Birthday Party Photo Tips

For your child's first birthday and every birthday after, capture the best moments in photos. These happy birthday photo tips will help you document your child's birthday by creating beautiful birthday pictures and stories to treasure forever.


Look for Candid Moments

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A child's birthday party is filled with memories: The excitement of opening gifts, the silliness of blowing out candles, the joy of sharing the day with friends, and all the birthday fun in between. Be ready to capture those candid moments by honing your photo skills.

Rather than focusing on technical skills, open your creative eye to the unexpected moments. These tips will help you create happy birthday pictures with stories to enjoy forever.

  • Make a photo plan. It's easy to miss the perfect shot because you're caught up in the birthday party excitement. Before the party, make a list of specific moments you want to capture, and keep the list handy so you can refer to it often. Or, consider turning over your list to a designated photographer.
  • Notice relationships. It's important to focus on the birthday boy or girl, but they are surrounded by friends and family at a party. Watch for moments of interaction with partygoers. The most memorable picture could be a quiet moment between Mom and daughter reading a birthday card. Or the energetic joy of the birthday boy and his best friend trying out a new game. Look for shared experiences and close relationships. Get close and focus on the interaction between the photo subjects.
  • Catch the emotion. Certain birthday party moments are filled with emotions. When gifts are opened, expect surprised reactions and be ready to snap candid shots. When the birthday cake arrives with lighted candles, watch for the joy. During party games, capture the intensity or silliness of the competition.
  • Get close. Don't be afraid to get up close and personal to clearly capture the mix of expressions.
  • Expect the action. You planned the party, so you know what's coming next. Have the camera ready as the cake is brought out, when party games start, before presents are opened, and in anticipation of the activities. Be ready for the action to start. When the moments you can't plan occur, you'll have the camera already pointed in the right direction.
  • Go with the flow. Rather than forcing your birthday child to smile for the camera, observe her actions and expressions and be ready to respond. You may not get the smiling-into-the-camera shot, but you may get an unexpected, priceless memory, such as your child watching the activities or being engrossed in eating cake.
  • Capture the atmosphere. Tell the story of the birthday party by snapping overall shots that set the stage. Watch for vignettes that depict the atmosphere. For example, snap a closeup of a drippy ice cream cone in your child's hand, a single party favor, discarded wrapping paper, a birthday card, or a colorful banner.
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Editor's Tip: Framing your subject within an image gives it emphasis and can add to your story. Look for naturally occurring frames, such as windows, doorways, tree branches, and intersecting lines, in which to position your subject for the most impact.

Create a Party Photo Essay

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Birthday parties celebrate milestones. A photo essay can help you document the story of the birthday party more effectively. For instance, a photo of your daughter blowing out birthday candles may simply reveal that it was her third birthday. But a series of shots showing her opening a great gift and smearing cake all over her pretty dress shows how much she enjoyed her third birthday.

Create a photo story that opens the book to the birthday tales you'll want to retell for years. Use these ideas to capture your child's birthday story in photos.

  • Think "story." Know what photos you'll need to tell the complete birthday story. Observe the party and think about what you want the pictures to say. What shots will you need to tell that tale?
  • Establish context. Collect images that set the scene and provide the context for the event: a picture of the setting, the participants, a pile of presents, or your grandmother icing the birthday cake.
  • Go for the details. Look for the little details that convey the spirit of the occasion: a single flower, a beautifully wrapped gift, or a piece of cake.
  • Watch for the emotional moment. Facial expressions can tell more of a story than any decoration, gift, or cake. Focus on the emotions of the party.
  • Take more than you need. Shoot lots of pictures. The nice thing about digital photography is the simplicity of editing the bad shots. You never know what gem you will capture.
  • Organize your story. Approach your photo essay chronologically, identifying the beginning, middle, and end. For instance, shoot the party preparations as well as the birthday girl sound asleep with a crown in the aftermath.
  • Edit. Start with lots of photos, but tell your story with only the best. A few well-selected images can depict the excitement, happiness, and pleasures of the day, plus all the emotional highs and lows. Look for moments captured in pictures that jump-start conversations about the day.

Long after the party is over, your photos will hold all the memories of the day. Tell your child's birthday party stories with pictures that you'll love to share year after year.

Make picture-worthy birthday favors.

Get our birthday party preparation timeline.

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