Part 8: Create photos full of atmosphere
You may have been able to organise one or two garden parties even though this summer did not really offer a lot of sunny moments? When it comes to celebrations, the one person taking photos faces some particular challenges e.g. in connection to the ligthing situation. This article is to explain how you can solve the most difficult problems and create great photos of them.
Photo by Jeremy Nicholson [via Flickr]
Basics first: Make sure you know the features of your camera before the party starts! There is nothing that is more annoying than having to fumble awkwardly and aimlessly with your camera because the moment you want to keep hold of is just passing by while you are busy with finding the right feature of your camera. We advise you to set the optimal exposure and aperture time in the manual mode of your reflex camera in advance, if applicable by taking some test photos . If you own a compact camera, you should have a look at its settings concerning the white balance and exposure. Some compact cameras even offer an automatic “party mode“. And last but not least, something obvious: full rechargeable batteries and a blank memory card. ;)
Photo by Juliana Coutinho [via Flickr]
Using the flash or not?
If the party takes place in the evening, one of the most essential utensils is the flash. But although it can be very useful, most people hate it because the flash makes them look like a scared deer on a photo. It is not easy to find a good middle course or to solve the usual problem of having a an overexposed foreground and by contrast objects of the background that are practically black.
If you take the photo from a distance being too short, the flash becomes too glaring and the persons you take the photo of look like the above mentioned scared deer. But if you take a photo from a distance being too long, the flash may not reach far enough and thus only expose unimportant objects that are in the foreground. In order to solve this problem, we advise you to find out the ideal distance for your camera in advance. In addition, you shpuld use the red-eye reducing function that many cameras offer.
You will not be able to avoid the flash completely if you are at a party because most situations require the flash in order to make things and persons visible on photos. Due to the fast movements of all the party guests, it will not be enough to use a long exposure time because people would appear as streaks. The only exception are nice external light sources that create a great atmosphere. Those would be destroyed by the flash which is why you should turn off the flash and just find out the results you will get. This is especially applicable for taking photos in a club or a pub.
Photo by Ollie Harridge [via Flickr]
If you have turned off the flash, you should use long exposure times in the manual mode and set a high ISO number. It is often better to have some image noises on your photo than one that is blurred. If you have a compact camera, use the party mode or night mode.
Last but not least: Try the serial shot function as well if your camera offers this option. This way you enhance your chances to catch the perfect moment, especially if you take photos of dancing, chatting or laughing people.
Choosing the right position
But how is a successfully taken photo defined? It is not only the technique you use but the image as well. For example, you can design your image in a more interesting way by changing the perspective. Instead of just snapping straight on, think about the details your photo should show. Try to take a photo of the crowd from above or from below – being on eye-level with a child. That is especially interesting if some children are around. Apart from that, simply try to find anything that is usual. In order to give you some ideas: take photos through an aquarium, next to a wine glass or the top blossoms of a flower…
Photo by indiependentman [via Flickr]
Finding something unique
Of course, every one wants to see persons and groups of persons on the photos of a party – but small details are underestimated this way. Photos showing details do often catch a huge part of the atmosphere of the party and may serve excellently in order to fill possible gaps or be used for the background in a photo book.
Photo by abarefoot [via Flickr]
Especially the host of the party will be enormously glad afterwards if his best piece of decoration or great birthday cake (or maybe the grilled meat being served in a brilliant way?) have been caught in a nice photo.
Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography [via Flickr]
Letting guests take photos on their own
It is a good idea to arrange a “photo cabin” (“Photo Booth” – the Apple program of the same name is possible as well ;)), especially if it is a big party. Simply put a chair in front of a nice (or funny) background (e.g. a sheet, a big empty frame …) and make each guest come to this place during the evening. They may or may not be accompanied by their children, dog, friends or other things. This way you will create photos being worth remembering for sure.
Last but not least: Relax! Pass the camera on to someone else and let yourself be surprised by the results of it. After all, you have come to celebrate as well. ;) So enjoy the party!