Top 10 Reception Photography Tips
Receptions can be very intimidating. The lights are low, the people are bustling, and you have split seconds to capture moments. The only calming thing is the free snacks! Here are some of my tips to not only help you photograph a reception, but to make it creative and different than what anyone else can do.
I always like to start with a full view of the scene. You can do this through a panorama, or just one shot taken from far back to get most of the scene. You can also take three separate shots and combine it into one if you can’t fit it all in! I also try and make sure to capture all the different areas of the reception, since the worked so hard to set it up and want to remember it.
Problem: Low Light!
Receptions are a photographer’s worst nightmare. The lighting is less than ideal, usually with the lights turned off or dimmed down. You have a few options.
One: To turn up your ISO, though that makes your images grainy. Sometimes, if you don’t have the right gear, this is what you have to do. Also, slow down your shutter. If you have a tripod you can go lower than 1/60, but if you don’t 1/60 might be the best you can do without camera shake. Also try and keep your f-stop to a lower number.
Also, WATCH YOUR WHITE BALANCE. It can completely change the coloring of your image. So change them and take tests shots to see which you like best.
Two: Use external lighting. This made all the difference in the world when I tried it first, and receptions became fun instead of a job. It not only adds contrast and interesting lighting to your images (see below, and in the other pictures as a matter of fact) but it can allow you to lower that ISO and get better quality images. Don’t be afraid to set up several speed lights around the reception to use as you photograph, or just carry one around on a stand or in your hand like I do.
Don’t be afraid to shoot into the light as well, it can make for beautiful effects.
Getting the details of the reception with a low-fstop number like f1.8 is one of my favorite parts of photographing a reception. It makes beautiful blur, and can be breathtaking. ESPECIALLY when there are lights in the background!
If you can only get to around f5.6, then try these tricks: 1. Take a step back, and zoom in. This will create lens compression and make more blur. 2. On the side of your lens there should be an “AF/MF” standing for Auto Focus and Manual Focus. Switch it to manual and change the fine tuning of the focus yourself, you can get a little closer that way.
My personal favorite at receptions!!! Use a low f-stop number to get the lights blurred as circles in the background. It makes the details much more interesting, and let’s face it. It’s just awesome.
When photographing the events such as the bouquet toss, cake cutting, etc take a lot of shots! You only have a few seconds to get the right moment, and you can discard the ones you missed later. Make sure your lighting and camera settings and angle are good beforehand, and remember, capture emotion and be different.
Don’t be afraid to stand up on a chair, or lay down on the ground, we are trying to be different aren’t we? It can make photos more interesting, and the more you do it, the less silly you will feel doing so=)
Look for reflections of things, and use them! The decorations they bring to the reception can make for unique and memorable photos.
This first image is a reflection of the couple in line through just a mirror they had used as decoration! And if you don’t get so lucky as to have a mirror, then use other accents that might reflect things like wine glasses, serving trays, or even the reflection of a clean table top. The second image is a reflection of the ceiling through a glass-like centerpiece. And the third image is through the centerpiece on their cake! Look for things that will frame the couple, or reflect it’s surroundings.
Trying a long exposure can show the busyness of the day, but still be something unique and interesting. This image was 30 seconds long, and as people moved around, they became a blur. And because I was on a tripod, everything else was clear and sharp. If you don’t have a tripod, just set it on a table nearby, improvise!
Other Creative Effects
Take elements you use in your other photography, and throw it into a reception! This shot I got from playing with christmas lights. I had it rested against the table, held still for 3 out of 4 seconds, and during the last second zoomed out. And this shot came to be! Don’t be afraid to get creative and to try new things.
Seriously, just don’t be afraid to try new things=) Take the risk and buy that speed light, look silly for a moment to get that one great shot. Be different, and be creative! Good luck, and show me what you’ve got!