I found a great article over at the Digital Photography School website about photographing childrens birthday parties. My reason for looking for advice was that I was due to be the ‘official’ photographer at a friends son’s birthday recently and as such wanted to get some tips on how best to approach the day.
The party was being held in a local hall and about 20-25 kids were due to attend. I got there early and was equipped with my new Nikon D200 and copious amounts of compact flash cards ready to shoot in burst mode for the next few hours, aiming to capture the festivities, laughter and games the kids would be no doubt enjoying.
My only problem was that being in a hall, on a day when the sun wasn’t guaranteed, the lighting was going to be an issue. I prefer to shoot with available light so this meant either Tungsten light or tube lighting. It was tube lighting but the windows in the hall were big so when the sun did shine at the right angle, it did cast some really lovely reflected light off the walls and the floor.
Setting higher film speeds
The light, though quite atmospheric was far to weak alone, also as the day moved on I found that the movement of these 5-8 year olds was just too fast to capture on such a slow ISO. As with my preference for available light over flash lighting, I also have a preference for fine grain in Portraits especially. This really wasn’t going to work, the combination of movement, ISO and lighting meant something had to give. I decided to ramp up the ISO rating on the camera to 1600. This was the only way I was going to be able to capture the kids at play, without the distraction of a flash going off 5 times per second and be able to get a credible amount of usable shots. The compromise meant that most of the images were indeed quite grainy.
I was playing a numbers game at the end of it. I shot a full 1GB of images in about 2 hours (around 250 images). Of this I estimate about 25% are usable, however my personal preferences made it hard for me to choose even 5 that I really like. The one above, shot very early on in the day is perhaps my favourite.