15 Mistakes You Should Avoid When Photographing A Children’s Birthday (So You Don’t Lose Your Smile)

You will be able to escape from many photographic situations, but a children’s birthday will fall sooner or later. From your little one, your nephews or the creatures of your friends or close or distant relatives, it will surely arrive. The other day was my daughter’s and I was clear that I didn’t want to be behind the camera. I wanted to enjoy her, the party and the friends and family who accompanied us. Result, then few and less decent photos. That’s why I thought I’d better write this article so that when my next birthday arrives, I can subtly pass it on to a guest a few days before and have them study it well 😉

Now seriously, it is a very special situation that requires special measures. That’s why today I bring you some very typical mistakes what you should avoid so that you can face her without losing your smile, neither during the party nor after, and that the little person whose birthday is left with a beautiful memory for life, one of those that memory is not capable of destroying. These are:

  1. don’t study the light
  2. Forget white balance
  3. Do not learn from mistakes from one time to another
  4. speeds too slow
  5. Do not photograph the details
  6. Don’t change angle
  7. Not taking care of the funds
  8. Openings too big for groups
  9. Not anticipating the unique moments
  10. Improvise the moment cake and candles
  11. That there are almost more photographers than guests at the birthday
  12. Not preparing the team well
  13. not planning
  14. Forget the color…
  15. …and emotions

Before seeing them one by one, I want you to take a look at this mega guide that we have prepared for you about children’s photography, with all the tips and tricks, as well as a lot of inspiration.

1. Not studying the light

Although the statement scares you, it is something very simple. It is about not improvising, but about knowing in advance, even a little before the birthday begins, what light you have. If it is a closed place, if it is outdoors, if you have natural light, if you need to take your external flash, etc. Arrive before the guests and do some testing, because showing up and shooting can lead to failure and lose some of the best shots.

2. Forget white balance

This happened to me when my little one was a year old. All the photos of the birthday had a strong yellow tint. When I saw them on the computer I almost burst into tears. I remembered the awning on the terrace where we celebrated and mentally released all the expletives I knew. It’s what it has when you focus on the birthday and not the camera and let others take the photos (which brings me to my next point).

If you set it to auto, at least make sure the photos come out decently, and if not, shoot RAW and forget about it. Although the effort is greater, the disappointment will be less.

Be careful with white balance

3. Not learning from mistakes from one time to another

I had to put it 😉 This is the most recurrent, the human being is the only animal that stumbles twice (and three and four…) on the same stone, that is clear to us. But are we going to take it happily? Surely on other occasions you have made certain mistakes that you have been aware of, try to remember them so as not to make them again, whether they are about ISO, white balance or speeds that are too slow. Any little learning will be a big step if you keep it in mind and don’t ignore it.

4. Speeds too slow

It’s a children’s birthday. There are children everywhere who move without stopping. The light may be low and if you use aperture priority mode for example, the shutter speed will probably be too slow and the photos will be blurred. Use speed priority mode or manual mode. This ensures that you have the focus you want at the speed you need.

The normal thing is to use a speed above the focal length, for example, if they are 50mm, shoot at least 1/60, but if there are children, as in this case, make sure a speed of at least 1/125.

5. Do not photograph the details

In the preparation of a party a lot of care is always put. There are many preparations, details, time spent making sure everything is beautiful and creating a pleasant atmosphere. Not photographing these details is missing an important part of the party, it is ignoring the affection that the hosts have given it. Whether or not you organized it, give them the attention they deserve.

It’s best to spend some time before the party starts, when everything is still in place and it doesn’t look like a hurricane has passed 😉 Then you’ll have time to photograph the effects of the fun, but first, capture the details in their splendor. A wide opening will help, and whether it’s the sweets or the food, here are some tips to help.

Don’t miss the details

6. Do not change angle

Do you know the wonderful moments, gestures, scenes and snapshots that you can miss if you don’t move from your spot? If you shoot all the time from your height, only what your eyes see from that position, I assure you that the report will be much flatter and more boring.

If you want to create a different effect, if you want to capture what no one (or almost no one) has seen, crouch down, climb somewhere you can shoot from, look from different points of view and you will find little treasures that will become great memories.

Don’t forget to look from other angles

7. Not taking care of funds

When you focus so much on the protagonists, it’s easy to forget what’s behind them. The bad thing is that your camera does not forget, it captures everything. And then you realize that behind the child blowing out the candles is the grandfather with the toothpick in his mouth (for example). You can also find later in the photo a lot of bottles that you cannot take your eyes off of, they are so distracting that you are not able to focus your attention on the main character.

Remove everything that bothers you in front, and if the background is too chaotic or distracting due to its colors or patterns or whatever, change the angle if possible or open the diaphragm to the maximum to blur it.

8. Openings too big for groups

It’s also easy to go from a portrait of a child to a group photo without realizing that the aperture is too wide for everyone to be in focus. When you are going to photograph several people at the same time, remember that you have to put an intermediate depth of field or make sure, at least, that they are in the same plane (something difficult if it is a very large group).

Be careful, it increases the depth of field without sacrificing the shooting speed, which I have already mentioned before that if it is very slow the photo will come out blurred. It is time to raise the ISO value and/or use the external flash (with diffuser or bounced).

9. Not anticipating unique moments

Perhaps the gift moment is the one that I, personally, am least passionate about for different reasons, but it is a small creature that surely more than one gift will give you a huge illusion. Missing her face can be a sin. Try to find out if any of the gifts is something that he is looking forward to or something that will really surprise him and before he does, position yourself in a strategic place with everything ready to capture his expression. A burst shot will help you capture the most expressive gesture.

Like the opening of gifts, it can be the arrival of an unexpected guest with whom you will be infinitely happy, or any other surprise that has been prepared for you.

10. Improvise the moment cake and candles

This point almost deserves a separate section due to its complexity and diversity. It is not the same to photograph with the lights off than on, or outdoors than indoors. Here it is important that you inform yourself (if you are not the hostess or the host) of what this moment will be like to prepare yourself. If it is outdoors, it is easier for you, but if you are indoors and they decide to turn off the lights to take out the cake, you better follow these tips or all the photos may be unsuccessful:

  • Eliminate other light sources (curtains, secondary light bulbs…)
  • Using spot metering and metering on the face
  • Use a wide aperture
  • Shoot at a fast speed
    • Don’t use flash
    • Raise the ISO value if necessary

If there are more people (who know what they are doing) capturing photos of the birthday, you can allow yourself to change your perspective and achieve different photos, like the following one, if this is not the case, I recommend that you choose a strategic place (without disturbing) to be able to capture the unique moment of blowing out the candles.

Moment candles, a special attention

11. That there are almost more photographers than guests at the birthday

And speaking of candles at the moment… It is very tempting to take out your cell phone and start shooting, so it is likely that many of the guests will reach for their smartphone. You can’t imagine how sad it is to look straight ahead and everyone in front of you is with their cell phone focused on you and you don’t see a single face.

That happened the other day (my little one blew out the candles twice, the day of the birthday and the day of the party). Well, the day of the birthday coincided with a meal with relatives that we rarely see, so they took the opportunity to blow out the candles and they couldn’t resist taking photos, but the image made me very sad and I thought I didn’t want my daughter to have that image in front of her. scene, so I asked them to put away their phones, I preferred that there were no photos of the moment than that the memory that was etched in her mind was of five or six people taking photos of her instead of singing happy birthday to her. Be careful, they are children and our actions are her example.

12. Not preparing the team well

This is so basic that sometimes it is forgotten. A few days ago I was invited to another birthday. I wasn’t going to take pictures, but it turned out that I had my camera in my bag (like many other times) and I couldn’t resist. Do you know how difficult it is to cover a lens with a fixed focal length of 50 mm (approximately 70 mm because my camera is not Full Frame)? Well, I got very nice portraits but few global photos. The space was tight and I couldn’t move back just to capture more of the scene.

I have put this example, but it serves to check objectives (better a versatile lens or several objectives), charged battery and if you have a spare, the external flash (if it is a closed place) or the empty memory card. The thing with the card also happened to me, it came from another place where I shot at will and I stayed with it trembling…

13. Not planning

In addition to preparing the equipment, not knowing what you are going to photograph can be a big mistake because many moments will escape you. Better make a list (mental or written) of what you want to photograph to narrate the birthday. The ideal is that they do not look like a bunch of isolated photos, but that you manage to tell an outsider how the party was without having been through your images. Here is an example, you can modify it to your liking:

  • Decoration and details
  • Arrival of the guests
  • gift opening
  • Games
  • pinata
  • Cake
  • Dance
  • Spontaneous gestures and emotional moments
  • End of the party (side effects 😉 )

14. Forget the color…

It’s a…