How to Take Great Party Pictures

party pictures

Everyone loves a party and its great to have party pictures to share and enjoy long after it ends! These ideas will help you get great party pictures without missing the fun. Note: The discussions on lighting are geared toward photography indoors or outdoors at or later than twilight.

Use Natural-Looking Party Picture Poses

Stiff, formal photos of individuals or groups just don’t have the appeal of more natural-looking poses. Unfortunately, when people are busy eating, talking, and laughing, a camera can freeze their features in some strange ways. Get around this by taking a quick series of photographs and discarding the ones showing the subject in an unflattering way. Taking 5 to 10 photos in rapid succession usually nets one or two good ones.

Show the Background in Some of Your Party Pictures

A picture’s background helps tell its story, but flash-aided photos of people often have nearly black backgrounds. Using a wide aperture will help the natural or artificial light in the room or area to illuminate the background. Adding a “slow shutter” option will give even more help. This option isn’t available with all cameras, but a surprising number of modern cameras do offer it. The ways its works is the camera uses the flash to light the subject, but leaves the shutter open a little longer so that there is more time for other light sources to expose the background. Usually a shutter speed of about 1/20th second is enough to do the job, and if your subject or others aren’t moving rapidly there will be little if any motion blur. If there’s dancing or some other energetic activity in the room the blur of the “moving parts” photo will convey a sense of action and energy.

Bounce the Light for Party Pictures

Banish redeye and unwanted reflections by bouncing the light from a flash off a light surface. White or creamy ceilings are ideal because they change the color of the light little if at all, and also cause shadows from people to fall down toward the floor which usually keeps them out of photos. Bouncing is easy if your flash can be swiveled to point upwards or to the side. If it can’t you might still be able to bounce the light by attaching or holding a white card in front of the flash so that it catches the light and reflects it in the desired direction.

An alternative to bouncing from the ceiling is to wear a white shirt or blouse and bounce from it toward your subject. This makes your torso behave much like a soft box, softening and spreading the light that illuminates your subject. Practice for a few minutes to get the hang of it before trying to use this trick for party pictures. It doesn’t work well for a “head-on” shot but can give nice, off-center illumination.

Bouncing light causes it to spread out, soften, and lose intensity, so I usually shoot in manual mode when bouncing. That way I can fine tune the flash intensity and/or ISO setting to get good exposures. Of course, there’s no ceiling outdoors, but there are still ways to bounce light outside. You’ll find more discussion and advice about bouncing light indoors and outdoors here: How to Eliminate Redeye Along with Pesky Shadows and Harsh Reflections

Fried food is OK in party pictures, but not fried people.

If someone other than the subject is in a flash-lit picture, their image could be badly overexposed if they are nearer to the flash than your subject. Recompose your picture, ask the person to step slightly to the side, or bounce your flash off white paper or fabric so that it lights the subject but no one else.

Put Life in the Party Pictures!

want excitement in your pictures? Capture people in motion. Shoot when they’re engaged in activities that require movement, or ask them to jump, wave, or spin just for fun. You can freeze them in place with flash and a “normal” shutter setting of 1/60 second or shorter, or add to the sense of motion with a slower shutter speed such as 1/10 or 1/20 second.

Party Pictures are Fun

They’re fun to take and fun to have, long after the party is over. Take your camera and capture the moments. You and others will be glad you did.

© 2011, All rights reserved.

How To: Ten Tips for Photographing the Holidays

the holidays

Shooting the Holidays

It’s the time of year when cameras come out from wherever they’ve been, just in time to photograph the holidays. Their owners may almost never take pictures, but even a family’s veteran shutterbugs are not immune to occasional finger and camera strap photos. Here’s a route to improved photographic odds this holiday season from someone who has probably made more bad photos of Christmas and other holidays than you have.

1. Prepare for Success

  • Retrieve your camera manual and brush up on what it contains. It won’t be easy to study it when you are actually trying to photograph the holidays. Download a copy from the manufacturer’s web site if necessary.
  • Have spare, charged batteries within reach.
  • Digital shooters: use automatic white balance or adjust for your light source.
  • Film shooters: have enough and be sure of the color requirements – daylight or outdoor film for flash, indoor film for tungsten, FLW filter with daylight film for standard fluorescent lights.
  • Use Exposure Compensation to get rich, saturated colors.

  • What You See Might Not Be What You Get, but the odds improve if you look carefully at the screen or viewfinder . Make a habit of studying the view to see what’s in the picture and what is out. Notice how moving the camera just a little bit can dramatically simplify and improve a photo.
  • “Point and shoot’ viewfinders are set above and to the side of the picture-taking lens, an arrangement that allows a finger to completely block the lens unbeknownst to the photographer. This viewfinder design has played a vital role in many a photographic amputation. That said, as a general rule, most of the body parts appearing inside the viewfinder’s lines will appear in the picture.
  • A digital camera screen can’t be trusted for judging exposure, especially when under the pressure of shooting the holidays. Your camera can probably display histograms, and if you don’t know how to use them then visit Histograms: Secret for Perfect Exposure.
  • 3. Limber Up

    Peruse magazines for pictures of kids and you’ll see that most were made with the camera at their eye-level. Start stretching your muscles and joints now so you’ll be able to get low to photograph people built close to the ground. That’s where they live so that’s where you should be — your pictures will be the better for it.

    4. Hatch a Plot

    Recruit an accomplice. Short-term, highly-localized population explosions are common holiday occurrences, so crowd-control can be an imperative. Discuss with your helper ways she or he can assist in getting the right people into certain pictures and help keep the wrong people out of others.
    Here’s a quick tip for preserving your relationships when making formal shots of the holidays. Start with the people you want in every photograph and invite others into the pictures are you proceed, rather than starting with all and asking some to step out of the picture.

    Get These Photography Classics Now!


    5. Case the Joint Ahead of the Christmas Holidays

    Scout the area with your partner to envision the pictures you want of the holidays and decide how to get them. Move unneeded stuff to another room. Arrange seating so that you can placate hungry and/or over-fed people by re-shuffling them. You can get everyone in the picture if you gather them around a ladder and shoot down, but be aware that the big heads might make what you thought would be an intimate family portrait from the holidays look more like a MENSA recruiting poster. Using a wide lens or the landscape setting on a point ‘n shoot is a better option to help get everyone into group shots.

    Will you use flash? Reflective accessories come out of storage for the holidays, so notice reflective surfaces and take a few practice shots to see what shines back. Move objects or change camera angles to keep your pictures free of muzzle-flashes and thermonuclear events.

    6. Lighten Up!

    Low angles can create looming shadows in flash-assisted photos. Opening shades and energizing lamps will at least help. Better yet, shoot from slightly above the subject so that the shadow falls low behind the person and isn’t in the picture. Bounce the flash from a white ceiling if you camera permits.

    the holidays

    7. Blacken Some Eyes

    Those dreaded red-eyes and blinding white eyeglass glare both come from shooting into people’s eyes. Minimize them by shooting from an angle when subjects aren’t looking straight at you, or bouncing the flash from the ceiling if your flash head can be tilted.

    8. Wait for the Green Light

    Wait until the lights in your viewfinder stop blinking. Anxious lights might mean that the camera hasn’t focused on what it considers to be the subject, i.e. whatever is in the center of the frame or selected focus area, and/or it hasn’t decided how much light the flash should provide. For an off-center subject, move the camera to position the subject in the center of the frame, then press and hold the shutter part way. Wait for the lights to stop, continue holding the shutter button while you recompose the picture, and shoot. Congratulations! You just locked focus and exposure for the actual subject. (SLR shooters might have a separate lock button, usually within reach of the right thumb.)

    NOTE: Progressively longer periods of flashing can mean that the batteries are getting weak.

    9. Don’t Be Average

    “Automatic” cameras decide how much exposure you need. Actually, the camera just guesses, looking at the overall amount of light coming from the scene and trying to make an “average” exposure. If Uncle Alphonse and Aunt Orsavella stand in front of a brightly lit window, they’re going to be dark so that the window can be light and still have the whole photo be “average.” The solution: move the people, close the drapes, turn on a LOT of lights, or use flash. That way the people in your photos of the holidays can be recognized from facial features instead of from guessing.

    If you want really good exposures look into the articles at

  • and
  • The information is valid whenever you take pictures, and it will help you take pictures of the holidays that you will want to share.

    By the way, a person outdoors in the sun could have some serious eye-shadows unless you use fill flash. Check your manual for more information on this.

    10. Have Fun!

    Christmas and the holidays are for making memories.

    Relax, breathe deeply, take great pictures, then put the camera down and be with your family. Remember, you’re a family member first and a photographer second. Don’t go down in history as the person who was never actually in any photographs from the holidays.

    11. Wait! There’s More for the Holidays!

    If you’ll be wrapping up the holidays with a New Year’s celebration you might want to visit this article:

    © 2011, All rights reserved.

    Cold Weather Photography How-to

    Cold Weather Photography

    Successful Cold Weather Photography

    Winter comes every year, and despite the beauty of winter land- and cityscapes, there are surprisingly few cold weather photos. Of course warmer weather can be more comfortable, but with just a little bit of knowledge you will be surprised how good your winter photos can be. Let’s get started.

    Empower Yourself

    Yes, knowledge is power, but I’m talking about electricity. Cold weather photography can present special challenges for batteries and electro-mechanical equipment. The lubricants in modern cameras will perform adequately unless you are shooting in Arctic conditions for extended periods. Batteries are a different matter. Although there are differences in cold-sensitivity among the various battery types, all become less efficient as they get colder. An easy way to meet this challenge is to carry spare fully-charged batteries in a pocket close to your body so that they are kept warm, and start out with fully-charged batteries in your camera. Whenever you get a low battery warning simply exchange the cold batteries for warm ones, input cold ones back in your warm pocket to get them ready to go back in the camera. By the way, if you are planning an extended shoot in polar conditions, consider having a reputable photo repair shop make sure that your camera’s lubricants will be up to the challenge.

    Control Your Camera’s Temperature

    Your camera needs to “warm up” to the idea of cold weather photography. Actually, if your camera is in a warm place you will do well to allow it to cool to the outdoor temperature before exposing it to the elements. Otherwise, moisture inside the camera and lens might fog interior glass surfaces such as lens elements, the photosensor shield, and an SLR’s mirror and prism. Usually 10 or 15 minutes are sufficient. I prefer to keep compact cameras in a plastic zipper-bag in the trunk of my vehicle on my way to a cold weather shoot. I keep larger care in the trunk as well in a weatherproof case. Putting your camera bag in a trash bag and closing it with a twist-tie will work just as well. Just be sure you know what is inside any bags you decide to discard.

    Temperature management is just as important when moving from the cold to warm areas. Plastic bats will help protect your gear from moisture until it has reached room temperature.

    Cold Weather Photography Needs Cold Weather Photographers

    Being human requires attention to the human element — you don’t want to be found frozen to your tripod a few days later, or lying beside it after the spring thaw! It’s best not to venture far by yourself, and even if you’re with a crowd, someone not with you should know where you are going and when to expect your return. Take a cell or smart phone if service is available, and whatever navigation aids are appropriate for the situation.

    The need for adequate head gear increases as the amount of hair decreases and the size of the ears increases, and proper gloves are essential. They need to keep wind away from your skin and keep your fingers warm enough to work. They also need to allow you to firmly grip and operate your camera, so make sure they have enough texture not to slip on equipment surfaces. Sometimes I use gloves made without fingertips, but keep big mittens available and warm inside my coat. Hot liquids can help warm you and your hands, but remember that what goes in must eventually come out.
    Winter Photography
    Keep yourself dry! Being wet and having wet clothing will accelerate heat loss from your body and can be downright dangerous when shooting in the cold. Waterproof clothing is essential in rain or when the temperature is high enough for falling snow to melt, and that includes your boots. Oxfords and loafers are OK in the car, but not out in the cold.

    Cold weather photography needs a cold weather tripod, too. I recommend one that has rubber grips near the tops of the legs. They’ll keep the tripod’s metal from pulling heat from your hands.

    Snow and Snowy Days & Nights

    If snow is white how come it turns out blue or gray in photos? It’s all about the way cameras estimate correct exposure — they assume that the scene is average and try to make it look average, so bright scenes will look dull and dark unless you intervene. Starting out with an exposure compensation of about +2/3 is a good place to start. Learn more about exposure compensation here.

    Remember that you can’t trust your camera’s screen to judge exposure. The histogram is the only tool you can count on. A daytime scene with a lot of snow should have a histogram with many counts on the right side of the screen. You can keep warm and dry while practicing by taking pictures of white appliances or walls. Be careful to not expose so that the histogram has counts piled up against the right side. That is in indication of severe overexposure and your image will lack detail.

    underexposed Snow Photography
    snow photo
    overexposed snow photograph

    You’re all studied up on winter and snow photography…

    Now Go Get Some Cold Weather Photographs of Your Own!

    © 2011, All rights reserved.

    Photoshop Tutorial:Underexposure & Color Balance

    Photoshop Tutorial – Shortcuts for Multiple Photos Needing Similar Corrections

    You probably don’t know anyone who hasn’t taken an underexposed picture and even a setting of auto white balance fails once in a while. When it does, there might more than one image from an outing that needs help, and occasionally all of them do.

    Fear not – such happenings are not tragedies and the errors can be remedied. Just take a look at these before and after images.
    Photoshop TutorialAdobe Tutorial

    Clearly there are differences, and as the video shows, getting a photo from “before” to “after” doesn’t take long! (By the way, if you’re viewing this post with Google’s Chrome browser, you might want to try Firefox. For some reason, Chrome is not showing the images accurately on my screen.)

    Photoshop Tutorial

    The Photoshop tutorial is high resolution, so bump it up to full screen view if you’re not seeing it clearly.

    If this photoshop tutorial was useful, you might want to check out the one demonstrating Photoshop’s Selective Color Balance Tool.

    © 2011, All rights reserved.

    How to Get Tack-Sharp Images

    sharp imagesSharp images can make the difference between first-rate, professional-looking photos and the ones that just don’t measure up. The good news is there will be no fuzzy photos for you if understand how to prevent them.

    The 3 Top Ways to Get Sharp Images

    1. Assure Correct Focus

    This one is very simple – if the subject is not in sharp focus you will not get a sharp image of it. Nothing else you do will fix this, so be absolutely sure that your camera is focusing on the subject. A camera with multiple focus regions usually shows the area of focus in the viewfinder when you press the shutter release part way down. If you can’t be sure that the subject is in focus, use depth of field preview if your camera has it.

    2. Stop Camera Movement Mecanically

    Camera motion might be the most frequent cause of un-sharp images.  It is almost impossible to eliminate it completely but a tripod will usually keep camera movement so slight that you won’t notice any loss of sharpness.  You can also put the camera on a stable surface such as a table top, a rock, or a bean bag.  A bean bag lets you squish the contents to cradle the camera in a way that lets you point it in some direction other than straight ahead.  Using the camera’s timer will keep your shutter finger from causing unwanted camera motion whenever you’re shooting with a support.

    Hand-held shooting ensures camera movement, yet most amateur and many professional photographers shoot hand-held and still get acceptably sharp images when their shutter speed is fast enough to prevent significant camera movement during the short time that the shutter is open. Program shooters should use the sports mode to get a faster shutter than other program modes are likely to provide. Click this link: speed-aperture-iso-simplified to learn how to increase shutter speed while keeping exposure correct.

    Brace Yourself for Sharp Images

    If there simply isn’t enough light to overcome the effects of camera movement then make yourself into a human tripod. Hold the camera under the lens or body with your left hand, bring both arms in tight to your sides, inhale (or exhale if you prefer), and slowly press the shutter release. If a tree, building, or vehicle are close by you might lean on it for added stability.

    Image stabilized lenses and bodies are a big help in reducing movement, but you’ll still get a blurry subject if the exposure is long enough, and the problem is more severe with telephoto lenses. To see how this works, point your finger at a distant object and move your finger a little bit. You can see how a small amount of camera movement could keep you from getting a sharp image of a distant object. A good rule of thumb to get sharp images is to use a shutter speed about equal to the reciprocal of the focal length of your lens. This means that a 100mm lens requires a shutter speed of 1/125th second, a 300 mm lens needs about 1/320th, and a speed of 1/500th second is right for a 500mm lens. Image stabilized equipment can usually operate successfully at around 2/3 stop faster than the reciprocal guideline states.

    Using flash is a variant of the fast shutter speed approach. Flashes usually fire for a few thousands of a second at most. If the flash is providing most of the light for the exposure it will effectively freeze movement due to movement of the camera or the subject.

    3. Keep the Subject Still

    Yuo can’t get a sharp image of a moving subject unless the shutter speed is fast enough to freeze the motion. This can be a problem when shooting nature subjects outdoors in dim light because a little bit of wind can cause big problems. Waves smooth out and blur reflections, leaves move in a breeze, and small plants might even quake. As wind speed increases small things move more and big things begin to move too. Using a windbreak can protect small flowers, etc. from breezes. If the winds are strong you might do better by trying to capture movement in your photos rather than trying to eliminate it. This article tells you how to purposely use motion blur in your pictures.

    © 2011, All rights reserved.

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