We all have them, whether from our own childhood or from the momentous occasions in our children’s lives – the blurry, the dark, the overexposed, the grainy, the awkward photos. The ones where you say with frustration and dejection, “Aw, man! I missed it.” Different from the quality, heirloom pieces, created by a professional, that you hang on your walls and make into albums, every day life photography is a skill that any parent needs. In this day and age just about everyone has some sort of camera and it is common to hear the click of a shutter when a photo is snapped. This everyday practice is probably most notable during those life events that parents all too familiar with – The Dance Recital, The Birthday Party and The Sporting Event. Each of these events has its own unique set of circumstances and each require just a few notes on what you can do as a parent to capture those memories just a tad bit more skillfully and successfully. Photography is a skill and art that everyone can improve at with just a few tips.
Part 1: The Birthday Party
The beauty of a birthday party is that you plan it. You know the venue, you know the backgrounds, setting and subjects and you arrange the order of events! So all it takes is a bit of planning and anticipation and you can be all set for some great pictures from your child’s special day. Think about light when you are setting up the area for the main events. Setting up around window light, if indoors or in shade but facing out into open light, when outdoors will allow you to not use flash which will make for more natural images and expressions. A fast camera is preferred that allows for you to set the speed to Fast Action and not use a flash. Declutter your space – this keeps the focus on the kiddos, which is the goal. Rearrange furniture and help move any pieces that may block you as you move around taking pictures. Even little things like using short beverage cups versus 2 liter bottles can make a huge difference. Balloons can cast color shadows so while they may look awesome, they look even better if placed behind and away from party goers, creating a festive backdrop rather than a problem. Get on their level! Nothing indicates parent or adult like images that always look down on the kids. Interesting, intimate and fun photography is created when you get down on your knees and shoot at their level. Think ahead and place some pillows or stools strategically in your space so you can perch and kneel comfortably. To get varied expressions and arrangements, alternate activities with different energy levels. If you start off playing a game that is high energy, follow up with a craft or meal time. The “accidents” are often the best images so get the giggles, the cake on the face, the silly faces and the pouts. To keep it natural and easy, don’t worry about having kids look at the photographer. Nothing can ruin the mood than hearing your name called out constantly or “Look here and Smile!” Go natural and use a wide angle lens to allow you to get it all in the frame. Smiles are great but if they are not come by naturally, they usually look planned and lose the “magic.” You can also set up a themed Photo Booth as part of your party set up. Kids (and parents) can use provided props and items to dress up and be silly. This is a great time to capture fun and silly smiles (TIP: this also makes a great Thank You note party favor to include with Thank You notes, if the birthday kiddo is in the gift image).