Let them eat cake! Tips for photographing your child’s birthday party.

As parents, we can get so caught up in the details of our children’s birthdays, that the day comes and goes without fully experiencing the details and the emotions of the day. I’m not one to throw a perfect Pinterest birthday party. In fact, my parties look more like the Pinterest “Fail” posts you see – the blobs of frosting and cake dough that was supposed to yield pretty pink cake pops with eye balls and little mustaches – that’s me. While pretty party details are not my forte, I do make a point of picking up my camera to document the day we spent celebrating another year gone by; cake pop blobs included.
First and foremost, I like to create one great portrait of my birthday kid. To perfectly capture the year we are in, I consider what details represent my daughter at that milestone. We have the ”lovey” shot, the “she dresses herself now” look, the toothless portrait and, currently, the “too cool to let me mom take my picture….almost” shot. Secondly, I keep my camera at arms reach all day in order to document the before, during and after the birthday celebration. At the end of the day, when the babes are tucked in and I find a moment of quiet, I reflect on the day, revisit the details and marvel at what a difference a year can make in the life of a child. The path of paper, half eaten cake and the zonked out kiddo on the floor are details that, while you may not know it at the time, are lovely to revisit when your child is older and his or her birthday desires have changed. My challenge to our past current and future Photo Campers is to be mindful about documenting the next birthday party in your home. Here are some tips to help you.
Look for the details. The box of birthday candles, to do list and Frozen birthday card are all important details to capture because they come together to tell the stage of life you are in. Constantly scan your environment for details that you find interetesting. Is it the little face covered in ice cream? The mix of beer bottles with sippy cups? Maybe the handful of cake that the toddler took before it was time to sing? What do the details say about your family at this time?
Color. Regardless of the season, birthday parties are rarely void of bright colors. Gravitate toward big, bright, bold colors. Look for wrapping paper that tells a story… Legos? Barbies? Farm animals? There is information in that paper. Colorful cupcakes and pretty light are playful and celebratory, as are streamers and party hats. Have a bright wall in your home? Place the party pipsqueaks on that wall, encourage some funny faces and click away.
Friendships. One thing you can count on changing ever so slightly from year to year are the friends that attend your child’s birthday celebration. In our home the first, second and third birthday parties were a chance for us to have our friends over to celebrate. Once they hit preschool, the girls had friends of their own to add to our party list… Today, the party is for school friends and the list of invitiees is discussed for months in advance. While a couple friends stick around through out life and become bridesmaids and groomsmen, many friends at this stage come and go. Getting pictures of the little people who our little people adore is a wonderful way to remember the different stages of our childrens lives. (Bonus points if you can also document the relationships through laughter, sharing, hand holding, hugs and smiles!)
Candles on the Cake. Every time we teach Photo Camp we ask if there is one burning photography question. One that we hear often is how to best document the happy birthday singing and candle blowing in a difficult lighting situation. You have a couple choices. You can use your flash to bring in additional (fill) light, or you can go with no flash and use your camera setting to get a more dramatic effect. If you are planning to attempt the latter, practice a bit so that you can get your settings right in advance. Remember to use your ISO (higher number for lower light). Take some practice shots if you can. Wait until your child’s face is illuminated by the candles, focus on the face (again, HIGH ISO and also low aperture) and fire away. Better yet, have someone else do it so you can be in the photo with your little one 🙂
The party is over and your memory card is full of goodness, so now what? Stay tuned for our post on how to tell your birthday story… Slideshows, albums, prints, social media, story boards, online galleries … so many options and so little time before the next birthday!

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