Best Tips for Taking Better Photos of Your Styled Party

5 tips for better photos

As someone who has some success in working with brands, creating photo shoots, and photographing them, I feel compelled to write this post in hopes of helping other party stylist/bloggers with their own photo projects. I used to receive a lot of party feature submissions and most of what I had to turn down was not because the design wasn’t pretty, but because the photos didn’t do it justice. I decided I wanted to write a few posts on the subject and this is the first in a series of ideas I have. I’m starting today by sharing my top tips for taking better photos when submitting your work to other sites, or just for your own blog or portfolio

As a little background, when I first started this blog {almost 6 years ago} I wanted to present my own ideas but quickly realized I didn’t have the photography skills needed to make it worth my while. So I ended up featuring other gorgeous parties and in doing so I studied the photography {usually done by a professional} that made the photos pop. I’m a self taught “photographer” and have done tons of research on the subject, and still there’s a LOT to learn.

While I’ve worked with a hand full of pros in the past, I’ve realized not all photographers are created equal. Most focus on weddings, or portraits, and do a great job there, but photographing for lifestyle/entertaining/tablescapes is a completely different thing with different needs. I like taking my own photos because noone knows better than I do, what needs to be highlighted. Plus, I actually find it a fascinating “hobby” with room to always grow and improve. What’s more is I don’t use any fancy filters, actions, or other Photoshop tricks. Not to say I don’t edit to make them look better {lightening, balancing color, etc}, but my style is more realistic and sharp as opposed to the “dreamy” effect found on most wedding or magazine style blogs.

Today’s tips aren’t going to cover camera settings – I’ll do that in a separate post. I am going to talk about composition, specific shots, and general “rules” to keep in mind. And as with most “rules” there are always the exceptions, but you shouldn’t BREAK the rules until you PERFECT the rules, right! 😉

Here are 5 basics where I use my own photos, old and new, to demonstrate each point. Click on each photo to see the original party post.

  • Think “Eye Level” – When shooting your tablescapes and dessert tables it’s best to sink down a little, bend over, or squat, so you’re looking at the table straight on, instead of from a high vantage point looking down. When you’re standing straight up and pointing the camera downward, you end up getting these weird angles that don’t read so well when published. Plus, you can get all the details in individual shots so there’s no need to try to fit it all in to this one.

bad vantage point get eye level with subject

  • No Weird Angles – When I started blogging the photography “norm” was very different than it is now. It used to be cool and artistic to take detail shots at an angle. But NO more! I once read an article about photography that stated that those angular shots make it look like something is about to fall down, and that it’s not pleasing to the eye. That’s when I realized, they’re right! Things have changed and the trend now is to make sure the details are shot level, just like the big pictures. If you want your work to look current, don’t take weird angular shots.

weird angles level angles

  • Take Portrait Photos – Another change that is a sign of the times is that portrait shots are king, especially when viewed via Pinterest. They’re also more magazine-friendly if you’re hoping to get published. These work for detail shots as well as ‘big picture’ shots of dessert tables or seated tables.

horizontal vertical

  • Get One Big Overall Picture – When it comes to “selling” your design, you want to have that one overall teaser photo that draws people in. I call it the money shot and it’s probably the look everyone is most familiar with – the view of a dessert table straight on. It’s kind of a no brainer, but I’ve actually had submissions with a lot of detail shots but no big picture to show how it all worked together. It’s like a book with no cover! This is where a portrait shot becomes very important too.

one big overall shot to draw in the readers

  • Composition – How you compose a photo through the lens of a camera can make or break a good picture. I think photo composition could probably be a dedicated post on its own, but for now I’ll just highlight a couple of key points. First of all, having your subject matter a little off center and/or a little cut off is far more interesting to look at than a photo where the object is perfectly centered. For instance, if the object is cut off a little on the side, the minds eye fills in the rest. For items that are off center, it’s appeal follows the “rule of thirds” and I like to call the empty space, “breathing room.” This technique works particularly well with cakes, floral centerpieces, drinking glasses, etc.

poorly centered objectoff center objects

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I swear I cringe when I have to look at the photography from my early days. In fact I’m constantly working on improvements.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this post. It’s not all encompassing by any means, but with a few steps at a time, you can start improving your photography today!


For more inspiration, follow me on Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter. Cheers!


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  1. says

    Great tips – thanks for sharing them! I physically cringe when I see the oldest pictures on my website – it’s a long road to re-shoot everything, but it makes all the difference in the world!

    • Chris says

      Thanks Flavia. I’ve come a long way – these (of course) aren’t even the worst ones. LOL

  2. says

    I really needed these tips! I did my first table decoration blog post and quickly realized I needed help organizing my shots!! My “money” shot wasn’t at all what I imagined it would be. My weakness was also time…I rushed to get the post done. Thank you for this info!

    • Chris says

      Time can be a huge stresser, Leah. Especially when you have to consider the natural light.

  3. Tonya (Soiree Event Design) says

    Great post Chris! Wish I knew then what I know now! I find myself wanting to redo my earlier parties sometimes just to reshoot it! Photography is a newfound passion for me too. & frankly I like being in control of what is shot. Totally relate to you there!

    • Chris says

      I know, Tonya. I think, “that was a really cute design but it’s photographed terribly so no one is going to be inspired by it” – makes me want to re-do all my old ideas! 😉

  4. says

    Thank you so much for these tips! I cringe at some of my pictures now. Definitely something that I am really trying to work on for my blog!

  5. says

    Great tips Chris! I am still struggling with my DSLR, I just keep at it! These are some great ideas to try, though! Your pictures are always stunning!

  6. candice says

    Great tips, trust you will share on taking the perfect shot and having blurry backgrounds like your 6th picture

  7. says

    Awesome post! I really needed these tips. I have a Nikon D5100 and I have the hardest time taking great photos of parties and events. Thanks so much for the advice!

  8. says

    Great Tips! I’m very guilty of the Weird Angle photo’s. I’m going to work on avoiding this. Hopefully this will shine through on my blog and photo’s as well.

  9. Ruth Allmart says

    Wonderful info, thanks so much for sharing Chris:) Looking forward to your next installment.

  10. says

    Did I push you over the edge? LOL! This is great advice! I do follow most of these rules. But I had no idea about the angles pic! Wow! I started staring at the example and it’s so true! Damn who knew! LOL! I struggle with indoor lighting (among other thing)!! I’ll be tuned in, and I have a pinterest board on this topic…I’m soooo pinning!

  11. says

    I am a newbie to the photography world, so I greatly appreciate these tips. Pinning now so I can refer back . Thanks so much :)