Wedding Reception Photography Tips

As a wedding photographer your primary job is to make the bride look her most beautiful on her special day. It is also your job to document the events of the ceremony and create family portraiture while the entire family is gathered together. Also, you are responsible for documenting the festivities at the reception; the speeches, the dancing, the food and drinks and the joyous atmosphere. It is your job to document the details of the environment. After all, the bride spent time planning these details. Though she may not have known it when she hired you, she will be delighted to see these displayed within her album.

wedding reception photography

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

Think about the little things at the weddings you have been to before. Focus on the various tabletop decors. Photograph the candles and any centerpieces, these items were chosen by the bride because she thought they were beautiful. Any bouquets at the tables or on the chairs are very important to photograph. Try to incorporate them into a larger scene with other centerpiece items and candles. Photograph both the stemware and silverware. Photograph any monograph napkins or other personalized items. It’s a good idea to photograph wineglasses and champagne flutes. These are symbols of modern weddings.

Consider the dinner service. If plates are served don’t be afraid to intrude and take pictures of the food. If it’s a buffet service, take pictures of the spread before the guest begin dinner. It’s important to document the main entres, and to make them look as delicious as possible. Take pictures of the wait staff. Take pictures of grandma stuffing her face. And don’t forget to take pictures of kids making a mess of themselves. After all, in a few years the bride and groom will have to clean up after their own kids.

During the main dinner the next item you may want to begin photographing is the desserts spread. Often times brides and grooms will include custom made candies and pastries for dessert. You’ll want to photograph these goodies. Pay attention to brightly colored fruits and heavily textured pastries. Well look at dessert don’t forget the wedding cake. Many modern brides and grooms will have cupcakes. If they do, they may have a cutting cake. Don’t forget to photograph this.

Don’t forget the bar; alcohol, including beer, wine and hard liquor have become icons of a modern party. If the bride and groom have paid for a bar it is important to document all of the details. Some things to include in photographs of the bar are the lighting and the beer fixtures. Don’t forget the tap handles. The groom will want to remember what was on service. And don’t forget the back-bar. Pay special attention to Scotch, whiskey and rum. The father of the groom and the father of the bride may hold special meaning in these liquors.

photos at wedding receptions

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

Pay special attention to the bartender. Photograph her socializing with guest, and take several shots of her pouring drinks, especially from the beer taps. The other thing to pay attention to at the bar is the dcor. Photograph the lighting and any decorations that make this bar special or unique.

Remember to photograph the details of the bride and groom. By this I don’t mean the details of their dress, their hairstyle or their rings. I mean the details that represent them at their wedding and throughout their life. We want to examine the different memorabilia that the bride, the groom, and their family members have selected to display. This memorabilia will often tell a story about their lives.

Many times the families will choose to display photographs of the couples childhood. There may be special details of the couple meeting. You may find copies of love letters or old photographs which you will want to photograph. The bride will be especially moved to see these in her final album. Take a look at the guestbook. Often this is a highly customized item. Take photographs of family members signing the book. Don’t forget to document any small details. Another thing you may want to consider is the greeting table and the gift table. Photograph the gift table from empty to full as the guests arrive.

Take pictures of the hired help. Don’t forget to photograph the DJ and his equipment. You’ll want to include his face and his hands using the equipment. Pay attention to the DJ. Remember that he is the one who moves the party along throughout the night. It is usually his job to act as an MC. Follow his cue, he will lead the major events of the night. Don’t forget the videographer; he’s really not your competition. Photograph his equipment and the way he uses it. Shoot over his shoulder showing what he is recording. It’s important to shoot the dance floor, the lighting and any decorations. Photograph family members and friends dancing. Look for outlandish moves and ridiculous faces. Sometimes it’s best to wait until later in the night for this. You know… After the alcohol is flowing.

toast at wedding reception

“Alena and Serge” captured by Tatiana Garanina (Click Image to See More From Tatiana Garanina)

I’ve given you some ideas to look for while shooting the reception. Remember that details are every bit as important to the bride as her traditional wedding shots. She will be delighted to remember all those little things that she so diligently planned. The night may have been moving far too quickly for her remember these things. Don’t disappoint her, take time out of your usual routine to include the little things from her wedding in her album.

About the Author:
Article written by Stephanie Smith, owner and head photographer of omorfiPixel – Kansas City based wedding, family and newborn photography.

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8 responses to “Wedding Reception Photography Tips”

  1. Thanks for the article, it gave me some new ideas to watch out for.

  2. Excellent advice. i am sure this will help many people :)

  3. Ryan Swayt says:

    Thank you. I will use many of these tips in my upcoming wedding.

  4. margie says:

    Thank you very much I found this article very helpful it was just what I was looking for.

  5. Great article on how to photograph wedding receptions. Lots of valuable tips and things to keep in mind. Like a wedding photographer myself I cannot agree more with the points made.

    When I first started to photograph weddings in San Francisco Bay Area, it was not easy to understand the whole wedding flow and get ready for my first wedding. i wish there was an articles like that to explain what to expect and to focus on back then. The author highlighted the major phases of the reception as well provided useful tips. Thank you for sharing.

    After four years of being a wedding photographer, I can say that this is my favorite time of the wedding. There is so much energy and interactions after the ceremony and group photos. People start to celebrate and interact, which for my like a photojournalists is the best time to capture candid moments and amazing images.

    Here is an article on How To Prepare For a Wedding which I hope would help the readers as well:

    I will definitely use the information from this article in September, 2015. Have a 12 hours wedding for Asian clients in San Jose, CA and the reception is planned to be 6 hours. Hope to put in practice the information listed here.

  6. These are all amazing tips. It’s always good when you can capture the feelings and interactions happening at the wedding that aren’t just the bride and groom. Great tip about the other vendors and workers. They will thank you later that you got some shots of them in action, too.

  7. I like how you suggest looking at the little things at the wedding. These little things are less likely to be remembered if the photographer doesn’t capture it. A little thing could also be taking pictures of the bride’s bouquet as well as the bridesmaids bouquets. Some of my favorite ideas for photos revolve around the bouquets. The flowers are just fabulous and the bride and bridesmaids should always look amazing in their pictures.

  8. Brogan Link says:

    Omg thank you so much whoever wrote this. I am on my way to my grandmas wedding. Yes, wedding, shes gettin hitched. Im wanting to do some candids at the wedding because she asked me and this helped me out a lot in figuring out what to shoot with my canon 5d mark ii.

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