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Photographing Family Events Using Your Digital SLR

3 of 8 in Series: The Essentials of Photographing People Using Your Digital SLR

If the onus of recording special family events — graduations, anniversaries, and other family milestone — falls to you and your digital SLR, plan to get the whole event from start to finish.

Camera settings for shooting family events

The best way to draw attention to your subject is to set your digital SLR to control depth of field, so use Aperture Priority mode. If you anticipate a lot of quick action and expressive emotions — dancing or crying tears of joy, for example — in a short period of time, shoot in Continuous Drive mode to capture an action sequence. Otherwise, Single Shot mode is fine.

If you’re photographing an indoor graduation ceremony, use on-camera flash, as well as a high ISO setting. Other setting suggestions include:

  • Aperture: f/3.5 to f/8.0

    You need a depth of field large enough to capture everyone in a group in focus, so use a small aperture with an f/stop of f/8.0 for large groups; for just a few people standing together, use an f/stop of f/6.3 or f/5.6; for a group of one, you want a very shallow depth of field, which you can get with an f/stop of f/4.0.

  • ISO Setting: 100 to 400, depending whether you’re inside or out in the sun.

  • Auto-Focus Point: Single auto-focus point

  • Focal Length: 50mm to 100mm

  • Image Stabilization: On

Taking pictures at family gatherings

When you want to tell the story of a party by taking pictures with your digital SLR, make sure you arrive early. Start by photographing the preparations for the party:

[Credit: Kevin Sanchez/Cole Group/PhotoDisc]
Credit: Kevin Sanchez/Cole Group/PhotoDisc

Make sure you get the featured guest enjoying the event:

[Credit: 100 Ltd.]
Credit: 100 Ltd.

You need to be patient to get quality shots. At first, the guests notice you and the camera, but when the event starts kicking into high gear, they start enjoying each other’s company and forgetting about you and your camera.

In telling the story of a family event, you want to draw the viewer’s attention to the person who’s the focus of the occasion. You can show the entire party but find the moments of interaction with the person who’s the reason for the gathering:

[Credit: Purestock]
Credit: Purestock
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