Parties are great fun. However, they are even more fun after the party is long over. How? When you take the time off to capture the happy and zany moments for posterity. Here is where some tips on party photography should help you a great deal in carrying on the party conversation over Facebook and other social networking sites. Not to mention, in your drawing rooms and offices.
1. If you are at the venue before the party, you have a decided advantage. Not only can you survey the scene and figure out your shooting plan, best angles, best locations and best lighting, but also capture the well laid out buffet counter, confetti, ribbons, balloons and related decorations in the most aesthetic way possible. If it happens to be a birthday party, the cake as well.
2. In parties, people form small islands of conversation and let their hair down at the same time. Here is where you need to indulge in group photography and capture them at their sunniest best. If you’ve captured the group well – contrast, composition and lighting included – the group is going to treasure your photo long after the party is over.
3. Party photography is essentially people photography. Try and look for those happy-sad moments and this requires you to be on your toes throughout. Enjoy capturing the moment as much as your subjects are enjoying being part of the get-together.
4. Candid photography – capturing people when they least expect it or are completely unaware of it – can give rise to a great number of images that can have repeat value. This will be particularly true if they are your family and friends.
5. While the idea is to capture groups and couples at the party most of the time, don’t miss out on those solo moments. Like a close up shot of a girl’s tresses over her plate of ice cream or her leaning against the wall. Similarly, a close up shot of a happy face is always welcome. This is particularly true if your flash isn’t powerful enough to illuminate the entire hall.
6. Before you shoot any pictures, enable the ‘red eye’ reduction feature in your camera. And if your camera doesn’t have it, or if this camera feature doesn’t work all the time, don’t fret. Just ask your subject to look away from you by about 15 degrees. This way, the camera flash will not do its number of the subject’s pupils which leads to the ‘red eye’ effect.
7. Most parties may be spontaneous, but there are certain highlight features that are known well in advance. Like a particular ceremony and so on. Therefore, it’s better to know the different things planned for the party, so you are well prepared to capture them and not find yourself answering nature’s calls or digging into chocolate when it’s Kodak moment time.
8. Go berserk and shoot at many angles. Take short subjects from the ground up to make them look tall and imposing. Take children at eye level, so they look their height. Or take a group photo from high up, so they look like one unit. Don’t forget to exploit the balcony and terrace to capture the nightly scene in the background.
9. Since it’s all about capturing the party moment, there’s no time to check if your photos have come out all right. Therefore, it’s advisable to shoot the same scene one more time, just to be sure. This is particularly true when you are shooting people. They could have closed their eyes or not looking their sunny best or their arms and feet are cropped out in the initial composition.
10. Take enough spare camera batteries and memory cards to keep clicking all through the night. It is also advisable to take your camera and battery charger along because you never know when they might come in handy.
11. Regarding technicalities, use a flashgun with a diffuser to make the most of the scene. And yes, use a zoom lens instead of a prime lens to give you the freedom of going back and forth on the subjects and frame them right or to crop out those you don’t want. A wide angle zoom lens would be better for larger parties. Try slower shutter speeds (1/4″ to 1/1) for cool lighting effects.
12. With candid photography, it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission if you get caught in the act. After all, what’s candid photography if the subject knows?
13. Use a bounce-flash. If the ceiling is white, turn the head of the external flash upwards. Pull out the built-in diffuser a bit, or put a small piece of paper on top of the flash, or use a small diffuser box, so that a small fraction of the light gets directly to subject’s eyes, to light them up. If the ceiling is dark or with a strong tint, use a big flash diffuser. Use flash exposure lock, so you avoid pre-flash (some people are very fast with eyelids).
14. If it’s a casual party (not, say, a company party or a party where you were hired to take photos), don’t bring the largest lens in the bag and your battery grip. The cheaper the camera, the more comfortable people seem to be in front of it. Avoid the flash as it may put some people off. The alternative would be to open up the aperture, bump up the ISO (for background exposure) and shoot with the pop-up. The speedlight is in the bag, though. Just in case you are ‘the camera guy’ and they want a big group shot.
15. Program your camera in the continuous shooting mode, and take various shots of the same situation. Later, it could be used as a series of running shots of a particular act performed at the party.
16. If you have some extra cameras, put them out with the people at the party. They could take your photos too. Different people take different kind of photos, and it adds to the fun element, post-party.
~Zahid H Javali