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10 Tips for Getting Better Birthday Party Photos

May 24, 2012

After looking at the past couple of years of kids birthday party photos, and feeling pretty disappointed, I set out to figure out what made the difference in getting better birthday party photos.  One of the things that I realized right away was that a party with no decorations or poorly planned decor often resulted in poor photos.  With some planning, I hoped that my daughter’s 4th birthday party photos would do a better job of reflecting the day.    I came to the conclusion that I wanted my photos to be more than just a couple blowing out the candles photos or gift opening pics.  What I really hoped was that the photos would bring back the feelings, memories and overall feeling of my daughter’s birthday.  I was also determined not to get stressed out by the birthday party and just enjoy my little girl and our guests.  We ended up having a great day!

Here’s what I learned along the way:

1. Taking special photos of your child before their party (weeks ahead of time), help take off the pressure off during their actual birthday party. Since my daughter was going to have a pink/ princess party, I used that as my inspiration when planning and taking her pre party photos.  Use the photos in your invitation as well as for party decorations.  In the photo below you can see that I framed some of the pics and displayed them on the food table.  I also had a frame with twine stapled to the back that I pinned 12 of the photos on to.

2.  Take photos of your decorations and food BEFORE all your guests arrive.  My wonderful husband took our kids out of the house for an hour so that I could do all the last-minute tidying up and photograph the details of the party.  Having all the details photographed before everyone arrives takes the pressure off during the party an ensure that you can get some great shots without people around or half the food gone.

3.  Hang decorations fairly low when possible.  Bunting (triangle banners) hung from a mantle or railing provided a nice backdrop for photos of children at the party. The pop of pink in the photos made the photos tie in to my overall photo set really well.  I wish I had hung my tissue paper flowers even lower since they missed being in a lot of gift opening photos.  Here’s the link to make your own tissue flowers, they were really easy and one pack of $1 tissue made 3 big ones and 1 small one.  Live and learn.

4. For photos that don’t keep with your overall theme, mine was pinks, white, etc, convert them to black and white when post processing.  The pics that showed deocr or had similar colours were left in colour, the rest I converted to black and white.  Remember that my “photography goal” was to have a great set of birthday photos, not just one or two.  When taking photos of guests, etc be intentional.  I feel like I learned this the hard way since I didn’t take many pics like this.  Don’t be afraid to ask guests to stand closer together and look at you.  I always feel like I don’t want to make a scene or be that “girl with the camera” so tend to shy away from asking people to pose for me.  The reality is that the more intentional you are, the better the photos will likely be.

5.  If possible, take some photos of the birthday child with their cake BEFORE all the guests arrive. It was great to get some shots of my daughter checking out her cake without the distraction of guests, etc.  Make sure you get some nice detail shots of the cake beofre hand as well.  My daughter really wanted a Costco cake for her birthday, so that made life nice and simple (affordable too).

6.  Have a photo buddy!  My wonderful friend/ cousin, Sonja Dyck, stepped in to take all the following photos in this post.  I find that as soon as the cake comes out I have a really hard time getting behind the camera, helping the kids, being available to guests, let alone enjoying my child’s special moment.  Having someone else take the photos will also allow you to actually be in some of the photos.  Always ask your friend about taking photos at the party BEFORE they come to the party.  This shows consideration and that you appreciate and value their skills.  It’s also a good idea to ask a friend at a similar skill level as yourself.  When it’s your friend/ photo buddy’s child’s birthday make sure that you try to return the favour by helping photograph their party.  Thanks again Sonja, you’re amazing!!

7.  Try to take photos at different angles.  Think about getting low, shooting from above, try different perspectives, etc.

8.  Pay attention to where your child will be blowing out the candles and opening gifts.  Is there a plain background or is there a cluttered area?  Is there nice natural light coming in?  A little pre planning will make a big difference when actually taking your photos.  I made sure that Sarah would be blowing out her candles near a big open window (great natural light).  Our large wooden dining room hutch was behind her, providing a great backdrop for the photos.  I’ve been learning how setting yourself up for success and paying attention to background BEFORE you take your photos will make them look instantly better, it will also save you a ton of time in photoshop later on.  If you really want to help ensure photo success, plan your party for the morning or early afternoon to get some great natural light in your home.  If it’s summer or you’re having the party outdoors, you’ve got lots more options.

When it came to gift opening, I made sure that Sarah was sitting with a blank wall behind her with good natural light coming in.  My big mistake was not hanging the tissue flowers low enough so that they could be seen in more of the photos (as mentioned earlier).

9.  Ask yourself what you’ll do with the photos? Are you printing them, blogging about them, posting them on Facebook?  I decided to make a Picaboo book.  I had a Groupon, making the individual book just $15, I was thrilled!  I was happy with the book and even more thrilled that I had actual printed photos.

10.  Never forget that your child’s birthday should be all about them.  I had intended for my daughter to wear the pink tutu outfit used in her pre party photos at her birthday party.  However, on the morning of her birthday she came to me wearing her purple Lucy shirt and said that she was ready for her princess party.  I told her to please change into her princess party clothes and we would do her hair.  She replied telling me that she already had her princess shirt on and pointed to the crown and word princess on her Lucy shirt.   I tried to get her to change but she wouldn’t have anything to do with it.  I was defeated.  In the end it was Sarah’s party, so she wore her purple shirt and had her hair down.  Some things just aren’t worth making a fuss over.  At least she was dressed up for her pre party pics.

Hopefully you found that somewhat helpful.  I am by no means an expert in birthday party photography, just learning as I go.

~Shari

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sonya permalink
    May 25, 2012 4:14 am

    These are super awesome tips! And came just at the right time for me since Paige will be having her 17th birthday in a couple of weeks. Although I imagine that getting photos at a teen party could be a little more complicated.

    Oh, by the way…did you make that bunting yourself? It looks amazing!

    • May 25, 2012 4:42 am

      Thanks Sonya! Yes, I did make the bunting myself. I’ll be posting a tutorial for that as well. Too bad you didn’t live in the area, as you would be welcome to borrow it (I have a few sets).

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