How to Take Great Table Shots in Wedding Photography

One of a photographer’s least favorite types of pictures to take at a wedding is the table shot, the pictures of the guests at each table at a wedding reception. This is because it is hard to get everyone from a table organized, and it does not have the artistry of other photos at a wedding. But this does not mean they aren’t important or you don’t have to put much effort into them. On the contrary, these table shots are popular with wedding couples because they are a testament of who attended their special day. Moreover, for many guests who are on the fringe, that is who are not family or close friends of the wedding couple; this may be the only shot of them from the entire wedding.

wedding table photo

Photo captured by Tatiana Garanina (Click Image to See More From Tatiana Garanina)

As I said above, chances are these are not going to be your most artistic shots of the night. The important thing in these pictures is that everyone is present, visible, in focus, and looks all right. In this article I am going to give you a few tips on how to make these shots turn out as nice as possible.

One of the most important things to taking table shots is having a strategy. Normally you will not be able to just go around the reception hall and get every table in order and at the same time. People will be walking around, or there will be servers coming by, so you will need to find a time to shoot each table.

The first thing you need to do is keep track of which tables you shoot since you probably won’t be able to get all the shots at once. Likewise, only shoot a table if everyone at the table is available for the picture. It doesn’t make sense to set everyone up, do the shot, then have to come back and do the exact same shot later in the night. Therefore, as you are walking around taking other shots, you need to be looking around for tables where everyone is present. If you have an assistant, put him or her in charge of this.

how to take table shots at weddings

Photo captured by Tatiana Garanina (Click Image to See More From Tatiana Garanina)

The most common method to taking a table shot is to have everyone set up behind the table. Obviously make sure everyone is set up so the heights look pleasing to the eye, that is, not all the tall people on one side of the shot for example. Again, if you have an assistant, put him or her in charge of setting up the guests. Have people place their hands on the back the chair if it is just hanging there in the air.

Make sure you get enough shots to account for the chance that someone blinks. With more people, there is more of a chance that at least one of them is blinking. Don’t be afraid to make the guests wait a few seconds more to get some extra shots. You already took the time to make sure everyone from the table is present, and to set them up so they look nice. It would be a shame to have a blink ruin the shot.

Another tip is to make sure the table is neat. This does not mean taking all the plates off the table. You can crop the table so that only a small part of it is in the frame, but you still need to make sure that there is nothing distracting in the shot. After all, you never know if this is the picture they decide to frame and put on the wall.

One more thing to keep in mind is your F-stop. Try to use a larger F-stop if there is going to be a lot of people in the photo. Remember the saying eight is great. So set your F-stop to 8 if there is enough light (ambient or strobe). Likewise, try to set up the guests so they are all in the same depth of focus plane. Depending on your camera lens, you may not want to crop so tight in camera. Some cheaper lenses are very soft around the edges, so it would be better to do your cropping post-production. Having people’s faces out of focus due to soft edges will kill a table shot.

wedding reception photography

Photo captured by Tatiana Garanina (Click Image to See More From Tatiana Garanina)

Try these tips the next time you do table shots at a wedding. Thanks for reading!

About the Author:
To see more wedding photography tips check out my blog Kevin Heslin. Or to see samples of my Wedding Photography, or Travel and Culture Photography of Costa Rica check out my website Costa Rica Photographer.

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4 responses to “How to Take Great Table Shots in Wedding Photography”

  1. Lauren says:

    Thanks for this! Ive done a few weddings and parties and the table shots are my least favorite…this helped alot!

  2. Apramit says:

    Very useful information listed here!Gonna have all these tips in mind the next time i shoot :)

  3. Edward says:

    Although many couples don’t ask for and don’t even want “table shots” anymore, they do serve as a very valuable documentation. Often it’s the only time to assure all the guests are documented. And many years after the event, as time passes, these kind of documentary photographs become more valuable. Wedding photographers should understand that they are not just there to be “artists’ but their roll is to illustrate a bit of history for lives of their client. I rarely do table shots anymore, but I always make a point of suggesting they be done.

    You’re right Kevin… these are not the artistic kind of images that will make your website. But the pictures chosen for the story do not support the text. None of them are table shots and the quality of the black and white is … well if these were done in an old darkroom, I’d say someone opened the door while the prints were in the developer. With no clean whites and no detail in the blacks, the images seem more like a gimmick, even though the moments captured are very good.

    Once while shooting table shots at a wedding, an entire group of people put a black bean on their front tooth. After I arranged them, they simultaneously displayed a huge smile. Now that was moment to remember… (or not).

  4. I have to admin, like a wedding photographer myself I am simply addicted to taking table shots at each wedding I photograph. There are so many stories to capture and so many connections to discover while people are seating and sharing company and feed together. The whole dynamic changes when being with someone at a table.

    I know many wedding photographers dread or simply refuse to take table shots, or at least ask their second shooters to do that. There is a generic perception in the photography community that these shots are not “usable” for the wedding albums or portfolio, so many skip to take them. For me, this is a great opportunity to tell the story of the wedding day. What a better way to capture the guests and their interactions than when they are most relaxed and enjoy themselves.

    I think Kevin hit on very useful tips and ideas. I would totally incorporate them into my workflow and use on my upcoming weddings. it’s never too late to learn from a fellow photographer and try new things. Thank you for sharing your experience and taking time to write this article. Hope many wedding photographers would read it and stop being afraid of taking table shots.

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