creative wedding reception photos, wedding reception, st louis wedding photographer

Two Tricks for Creative Wedding Reception Photos

For Photographers
December 11, 2015

If you ask wedding photographers what they dread the most, most of them would probably say the reception. This for a lot of good reasons. Low light, mixed color temperature, and fast pace, just to name a few.

Without a good camera (one that allows you bump up ISO without introducing a lot of noises) and a fast lens, the depressing combination of low light and fast movement on the dance floor can be very hard to overcome. But at least, they are manageable. In fact, they are not a problem at all if you use a flash, either on camera or off camera.

Mixed color temperature, on the other hand, is an extremely big royal pain in the a**. If you can’t get it right in camera, it will be really difficult to try to fix it during post processing. Of course, converting the pictures into black and white will solve this problem. But that’s only a last resort and I don’t think your clients would be happy with all their reception photos being black and white.

Sure, if you know how to use flash (in non-TTL mode), then would not be a problem for you either. For instance, you can easily just dial down your ISO (possibly as low as you can) and maybe raise your shutter speed (maybe around 1/200th of a second, depending on the sync speed of your flash) at the same time to kill all that nasty ambient light, and then set your flash power to properly expose your subject.

What I’m going to talk about next is two ways to actually incorporate ambient light to produce creative shots that will absolutely impress your clients.

Trick #1: Drag the Shutter

Creative Wedding Reception Photo, shutter drag, four seasons hotel wedding

The shot above captured the girls in anticipation of the bouquet coming their way. Straight out of camera, no Photoshop whatsoever. What I like about this picture is how I put the ambient light to good use and create dynamic shots that I believe best represent what was going on that night.

Here is how I accomplished this. Remember the strategy I told you earlier, how you can kill all the ambient light? I did the exact opposite. Well, maybe not quite. But what I did was, first of all, set the flash power to properly expose the girls. And then, instead of lowering ISO and raising shutter speed, I upped the ISO to 600 and brought my shutter speed down to 1/10th of a second. (You might be appalled by this, but wait.) Here comes the crucial step: while I was half-pressing the shutter to lock my focus, I quickly drag my camera to my right and took the shot.

Pretty simple, right? I did’t invent the technique in case you’re wondering. It’s called “shutter drag” if you want to google it. Once you’ve learned the trick, you will realize that you can move the camera in all kinds of ways to create interesting and dynamic shots. You can move the camera from right to left, from left to right, you can rotate it, you can wave it. You can get crazy with your camera as long as you don’t mind the wedding guests looking at you funny. In a word, just imagine yourself painting with your camera.

Trick #2: Zoom Your Lens

Here is another shot I did from the same wedding, but using a slightly different technique.

Creative Wedding Reception Photo, four seasons hotel wedding

All the settings on my camera were pretty much the same. But in order to achieve this look, you’ll need a zoom lens, preferably a telephoto lens. In this case, I used a 55-300mm. You can start with either end of the focal range. I zoomed in on the subject all the way to 300mm, point my camera to where I wanted to focus, half-pressed the shutter to lock the focus, and lastly (this is the interesting part) while I was locking the focus, I quickly zoomed out and took the shot. The picture above was taken at the focal length of 100mm.

Again, you can start from the shorter end of your lens’ focal range and zoom in to get the shots you want. There’s no right or wrong way to do this.

I hope this gives your an idea on how to deal with reception venues with non-ideal lighting situations and inspires you to be more creative with your wedding reception photos. Keep in mind that not all clients would appreciate this kind of shots. If this is something you want to do, it’s important to educate them.

Comments? Let me see some of your creative reception photos.

[…] a few of my secret techniques. I shared how I created shots like these in this blog post here: How to Take Better Wedding Reception Photos. Do you like them? Not like them? Please share your thoughts […]

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