Capturing the atmosphere of a party is easy when you know how. By thinking about the following, before you press the shutter, you'll be able to take great photos that are worth celebrating in their own right.
Often we don't like to be the first to arrive at a party but if you want the best shots it's a good idea. You can take lots of detail pictures without getting in anyone's way. Plus your host will probably appreciate you being there to take subtle candid shots of their guests as they arrive. And how about snapping a photograph of the room all set up ready, great for combining with a dishevelled shot at the end of the evening.
Some people adore having their photo taken, especially at parties when they are all dressed up and looking their best. These sorts of people will be more than happy to pose for you. Just remember that not everyone relishes being in front of the camera. They're at the party to enjoy themselves so try and be sensitive to this. The trick of course is to suss out who's who and act accordingly.
The party atmosphere is often captured by all the little details at a party not just the people. Food and drink are important ingredients at any celebration so be sure to take specific close-ups of these. The same goes for any little decorative touches and presents.
Getting a different perspective on things is always a good plan, especially when you've got a large group of people and it's not easy to see everyone. If you can, try and photograph from say a staircase, balcony, or window looking down at the celebrations below. You could even just stand on a chair and hold your camera up above your head and see what you get!
If you want to try a specific look, such as everyone raising their glasses together, or gathering around a birthday cake, just tell people what you're trying to achieve. More often than not they'll be more than happy to participate.
The classic party picture problem has to be unflattering flash. The answer is to use a diffuser or bounce flash, that's if you're fortunate enough to have a separate flash gun. Alternatively, on a compact camera, simply select night mode, also known as slow sync flash. This setting helps capture the ambient light by using just a very short burst of flash.
Forcing your flashgun off and selecting a high ISO number and large aperture is another useful technique. By not using flash you're candid shots will be far more discreet and you'll get the ambient light, giving a more realistic look. The risk with doing this is your photos may appear grainy, and a slow shutter speed could lead to blurry shots. Using a tripod and asking your models to stay still while you take the shot will help.
Once party has warmed up, get in the thick of the action and ask revellers to pose for some really fun and imaginative shots. Try tilting the camera for unusual angles, which will add to the sense of fun. Showing people the shots you've just taken can be entertaining too. Before you know it they'll all want their photograph taken!