How To Photograph Wedding Receptions With Great Success?

However, it would be wrong to treat receptions since receptions hold many meaningful details of an actual wedding celebration. So here are some tips on photographing wedding receptions with great success.

Look into what the venue looks like before you photograph the wedding day. You will want to know the best photography locations at the specific venue you will shoot. Set up some time with the venue and the couple to walk through the space. If not, take a look at photos that have been shot at the venue online.

FAQs About Wedding Venue

We'd recommend a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second or faster for weddings and hand-holding images. A slower shutter speed is quite the opposite. With a slower shutter speed, you're allowing your camera's shutter to open and close at a slower rate, which may or may not introduce motion blur.

Both Shutter Priority Mode and Aperture Priority Mode have their downfalls, so it's best to shoot your wedding photography in Manual Mode. In addition, manual Mode allows you to set each camera value, which leaves nothing up to chance.

Every wedding photographer needs a 50mm lens, and when it comes to that focal length, the Canon 50mm f/1.2L delivers. It is a lens that will have you taking photos with that unique, dreamy, wedding-in-a-Disney-movie feel.

Candid photography is the art of clicking pictures when the subject is unaware, natural and not posing for the photographer. The subject can be still or in motion while being clicked.

Many wedding photographers use both a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm to capture the wedding day. These work particularly well during parts of the day where the pace of events isn't ideal for lens swaps. As far as wedding lenses go, this is the most necessary addition.


Schedule The Reception With A Time Buffer

Weddings are high paced and often begin on time, but it can be easy to fall behind schedule as the day progresses. When creating the wedding day itinerary for your clients, add an extra 15-minute buffer to any travel or transition time before the reception.

You'll want to grab a snack and hydrate before getting into the last leg of the wedding day. You'll also want to test out your gear and change batteries or memory cards. Some photographers take this time to do the same-day slideshow.

This extra buffer means no rushing to the reception but instead preparing your gear and yourself for the last few hours of the day so that you're not running on empty.

It also will allow you to get to the reception early, which is my next point.

Photograph The Reception Alone

Getting to the reception area those extra few minutes early also allows you to photograph all the details without guests in the background. It makes for really nice wide shots and close-up shots of the entire setup.

You can then create real depth to your photos and zone in on certain details like the seating chart, place cards, centrepieces, and the sweetheart table. You can capture them without drinks, purses, or other guest items.

If possible, have the bride and groom enter the reception area and photograph them alone in the middle of the setup as part of their wedding portraits. It can add a little more emotion and tie the narrative of the event together.

Make A List Of All The Must-Have Photos.

Most wedding receptions are much the same regarding what you should photograph for the bride and groom. While they can vary in time of day, location, or style, these are the main details that you should be sure to photograph:

  • Entrance details: Do they have a sign? Are there photos from their engagement session? Is there a sign-in guest book and meaningful mementos like wood blocks to sign and write notes on? These are important to photograph as a whole and each detail individually or as a group of details.
  • Wide photo of the space as a whole. Photographing the entire space gives the reception and final wedding photos a nice transition in the narrative or album. Take a few photos from different perspectives to choose the best one for the gallery of the final images.
  • Centrepieces: If there is only one style, photograph it horizontally and vertically and take a detailed close-up photo. If there are different styles on each table, take photos of each style. If, for example, they have placed a different photograph on each table, you don't have to photograph each table. Instead, find one or two you like and photograph two or three different tables.
  • Table seating/ seating cards: Table seating and table cards are how guests know where to sit during receptions. These may present in various and creative ways. It would help photograph a wide shot of the setup and a detailed photo of the seating. Choose a name that sounds familiar to you (perhaps a family member or member of the bridal party) to focus on for the detailed photo.
  • Dinnerware set up: Photograph the setup if you notice that the dinnerware and stemware have been chosen with a little more intention. Get different perspectives and angles.
  • Florals: This is most likely to be part of the centrepiece; however, some weddings have beautiful florals decorating different parts of the space.
  • Dessert table/candy bar
  • Cake
  • Lounge or seating area
  • Any other detail that you feel the couple put lots of effort, time, or money into.
  • How to Photograph Wedding Receptions with Great Success


Many new wedding photographers make a big mistake in failing to stage photos. Staging the photos will help you get the perfect photo of the detail while still keeping the main aesthetic that the bride and groom have chosen.

Image: Staging and moving things around can help the final photo.

Staging and moving things around can help the final photo.

It means moving salt and pepper shakers out of the way, lighting the votive candles if necessary, turning a table number to face the camera, or even moving a chair to get the whole table in one photo.

After getting your shots, place everything back to where it belongs. Then, when the guests arrive, they see the complete look and aren't missing their water glass or chairs.


If you photograph a reception in a salon or closed venue, the lighting may not be ideal for photos. If the ceiling is white, you can use it to bounce light from your flashback down onto the table and reception details. It will give you more even lighting and pretty direct light in your photos.

You can also use an external LED video light or small light to help you light the reception details. It also gives you a lot more flexibility in getting different lighting that is immediately obvious. As for flash, you have to take test shots first to see how the light looks.

Having an external flash can help you get nicely lit photos. Use the flash in manual Mode to control the output.

If you don't have any external lighting, you can use the ambient light for the details. Make sure that your camera is stable enough to photograph using a tripod. Having a fast lens can also help you capture ambient light.

Be aware of the colour temperature of the ambient light as well. If you're photographing with ambient light, it can change the colour of florals, table linens, seating cards, etc.

As a good resource, you can also use your cell phone flashlight to help light or fill-in light on the details you're photographing.

Events Of The Reception

During the reception, there will most likely be some, if not all, of the following events:

  • Grand entrance
  • First dance
  • Mother/Son and Father/ Daughter dance
  • Toasts
  • Cake cutting
  • Bouquet toss/Garter toss
  • Money or Honeymoon dance
  • DJ-led games or trivia
  • Dancing

These usually get coordinated by the wedding planner, bride, or DJ himself. Look to them to know what is next after dinner has begun. Never leave your camera, and always be ready to photograph anything you feel is important or fun.

Dancing is always fun. If you can make sure to photograph the key players, like the mother of the bride, bridal party, children dancing, or the best man, these all make for meaningful and fun photos later.

It's really important to photograph the bride and groom dancing with their guests.

Don't be afraid to get creative when you feel like you have photographed all of the most important events. Slow your shutter to get interesting lighting effects. Use multiple flashes to light the dance floor evenly. Even get a different perspective of the party.

The main thing is to enjoy yourself while taking photos!

Before You Leave The Wedding

Before leaving the wedding reception, thank your clients and ask this one important question: Is there anything you'd like me to capture before I leave?

It allows them to get last-minute photos that they may have forgotten to ask for earlier in the day. For example, they may want a quick one with their grandmother or a photograph of them with their best friends from college.

Do this about 10 minutes before you are set to leave. That way, you can have time to photograph all of those last-minute requests before you pack it up and head out.

It's also a great way to say goodbye to the couple for the night.

Scouting The Venue

You can do one thing scope out the space at a venue and "scout" it on Google Maps. If you can't get there in person, you can view the venue's Google Maps and see what the surrounding areas look like. It is one of the big photography tips for those who shoot in cities. There are not often large outdoor expanses that are part of city venues. Scout in person or Google Maps to determine the best local spots to photograph near the venue.

Tips For Photographing Weddings Inside Of Churches

There are many different styles of event venues, and you must be aware of what you're getting into ahead of time. For example, if the ceremony is at a church, you must communicate with the church. Many places of worship have specific guidelines on where professionals can and cannot be during a ceremony. There are also lighting restrictions that come with photographing in some churches. Another one of the big tips for wedding photographers is to meet with the celebrant ahead of time and ensure you both have an understanding.

Wedding Photography Contingency Plans At Venues

If the venue is outdoors on a golf course or in a park, you must also ensure the couple has a contingency plan. What if it rains on the wedding day? Or, what if the sun is super bright overhead? Figure out the plans of how you can photograph the event in any circumstance at any venue. If the venue is an outdoor one and the rain contingency is to move indoors, you must be prepared to light the photos accordingly.

Make Sure To Have A Copy Of The Day-Of Timeline.

Always keep a copy of the day-of timeline on the wedding day. Ensure that this is the most recent copy of the timeline. Many timelines fluctuate until the week before or even the day before the celebration. Keep the most recent timeline with you at all times. The timeline is your guide to making sure that everything runs smoothly.

If the event has a planner or day-of coordinator, this is the person who will have the most recent timeline.

Coordinate with them ahead of time to ensure a proper amount of time budgeted. You need to ensure as a photographer that they budget time for photos. If they have a very large family, for example, and only have 20 minutes set aside for family photos, that is not enough time. Let the planner, bride, or groom know that there needs to be time added for photos.

If they plan to do a first look, this can speed up the photography timeline. These wedding photography tips you share with your clients can help them lay out their day. If they opt for a first look, they can do their couples photos, wedding party photos, and family photos before the ceremony. It will give them more time to socialize with their loved ones after the ceremony ends. If you opt for this schedule, it will not take them away from the cocktail hour.

However, if the client does not choose to do a first look, you must budget more time as needed. Although a first look can speed up a schedule, not all clients want one. Some are more traditional and want their special moment during the ceremony. Some clients want to see each other when the bride walks down the aisle for the first time.

Assist A Professional

You should know the dos and don'ts of wedding photography before shooting any weddings. Learning the basics from a veteran photographer will help you avoid common mistakes.

Try reaching out to a professional wedding photographer before starting your own wedding photography business. They may allow you to shadow them at weddings they've booked or pick their brain for advice.

You can gain hands-on experience while working alongside a seasoned professional that you can apply to other later shoots. Depending on your photography skills, some of the tips you learn may not be new to you. But, it's always helpful to see how other professionals in your fieldwork achieve the best results.

Test Your Camera In Advance

You'll likely want to bring a tripod at the wedding ceremony and several camera lenses and external flashes. If the wedding you're photographing takes place indoors, you may also need other lighting equipment. However, you can likely get by with a bounce for outdoor ceremonies rather than cumbersome lights.

It's a good idea to err on caution and bring more equipment than you think you'll need. Pack several spare batteries and memory cards so you don't miss anything from drinks at cocktail hour to fun-filled dancing on the dance floor.

Photograph With A Partner

You can't carry all your photography accessories alone. You'll likely need a helping hand to make the best wedding photography images. You may also need another professional photographer to assist in managing lights, taking test shots and capturing scenes you'd otherwise miss. You can't be everywhere at once!

Ask a wedding photographer to become your assistant in exchange for being their second in command at their next event. This trade is a smart way to stay on budget and get help from an experienced wedding photographer.


Wedding receptions are joyous occasions, but they can also be difficult to photograph. However, you can capture beautiful images of the event that will last a lifetime with the right approach. This article has shared some tips on photographing wedding receptions with great success. We hope that you find these tips helpful and that they help you create memories of your special day that will last forever.

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