Apr 20, 2018
It's Prom Time! Tips for Taking the Best Pictures
Author: Eric Stoner

Prom season is upon us and of course you’ll need lots of pictures of the kids before they head off to the party! Here are some tips for photographing the prom-goers so you can forever immortalize these special life moments.

Weather permitting of course, heading outside is a great option. It’s springtime, so why not incorporate the budding leaves, flowers and greenery into the photos? If at all possible, try not to have the sun directly in the faces of your subjects as it will likely make them squint, which is not flattering on anyone. Look for a shady area or put the sun at their back when photographing them.

Boy in a suit for prom

Here’s an opportunity to add fill-flash. If you have an accessory Speedlite like the 430EX series, simply mount it to your camera and turn it on. The flash will do a nice job of filling in shadows when the sun is at your subject’s back. Also, take some pictures with no flash and see what you like better just to be safe. If you have a camera with a built-in flash, this is certainly a good option as well. Simply touch the flash icon button on the camera to raise the flash, and take your pictures. One note, if your camera is set in the Green full-auto mode, CA mode or any of the icon settings like Portrait mode for example, you will not be able to manually activate the flash to pop up. Your mode dial must be in one of the following settings to manually pop the flash up: P (Program mode), Av (Aperture Priority mode), Tv (Shutter Priority mode), or M (Manual mode).

Chances are, you may have some beautiful natural light in the early evening before the prom so this is a great time to use the nice soft light present before you. Just position your subjects toward the open sky and take your pictures. Most importantly, try to get better reactions out of them by saying something clever other than “smile” or “say cheese” – which usually tenses people up, making for smiles that aren’t genuine. Also take lots of candid photos with a telephoto lens. Often times, when people don’t know there’s a camera pointed at them, they tend to act relaxed and more natural. You know, how you’re used to seeing them. Zoom in and capture the fun and spontaneous moments of the kids that you’ll cherish for years to come. If there’s a flower exchange, zoom in close on the flowers and hands as the flowers are being pinned on. It helps tell the story. Who knows, you may want to make a cute album out these photos so you’ll want more than just pictures of everyone’s faces to make the book more interesting. Take detail pictures of earrings, necklaces, the couple holding hands etc. You get the idea!

Lady with flowers in her hair

Of course you’ll want to take group photos, too. If there are more than a few couples, try kneeling the boys down in front of the girls so your group picture doesn’t span so far that everyone’s head size is tiny. Have the girls lean in towards their dates to tighten up the shot. Take some pictures with the girls alone together, then the boys. Sometimes it’s hard to get kids to pose the way you want, so offer to do one your way first and then be open to their ideas. Compromise and you’ll get more cooperation!

Three girls posing for a prom photo

If you are outdoors, try backing up with a telephoto lens to change the perspective from the traditional wide-angle approach for group pictures. Finally, remember that with group photos you’ll need everyone in focus from foreground to background, so choose a lens aperture like f/8 or f/11 to get everyone sharp in the photo. Simply turn the Mode dial to Av and select the proper aperture and the camera will do the rest!

If you must stay indoors due to weather or other factors, try to use flash for your photos. It will help prevent blurry pictures caused by slow shutter speeds from dim indoor light. Again, if you own a Canon accessory flash, put it on your camera and start taking photos. For more natural-looking light, try using the bounce flash option. Look for light colored walls or moderate-height ceilings to bounce the flash off of, to soften the direct flash, snapshot look. Another option: if you’re not familiar with bounce flash, Canon recently released the 470EX-AI, the world’s first auto bounce flash. This new flash can do all the hard work for you by automatically figuring out the best bounce angle in the room, leaving you to concentrate on nothing but taking your best pictures and enjoying the moment!

Photo of a couple for prom

Remember, some of the best photo opportunities are the ones when your subjects don’t know they’re being photographed. Of course you will want more formally posed pictures of the kids looking at the camera too, but keep that camera with you and be at the ready during this momentous time in your kids’ lives. You’ll have memorable images to share and reflect upon in the future.

Happy prom season!


Eric Stoner,Presenter,Contributor

Eric Stoner

Canon Technical Advisor

Eric is celebrating his 34th year as a professional photographer in 2022 and his 40th with a camera in his hands. As a portraitist, Eric’s made photography his life’s passion and loves to share what he’s learned with others in search of those “aha” moments in photography. For the last 13 years he’s been working with Canon teaching seminars on photography and how to get the most from your gear. Admittedly, early in his teaching career with Canon, Eric had to get a better understanding of how people learn in order for his students to reach their full potential. His teaching style is very relaxed and finds his students retain more information from this type of atmosphere. He understands real world photographic situations and how to handle them, but more importantly, teaches YOU how to deal with them. Eric continues his quest for photographic knowledge every single day, which keeps him humble in the realization that you never stop learning.

Eric is a Technical Advisor and Instructor at Canon USA supporting a range of educational projects concentrating on live educational programming research and development.


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