Happy anniversary/birthday/engagement

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Happy Anniversary! Happy Birthday! Congratulations on your engagement, graduation, marriage, baptism! Have a great vacation! The list of celebration events is endless, isn’t it? Have a look in your own family album and you will undoubtedly get all sorts of memories – here’s Graham when he graduated, Bill’s birthday, Wendy’s wedding or even Freddie’s funeral.

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Some of these events are very important and deserve to be recorded in such a way that people looking at the photographs many years later will be able to imagine the event.

Unfortunately, so many times all that people take as the memorable photograph is a person standing in a solitary position way off in the distance. As far as showing what the celebration was – in five years’ time no-one will know what it was! This week’s column will show you how to make celebrations memorable. Here’s how a professional photographer goes about taking memorable photographs. The secret here is to think ahead and make yourself a checklist.

Let’s imagine you want to record a significant birthday. What do you need to show? Firstly you have to show that it is a birthday, not just any old party. Secondly you have to feature the person with the birthday. Thirdly you have to show who came to celebrate the birthday and fourthly any significant gifts that were received. Even the cat will have by now established that you cannot incorporate all those elements in one photograph. Not taking a spare memory card is the biggest mistake the amateur makes in photography!

Here is the type of list I would draw up for myself if taking photographs for your child’s birthday:

  1. Shot of birthday boy looking at a birthday card (close up)
  2. Birthday boy opening present (close up)
  3. As above with parents and friends standing around (wide angle shot)
  4. Mother placing candles on birthday cake
  5. Father lighting candles
  6. Birthday boy lowing out the candles
  7. General shots of people singing and clapping
  8. Happy time shots

Note that all these shots are designed to set the scene, show the participants and nominate the “star”. There are varied shots, some close up some group shots and together they make a package called “Billy’s Birthday”.

Now when you come to put them in the family album you have a nice group of pictures which many years later will continue to say “Billy’s Birthday”, unmistakably.

So next time you are going to photograph an important event, buy a spare memory card and plan your shots, take them deliberately to the plan and be amazed at how much better your results will be!

Since these are ‘people’ shots, you should now pay attention to the rules for photographing people with images that will last a lifetime.

I was sitting in one of our restaurants, looking through the window watching a group of tourists taking photographs to record their Amazing Holiday in Thailand. They posed in front of the photographer and took turns in being the shooter or joining the group to be shot. The theory was fine, but I know that the end result will have been totally disappointing to all of them. Why? Because they didn’t stop to think about the background for one and they didn’t get close enough for two.

We have several rubbish bins along Beach Road on the left hand side. That’s where the group posed themselves! Great shot for your holidays – here we are around a rubbish bin in fun town Pattaya! Oh look, they have some yellow ones! All they had to do was walk across the street and they would have been able to have a shot saying here we are on an exotic tropical beach with parasols, boats and palm trees.

Now to the camera position. This was so far away from the happy holidaymakers that they had groups of people walking through between the photographer and the subjects. So their end result will be tiny little people in an awful surroundings! Not what they had in mind, I am sure.

So the message is simple. Think about the celebration and realize you won’t get it all in one shot. Plan your shots, mind the background and get in close!