Is there anything quite as marvellous as that moment your birthday cake appears, candles lit and the serenade begins? We don’t think so and it’s pretty hard to beat a good birthday cake and candles photo. Well, besides eating a good birthday cake…
1. Practice : you only get one opportunity to take this picture each year, so give yourself a dress rehearsal to check for any potential problems. Set up some candles and take a few pictures to see how your camera handles it, whether you need more or less light and if there are any elements of the set up which need changing. If you’re planning to dim the lights then check whether your flash will fire and if so, how you can adjust the camera to prevent the flash washing out your picture.
2. Background : if you’re at home why not have balloons, lights and cards behind where the birthday boy or girl is sitting. At parties I like to get all of the guests in a semi-circle behind the cake so I can capture all of the children at once. It’s also worth thinking about how you present the cake – will it be held up by someone, low on the table or on a raised cake plate?
3. Get the Angle : when you’re thinking about the set up, consider where the best spot for you to be positioned is. Make sure you have the natural light source behind you, that no-one is likely to stand in front of you and that the cake itself isn’t going to get in the way of the candle blower!
4. Check Your Focus : don’t you hate it when you look at your photos after the event and realise the main subject is out of focus? Make sure it doesn’t happen to you!
If you’re using a point and shoot: check that the auto focus is hitting the right person. Moving slightly to one side as I have above will make it easier to ensure the focus is on the child rather than the cake.
If you’re using a DSLR: find out how to self-select the auto focus point and have this over the eye of your child (we cover this in detail on Manual Overdrive).
5. Don’t Miss a Thing : use a continuous shooting mode to make sure you cover all of the action. In single shot mode some cameras may take a couple of seconds to reset by which time those little flames will be out!
If you want to be in the picture then grab a tri-pod or sturdy piece of furniture, set a timer or use a remote and enjoy that moment. Practice the set up ahead of time and you’ll be able to relax knowing the photos are taking care of themselves.
You’re never to old to blow out candles and make a wish. It’s one of those family traditions that won’t grow old…
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