Digital Camera Reviews

Tips: Capture the life of the party!

Taking pictures at parties can be heaps of fun and this is where the ubiquitous pocket-snappy comes into its own, because the last thing you want is some cumbersome SLR kit dangling around your neck while you’re trying to get into the groove.

The new generation of compacts have several pre-set features that will help you take creative, fun images of those “priceless” moments when revellers loosen up a bit.

The most instantly useful setting is the one found on many cameras for portraiture against a night skyline. This sets the camera with a slow shutter speed to capture the dark areas too distant for flash, while using the in-built flash to illuminate the subject in the extreme foreground.

This same setting works fine in interior situations like large halls with party lights, decorations etc You need not worry too much about tripods and such as some movement in he background will add to the festive action. The very short duration of the flash (1/500 or faster) will ensure the close subjects are “frozen” sharp.

So if you are embarking on a purchase shortly check out the candidate cameras for this feature. If you’re stuck with a camera with these icon-driven pre-sets, you can recreate this setting by setting flash to ‘always on’, and shutter speed to low (say 1/25 max, slower yet for larger rooms and outdoor) by using the Tv function for nominating a desired, fixed shutter speed. If your camera doesn’t have even basic manual overrides, then it sounds like you’ve outgrown it.

An easy one: Colourful happy people having a great time.
A quick flash of the camera was all that was needed. Photo: Rod Eime

Posing people at parties, functions, or anyway for that matter, can go either way. Often people will act up just at the sight of a camera, especially after a drink or two, while others will clam-up and go stiff. After some practice, you’ll learn to read the room and see what sort of characters you have to deal with. Groups always look more intimate and friendly if people squeeze in tight. Grumpy old Aunt Maude may need some encouragement, while others may have to tone it down. Initially don’t telegraph your intention too much; instead grab a shot while they think you’re readying yourself and you might be surprised with the result. Those ‘clever’ red-eye reduction pre-flashes can be a bit of a giveaway, so if you can disable it, do so.

The other fun strategy is the ‘pounce’, where ‘victims’ are caught completely unaware. These are the amazing snaps that often end up on ‘those’ websites. Watch out for ‘chemistry’ that may be a prelude to something more exciting. To fully exploit this, turn off auto-focus and red-eye pre-flash and set focus to an easily approximated distance like 2 or 3 metres – then run like hell!. But beware! Libel laws are for real.

If your task is a bit more serious, like a christening, 21st or some such, then you’d better pay attention: Pick your location beforehand and ask your subjects to stand there. At a church, it could be a stained glass background, or if outside, on the steps or in a garden in front of the building. Don’t just shoot and hope for the best if others are expecting enjoyment from your efforts. Here you may have the option of a daylight portrait setting which opens the aperture to reduce depth of field. That way spurious background objects can be blurred out, or textured, unobtrusive backdrops created. Extending your zoom lens to maximum length will also create a pleasing effect.

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