Receptions can be the most overwhelming part of a wedding–especially for photographers. The DJ is sound-checking, managers are running around keeping staff in check, and the staff themselves are sweating trying to perfect the tables up to the last minute. To take great photos, you need to act quickly and kindly, not to mention finding great shots. In this video, Michelle Ford doles out seven essential shots not to missed when shooting receptions:
Work with whoever is in charge to empty the room of busybodies as quickly as possible. There are generally two types of shots: perfect symmetry or an emphasized foreground, using a prominent object like the cake or a centerpiece as an anchor. Always use a tripod, use a low ISO, and set your shutter speed to several seconds so any people still moving around can be blurred out.
Always start small, with details like place cards. Not only do you get the shot before people have sat down and removed their cards, but this also gives you time to figure out the room’s lighting.
You always want to stay one step ahead of the guests. If the first thing they grab will be the place cards, next will be the menus. Shoot them as tight as you need if people are sitting at the tables already, and get one or two great shots before moving onto the bigger pictures.
Shoot the little objects on the plates before trying to capture the full image. Don’t be afraid to fiddle with the table if you put things back when you’re finished–feel free to remove whatever distractions you see fit, like salt and pepper shakers.
Whenever possible, look for depth. By now you should be finished with your details—you want to get wider angles that capture more of the room itself in all its complexity. Using shallow depth of field and tight compression can yield really nice results. (Michelle suggests only shooting with strong compression lenses, like anything higher than 85mm.)
There isn’t always one, but if there is, the same rules apply–start small, then work your way out to the full picture. The sweetheart table should be a portrait of intimacy, so, again, you should feel comfortable getting in close and keeping shots tight.
Because the guests enjoy the cake last, and it’s usually off in a corner somewhere by itself, there’s no need to rush toward it. Unlike everything else, it will very likely be in the same condition after the guests have begun filing in, so you can afford to shoot it last, after things have begun to settle down.
A mental checklist for photographing a wedding reception will keep you from becoming overwhelmed and missing essential shots in the chaos. And the happy couple will love having pictures of all the special details that they planned so carefully.