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Having photos is a great way to capture all the memories and fun for years to come. Kids grow up so quickly, and having photos to capture those special moments is priceless!

But there’s nothing worse than bad photos. Although the days of truly bad photos (blurry photos, the photographer’s fingers over the lens, heads chopped off) have been pretty much eliminated with digital cameras, there’s still a risk of having boring photos.

Birthday parties can be particularly challenging.

There’s usually lots of action, a lot of emotion (including highs and lows) and a lot of colour. And often a couple of attention seekers who try to photo-bomb every shot!

Here are some tips for taking great photos:

Choose an ‘official’ photographer

Let Dad, Aunty or a neighbour be the photographer for the day. Relieve them of other duties so they can focus just on capturing memories. Because there’s so much going on at a party, it’s easy to have the camera out but nobody taking photos.

And of course, you can also hire a professional photographer if you want to ensure someone will be committed to taking photos (and good photos at that!)

Mix up posed shots and natural shots

Take pictures of people posing for the camera, either individually or in groups. Balance it out with taking action shots when nobody is looking.

There’s something lovely about seeing the natural expressions on faces (as opposed to forced, exaggerated grins or silly faces that happen when the photographer yells out ‘cheeeese’).

Mix up the angles

There’s nothing more boring than flicking through photos all taken from the same angle: at a children’s party, it will be typically an adult looking down at children.

Mix it up! Sit on a chair or crouch down so that you can take photos at the children’s eye level – this is the most crucial. You can also take photos from a very high angle (eg stand on a chair or halfway up the staircase).

Take both close-ups and distance shots

Use the zoom on your camera to take close-ups, medium and distance shots. Take multiple photos of the same subject matter (eg take a close-up of the cake, a medium shot of the birthday kid and cake, and then a distance shot of everyone surrounding the birthday child).

Use the zoom to take close-ups of emotions. When the child is opening presents, zoom in and capture the reaction on the face (rather than do a typical medium shot of the face and present).

Take photos of the party context

Take behind-the-scenes shots to set the scene of the party. Take before and after photos of the party room to see how it transforms from loungeroom to party room!

Take close-ups of lighting the candles. Take photos of the children dancing. Take photos of the food preparation in the kitchen. Take photos of the siblings, friends and adults. Not every single photo needs to be of the birthday child!

As an example of what doesn’t work (ie no party context), I once saw a photo of a birthday girl with her cake at the table. That was all there was in the photo – just her and the cake – in a big empty, undecorated room. I know there were other people there, but for whatever reason, they were all out of the photo. It made it look like a very lonely birthday party!

Make sure there’s context to all your photos – integrate the action and colour and most importantly the people.

Change focus

Instead of focusing in on the person, change the focus to the cake or something else, allowing the person to be blurry. It gives it more interest than an in-focus photo.

For extra good effect, get out your camera manual and learn how to adjust the shutter speed so you can take photos in the dark.