I’ll be having some friends over to my house to bring in the New Year with me and I want to make sure I get some fun photographs that I can give them to remember the end of 2018.
With that in mind I decided to repost this article I wrote back in 2013 about photographing parties.
I can hardly believe how fast this year has gone by, wasn’t everyone just complaining about the unforgiving summer heat? Now, here we are bundled up in the -6c cold and snow with snow tires mounted on our cars. Gosh, there is even an advertisement on television about what wine to bring to upcoming New Years Eve parties.
Don’t get me wrong I like this time of year and everything that goes with it, but I am not ready for winter’s snow yet, and neither is all the stuff in my yard that will get covered if I don’t get off my-lazy-whatever and pick them up.
Even though it seems early, the year’s end is here and that means photographic opportunities as we join family, friends, and co-workers at all the festive events.
Photographer friends are going to dive in, digital cameras in hand, happily filling memory cards with candid photos. Picture taking has become so easy and so much fun as photographers rush over to take a picture, look at the LCD, and quickly slide back to show others those tiny images.
Photography for many has become more about the process of picture taking than it is about creating art, or even documenting the party; it seems its more about standing in front of people, taking lots of quick snapshots, than it is about making memorable photographs.
Most images made in this fashion never become more than space-taking files stored on computers or phones that after quickly being looked at, laughed at, or just smiled at, are tucked away with good intentions to be used in some fashion in the future. But after that initial viewing they loose their value because there are too many, and very few are good enough to give to others anyway.
How should readers approach photography at the next party? I do think we should continue to make candid photographs of people having fun, but, perhaps, one might also think about making pictures that tell a story, capture an exciting moment, and importantly, flatter the subjects.
Most people don’t mind seeing a picture of themselves being silly or having fun, but they don’t like pictures that make them look stupid or unattractive.
My approach is to take a moment to look at the room in which I intend to make photographs, make a couple of test shots with longer shutter speeds (my favourite is 1/60th of a second), to include some ambient light when making exposures using a flash mounted on-camera (bounce flash of course) so as not to end up with brightly lit faces surrounded by a black environment.
When taking group shots with two or three people, get them to position themselves so they are squeezed together with a tight composition, and include only a little background or foreground. Don’t shoot fast, steady the camera, and select a shutter speed that includes the ambient light.
Fortunately most modern DSLRs easily allow ISO sensitivity that is 1600, and some go a lot higher.
Shutter speeds of 1/60th of a second, or less, don’t always work for children playing in the snow during the day because moving subjects will be blurry, but, with limited indoor lighting moving subjects will only be exposed properly when the flash goes off.
Lighting everything with complicated studio equipment would be great. However, the occasion would become more about the photography than about the fun and festivities. I use an on-camera flash and make adjustments as I go. I want to join in on the fun, not act like a photojournalist.
Family and friends don’t mind having their pictures taken as long as its enjoyable and I want pictures that show them having a good time. So, along with those quick candids I make posed portraits with smiling faces, and if I select some prints to give away later I want people to like the pictures and honestly thank me.