How to Light a Wedding Reception for Photography

Weddings offer many opportunities for a photographer to shine and truly show the wonderful nature of these events. Being a wedding photographer comes with a lot of responsibility and requires someone with the right eye for capturing the best moments—but also finding proper lighting. This video tutorial has advice on the best lighting setups for wedding receptions:

1. Assess the situation and then place your lights.

Evaluate the placement for all of your lights when you’re setting up. Flashes can be placed in corners at 45 degree angles facing the center of the room. Also, pay attention to lighting used by other workers and adjust yours accordingly.

2. Match your light color with the room light color.

Since you don’t want to mix light colors, you can add CTO gel onto your flashes for indoor weddings and set the white balance on your camera to match the light color at the reception.

reception lighting wedding banquet

3. Utilize light modifiers.

As SLR Lounge explains, use a diffuser or bounce card for more directional control and less light spillage.

4. Dial in your camera settings.

After going through trial and error to find the proper settings, dial them in to find a balance between the light and camera controls. For low light situations, increase the ISO until you get the desired amount of light in your shots.

reception lighting couple cake

5. Bounce on-camera flash off of ceilings and walls.

If a white or light colored ceiling or wall is available, bounce your flashes off of it to your advantage.

6. Talk to the DJ about his or her light setup.

Prep for situations where extra or excessive lighting will be used by the DJ (e.g. the couple’s entrance). Increase on-camera flash and lower the ISO to cut down on ambient light entering your picture.

dancefloor wedding reception flash

7. Find the right spot to shoot your subject.

Ask yourself, where am I in relation to my subject? Find the best lighting by placing yourself in a spot that won’t have light facing you directly or unnecessary items in your shot.

8. Control the lights from your hand.

Some flashes give you the control to turn your camera flashes on and off with a remote switch. There are also triggers available to mount on your camera for this option.

wedding reception LED light

9. Use foreground lights for creative effects.

Use items such as LED and foreground lights to add creative effects to your subjects. Experiment with them to see the distortion that they can put in your shot.

10. Use direct flash for the dance floor.

Use direct flash on the dance floor to capture motion and increase movement in your photos. Open the shutter and lower the ISO with direct flash to get the shutter drag look in some of your shots.

Keep these lighting tips in mind for the next time that you’re shooting a wedding reception!

“Low light, children running amok, music blaring through the speakers, and a whole lot of action—with all of that going on during a wedding reception it can be hard to stop and compose yourself to figure out what lighting setup you need to get you the shots you desire.”

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