I recently taught a workshop to a group of over 65 local professional photographers, all about wedding reception photography. I talked about why I do it, how I do it, and how they can do it better. For some photographers, the perception is that wedding receptions are monotonous, not very creative and repetitive. The goal of my workshop was to re-ignite the “fire” within the attendees and show them that reception coverage can be exciting, artistic and challenging.
Let’s back up a bit …
I am bothered by how much wedding receptions are de-emphasized in certain parts of our industry. Many photographers don’t show off reception images in their portfolio or in their sample albums. Very few wedding magazines and wedding blogs will publish images and moments from a reception; they’re more concerned with details, florals, decor, and so on. In fact, there is the traditional mentality in some photographers who recommend “posing” the cake-cutting or first dance at the beginning of the reception so that the couple doesn’t need to have them stay to photograph the reception.
Me, though? I love photographing a wedding reception, and it’s so much more than a first dance and a cake cutting. The reception is full of real moments, plenty of great stories and an overwhelming amount of candid, raw emotion.
To me, wedding photography is about people, their relationships and the moments that they share together, and the reception is just an extension of that.
Here’s an example of a few of my favourite images from wedding receptions over the past few years. These are very typical of the types of images and moments that I capture at wedding receptions every weekend.
With my style of wedding reception photography, I want to:
- Live in the moment and be quick on my feet
- Capture reactions as they happen
- Document key events and tell stories throughout the evening
As such, my goal is to:
- Be inconspicuous (a photo-ninja as I coined it to my workshop attendees)
- Use a zoom and get in close without physically getting in close
- Be respectful to the guests at the wedding and not get in the way
- Get lots of variety
During the workshop, after enlightening the group on my philosophy on wedding reception photography, the bulk of what I taught was my style of lighting for receptions. Reception halls are typically dark and very large, and as such they pose quite a challenge, photographically speaking. It’s something that many photographers struggle with.
I have perfected a technique for lighting a reception room in order to create beautiful, soft, even light throughout the entire room. It involves setting up several inconspicuous small flashes around the room. Guests don’t see the flashes in the room, and they only burst for a short fraction of a second so no one even notices that they’re going off (unlike those bright lights that videographers use). In strategically placing them and setting up my camera settings properly, I am able to create beautiful, bright, warm reception photographs that no other guest would possibly be able to get.
This is the technique that I taught at my workshop, and it was incredibly well-received. So much so, in fact, that I have since had several of the attendees book one-on-one mentoring sessions with me since to go over the setup in more detail.
What is the point of this blog post? Simply to share my thoughts on why I feel photographing the reception of a wedding is important, and how I do it differently than other photographers, so much to the point where other photographers are asking me to teach them.