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.

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