5 Tips For Better Party Photography

By Geoff Harris

Christmas Cracker Photography Tips

Have you ever read a side-splitting Christmas cracker joke? No, me neither. Still, the general awfulness of Christmas cracker jokes is reassuring in a way. A good joke, that has you rolling on the floor in mirth, might give you indigestion after too much Christmas food.

What would make my Christmas are short and pithy photography-related tips inside a cracker (though admittedly they wouldn’t be of much interest to anyone else in the family). However, as it’s perhaps a bit too niche market for mass production, here are a few short and pithy photography-related tips that you can cut out and keep. And, if you’re cunning, you could even substitute them for the original jokes inside your Christmas crackers…

A Georgian building in Market Place, Morpeth, lit by multi-coloured Christmas lights, Northumberland, England. Morpeth is an ancient market town located on the River Wansbeck

Multi-coloured Christmas lights pose a WB challenge. Experiment with the WB setting starting with Daylight.

White balance compensates for the colour tint found in different light sources. Households bulbs are biased towards orange so WB adds blue to correct for this.

It’s the lens aperture and ISO that controls the effective range of your flash. Use a larger aperture or higher ISO to extend the range of your flash.

Jpeg is a compressed file format. The higher the compression you use the smaller the file size and the greater the number of images can be squeezed onto a memory card. However, this is at the expense of image quality which will be reduced.

Lifebelt at the edge of a sand dune on the Northumbrian coast lit by flashlight on a stormy winter evening

Using a large aperture extends the range of flash.

The flash sync speed of your camera is the fastest shutter speed you can use with your flash. Typically it’s a value between 1/180-1/250.

A level tripod with the legs as far apart as possible will be a far more stable platform for your camera than one that tips forwards (or backwards) with the legs bunched together.

Red-eye is caused by the light from a flash bouncing off the backs of your subject’s eyes back towards the camera. The solution is either use off-camera flash or switch on red-eye reduction. The latter works by firing a pre-flash that causes the irises in your subject’s eyes to reduce in size.

Scenic view of the Wensleydale valley near the town of Hawes, showing the typical dry-stone wall field boundaries, Yorkshire Dales National Park, England

It's important to level your tripod. Particularly when using a heavy telephoto lens that has a tendency to tip forwards.

Wide-angle lenses are so called because they have a wide-angle of view. This means that you can fit more of a scene into an image. However, the distance between elements will be exaggerated; distant objects will appear smaller and further away than expected.

Looking at Harbottle and the Coquet Valley from a cairn on Harbottle Moor, Northumberland National Park, England

The characteristics of wide-angle lenses make them ideal for conveying a sense of space.

A (or Av) stands for aperture priority. This mode allows you to alter the lens aperture and the camera will select the shutter speed automatically. S (or Tv) – for shutter priority reverses this. You choose the shutter speed and the camera selects the appropriate aperture.

Westland Sea-King helicopter of the Royal Air Force Air-Sea Rescue service flying from Boulmer, Northumberland, England

Moving subjects require the use of continuous AF to track the subject.

Using a slower shutter speed than the flash sync speed will allow you to use ambient light to exposure for the background (which won’t necessarily be lit by the flash).

The longer the focal length of a lens the faster the shutter speed you’ll need to use in order to avoid camera shake.

Cameras typically have at least two autofocus modes: single and continuous. Single focuses once and stops when you partially press the shutter button down. This makes it ideal for static subjects. Continuous doesn’t lock the focus until the moment of exposure, making it better suited to moving subjects.

Have a great Christmas!

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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