Parties come crammed with atmosphere, stories, and fun—all elements that should inspire you to take vibrant photographs. Events are often low-light, crowded affairs, which poses some unique challenges for photography. In an environment as lively and energetic as a party, you’ll find configurations complex enough to make or break your pictures.
Exposure for dimly lit rooms needs to be corrected in one of two ways:
- By creating your own light.
- By setting your camera to respond differently to light.
Shutter speed, ISO, and aperture all have an effect on your camera’s reaction. The larger your aperture and the slower your shutter speed, the more light will flood into the scene. If you don’t have a steady hand, though, it can be difficult to achieve clarity, and while a tripod can be useful, it can be unwieldy when you’re trying to spend more time on the dance floor than behind the lens. Setting your aperture to f/1.8 will let enough light in to attain a warm shot. An external flash is ideal. Setting your shutter speed to 1/30 second will reduce motion blur, but you can always set a longer speed instead to capture the motion blur that evokes ambiance so well.
Guests: An Untapped Resource
Photographs should tell a story, something that can be achieved by shooting the same scenes at varying distances, palettes, and ISOs. Your guests are an untapped resource, here. Every attendee has a unique approach to photography, so scattering disposable cameras across the venue for them to use can deliver spectacular results. Collect each camera at the end of the evening, and you’ll have a treasure trove of pictures to choose from. An array of perspectives achieves a more rounded effect.
Professional photographers tend to create an array of different styles so that the event is covered comprehensively. Posed pictures have their place, but they’re dull if photojournalistic pictures aren’t used to balance them out.
Light trails are wonderful for adding a pop of vibrancy to party pictures. They can be achieved by pointing your flash at your scene and using a long enough shutter speed to capture the resultant blur.
Portraits are exceptionally good at betraying the emotion of an event. It’s the guests who create the atmosphere, after all, and portraiture lets you communicate it. Authenticity is easier to encapsulate by playing the background observer, picking up interesting scenes and subjects when nobody is waiting for a flash to go off. Don’t be afraid of stealing secret images. You can always ask permission to use them later.
Much of the success of your photographs depends on exceptional framing, an aspect that amateur photographers struggle with. The simplest way to fix poor composition is with a cropping tool long after your guests have put down the last glass of bubbly. Exposure and minor image irregularities can also be easily corrected this way, even if you’re the world’s worst Photoshopper. Don’t give up on failed pictures too easily. Those throwaway images can often be put through a filter that brings them back to life. Being an artist is as much about making and correcting mistakes as it is about skill, and often it’s fixed errors that deliver the best pictures.
Parties are evocative enough to stimulate any aspiring photographer, and candid shots deliver the most atmospheric results. If guests are at ease around you and used to your presence, you’ll create more honest photographs. If your guests to forget you’re there, you’ll be able to create a dynamic album to send to your guests as a belated party favor.