David N. Sachs | How to Photograph a Reception

How to Photograph a Reception

May 30, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

One of the most difficult parts of any wedding day to photograph is the reception. The top lights go down, the up-lighting turns on, and everyone’s suddenly purple and covered in laser dots. How do you overcome, or even utilize, this dark club-lit atmosphere to create some stunning and exciting reception images? There are dozens of tips and tricks for shooting a reception effectively, today we'll cover just a handful of the most important from the get go.

Control the Light

The number one most important thing that you can do during a wedding reception is take control of the light entering your camera. This doesn’t mean walking over and turning off the DJ's up-lighting or drown out the glow of some sparklers, but it does mean creating a set up that works for you within the parameters of the space you’re shooting in. Whether this means putting pro photos on every corner of the dance floor or adjusting your flash to overpower the lighting available, taking control is instrumental in the success of your images at this time.

Change your Perspective

When the dancing first starts we all get excited and have a great time running around clicking and flashing and taking photos that look like we’re in a club in Vegas. After a while, however, repetitive reception photos can start to get a little bit boring. Instead of taking the same smiling straight on shot over and over, try hopping up on the stage or a chair or even throwing your camera up over your head and pointing it down into the crowd. Conversely, if there are kiddos on the dance floor, try to get down on their level and show the party from their perspective.

Bounce the Flash

Sometimes that bold on camera flash can be distracting to guests and difficult to control. Instead of pointing the head of your flash directly at your guests, try to defuse the light by bouncing it off of a low ceiling or wall nearby. This creates a more natural lighting effect and creates soft even shadows throughout your images. This is especially ideal during toasts and first dances when you want the lights to be a Little more romantic and forgiving.

Embrace the Colors

Chances are if the DJ is throwing down some wild lighting techniques and getting their rave on the couple has asked them to do so. Wedding receptions become wild and fun when they start to feel more like a giant party! Instead of trying to fight the light, embrace it! Those crazy purple lines, a little green dots, and red lasers don’t necessarily have to ruin the image for you. If you shift your mental perspective it can make the photos seem even more fun and full of energy!

Drag the Shutter

This is a super fun technique that allows you to very up the feeling of your photos and push your creativity a bit. Usually while shooting with your flash, your shutter speed will be set between one 1/125th of a second and 1/500th of a second in order to capture the motion and the flash at the same time. When you slow your shutter speed down we know that it’s going to capture the motion as a blur. When you use these two bits of information together, you use your flash to freeze the motion in the front of your frame and the lagging shutter to capture the movement in the background, creating a cool and active blurry effect. It takes a bit of experimenting and can be done with both on and off camera flash and is a great way to amp up the unique quality of your reception images.

Don't Freak Out!

While getting settings correct in camera makes it easier to edit, don’t stress if you can’t manage to fix every little thing while you’re shooting. Be flexible and allow yourself to embrace the reception as a learning experience and try to get creative. clients understand that crazy leading might result in a few crazy photos. There are definitely more concerned with you capturing the fun, the energy, and all of their special moments on their day. Many of the challenges we face during the reception can be fixed and post, but it’s always better to get it right while shooting. The more you practice the better you get, so throw that flash on or your lights up and shoot away during your next reception!


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