Photographing a Children's Birthday Party / by Christian Hernandez

I recently photographed a children’s birthday party and had a blast capturing the memories. I’ve thought about my previous experiences photographing children and saw an improvement in my confidence level on this shoot, as well as with my level of skill photographing kids that are constantly moving around.

I categorized this shoot as family/event photography and my goal was to capture the people, the details, and the activities so that the collective gallery of images tells the story of the day’s events. I was really there to document and not to capture posed family photos. Those were the things I was mindful of capturing during this shoot.

Photographing children brings about some challenges that aren’t typically present with adults. Namely short attention spans and the inability to follow directions. So going into a shoot with children with the understanding that things will not go perfectly according to plan is key for my own mental sanity and my satisfaction level on the shoot. The expectation from myself to myself is that I’ll likely get a lot of bad shots, and any good shots I get will be like icing on the cake. The photographer will not necessarily get the perfect shot the’ve been imagining in the days prior to the shoot. The child may not look at you when you call his name. The child may be way more interested in sliding down the water slide or eating cake rather than your precious camera.

In this shoot, I had about 2.5 hours to capture some photos, so that was plenty of time for me to get a lot of shots. And getting a lot of shots is helpful sometimes because with a large amount of photos, there’s more for me to choose the good ones from.

2 tips about photographing children:

  1. Get Down On Their Level

    To get an angle that’s appealing to the eye and captures the child/subject well, it’s important to squat, sit, or just lower myself to their level. 99% of the time, the better picture happens when the photographer lowers down to the child’s eye level. It makes for a more interesting picture, plus nobody wants to see pictures of a top down view of a kid.

  2. Be Ready to Photograph

    What I mean by this is to be ready for the spontaneous moments. Practically speaking, this meant that I kept the camera up to my face a lot, being ready to snap photos at any time. Especially when there are multiple kids and they’re all moving around, there is constant activity happening all around you. And constant activity means continuous “stuff” we can be photographing.

At this shoot, there was a big water slide, a play house/swing set, water balloons, and several toys for the kids to play with. That meant there was plenty of work for me to stay busy with. If I wasn’t photographing at the water slide, I was photographing at the swings set. If I wasn’t doing that, I was taking some shots of the adults socializing. If I wasn’t doing that, I was taking photos of the kids playing with the toys. And you get the idea. At any moment, there was plenty for me to capture. And if something unexpected happened, my camera was on and I was ready.

As I mentioned above, on this shoot, I felt a new sense of confidence because I’m more familiar with what to expect in regards to children’s behavior. I expected the kids to move around and not be totally on board with following directions. And knowing that beforehand made it ok for me - the solution was to adjust myself instead. That resulted in me spending less time frustrated about “getting the right shot,” and allowed me to just document the party naturally - as it’s happening. Regarding skill, I also felt a new confidence with that in terms of being quicker in dialing in my shutter speed, aperture, and focus settings so that I was always ready to take the shot.

Random tidbit I wasn’t expecting: I was a bit too close to the water slide, so my camera got splashed a couple of times - thank God for weather sealed gear!

Here are some of the shots I delivered.

LOCATION: Clermont, FL
GEAR USED: Canon 5D Mark IV | Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 | Canon 50 f/1.4 | Canon 28-135 f/3.5