itself, the day presents with many great opportunities to take pictures in which the parent can participate. For instance, I often start taking pictures of my daughter while she is still asleep, when she wakes up, while she is getting ready for the party, and of course, opening of the presents. These are great opportunities to take pictures with other family members - mother-daughter shot, grandparent-grand-child shots etc

  • The night before the event be sure to check that the camera batteries are charged, the camera card is empty and the external flash (if any) has the requisite number of batteries. In my house my flash is often raided for rechargeable batteries for use in my daughters multitude of toys, and if I don't think of this before it takes hours to find the right number of charged batteries! Nothing works better as kindling for a family fight than realizing that the camera and flash cannot be used at the event for lack of batteries!
  • Finally, take a LOT of pictures. If your camera card(s) can support it, take at least 500 pictures during the entire day. Chances are most photographs will be mediocre, but with 500 shots to choose from you will surely get about 40-50 really great shots which can be kept for posterity.

We all know that birthday events can be a chore, but for parents who are trying to juggle so many balls during that day the birthday event becomes a hectic, stressful, and unenjoyable event. But a little planning on your part can ensure that not only will you enjoy the event, but you will also have great photographic memories of the event to be remembered in the future.
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