How to Get Photos of Family Events Without Missing The Party

As a busy mom watching her kids grow up waaaaay too fast, you probably do everything in your power to photograph your little ones. We take photos to try and bottle up their smallness. We hope to remember the moments of their lives as they go whizzing by.

But if you’re anything like me, sometimes it’s challenging to strike a balance between being ‘in the moment’ with them, and  behind the lens of a camera too. In this article I’ll show you how you can capture some beautiful memories, while still being present to make those memories with your family.

When I work with moms in my photography classes, I’m often asked for advice on how to best capture the big moments like birthday parties, holidays, and family events. I like to jokingly reply, “Hire a professional”.  Yes this is an ideal solution so that you don’t miss out on any of the action during these special days! However, hiring a professional photographer is an investment us frugal mamas just don’t have the resources for every time a life event comes along.

Fortunately, I have a couple tricks up my sleeve that make it much easier to balance my time behind the lens.

5 Tips for Taking Great Photos of Birthdays or Celebrations Without Missing The Party

Note – this tips list was written prior to the pandemic. These tips still work for the smaller family gatherings we’re having at this time.

1. Make a shot list – Visualize what you want your photos to look like before the day even happens and write your thoughts down!  For events like birthday parties, I like to tell the story of the day, and capture every last detail. Ideas for a birthday might include:

    • the party favors,
    • the cake,
    • my daughter all dressed up,
    • her hugging and loving on family.

Any photo I can dream up, it goes on the list. I don’t typically carry my list around with me during the event, but the process of writing it down leaves photo ideas fresh in my mind.

2. Don’t forget to pre-party – This is a great time to stage a few photos.

  •  I always like to ‘stage’ a few photos and get them out of the way before the event even begins! For example, I like to get solo shots of my birthday girl in her party dress BEFORE guests arrive. After the party starts there’s the risk of her spilling her grape juice or dropping cake on her party clothes. Anything I can do to get staged pictures early on is key. I also like to get my detail shots prior to the party when everything is still neat and untouched. Plus, getting these shots ahead of time frees up more time for me to interact with the party guests once the fun begins. It also allows my kid to enjoy herself instead of pulling her away from the action to pose.

3) Look for light

  •  The key to making your camera work best and capture clear photos is having lots of light available. Depending on your location, you may not have the option to let light in. If light is lacking, using flash may be inevitable. But when we do a party at home, I try to set up in a location in our house that I know allows decent natural light to come streaming in.

4) Use continuous shooting mode

  •  Most cameras have the option to take one shot, or a series of shots each time the shutter-button is pushed. That series option is called Continuous Shooting Mode. It has saved me countless hours behind the lens of my camera! By taking multiple shots at a time, I do end up with A LOT more photos on my memory card, but typically the time it takes to get the ‘1 in a million’ photo of my child smiling at the camera comes a lot quicker than if I was taking one shot at a time. And once I get that shot, I can put the camera away for awhile and get back to partying!

5) Have a ‘second shooter’ on hand

  •  Last and more importantly, ask for help! If hiring a professional is out of your budget, find a trusted friend or family member who you can pass the camera to throughout the day. I’m sure they’d be more than willing to help you capture your event so you’re able to enjoy the day with your family instead of watching it all unfold through your viewfinder. And if you’ve made a shot list it’ll be easy to ask for help getting those.