Celebration photography

This article will show you how to take inspirational party images.

What you’ll need

Camera – DSLR or compact.
Manual controls are useful however not fully necessary.
Light source. Whether you are using flash, natural light or dealing with sunlight learn some simple techniques.
Tripod. For lowlight light photography and light trails a tripod is an essential item.

Skills you’ll learn

Portrait tips for formal and informal celebrations and learning how to deal with the pressure
Long shutter speeds using some form of light source.
General photography portrait and lighting tips
Celebrating special moments in life for many of us becomes the perfect opportunity to get out the camera and take those all-important images, which will remain on the mantelpiece for years to come.

Weddings, birthdays, graduations and parties are just a few occasions to list where the camera is sure to make an appearance. Unfortunately while many of us have good intentions of taking some great images sometimes it can be extremely difficult to be in the right place at the right time, or know what settings to place the camera on.

If this sounds like a familiar predicament you often find yourself in, fear not as this is where DCE comes to the rescue.

Celebration photography

By following this simple celebrations photography guide whether it be photographing a formal occasion or just wanting to capture some natural looking portraits at a birthday party, this informative tutorial takes you though a through step by step guide so you can capture the best celebratory images of friends and family.

Learn to capture the moment, people and surrounding objects and atmosphere of any celebratory moment and remember those special moments for a lifetime.

Formal celebrations: For those once in a lifetime moments make sure you are fully prepared

Weddings, graduations, and some formal occasions are all key lifetime moments to remember so it is very important to be prepared with your camera and accessories.

While a good position and taking lots of images is essential to achieving great results it is not worth ruining some bodies day to get it. Giving good direction to your subject matter is important however try not to bark orders, as your attitude will be reflected in your image. A relaxed, organised and friendly photographer always produces the best results.

Group images can be hard to organise so unless you are the photographer in charge needing to get all the shots stick to photographing small groups of 3-4 people.

Finally a good word of advice – standing in the way of the wedding photographer will not be appreciated. They are there to do a job that the bride and groom have hired them to do so it is best to hold back even if it means missing the shot. Try to bring your own style to your images and a zoom lens can come in handy so you can get up close natural looking portraits without getting in the way.

Top tip: Make sure you fully charge the battery and take plenty of spare memory cards. For special events it is better to be over prepared and take too much rather then be sorry.

Diffuse the flash

Flash photography can be a hit or miss depending on the technique used. Generally with compact cameras only employ the flash as a last resort as it can bleach the subject matter. With a DSLR more control can be established and bouncing the flash or diffusing it in some manner (this can be simply with a piece of material over the end) will produce more flattering and natural results.

Direct flash

A direct flash can bleach information out. If there is no other way to diffuse the flash or bounce it, adjust the exposure of the flashgun or the camera by a couple of stops to ensure you are directing less light. Shooting in RAW format can help and as long as the flash does not completely bleach out the subject matter the information in the image can be pulled back.

Background and exposure

Due to the nature of celebratory images often it can be difficult to place your subject in the appropriate settings. Taking the shot from a low perspective and using the sky, as the background can look effective however remember to check the direction of the light source and the exposure for the background will be different from your subject.

Extra detail shot

Detail shots of surrounding scenery and object helps encapsulate the atmosphere. These types of images are particularly effective if you are producing a photo album after the event and want some fill in shots. Photo albums are a great gift for any special formal occasion and spending time after the event thinking about presentation and images that correspond with each other is important.

Party time! Let your hair down and capture the moment

The informal spontaneous celebration is the perfect setting for capturing inspiring snapshot moments of people having fun. The trick with informal celebration photography is to make people look like they are caught in the moment and often it is best to capture them when they are unaware of the camera, as they will appear more natural.

This can be tricky to do subtly if you have a big camera and if you do not know the people it is best to ask permission before you take their portrait. Remember people can feel awkward having their portrait taken even if you are at a celebratory party.

wedding photo

There are other photographic techniques apart from portraiture photography that represents celebration photography. Using celebration as a subject theme effects such as light trail photography can be made. With this type of photography it is important to be experimental and use a variety of colours and light sources. See below our easy to follow four-step guide so you too can capture fun images such as this.

Four steps to creating light trail images

Step 1

Find a dark space and set up a tripod. A tripod is an essential accessory for this type of photography, as the camera needs to be kept still in one place. A dark setting is key so the camera can be kept open and the lights drawn across the image. An urban location can work well for light trail photography.

Step 2

Find a light source. A torch can be sufficient however in this case DCE has gone one-step further and is using some rave glow sticks. Using a variety of colours can look really effective. Another fun and effective light source to use is sparklers.

Step 3

Set the shutter speed on the camera. Using the camera on shutter priority is easiest and using any speeds from a minimum of 1 second up to 10 seconds will provide the most effective results.

Step 4

Experiment with long and short shutter speeds and patterns with the light source. If you have a shorter shutter speed fast movements will work better however for long shutter speeds slow large movements can look really effective.

Top tip: Placing model/s out of the sun’s rays and into the shade means you can achieve an even exposure plus eyes will not be squinting from looking forwards the sun. Try to find a large spot with lots of shade so the background has a similar exposure.

Face detection

Face detection is a feature used in many cameras to supposedly produce a more focused and flattering portrait shot.

A face detection works by sending out a beam of light determining the focus range, ISO and exposure of the subject matter. It takes into account the structure of eyes, the structure of nose, distance of eyes to nose, face size and the colour temperature of the skin tone. This clever technology is not always 100% accurate however as expertise in this field advances face detection is becoming a must have feature for most people looking to purchase a camera.

Portrait tips: How to capture the moment

People having fun make excellent matter however they can be tricky to capture at the right moment and often people can be camera shy or their facial expressions change as soon as they know the camera is on them. To help with this there are different techniques you can try.

Firstly if your subject is aware that the camera is on them try talking to the person/people as you take the image. Secondly try to take a few shots of the same subject matter so you have more to edit from and remember to have fun, as this will be reflected in their faces.

A different angle

Portrait shots from above can be more flattering as you avoid double chins plus it is easier to block out a busy background meaning the shots focus directly on the subject matter in hand. Try taking the images quickly as people can feel pressured if the camera is on them for a long time.

Group shots

Group shots

Getting everyone in a group to look at you or smile at the same time can be tricky and there’s always the possibility that someone in the group will have their eyes shut. Getting people to do something fun like jumping at the same time can look really effective. Set the camera on the continuous shot mode so you have a few images to edit from.

Watch the light

The sun can be helpful or a hindrance when it comes to using it as a light source depending on what you do with it. Lens flare can cause problems when shooting into the sun.

The big day

Weddings are a cause for a massive celebration and full of moments you never want to forget. Follow these top photography tips and capture someone’s special day

Top tip: Take a higher perspective. Images taken from above are generally more flattering. Using a stepladder or improvising with what is around can help.

The rings

A classic image and one that is symbolic of the special day and unity of two people is the ring shot. This image is easy to capture, as you don’t need to think about the background so the shot can be taken anywhere. Using a natural even light source will produce best results.

Group shots

Group shots can be a nightmare to organise however there a few pointers to follow that can make it easier. Using chairs and props can come in handy, as it is easier to organise people around them. Place older people and the most important people first on the chairs then you can position everyone else around them.

Exposure and the wedding dress

In sunlight white can be one of the hardest shades to photograph and unfortunately the brides dress 99% of the time is going to be white. Try standing the couple in a shaded and in an evenly lit spot for posed shots.

Black and white

Black and white photography is romantic, classic and above all flattering that will be popular with the bride and groom and wedding guests. Remember the brides dress will become a block of white so make sure there is some object or body part to break up the dress. Close up portraits work particularly well in this medium.

Capture the atmosphere

Think outside the box and don’t just go for the obvious front on shots. Try adapting to a reportage style to your wedding photography and look for props and objects as well as people that can be photographed. Atmosphere and detail shots are important to capture and can be taken in between the big events taking place that day.

Pro tips: David Morgan

David is the Director and Trainer at The Trained Eye and also a full time professional photographer.

At The Trained Eye our aim is to help you make huge strides forward in all aspects of your photography. Whether you’re an amateur starting out in the field, or an experienced photographer, we can help you advance in many ways.

Understanding light and improving shooting skills, developing a strong portfolio and learning all the secrets of the digital darkroom, are just some of the skills we teach on our courses. With a strong reputation in the wedding and portrait market, our trainers also pass on sales and marketing skills to help you succeed in a competitive marketplace.

Group Shots

Group shots can be the most challenging part of the day for the professional wedding photographer so I always aim to make this part of the day as pain free as possible. The secret to this is in the planning. Ask for a list of the groups the couple would photograph in advance and find one or two confident helpers from the wedding party to help you organise things. Try to start with a large shot of the whole party then deal with the smaller group shots.

Bridal Shots

Some of my favourite and most creative shots are of the bride after the ceremony. I usually take the bride and groom off together for half an hour to get some signature shots of them as individuals and also together. The ability to be creative here becomes easier if there has been enough basic planning done before the wedding. Ensure the couple are able to give you sufficient time for this shoot and explore the venue for the best places to take these key shots.

Post Production

The postproduction workflow is very important. Being as productive as possible and making the very best use of time is key to ensuring that all our clients are happy. Lightroom takes care of the digital workflow and Photoshop takes care of some of the more creative things I do to images. Try to have a consistent and simple directory structure, shoot in RAW and remember to back up your files.