Wedding Reception Shooting Tips How To Photograph The Dances and Toasts
Wedding receptions are all about the fun, the dancing, and the party. Even though you can photograph groups quite easily during the cocktail hour or when everyone gets on the dance floor, what about photographing the first dances and the toasts? Wedding receptions are often fast-paced, and in those few hours, a lot goes down, which means that there’s a lot that you need to photograph too. Since things are happening so quickly, getting the proper lighting and set-up in place and managing the wedding reception timeline isn’t exactly a piece of cake. Therefore, in this blog, we take you through some wedding reception shooting tips on how you could improve the way you shoot first dances and the toasts. 

Be Prepared to Use Off-Camera Lighting

Infographic stating get an assistant to handle the lighting equipment

As you begin to photograph the reception, start with a wide-angle lens. This will help you get a great view of the venue in all its glory before everyone starts to come in. Another wedding reception shooting tip to keep in mind is to use the same lens for a couple of wide shots of the first dance. As the evening continues, you could switch lenses and move to a prime lens for dancing images. If you find yourself in a dark and tightly packed wedding reception venue, you may need to use off-camera lighting. Also, since there’s so much happening at once, you might have to keep moving around the room to take photos. To lessen your load, we’d suggest you get an assistant to help you with that. You could simply fix the flash on a monopod and then have your assistant stand at a place that works for your photos.

Related Read: Flash Photography Tips: A Brief Intro To Artificial Lighting

Shooting the First Dances

A bird eye's view of a couple dancing at the center of a circle created by the bridesmaid and groomsmen
Image Credits: ShootDotEdit Customer @iqphoto

Whether it’s the bride and groom or the couple with their parents, first dances deserve the spotlight they get. They are personal and profound moments for your couples and their families too, and to have beautiful photos from this moment could mean so much to them. A wedding reception shooting tip to remember while taking photos of the first dance is to start with finding your angle first. Unless there’s something you want to have as the backdrop in the dance photos, try to capture these photos with the guests in the backdrop. This way, as you photograph the first dances, you also capture the guests’ reactions. Once you know your angle, place your assistance for lighting accordingly and start moving around the room for different angles and perspectives.

Shooting the Toast

A bride and groom standing beside the banquet table as a guest is giving a toast
Image Credits: ShootDotEdit Customer

The toast is another moment when you can capture unfiltered emotional reactions on the wedding day. Most of the time, unless you plan it out beforehand, the person making the toast chooses to stand behind the bride and groom. This usually ends up in you taking photos of the back of the heads of both parties, and it also makes it nearly impossible to get a shot where you can see everyone’s reactions to the toasts. But don’t worry, we’ve got a wedding reception shooting tip for this too. Before the toast starts, see if you can coordinate and make the person giving the toast stand in a spot where you can photograph them, your couple, and the guests. 

Additionally, unless something has changed in the ambient light, your lighting during the toast could remain the same as the lighting you used during the first dances. If the light in the room is the same and your off-camera flash is still at the same distance from the subject as it was during the first dance, then your lighting remains the same.

Know The Reception Timeline 

Infographic stating spend time planning your set-up before you start shooting

As the photographer, it is crucial to get an idea about the activities that are going to take place at the wedding reception. You could get the timeline in advance from your bride and groom, and just to be extra sure about everyone being on the same page and that nothing has changed since the time you got the first timeline from your couple, you could also make a final timeline check with the band or DJ, the wedding planner or whoever is in-charge at the venue. We’d suggest that you take a good look at the reception venue before the guests start pouring in and figure out the spots you could use to photograph the party. 

Suggested Read: How To Create Your Ultimate Wedding Photography Timeline

A bird eye's view of an open dance floor at a wedding reception
Image Credits: ShootDotEdit Customer @loversoflove

Photographing wedding receptions could get tricky, and no matter how many wedding receptions shooting tips you take note of, you could still come across an unexpected situation. There’s so much going on, and sometimes, there’s just not enough time to get the photos like you had imagined them. But the key is to manage the reception timeline and increase your efficiency by improving your wedding reception lighting techniques and learning the best ways to photograph a setting. The photos of the important dances and the toasts will mean so much to your couple, so focus on photographing them right. Spend some extra time planning your set-up and when things start to unfold, get your camera ready and start shooting! 

Further Read: How To Photograph Sparklers At A Wedding Reception

We hope these tips for shooting a wedding reception can act as a guide at your next wedding photography gig. At ShootDotEdit, we are passionate about helping you unlock your true potential as a wedding photographer. But if photo editing is getting in the way of you exploring your creativity, then let us do it for you. To learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, check out our pricing plans

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