Taking Better Party Photos {+ Point and Shoot vs. Pro Camera Comparison}

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Party Photography Tips

When it comes to featured party submissions, one of the biggest issues we see time and time again is poor photo quality. This can be heart-breaking because we know how much time & energy goes into making these parties so beautiful (trust me, we know!), but it’s hard to properly see all that creativity through harsh lighting and blurry images. We also understand how difficult it can be to translate a party from real life to the camera screen though, and there’s just no getting around the fact that lighting and equipment play such a big role in making that happen.

So, I was very happy when Maria Healey, an incredibly talented professional photographer from my own neck of the woods, approached us about sharing some party photography tips with our readers. She touches on 2 key things here: 1) making the most with the equipment you’ve got (even if it’s an iPhone camera!) and 2) illustrating the differences between standard Point and Shoot Camera results and and Pro Level Camera results (a Canon 5D Mark II to be specific!).

Read on for her tried-and-true tips and insight…


Taking Better Party Photos {+ Point and Shoot vs. Pro Camera}
– by Maria Healey

I am so excited to share my passion for party photography today on the HWTM blog! I’ve had the opportunity to photograph some amazing parties and styled shoots, and it’s been my pleasure to have a variety of those featured on the HWTM blog.

The parties I photograph are beautiful, anyone can see that. However, it’s the stylist who spends countless hours perfecting every last detail, I’m simply there to document their hard work. These stylists trust me to get the photos that they don’t have the time or ability to capture themselves in order to end up with publishable photos, which are so important to any stylist’s business!

I recently gave myself the task of bringing along a point and shoot camera to one of my parties to show the dramatic difference between taking a photo as any normal party stylist or client would on their own, versus using my professional grade camera and expertise. This Princess Tea Party was styled by Maureen Walker of a la Mo at a local park in her neighborhood.

Tip #1: Eliminate Harsh Shadows
To block the direct sunlight in each of these photos, I asked a guest to assist me by holding a reflector over the table. (This is so easy to do with just a big piece of poster board or foam core as well.) I took a full size scene shot and also a close up, using my macro lens, so that I could just focus on the details. Simply blocking the direct sunlight and eliminating harsh shadows provides a much more appealing photo. Here are the results:

a) Point and shoot camera:

professional photography tips

b) Pro Camera:

professional photography tips

Tip #2: Assess the Situation (White Balance + Detail Shots)
One of the first things I do when I enter my party scene is decide what white balance I’m working with. Is it sunny, cloudy, or shaded? Those are the three situations I find myself working in most often. Next, I just survey the set-up and decide which items need some close up detail shots and start composing the shot in my head based on the other items in the scene.


In this instance, the use of a DSLR and appropriate lens makes a big difference, especially if you’re comfortable enough to use the camera in manual mode. However, if I were just using my point and shoot camera, I would put it in macro mode (the flower icon) to focus on the details.


Tip #3: Use a Tripod to {Clearly} Capture More Light

Another important piece of equipment I like to have on hand is my tripod, especially when I find myself inside a dimly-lit room. Working with natural light is ideal, but sometimes I’m in tricky situations and have to work with what I’ve got.

The tripod allows me to get everything framed for a shot, then move anything accordingly, without losing the framed shot. It also allows me to set my shutter speed rather slow without blurring the image, but allowing plenty of light in to create a bright photo.



Tip #4: Stage the photo correctly (pay attention to the background!)

Here’s an example of a party element that was first shot with a basic point and shoot camera, then shot again using pro equipment and expertise. One of the most important elements is to pay attention to the background and shoot from the best angle:

Point and Shoot Camera:

professional photography tips

Pro Camera:

professional photography tips

Point and Shoot Camera:

professional photography tips

Pro Camera:

professional photography tips


Tip #5: Use an iPhone Camera with Pro Expertise
Even the iPhone is a pretty powerful tool these days, given the right apps. I made it my goal to photograph the details of my best friend’s wedding, only using my iPhone. Crazy, right?!

Below are some of the shots I was able to get, not because I used an expensive camera, but because I used my expertise. I stick to using two iPhone apps for photography — CameraAwesome and Snapseed. Both are free apps that allow you to adjust aperture and focal point at the same time. That’s the feature I love most!

professional photography tips

professional photography tips

professional photography tips


Often times it’s not in a client’s budget to add on the cost of hiring a professional photographer to capture the details of the event. However, it is in the best interest of party stylists to obtain the knowledge needed to be able to use the “nice camera” they’ve got to take photos themselves.

More appealing photos means more attention on Pinterest and blogs, therefore more sales. It’s seriously as simple as providing yourself or a client with the best photos possible of the work. There are many other benefits to learning how to take better photos, and I’d love to share more tips and secrets in a mentoring session! If interested, get in touch with me to set up a Skype chat.



– Princess Party: a la Mo

Maria Healey is a photographer to stylists and stylish brides. Her & her family are currently based in Southern California and will be traveling on a cross-country tour until March 2015. She is available to photograph styled events and also offers mentoring sessions.

Thanks so much for all of your helpful tips Maria!

Alternative Text
POSTED BY:jenn s.JENNIFER SBRANTI is the Founder and Creative Director of Hostess with the Mostess®, a hip and modern party planning resource.

10 responses to “Taking Better Party Photos {+ Point and Shoot vs. Pro Camera Comparison}”

  1. These tips are great! Using a DSLR has helped my photos immensely — now if I could just get off the automatic setting!
    xx Lexi, Glitter, Inc.

  2. Leslie says:

    I have a nice camera, but often can’t carry it around or run out of time to take tripod shots. I’ll definitely be looking into those iPhone apps…thanks so much for the great tips!

  3. Blanca says:

    Great tips Maria :) thank you for sharing!!!!

  4. Can't wait to try out these tips! Thank you so much!

  5. Thanks Maria Healey! What an awesome post with very practical tips!

  6. Love to see the contrast here! What a great way to show folks the difference between the levels of cameras available!

  7. Melissa Peterson says:

    Thanks for this! Very useful!

  8. Thank you for all of your tips, Maria! I’ll be practicing my skills while you’re gone and counting the days til you get back!

  9. […] I searched the Quad Cities for a fun venue for a boys’ birthday party and wasn’t too excited about what I found, so I decided to just host the party at my grandma’s house. Just to see what I was working with here, check out this before photo of the empty space. I’d just like to drive the point home that you can throw a great-looking party anywhere! That’s another reason that having a professional photographer photograph your party is so important. In the event that hiring a professional photographer is out of your budget or your client’s budget, it’s incredibly beneficial to know your camera well enough to take your own photos. […]

  10. […] This amazing article from Hostess with the Mostess talks about how you can take better photographs at your parties and turn them into real professional quality ideas. It’s a great idea and I certainly took quite a few tips from Maria Healey. […]