life (with kids)

Behind the scenes of a birthday party – #NikonMOMents

I thought really hard about how I would write this post.

See, it’s a pretty big moment for me. If you go to my About page, the first line that I write in my bio is how my Nikon is surgically attached to my hand. I am a huge Nikon fan (we have a Nikon D40 and a Nikon D80) and they’ve been on of the top of my wish list of brands that I would love to collaborate with.

Well, over the next 12 months, that is exactly what’s happening. I get to work with Nikon as one of their Mom Brand Ambassadors where I get to capture and share moments – as in “MOM” ents – of special events and occasions in our families life. And I get to do it using their sexy D3300.

The first MOMent that I was going to capture was my older daughter’s camping themed birthday party. This specific party idea had been in the works for over 2 years since we held her completely insane 5th Rainbow Birthday party, because last year we were in Florida and her birthday “party” consisted of $5 chocolate cake from the drugstore. If you read the post about that family trip, you’ll understand why I worked hard on this one for her.

At first I was like “Ok I’ll take a bunch of photos of the pretty decor details, the food and party favours and do the post on that”. Then I thought no. That’ll be my next post for all of the people who want all the DIY and decor details.

Because that’s not what this post should be. This should be the reality of what goes on behind the scenes of a kids birthday party when you’re not only a mom but a blogger. Because those are the real life moments that moms ultimately remember. The chaos behind it all.

Because no one’s life is picture perfect. Mine isn’t even close. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have perfect pictures.

It’s by far one of the reasons I love Nikon so much. Because when you’re a mom and organizing and running an event where there are kids eating mountains of sugar and running around like crazy, the last thing you need to do is be worried about if your photos are turning out. You are stressed out enough as is. And if you’re also a blogger who writes about event decor and holiday crafts, you go into extra worried mode because you know you have a limited time spam on photos that you can take of all your work before everything gets eaten and destroyed.

You need to be able to have a camera that you can trust, turn on and just shoot away knowing you’re not going to cringe when you go to the preview button and say “Oh fantastic. It’s blurry. Can we uncut the cake?”

Case in point. I had set up the table decorations which we had worked very hard on and took some pre-guest arrival photos of the birthday girl (who for the record was very involved in the look of everything).

But the weather was a nightmare. Our family seems to have this special gift of ensuring every single one of her birthday parties must occur on the most sweltering hot day of the year. And all day long there was risk of thunderstorms too.

So just as we were setting up some light rain started to fall and I was like “You are not allowed to rain until I take all the photos I need of this table and I cannot have all the kids in my basement the entire night because there is no such thing as a backup plan for rain in a camping party that requires a fire pit to roast marshmallows.”

Camping Birthday Party -

L's camping party -

Camping Birthday Party table -

Then it was let’s take photos of the campfire cake. Thank you to all you awesome bloggers out there who made this one before me.

Camping Birthday Party cake -

And the beverage dispenser with the birthday girls requested mason jar drinks. If you read my blog regularly, you know how I feel about mason jars so this was definitely for her.

Beverage dispenser before -

Barely 10 minutes go by. Tons of photos are being taken at a rapid pace.

The best thing I ever did with my SLR was stop using it on Auto mode and starting practicing on all the other great settings the camera has to offer. I now tend to shoot on Aperture mode quite often but if you’re not comfortable shooting on Aperture or Program just yet, Nikon offers this great Guide Mode feature where based on the scenery or lighting conditions that you are shooting, you choose that given mode and the camera adjusts to the optimal settings for that condition for you.

Suddenly I heard “Mom the fire is melting”.

“The fire is melting? What fire…oh.”

The fake fire on the cake was literally melting. Hot weather – 1, Alex – 0.

Camping Birthday party cake melting -

Then I heard “Mom the table is wet.”

“The table is wet? But it’s not raining? Oh…”

Getting a drink at the camping birthday party -

Beverage dispenser -

We’re now barely 15 minutes in and already I have a soaked tablecloth. Welcome condensation.

Hot weather – 2. Alex – 0.

Off the table the cake goes. Drinks have to stay.

Ok let’s go and get some sibling pictures really fast under the tent we made. They look happy right?

L & C - northstory (2)

 Watch the slight eye roll change of my youngest and the this smile is hurting me face of the birthday girl.

L & C - northstory (1)

What you missed, was the world war that occurred because someone did not want to have their older sisters arm wrapped around them for the photo because it was too hot outside.

Hot weather – 3. Alex – 0.

“Can I have just one more photo sweetie?”

No, you get the Moose Crossing sign.

Moose Crossing sign -

But then, like the fairy Godmother that a mom needs to rescue siblings and melting food, guests arrive and kids start playing.

Then craft time starts and we go inside the basement to make dream catchers.

Making dream catchers -

Kids dream catchers -

 Then it was hot dog and marshmallow roasting time.

Roasting Marshmallows -

Roasting Marshmallows - northstory (1)

My daughter trying to pretend she can’t tell I am taking a photo of her.

L's camping party - (2)

As soon as we started opening up gifts under the tent, it got dark outside really fast.

Now I didn’t have time to pull out my flash (we have a Speedlight SB-600 that we use with our Nikon) and I didn’t want to use the one on the camera as I like shots to look as natural as possible, so in order to compensate I changed the settings on the camera to allow more light to come in.

The next series of photos were taken around the exact same time – including the fire pit and the lantern shots.

opening up presents -

Camping Birthday Party in the backyard -

Firepit photo -

Camera settings: 1/50s, F4.5, ISO 280

Lantern photo -

Camera settings: 1/40s, F4.0, ISO 4000

Garden at night -

Camera settings: 1/20s, F4.0, ISO 12800

Have I mentioned how much I love this camera?

I haven’t even explained the Exposure Compensation feature that has become my new best friend. But I will in a future post.

As for the rest of the party, it all went well. Glow sticks, cake and so many feathers all over the place from the dream catchers. Happy tired kids as it should be. And happy tired adults. Tired adults is operative word. We survived Day 1 of the Birthday Weekend. Did I forget to mention that? Yes, Day 2 was yesterday.

And that’s when Grandma and Grandpa came over and the family gifts were opened.

L opening up presents - northstory (2)

L opening up presents - northstory (1)

And today, the day I am posting this is Day 3 and her actual 7th Birthday.

In honour of that, I want to share the first photos we ever took of her with our very first Nikon and the reason we became a Nikon family. Because really, at the end of the day (or days in this case) moments like these, go by far, far too quickly. So make sure you have a great Nikon camera to capture them with.

Happy Birthday to my not so little baby! Love you always.

L1 - northstory

L2 - northstoryL3 - northstory

Disclosure: I am part of the Mom Central Canada Nikon MOMents team and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.


  • Reply
    Heather Lynne
    August 25, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Love this, Alex! 🙂 Great shots of a beautiful party- great job! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 25, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    It looks like you guys had a great party! I love the theme.

  • Reply
    Tash @ The Dreamhouse Project
    August 25, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Such a fantastic post! I love the behind the scenes pics. The slight eye roll & the my face is hurting smile FTW! Lol! Also…I need that camera. We’re SO long overdue for a camera upgrade – the low light shots are perfection.

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Brave New Home
    August 26, 2014 at 2:57 am

    I went to a camp themed birthday party just this weekend (though for a one-year-old). I loved that you showed us the behind the scene photos. My babies are growing up so fast, too, I want to learn to take the best photos of them as possible. And congrats on this partnership—totally awesome!

  • Reply
    Victoria • Restoring our Victorian
    August 26, 2014 at 11:46 am

    Wow! Those dusk/night shots are great!
    Can’t wait for your party recap!

  • Reply
    August 27, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Wow, you thought of everything… right down to the flames on that gorgeous cake! So inventive!! Great post; I’m a party fanatic so I might “borrow” some of these ideas!

  • Reply
    August 28, 2014 at 9:37 am

    wow, your pics are really great!! I also love how creative you were with all of the party decor, food, etc.
    I’ve been catching up on your blog, and you are SO funny lol..I really enjoy reading your blog and I love how “real” you keep things:)

    Have a great day!


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