My Sons Seventh Birthday Party!

Don’t know if you have kids or not or can remember when you were a kid and how important birthdays were. Maybe they still get you excited! To me they are just a reminder about how much little time I have left on this earth. Anyway, my son had been counting down his seventh Birthday for the last six months. Just about every other day he would ask the same old question to either me, his mother or his sister “how many more days until my birthday”!. Maddening I tell you. I started carrying around a calculator so I would be ready to answer him. I got tired of making up numbers and thought it better to start telling him the truth. Yeah your right, I am terrible at math. Thank goodness for my daughter she is the bright spot in the family when it comes to the books. This is probably why I am a photographer and not a Mathematician.

As his birthday got closer talk within our family unit turned to what type of birthday he should have. You know like Chucky Cheese, pool party, sleepover, just one friend, maybe two friends,the whole first grade class, all boys, no girls, well maybe one girl. You get the drift. All painful decisions trust me, but important ones to a six year old turning seven. Oh to be a child again. Well leave it to our brilliant daughter to come up with the idea of our son having a costume party. What a great idea! This is perfect for our son’s birthday since he usually can be found in some type of costume on a daily basis. Spider man (an all time favorite, has been actually known to where this to bed) Indiana Jones (he loves the whip) Darth Vader, Robin Hood, Jedi Knight, Pirate (Jack Sparrow Ayyye mate), Ninja. Oh and yes any costume that comes with a sword as an accessory. So it was settled the whole first grade class would be invited (this way no one is left out soon to be parents) and everyone would come dressed up in their favorite costume. My wife would rent a small hall in town next to the park where all the kids could play after being sugared up on cake, candy and assorted fruit drinks. Oh and a few beers for the adults to drown out all of the screaming.

As the party got nearer I came up with an idea for a personal project. I have needed one of these lately. I would take a portrait of each child in their costume at the party. So how to go about it and light the kids. Do I use daylight, reflectors, soft boxes, umbrellas, Q-Flash? What do I use for a background? Do I need a tripod (we all know how first graders can only hold still no longer than a Sponge Bob Episode and that’s pretty long (as a side note my son usually watches Sponge Bob upside down). My job would be tough here for sure. Keeping in mind all of the sugar they will be consuming I better come up with a system that’s is fast and efficient, but still creative. You guessed it 25 barebulbs screwed into a piece of plywood and set in a circle. Ring Light! You got it. What is a ring light you may ask. Well I will tell you. Its a light that is in the shape of a circle (good explanation right!). In the fashion Industry its called a beauty light. It gives off a nice light that wraps around the subject and can be very flattering. The professional ring lights can run in the thousands of dollars. I made mine for about fifty bucks! Now that I settled on a light source I needed a backdrop to hang from a wall in the hall where the party was being held. Yep your right a borrowed sheet from the closet would be the ticket. A couple of thumb tacks and presto instant backdrop. Next. what camera to use? Just what I was thinking a Hasselblad loaded with Tri-X black & white film. FILM! Yes I am from the old school of photography where you had to actually craft an image in camera. A lost art these days if I don’t say so. Digital is great for many things, but so many think its a miracle worker. That’s the problem that I see with photographers today. They think digital can do all things for them. How easy they forget that they need to light properly, have great composition and get the shot while on location and not back at their computer at two in the morning. But that’s just me.

The one thing I have learned about having two kids is that trying to get them to do anything at the same time is difficult. I took this knowledge and let the kids come and go in front of the camera at their leisure. I took only one frame of each child. I already new my exposure (yes I had a few sheets of Polaroid still floating around) and composition. This way I could concentrate on my subjects and make sure they didn’t get third degree burns from the my trusty fifty dollar ring light. And there you have it! Instant personal project……Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by! Check back soon for more personal projects and news.


About James Ray Spahn Photographer
James Ray Spahn is an award winning architectural, interior, lifestyle and resort photographer. He shoots for architects, interior designers, developers, manufacturers, shelter magazines and resorts.

2 Responses to My Sons Seventh Birthday Party!

  1. Dude, I think you should be hired to photograph the next state dinner at the White House. Awesome stuff.

  2. Sarahjane says:

    Mr. Spahn,Great blog. Great shots of those darling kids at the party–very thoughtful. Homemade ring light…cool.I'm moving to Gunnison soon and while checking out the local talent I found your site. I hope to meet you someday.Thanks,Sarah Howard

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