Close-up of woman taking photo of group of children on mobile phone while they sitting at table and fooling around.

Mom Photographer Shares Her Top Birthday Photo Tips

As a busy mom watching her kids grow up way too fast, you probably do everything you can to photograph your little ones. We hope to remember the moments of their lives as they go whizzing by, and when we have family events, we try to take all the photos!

In this article, I'll give you my favorite party photo tips so you can capture beautiful memories while still being present to make those memories with your family.

Fortunately, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that make it much easier to get great photos and balance your time behind the lens!

1. Make a Shot List

Little girl smiles happily at pink birthday cake.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Visualize what you want your photos to look like before the day even happens, and write your thoughts down!  For events like birthday parties, I like to tell the story of the day and capture every last detail. Ideas for a birthday might include:

  • the party favors,
  • the cake,
  • my daughter all dressed up,
  • her hugging and loving on family.

Any photo I can dream up goes on the list. I don’t typically carry my list around with me during the event, but the process of writing it down leaves photo ideas fresh in my mind.

2. Don’t Forget to Pre-Party.

Happy one year old baby with rainbow birthday cake.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The time before the party is a great time to stage a few photos. I always like to ‘stage’ a few photos and get them out of the way before the event even begins!

For example, I like to get solo shots of my birthday girl in her party dress BEFORE guests arrive. After the party starts, there's the risk of her spilling her grape juice or dropping cake on her party clothes. Anything I can do to get staged pictures early on is key. I also like to get my detail shots prior to the party when everything is still neat and untouched. Plus, getting these shots ahead of time frees up more time for me to interact with the party guests once the fun begins. It also allows my kid to enjoy herself instead of pulling her away from the action to pose.

3. Look for the Light

Child blowing candles on cake surrounded by rainbow decorations.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

The key to making your camera work best and capture clear photos is having lots of light available. Depending on your location, you may not have the option to let light in. If light is lacking, using a flash may be inevitable. But when we do a party at home, I try to set up in a location in our house that I know allows decent natural light to come streaming in.

4. Use continuous shooting mode

toddler blows out candles
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Most cameras have the option to take a series of shots each time the shutter button is pushed. That series option is called Continuous Shooting Mode. It has saved me countless hours behind the lens of my camera! By taking multiple shots at a time, I do end up with A LOT more photos on my memory card, but typically, the time it takes to get the ‘1 in a million’ photo of my child smiling at the camera comes a lot quicker than if I was taking one shot at a time. And once I get that shot, I can put the camera away for a while and get back to partying!

 5. Have a ‘Second Shooter’ on Hand

young woman holdin a camera standing against a red backdrop
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Ask for help! If hiring a professional is out of your budget, find a trusted friend or family member who you can pass the camera to throughout the day. Have a teenager who likes to take photos? I’m sure they'd be more than willing to help you capture your event so you're able to enjoy the day too, instead of watching it all unfold through your viewfinder. And if you've made a shot list, it'll be easy to ask for help getting those.

6. Enlist All Five Senses

Table beautifully decorated for a colorful birthday party.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Don’t forget to take pictures of the details. How does the moment you’re living smell, taste, hear, touch, and look? It’s just as important to take images of our kids as it is to capture their surroundings as well. By enlisting your senses, you’ll ensure that years from now, you’ll be able to remember these moments just as if they happened yesterday.

7. Vary Your Perspective

Cute girl dancing surrounded by family.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Try to change up how you take an image, whether that be a close-up, taking a step or two back, getting a wide view of an entire scene, looking up, looking down, or getting at eye level. By adding variety to your images, you’ll avoid having 20 of the same setup and add interest to any life story you’re trying to tell with your photos.

8. If Using a Phone, Know Your Phone’s Shortcuts

Hands hold a phone taking picture of three happy people at a table.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Get to know your way around your camera. Tapping on your subject to improve exposure is just one of the many shortcuts phones offer for snapping images. Each phone is different, but a bit of poking around Google will help you uncover what shortcuts you have available!

9. Don’t Be Afraid to Delete

Family birthday party in a garden. People laughing and having dinner at table while kids run around.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

In the moment, when you’re running after your kids and snapping their pictures, you likely won’t have time to stop and delete all the bad snaps. And sometimes, the thought of deleting any photos of your kids can induce panic. But trust me; you DON’T need 100s of pictures of your kiddo eating their PB&J at the park.

If you've taken photos on your phone, why not get into the habit of deleting some images during your downtime? When you’re in the grocery checkout line, the waiting room at the doctor, preschool pickup, and so on are typically times when you might pop open social media for a quick check-in, but instead, you’d be much more productive if you give photos a quick sweep and delete instead.

10. Edit Your Favorites

child walking towards mom taking photo
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Before I share my favorite snaps, I like to give them a quick edit. Snapseed is a free photo editing app that's surprisingly powerful.

Ideas – Make a Family Time Capsule with Your Photos

Mom taking photo with a child in her arms
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

One fun way to make a memory of an event is to use your photos for a time capsule.

Best Cameras for Teens

Teen girl holds bright red camera up
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Got a tween or teen who wants to try their hand at photography? These are some great options to get them started.


Author: Beryl Ayn Young

Expertise: Photography, Writing, Self-care, Creativity