940815 photographerWhen we’re planning a special occasion there’s a lot to take into account. Much advance preparation is required to make a success. It’s the same when we’re photographing a special event.

From Harvest or Thanksgiving to Christmas or New Year celebrations, birthdays, weddings, graduations and baptisms, there are many special times in a year. We want a camera on hand to record them, yet so often the shots we catch are haphazard.

A word of warning here: If you carry the burden of preparing the event and all that involves, then pass the job of photographer to someone else – and pass these tips over to them too.

If something is special then it doesn’t happen often. If you miss a shot, there won’t be another opportunity. So be ready to get the photographs you want first time.

But where do we start?

Tip 1: Be Focused – Know Your Camera

Check your camera is working in good time to repair or replace it.

Read up on the instruction manual again, and PRACTICE.

For example do you know how to avoid ‘red eye’? What about how to switch off the flash if you don’t need it? Or force a camera to flash in good light? Why would you want to use the flash in good light, anyway? (Answer: To have enough light on your subject, or to balance the light on your subject’s face in strong sunshine, easing shadows.)

Tip 2: Be Ready – With Everything to Hand

Make sure you have plenty of film; check your camera is fully charged. If it’s a digital camera, upload memory cards to your computer and make sure they are empty. Then make sure one is in place ready for use. Know where the spares are when you want them. Carry plenty of extra batteries – especially if you’re camera is a hungry one! Don’t forget to pack any spare lenses you may have and want to use.

Tip 3: Be On the Ball – Know What Photographs You Want

… then get into position to get the shots.

As a soccer player moves into position to receive the ball, controls it, moves with it, then scores the winning goal, be on the lookout constantly to be in the right place for that winning photo. For example get ready to photograph …

The nerves; the friends; the family; the excitement; the grins; the hugs; the tears; the nerves; the hellos; the goodbyes; the details; the excitement; the nerves; the ‘moments’; the pride; the celebrations; the excitement; the nerves!

And of course, the main ‘player’: your graduate/bride/birthday boy, etc.

Make lists if that will help get clear in your mind the photographs you want to take. You will also be less likely to miss the ones you really want if you’ve a list in hand, or that someone helping you can refer to.

Scrapbooking your photographs is the ultimate plan, so look for interest in your photo composition, the one with a good story behind it, or an unusual angle. Think also of the photos that sum up the event.

One other important point from the scrapbooker’s perspective: when using a digital camera use the highest quality setting. This will allow you to zoom into the photo to pick out specific detail when you’re ready to scrap.

Tip 4: Be Warned – Watch Out for the Background

There’s a very fine line between someone leaning against a lamp post and having it grow out of your subject’s head! I know. I have some weird photos!

Take your time and check there are no lamp posts, trees or any other weird things growing in unexpected places before clicking the shutter on the special photographs! Make a habit of always checking the whole frame before clicking the shutter.

It’s also a good idea to avoid backgrounds that are too busy for they will detract from the main subject. Although with PhotoShop nowadays that’s not such a disaster for you can always clone the background to remove unwanted objects.

Tip 5: Be fast – Ready to respond with speed

If your camera can take multiple photos in quick succession then flick the switch!

Why? For the expressions that flit across a face, emotions, exchanges of glances, crazy, zany things that happen so quickly, on the spur of the moment. If you can take multiple shots fast, you’ll be able to capture these fleeting moments as well as to quickly move with the event or to the next one in the blink of an eye – or a shutter!

You may also get one photo from the group without the funny facial expressions that happen when people are talking!

With digital photography you don’t need to worry about the cost of printing all the photographs you take, so you can use the multi-shot facility without guilt to get those unexpected shots and print only the best ones.

Buy extra memory for your camera if you have to, but don’t miss that shot!

One final tip …

Have more than one photographer and you’re less likely to miss the unexpected gems.

One more tip: place disposable, one-time-only cameras around the room for different perspectives from different people. However, do make sure you don’t leave them too near that madly-in-love adolescent, or you will only get the object of his devotion and nothing else – as when our youngest son used a whole film on his girlfriend when he should have been photographing his brother’s 21st birthday party! Lol!

Remember, you may get some additional gems from other guests for many people will upload their photographs to Flickr, Picasa and other such services to share them. Don’t forget to ask your guests to let you know which service they will use.

If you have only just found this article and your special event is over, you can still take advantage of some of these tips as you plan your album layouts. Look for photographs that meet some of the suggested criteria in tip 3 for example, and have a laugh at those that come under tip 4! Then swot up on them for your next special event.

For further reading:

Photographing Children’s Birthday Parties

Great Birthday Party Tips

Perfect Photographs for Photo Essays – Video Tutorial

Plan your photographs for your special event carefully, then take them with confidence, and you’ll get excellent results that will make great memories and great scrapbook albums.