The 21st birthday is a rite of passage for many young people. It is a chance to reflect on life so far, to catch up with friends and relatives, and to get some great photographs of a special night. 

Recently I've been lucky enough to photograph a lot of 21st birthday parties, and I've noticed some things that can really help make your photos special.

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One thing that makes great photos is a great backdrop. This can be very simple, like some fairy lights or 21st balloons, or it can be a beautiful floral affair. I believe the most important thing for a backdrop is to be big enough for groups to stand in front of - this may sound simple but it is very easy to underestimate the size of a backdrop! Having a backdrop gives people somewhere specifically to get photos taken, and means the photographer can make your photos unique. You can also use the backdrop for phone photos/polaroids on the night! 

This backdrop can also double as the location for speeches, which can make for some really great photos too. 

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This may sound like a strange request, but it can really make a difference for your photographer. 

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Many photographers use a flash, and if they can bounce the light off a white ceiling then it will result in much more flattering lighting for you and your friends. Of course without a white ceiling I can still do my job, but the light will be more direct as opposed to bounced. 

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If you have booked a photographer from 7pm until 10pm, don't wait until 9:55 to start speeches! 

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If you plan your evening ahead of time and let the photographer know at the beginning of the event, then you won't have to stress about making decisions throughout the night. This can be as simple as saying what time you would like to do speeches and cake cutting, and where this will take place. The photographer can also make sure they are in position to capture the moments at the right time, and the night can go more seamlessly. 

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The most important thing to do at a 21st is to have fun, and let the photographer do their work behind the scenes! The best photos come out when everyone is having a great time, so don't stress too much about every little detail going perfectly. 

I hope this has been helpful to you, and gives you more of an idea of what to expect from your photographer. 

Ben Stewart is a Wellington based photographer specialising in events, food and portrait photography. You can check out his previous work here, and book him here!