How to Throw a Photo Portrait Party

by Benna Crawford
Stage imaginative art shots along with the head shots at a photo portrait party.

Stage imaginative art shots along with the head shots at a photo portrait party.

From kitchenware to lingerie, home-based demo parties bring community and commerce together in a pleasurable whirlwind of show-and-tell, testing, ordering and celebrating. A photo portrait party works on a similar principle. It mixes art, artifice and opportunity. Stage a party for a special occasion or just good times with friends -- with gift portraits as party favors and the option to order more. Invite the best-looking people you know to share some refreshments and the spotlight in front of an unsparing, or soft-focus, lens.

Red Carpet and Runway

You're five or somewhere north of 50 and glamour is your game. Invite your friends to a birthday or a beautiful-people party for a make-up session, fairy tale or vampy costume, posing against a backdrop, and strutting their stuff on a mini-runway under the lights. Dedicate the dining room table to mirrored stations for a makeup artist from a local cosmetics store and a hairdresser to style the "models." Set up a costume rack in a spare bedroom for a little fashion enhancement -- accessories make the woman. Devote a corner of the living room to a white paper backdrop and lights -- the photographer should bring these. Warm everybody up with a little voguing practice in your well-lit hall and encourage cellphone snaps and social media sharing. Each guest takes home a couple of Polaroids and gets to choose her favorite from the digital thumbnails of her shoot for a later email from the photographer.

Oh, Baby

Baby showers are so predictable. Shake things up with a photo portrait party that captures the mom-to-be and her besties before the new arrival takes center stage. Create a photo booth in the den or sunroom with a backdrop -- a velvet curtain, a professional white seamless paper shade, a curtain of colorful rags, ribbons and streamers -- and a fancy antique chair or an unobtrusive cushioned stool. Give each guest her 15 minutes of fame before the lens as the others snack on munchies from the dining room buffet, with lots of extra seating around the living room. Pose everyone for a group shot with mama in the middle. Arrange a print set-up in a corner of the "photo studio," with a table for a computer and photo-printer, so the photographer's assistant can slip printed photos into custom paper frames as party favors.

Oh, Baby - the Sequel

After the baby arrives, host a baby portrait party for moms with little ones, and choose a photographer who specializes in unusual baby shots. Infants wearing pea-shoot caps and sleeping in giant flowerpots, babies seated in a surrounding sea of bright balloons, toddlers in funny hats driving antique pedal cars, moms with cherubs -- it's great marketing for a photographer and a chance for harried mothers to trade notes and tips, grab a snack, and go home with studio shots they might never otherwise have. Spread colorful patchwork quilts on the floor and supply classic toys such as beach balls, teddy bears, blocks and hobby horses. Reserve the dining room for the cake and treats table and messy munching, and be sure to set up a changing station in the guest bathroom.

Snap Out of It

Herd the team into a limo and whisk them from the field to the photographer's portrait studio for instant kid-friendly grub and shots of grubby faces with the sweat of victory or defeat written across them. Her soccer champs or his softball homies will never be this magical age again so put each one under the lights. In the studio, a photographer snaps away for a series of individual black-and-white portraits, a team portrait, and posed "candid" shots to reveal the inner athlete in every kid. If the photo studio can't handle a simultaneous chow-down in an adjacent room, stage the whole thing in a rented party space with one area set aside for pictures, party food, proud parents and loud music, with the adjoining room or alcove for the portrait shoot. A photo portrait party is a great end-of-season celebration, or commiseration, with mementos to treasure that will look as good in a frame as they do on Facebook.

About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .

Photo Credits

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