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wedding details leading lines Shooting Tips

7 Must-Have Shots When Shooting Wedding Reception Details

By Michelle Ford on February 27th 2014

This is part of our Second Shooter Training for Lin and Jirsa Photography, Los Angeles.

If you only had 15 minutes on a wedding day to shoot the reception room for detail shots and a lot of pressure on your hands, make sure you get the necessary ‘safe’ shots first. Watch the video and see what’s on our 7 must have reception detail shot list and tips on how to get them.

Watch the Video


Get some help clearing out the reception room if and when it’s ready. Enlist the help of the banquet captain or the coordinator to empty out the room as much as possible.

1. The Full Room Shot

You want to try to get this shot as soon as possible to avoid the trickle of guests that are eager to get into the room. Two perspectives we like to do are:

The Symmetrical Shot – Use the dance floor or the sweetheart table as your center point and get the widest room shot possible

wedding reception
symmetrical reception room
Foreground focus – use a foreground element like the cake or a centerpiece and balance the composition out with the rest of the room.  To do the full room shots, set the camera on a tripod for maximum sharpness. The ISO is set to the lowest setting, slow down the shutter speed to blur out any movement (people in the room). Use the aperture to compensate for the slow shutter. {Note: slowing down the shutter takes care of people moving in your room, but if people are standing still, they will, of course show up on your image. This is why you want to get people out of the room as much as possible.}


reception room foreground reception room foreground

2. Place Cards

Get the table with the place cards before the guests do to avoid holes in the design. If you get there a little late, simply find an untouched section, zoom in to fill your frame and shoot it.

place cards place cards

3. Give Aways and Menus

When working on the reception tables themselves, try the approach where you start small and work your way out into the bigger picture. Take a photo of the little giveaways or menus sitting on top of the plates.


4. Table Settings

Expand the view to incorporate the entire table setting. Don’t be afraid to remove elements that don’t contribute to the overall aesthetic of the shot, such as salt and pepper shakers and condiment cups.

place setting table settings

5. The Full Table

Step back and photograph the entire table. Again, remove all distracting elements when necessary. Find angles that create depth in your composition, like leading lines using center pieces.

full table wedding details full table wedding details

6. The Sweetheart Table

Take the same approach as all the other tables by starting small with elements on top of the plates, working your way outwards to the entire table. Make sure to photograph personalized items like a ‘Mr. & Mrs’ sign or etched glasses.

wedding details sweetheart table wedding details sweetheart table

7. The Cake

Because the cake is typically set off to a corner of the room, it’s safest to keep this item for last on the list. If guests start milling into the room, you can still maneuver shooting the cake without bodies obstructing your shot.

wedding cake
For a creative twist on the cake, try to find objects in the room to shoot through to help frame the cake nicely.

shoot through
As a final note, using lenses like the Canon 70-200mm F/2.8L IS II or Canon 85mm f/1.2L II  for shooting the majority of the table details is a good idea because of their higher compression and wonderful bokeh.


For an added punch to your images, try using an HDR process when editing your wedding reception images. For an in depth tutorial on how to do that check out SLR Lounge’s HDR Photography Workshop

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Michelle is a Southern California Portrait and Wedding Photographer. When she’s not geeking out with a camera she’s nerding out in her IT world. All other moments in the day are spent with her two wonderful children.

See her work on The COCO Gallery
check out her blog at frexNgrin

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Maribeth Castaneda

    Love this article. Also the pictures and the video. Very helpful for a beginner photographer like me… Thanks a lot!

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  2. Liam Morley

    Awesome uplighting

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  3. monica

    ohhh BEAUTIFUL photos !!! i love them !! i wish I could do this…. also great video ! simple and short.

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  4. Dale Barber

    Great teaching lesson. No matter how many years you have been doing wedding this was a great refresher.

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  5. Janet

    Great video. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  6. Kimberly Phipps

    Also which video lights mentioned above and which gels on the SB-910 would I use . When shooting off the camera flash or on for the details ??? Wide room do you shut off flashes

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  7. Kimberly Phipps

    Can you please give me some guidance on what tripod you use for the Nikon D4 and D3’s ??? They are such heavy camera and My Manfrotto is just to slow and heavy . I would love to know which brand you use

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  8. Carol Deanda

    What lens do you typically use for your full room shots and at what aperature do you try to shoot those at, for the place settings, and details at the tables do you use the ambient light or flash?

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    • wjp

      I may be entirely wrong so take this with a shaker full of salt instead of a simple grain, but if the photos showing place settings used much of a flash the ambient light would have been washed out. However, if they used gelled flashes with one as a rim then they may have been able to fake some of that blueish ambient light. That just seems like an awful lot of work for establishing or foundation shots before the reception is in full swing. It looks like they may have taken those shots wide open or slightly stopped down from wide open taking advantage of the ambient light considering the amount of bokeh and the blueish highlights present in those shots.

      Then again. I could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.

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    • wjp

      P.S. I looked at your website and enjoyed the work presented there.

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    • Michelle Ford

      carol, for the full room shots i use the 16-35. aperture i experiment with it just depends on how i want to tell the story and how much light is in the room. i’ll start at f/11 and go from there. when i zone in on smaller details i’m working at f/2.8. for lights we use either gelled flashes or video lights that are color balanced. again, it depends on what available light we already have. we’ll light up some tables to act as spot lights just to bring out details in some areas.

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