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12 Fun Tips for Shooting Birthday Party Photography

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Whether you do it for clients or for family and friends, birthday party photography can be challenging! You need to move quickly, not miss any activities, and be on point with your camera settings.
If you’re just getting started, this can feel very overwhelming.
Let’s take a look at 12 fun tips for photographing birthday parties (or for event photography in general) that you can implement today!
A little girl blowing out birthday candles on a cake at a family birthday party - birthday party photography

1. Photograph Details to Get a Sense of the Atmosphere

When you photograph an event of any kind, you’re trying to tell the story of that event. One great way to do this is to think of different scales.
This means getting details, people pictures, and wide shots of crowds.
For birthday party photography, this can be photos of the birthday cake, a bit of the pile of presents, or decorative touches throughout the space.
bright and cheerful birthday party photography diptych including plates of watermelon at a party on the left, and green and white balloons on the right

2. Take Candid Shots to Build a Narrative

Posed shots are great for albums, but candid shots of people have more of a narrative. The kids laughing and playing, the adults gushing over the beautiful birthday cake, the host hugging a guest that just arrive.
Be sneaky with your camera and look for candid moments to capture. Be ready to snap photos quickly as these moments are definitely fleeting!
A father and son relaxing at a swimming pool - party photos

3. Capture the Traditional Must-Have Shots

Speaking of moments, don’t miss the big ones! Either before the birthday party date or right when you arrive, have a chat with the host about the order of events.
Ask if there are any moments that are special and must-have birthday party photography. Things like blowing the candles, hitting the piñata, or openings gifts are all typical big moments that would need to be captured.
Additionally, make sure to take birthday party photos of any vendors that have been brought in for the event.
A magician performing at a kids birthday party - how to take good party pictures

4. Use Flash to Fill in Shadows or in Darker Home Settings

Natural light should be used as much as possible, but sometimes flash is needed. Flash may come in handy to fill in shadows when your subjects are backlit, or it may also be vital for darker homes that just don’t get enough natural light (or if it’s nighttime!).
When using flash, be sure to diffuse as much as possible to avoid harsh shadows and bright spots. You can add a diffuser onto the flash itself, and bouncing it off the ceiling or wall behind you is always recommended.
Finally, be sure to adjust the flash so that it only flashes as strongly as it needs to.

5. Change Perspectives to Add Interest to Your Images

Changing perspective is a great way to add interest and get the viewer into the action! For small kids, consider getting lower to the floor so you’re at their eye level.
If you’re photographing a table with food or a pile of gifts, consider shooting from above for a different take.
An overhead photo of a birthday cake - birthday party photography tips

6. Take Group Photos of Family and Friends

Talk with the hosts to ask about any requests for group photos. Want to document grandma with all the grandkids? How about the birthday boy with his best friend?
Knowing ahead of time lets you ensure you take a few moments to get these important shots.
Choose a time for group shots that is well after guests arrive, but before blowing out the candle.
This will help ensure that all the people you need for the birthday photos are present. And it’ll give people a chance to get comfortable after chatting a bit.
A large group shot of family members at a birthday photography

7. Take More Photos Than You Think You Need

Don’t be afraid to shoot A LOT. Anytime you’re photographing kids or animals, the movements are quick and unpredictable. Shooting lots of photos can help ensure that there will be at least a few good shots in there for each moment being captured.
Part of the beauty of shooting digital is that you can be on continuous shooting mode without extra cost. Especially as you’re learning the ins and outs of event photography, take more photos than you think you need.
You just never know when someone blinking or talking mid-sentence will ruin an otherwise perfect shot!

8. Photograph the Guests Too, Not Just the Family

It’s not all about the guest of honor. Yes, photos of the birthday girl should be the majority, but don’t forget to document the guests!
Whether candid or posed, photos of the guests helps to tell the story of the party. Be extra aware of family members, and especially elder family members.
While all guests are important, the family will most likely treasure the photos with great-grandma a bit more than the ones with the next-door neighbors.
Family should get a bit more attention, but make it a point to document every guest at the party.
Diptych portrait of children swimming in an outdoor pool - fun birthday party photography ideas

9. Take Close-Ups to Capture Unique Expressions

While getting groups of people in each shot can be fun, getting in close can make the viewer feel like they’re right there with them.
Kids make great expressions during moments like lighting the candle on the cake, opening presents or playing party games.
Also, use a zoom lens to capture a chat between guests to show people connecting at the event.

10. Pose Subjects for Better Compositions of Key Moments

Sometimes, people gather in ways that aren’t ideal for photos. It’s part of your job to ask folks to move one way or another so that the photos look better.
Most people will happily comply, and the hosts will be really happy when they see great photos! Key moments to consider this is when the guest of honor is blowing out their birthday candle or when they open gifts.
Make sure you have a spot with clear line of sight to your subject, and consider arranging some friends right around them to help show the crowd of guests and add more interest.
A man in a marquee surrounded by balloons - birthday party photography

11. Figure Out Indoor and Outdoor Settings Before the Event Starts

Often, parties have areas that are dimly lit or have different lighting conditions. Typically, this ends up being the difference between indoors and outdoors. Be mindful of your ISO and shutter speeds to adjust for these differences.
When you first arrive is a great time to figure out your go-to settings for the entire event. Test your settings for indoors, then walk outside and test settings for outdoors.
This way, when you walk in and out of the house and need to change settings, you’ll automatically know what you need to change to.
Figuring out this information early on when arriving at the event will make your job easier as you move around. And it will make you look ultra professional because there will be no guesswork or testing mid-party.

12. Participate in the Games for More Creative Perspectives

If you can, jump into games or groups and get photos from within. This gives an entirely new perspective that can better show the joy of the event.
By enjoying yourself, bonding with guests, and making others smile, you create fun moments that otherwise may not happen. And you create connections for your photography business that may lead to new opportunities.

Conclusion

Private events or birthday party photography can be incredibly rewarding. You’re being allowed into a personal space to celebrate an occasion that’s special to your clients.
Creating a story with emotion through high-quality photos can feel challenging at first, but with the above tips, you’ll be at ease documenting any occasion big or small!
Looking for more inspiration on capturing the right moment? Check out our new post about candid photography examples next!

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