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It’s that time of year again. Time to get together with friends and family and celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, the New Year and so much more.  Holiday parties, ahh, what fun.  At a holiday party you can count on a few things:

1) There will be a lot of food – some you should eat, other you probably … well that’s a whole other tip:)

2) There will be a lot of people with cameras in hand – some taking great photos they should share on facebook, some who probably … let’s just get to the tip.

This article will hopefully help you take some great photos with your DSLR camera at that party.  Let’s take a second to imagine what life could be after absorbing the tips and knowledge from this article you are about to read.

You arrive at the party, looking incredible of course.  You exchange pleasantries then begin snapping away with confidence.  A group hug of friends reunited.  Snap!  People laughing to your left.  Snap!  Someone just spilled a glass of wine.  Snap!  You caught that.  Who can get a picture of the whole group?  Snap!  I can handle that.  And after the blurry and out of focus snapshots of the party are plastered all over facebook, you upload your photos, sit back and watch the comments roll in.  All everyone can say is, “Your pictures are amazing!”, “I am so glad you were there!”  ”When did you become such a good photographer?”  You lean back in your chair and smile as you remember the day you stumbled upon a tip by framedbyfletcher photography about how to take better party pictures that would change the way you took party pictures forever.

I’m going to talk about two main things; lighting and composition.

Let’s talk about lighting for a minute.  If you are thinking about getting more serious about your photography (or you just want your photos to look better) you’ll  need to get a flash other than the one that pops up out of your camera.  It’s tiny, harsh and immovable.  If you are a contrarian and refuse to do this, you should look into some of the accessories that disperse the light from your pop up flash a bit: I’ve never used any of these products but they have to be better than just blasting your subject directly with the pop-up flash.  Ok, back to lighting. The problem with leaving your camera in one of the automatic modes is that your party pictures are going to look like they were taken in a black hole with your subject super bright and shiny, and the background a black abyss.  You can take care of this, but you are going to have to take some control over your camera.  At a minimum, you should have your camera in Aperture Priority (AV on Canon, A on Nikon) so that you can control your aperture and ISO.  Set your aperture somewhere near the  largest/lowest that your lens will allow, and set your ISO to 1600 or so.  By enlarging your aperture and raising your ISO, you will allow more of the ambient light in the room to show up in your photo instead of just the light from the flash that is illuminating your subject.    If you are going to be using the pop-up flash on your camera, I would try and stay away from taking photos in the “portrait” orientation. You know, when you turn the camera long ways.  The flash is going to cast a big, harsh shadow on the wall behind your subject even if the wall is really far away.  By keeping your camera horizontal you at least have a shot of hiding some of the shadow behind your subject.  If you have a flash other than the pop-up flash, consider rotating the flash head toward a wall next to or behind you to bounce the light off of.  This will make the light softer and just generally more pleasing.

Ok, let’s talk composition.  This is more a matter of personal preference, but I think putting a little extra thought into your photos before you press the shutter can really improve the finished product.   The first thing I always consider when I set up a photo is “what is going to be in the background?”  I try to avoid ugly or distracting backgrounds.   I will either change my position, change the angle I’m shooting at or try to move the subject further from or away from the background if I’m unhappy with what I see.  Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about a bad background and you have to rely on your camera to adequately blur the background by shooting at a large aperture.  So now that you’re paying attention to your background let’s think about context.  What can you include in a photo of someone or a situation to make it more interesting?  One my friends who is an  OUTSTANDING photographer in his own right , Evan Baines talks about thinking “noun/adjective” while he is shooting weddings.  You identify the subject of your photo (the noun) and then you use context to add a descriptive adjective to your subject to add context and feeling.  A photo of a child opening a gift is great, but what if the parent’s anticipation and joy was captured in the same frame?

Finally, be selective when going through your images when you get home.  Look for the strongest ones to share/print.  By keeping the number of photos down, you’ll strengthen their impact on the viewers.

Thanks for reading!  I hope you got a few useful tips to help you make better pictures at your upcoming holiday parties.

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