Capturing Happy Moments: Tips for photographing Bridal Showers and Baby Showers
Updated: March 4, 2019 | Published: May 7, 2018
Bridal showers and baby showers are momentous occasions that unite generations of family and friends. These celebrations of life-changing events are filled with joy, surprise and tenderness. With an interchangeable lens camera, you can capture tender moments and fast-paced excitement without missing a beat and create keepsakes that the guests of honor will cherish for a lifetime.
1. WHAT YOU'LL NEED
The goal is to be prepared for a variety of photo ops while keeping your camera bag as light as possible.
A versatile 18–55mm (or similar) standard zoom lens with image stabilization and continuous autofocus (AF) can handle virtually any scene, from large group portraits to close-ups of a pretty cupcake or a special shower favor. With a camera having a full-frame image sensor, a comparable standard zoom lens is typically around 24-70mm or 24-105mm.
2. CREATE A "SHOT LIST"
From time-honored traditions to last-minute surprises, it’s easy to miss an important moment if you’re not prepared. Whether you’re the designated photographer or the resident shutterbug, meet up with the party organizer to get the schedule so you can plan where you and your camera can set up before, during and after the main event.
Compile a list of shots you’d like to capture — arrival of the guest(s) of honor (especially if the party is a surprise), generational photos of mothers and daughters, reactions to gifts, poses with friends and family, etc. Arrive at the venue early to assess lighting and possible angles to choose the best camera settings. Make notes of which camera modes and settings you’ll use so you can switch quickly when those big moments arrive.
3. BE AWARE OF AVAILABLE LIGHTING
When being photographed, everyone wants to be captured in the best light possible. In photography, that generally means shooting where there’s an abundance of natural light. Late morning or early afternoon on a sunny day, you may be tempted to take your group outdoors. But be aware of a couple of photographic problems you’ll encounter in bright sun:
- If your subjects face into the sun, they’ll usually squint, and have very harsh, dark shadows on their faces.
- If you turn them around so that the camera faces the sun, and your subject’s faces are “back-lit” (entirely in shadow), the camera may often under-expose the scene, and render a silhouette-like effect.
All this said, you often can get better shots of people by facing them away from bright sun, and then making sure to deliberately lighten your camera’s exposure using “Exposure Compensation,” turning it to the “plus” side to add light. Fortunately with digital cameras, you can check each picture you take on the camera’s LCD monitor, and determine if more or less deliberate brightening is needed for faces to appear accurately exposed.
Alternatively, use your flash to avoid underexposing subjects, and filling in dark shadows. Your camera will automatically use just the right amount of flash — often called “fill flash” — to light up shadow areas without washing out the subject.
If the shower is not taking place outdoors on a sunny afternoon or in a well-lit room with lots of big windows, you may need to modify your camera settings to compensate for less optimal lighting conditions. To compensate for dark indoor conditions, you may be tempted to use flash. However, when used on-camera, aimed directly at your subjects, flash can wash out skin tones, cast hard shadows and diminish the atmosphere. In those cases, there are two options:
- One is to use the available light — disable your built-in flash. Instead, adjust your camera settings for low-light conditions by bumping up the ISO (consider high ISO settings, like ISO 1600 or 3200), and using wide lens openings (low f-numbers).
- The other option, if you’re using an accessory Speedlite (not your built-in flash) and you have ceilings that are white or near-white and somewhat normal height, is to consider bounce flash. That’s angling flash upward to the ceiling, so it bounces down with soft, broad light on your subjects.
4. CAPTURE CUSTOMARY EVENTS
Bridal and baby showers can be full of surprises for the guest of honor, from arriving at the party to the “reveal” of a gift as it’s opened. The build-up to a moment is filled with as much drama as the moment itself. By shooting the scene before and after a burst of activity, you’ll get range of reactions that authentically captures the moment.
Enable Continuous Shooting in the camera’s DRIVE mode settings to rapidly snap a series of images with a single press of the shutter button. If the area you’re working in has good lighting, for the clearest action shots, the fully-automatic Sports Mode can automatically select a fast shutter speed and an appropriate aperture setting for the scene, and simultaneously activate the continuous, AI Servo AF (Autofocus) to follow the movement of your subjects, if and when they move.
5. SHOOT SOME VIDEO
Some moments demand to be captured on video, like the opening of gifts or a fun shower game. To get ready, switch your camera to Movie mode. Through the Movie menu, you can control quality, AF mode and sound to get high quality recordings. Much of time, “Full HD” video settings (sometimes abbreviated “FHD,” “1080p,” or similar menu wording), at 30 fps, are fine for good-quality videos to share and post online. To start and stop recording, with most cameras, press the Live View button (or the button marked with a red dot).
For extended Movie mode use, you may want to have a high-speed and high-capacity, dedicated memory card for video. It’s tempting to keep the camera rolling while the guest of honor opens all the gifts, but the maximum size for individual movie files is often 4GB, regardless of your quality setting. Consider halting recording for each “segment” separately, and re-starting when action picks-up again, to avoid awkward cut-offs during sentimental speeches.
6. GET CANDID
While everyone is engaged in party games and gift opening, take the opportunity to go around and snap candid photos. When people aren’t thinking about posing, the results tend to be more relaxed and natural. Snap two or three photos of each guest during the festivities and try capturing scenes unrelated to the main event, like a shared laugh between guests. Pay special attention to older guests and anyone who may have traveled in from long distances.
If you need to stage posed photos with the guests of honor and special guests, gather the group and snap them from alternate angles. To increase the odds of finding a shot of your large group without someone blinking, use Continuous Shooting in Sports mode.
When taking photos of small groups of people, set your camera to Portrait mode, which will reduce the depth-of-field and put more focus on your subjects, as well as blur objects and people in the background.
7. TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Once you get the traditional shots out of the way, get a little creative with interesting poses and unconventional cropping. If you’re taking portraits, start with the basic poses and shoot them from several angles. Consider shooting upward from a low position, with a wide-angle zoom setting, when the guest of honor is opening a present. If the engaged couple or expectant parents are both in attendance, look for opportunities to stage romantic scenes and encourage them to indulge in a tender moment or PDA. Use props, reflections and backlighting to create dynamic compositions.
When taking pictures of the guests, incorporate a little action with bubbles, confetti or sparklers. Encouraging them to blow bubbles or toss confetti will distract them from forcing a pose and make your compositions more dynamic.
8. BE READY FOR CLOSE-UPS
Event photography is not just about documenting the occasion, it’s also about telling a story. Including photos of decor details like banners, balloons, the gift table and party favors can enhance your story.
Take photos before and after the shower to capture the overall experience of the event. For a sense of drama and intimacy, get some artistic close-ups of smaller items. Get in close to take advantage of your lens’ minimum focusing distance to capture small subjects and details such as baby booties or engraving detail on gifts.
After the party, share your favorite photos with the guests of honor. The day will have been such a blur that they’ll appreciate the effort to capture all the moments they might have missed and the memories they’ll cherish forever.