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How to Photograph the Wedding Reception

The reception is the final scene of the wedding, in which the photographic story moves toward the “happily ever after” ending. As you shoot this last part of the wedding, keep the purpose of the scene in mind:

  • Advancing the plot: The reception wraps up the plot, and the story moves in a downward arc toward the ending. Whereas the preparation photos build the story’s tension, the reception is the exact opposite, releasing all the tension as your couple finally celebrates the new marriage with family and friends.

  • Creating a mood: With all the feasting and dancing going on, this scene should definitely have a celebratory feel to it. You can create the mood in your photographs by focusing on all the happy faces around you.

    [Credit: 17mm, 1/60 sec., f/4.0, 800]
    Credit: 17mm, 1/60 sec., f/4.0, 800
  • Forging a connection between the character and viewer: In this last scene, you want your viewer to identify with the excitement and happiness of the couple and their guests. You can help make this connection by showing candid moments like the bride hugging her father or a stolen kiss between the couple during dinner.

    [Credit: 50mm, 1/50 sec., f/4.0, 800]
    Credit: 50mm, 1/50 sec., f/4.0, 800
  • Showing action: Like the ceremony, the reception has a lot of little events, such as the cutting of the cake, toasts, garter and bouquet toss, and first dance, that help to keep the story moving. Make sure to get enough photos of each of those little moments to complete the scene.

Similar to the preparation and ceremony scenes, the reception also has a few logistical issues you’ll want to think through:

  • Photographing the reception venue: As soon as you’re done photographing the ceremony (and the formal portraits, if they’re being done after the ceremony), head straight over to the reception site so you can get pictures of the venue and tables.

    Getting these photos of the venue may involve talking ahead of time with the wedding coordinator to let her know to hold off guests from going inside until you’ve had about 15 to 20 minutes in there to capture the room, tables, and décor without guests in the way. If, however, holding off the guests isn’t possible, try to find a time before the ceremony to get those detail shots.

  • Shooting what you want: Like during the preparation scene, don’t be afraid to cut out irrelevant details to craft the story the way you want it to be told. As you shoot different parts of the reception room, feel free to move things around, like taking the pats of butter and creamers off of a table in order to capture a clear view of the place settings.

    [Credit: 17mm, 1/80 sec., f/2.8, 800]
    Credit: 17mm, 1/80 sec., f/2.8, 800
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