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12 Photography Tips for Better Party Photos

It’s the season of the year when parties abound. With Christmas and New year fast approaching it is time for us to prepare ourselves and sharpen our photographic skills to get better and more interesting photographs from upcoming parties.

tips for photographing parties
Photo by: Malloreigh

1. Arrive Early

dslr photography tips for beginners
Photo by: alessandro silipo

Arrive at the party scene well ahead of time and you shall have time enough to familiarize yourselves with the location, take some shots of last minute preparations, and capture detail shots of food, presents, and decoration. You can also capture shots of people arriving at the scene, greeting each other etc.

2. The Group Photo Challenge

A Group photo of all the attendees is perhaps the most important party picture. So get it done with as soon as everyone has arrived at the scene. This is the time when everyone is fresh and looks their best; one the party gets in full swing it is difficult to gather everyone around. 

3. Know the schedule of events

dslr photography tips and tricks
Photo by: Toni Blay

Go through the schedule of events and memorize important occasions so you will know what is coming up next and can be ready to capture the perfect shot. This also helps minimize the chances of you missing out on some important shots.

4. Let your Pictures Tell a Story

photography tips for dslr beginner
Photo by: Evan Murdock

Your pictures should tell a story to the viewers and that too in an interesting manner. A good approach is to capture the entire scene with some wide angle shots and then move in closer for portraits and detail shots. Wide shots help bring things in perspective while detail shots capture the highlights of the party.

5. Take some Party Portraits 

party portrait photography tips
Photo by: Garrett Coyte

Yes parties are a good time to make some cool portraits. Take portraits of people whom you find interesting at parties. If possible pull them aside for a quick portrait session with the party setting as the background and you could easily create some instant hits.

If it sounded very easy then you are wrong, making great pictures in a party setting is easy but to get people agree for portraits during parties demand a little more tactic and mastery over social skills, especially so if you are trying to photograph someone you do not know personally.

6. Try Bringing Some Party Props

Bring some fun props with you; just make sure they relate to the theme of the party. Some cool examples for props are funky glasses, hats, fake mustache and so on..  People will love to try them on and have their picture taken with it.

7. Be Ready for Candid Shots at all times

party photography
Photo by: Malloreigh

The presence of a camera (especially so if it’s a DSLR) alone could change how people behave, they become self conscious and suddenly everything turns artificial. The trick is to give people some time to get accustomed to the presence of you and your camera; when you enter a party scene, do not immediately start clicking but simply hang around as if you are simply having a good time. After a while they will stop noticing you and start being themselves and that’s when you can capture some candid moments that tells the true story.

8. Look for Action Shots

dslr indoor photography tips
Photo by: katie weilbacher

Be on the lookout for action shots, people toasting, dancing, hugging, food being served and so on. Always be ready for those spontaneous expressions.

9. Listen to the Music

how to photograph the christmas party
Photo by: Leorex

If there is music playing or if there is a DJ at work listen to it. Music sets the mood of the party, it’s the rhythm to which people sing and dance they get excited when the music gets faster and mellows out when the music slows down. Be alert for moments in a song that could get people excited, also watch closely some interesting candidates who respond to it; and be ready, you could capture so much energy during that split second.

10. Try different perspectives

party photography tips dslr
Photo by: Dustin Diaz

Shoot from a different perspective to make things more interesting. Try shooting from a very low angle (you might have to kneel, sit or even lay down) and also from a very high angle, climb a chair a table, use a step ladder or the stairs.

11. Camera Settings

party photography tips flash
Photo by: Shandi-lee Cox

  • It is best to shoot in aperture priority mode, with a high ISO setting (use as high an ISO as possible with your cam without the image quality being degraded by noise) so if your camera produces acceptable results till ISO 800 then you better set ISO to 800. 
  • A fast general purpose lens from a reasonable wide angle to medium tele photo is ideal e.g. 24 – 70 f/2.8.  for full frame cameras and 18 -55 for crop sensor cameras.
  • Image stabilization could be a life saver during parties so if your camera/lens has image stabilization feature make sure it is turned on.
  • A flash unit is an absolute must, but restrain from using it on camera straight at the subject. Either use it bounced off walls or ceilings or use if off camera. Remember flash should only be used as a fill light source during parties; else it will completely spoil the mood of the scene so set adequate flash exposure compensation. It is also a good idea to gel the flash to match the color of the ambient lighting. For eg. If the ambient light is predominantly yellow or red then gel the flash yellow.
  • Shoot RAW, it will give you much more flexibility when post processing both with exposures and white balance.
  • Another important function is auto focus, if your flash has a focus assist beam make sure it is enabled. Also set your camera to single point focus and use only the center focus point. You can use focus lock to recompose your frame as needed.

12. Shoot a Time Lapse Sequence

Parties are great occasions to capture amazing time lapse sequences. All you need to do is mount your camera with a wide angle lens, attach an intervelometer, dial in the settings, set everything up on a solid tripod, place the setup in a location with nice view of the main party area and where chances are less of people accidentally knocking it off. Once the party is over you could process the shots and get yourselves a perfect time lapse sequence.
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