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Tips & Tricks

Drag Your Shutter (Part 2): Practical Wedding Photography Tips

By Amii & Andy Kauth on April 30th 2016

In our last article on “dragging the shutter” (“How to Create Rad Reception Images: Drag Your Shutter & Light Up Their Party”), we discussed how we create interesting light trails in some of the reception images that we deliver to our clients, and we ended the article encouraging you to get out on the dance floor. So what does that look like? And what do you need to know to be successful out on the dance floor? Read on for some tips that will help you out in some very practical ways!

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Review: our Camera Set UP

First, it’s important to note that we use Nikon D750sNikon SB-910s, and PocketWizard PlusX Transceivers because if you caught some of the discussion in the comments from our last article on this topic (linked above), it’s a different situation if you shoot Canon.

(Rewind: “NIKON D810 FOR $500 OFF, D750 IS $300 OFF . . .”)

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Tip #1: Communication is King

If you’re using off-camera flash (we rock ours on an Impact QuickStik+ Telescopic Handle with a Westcott Rapid Box – 26″ Octa Softbox), we think it’s a good idea to continually communicate. First and foremost, you absolutely have to communicate with your lighting assistant to achieve the best results (i.e., you have to ask him/her to get in closer, back up a few steps, adjust your flash’s power, etc.).

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Your lighting assistant has to communicate with you as well because the flash might not be firing or they might observe something incredible happening at a different spot on the dance floor, etc.

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In the video below, you’ll notice that Amii (who is the principal shooter in this situation) is not only talking to Andy (who is in control of the off camera flash) but she’s also chatting with one of the “party people”. You absolutely have to interact with your subjects if the situation arises. For example, sometimes when people notice the camera they might act a bit “camera shy”, especially if they’re dancing and don’t think they’re good dancers`. If that happens, simply motion for them to come in close (if it seems appropriate), and assure them that they are definitely (and without a doubt) the greatest dancer you’ve ever seen!

Caveat: what you are about to watch is a bit of BTS vid that we took with one of our back up cameras (a Nikon D7000 on a Joby Gorillapod in this case) at an actual wedding (the music is from the DJ); the video is not meant to be a representation of a well-shot video. We just wanted you to see how we communicate with one another and with the subjects we are shooting. Enjoy!

(Related: WEDDING RECEPTION SHUTTER DRAG [HOW YOU SHOT IT])

Tip #2: Get Funky!

Go ahead and watch that vid again if you need to because you should have also noticed that Amii had no qualms about getting funky with the crowd. In the midst of adjusting settings and focus, you need to get into it, i.e. move back-and-forth to maintain your focused distance as the subjects move. And it’s really a lot more fun (and you get way better images) if you jam out: get on your knees, get in close, shoot up, flip those wrists, and make some magic!

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Tip #3: Show ‘Em What You’re Working With

Here’s another quick BTS clip. (Again, it’s in no way meant to be an amazingly shot video; we just want you to watch Amii closely.) You should notice that Amii shows someone the back of the camera.

There’s a couple reasons we’ll show our subject(s) the back of our camera in these types of situations. One reason is that we want to create a bit of buzz, and impress peoplea. Because, without a doubt, they’ll end up calling over their friends. And the next thing you know the group of dancers just doubled. Win! Another reason to show them your screen and an image or two, especially if you get down like Amii does, is so they don’t think you’re nuts (at least a few people will wonder what the heck you’re doing but won’t be brave enough to ask).

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Conclusion

Photography, and wedding photography in particular, is more than just knowing the technical side of photography. Of course, you need to be technically proficient to produce images that people will treasure forever. But you also have to have the practical side of photography down–the people side. You can’t be afraid to get close and get in there with your subjects. And if they are out on the dance floor, which inevitably they will be, you can’t hold back if you want some killer shots. You absolutely have to get out there and get rad!

We’d love to know what you think/hear about some of your practical tips when it comes to photographing receptions, especially out on the dance floor. Leave a comment below/join the conversation over at our ever-growing Facebook Photography Community page. And party on!

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Terms: #Shutter Drag

Amii & Andy are a wife and husband team of rad portrait and wedding photographers (Sunshine & Reign Photography) who absolutely love life and are generally just stoked! Yeah! When they aren’t photographing or writing and teaching about photography, you’ll find them off on a seriously legit adventure with their little ones, lifting weights in their garage, training jiu-jitsu, refining their archery skills, or surfing every chance they get. And on the rare chance they escape off on a “date night”? Yep! They’ll find a wedding to crash (true fact).

Website: Sunshine & Reign Photography
Instagram: @sunshineandreign

Q&A Discussions

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  1. David Kalonick

    I got this one back in 2011 with the help of the videographer. I’m dragging around a 1/4 of a second with direct flash @ 128. Then his video light dragged off the cloths. Pretty rad effect.

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      That’s very cool, David. Looks like he’s flying. Nice! (Love how we can add images to comments: yeah!)

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  2. Ralph Hightower

    Informative article.
    First, I need to get a flash for my 5D Mk III to experiment with shutter dragging.
    But I noticed in the first video, that Amii seems to have the right thumb flick malady; this is a common malady for those that shoot and have shot film to advance to the next frame.
    But in the next video, I see her LCD screen and film cameras don’t have LCD screens; although some digital cameras don’t have LCD screens, such as the new Leica model.
    I haven’t tried shutter dragging on my film cameras, but I think I could do it using the PC flash connection on my Canon film cameras (A-1 and F-1N).

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Thanks for your comment, Ralph, and for checking out the article/vids. Amii is shooting with a Nikon D750 in both clips, btw.

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  3. Pye Jirsa

    Great article guys. Some people are asking about sync, it can be done both ways. In general, with shorter shutter drag durations like 1/20th, 1/10th, 1/5th rear curtain sync is ideal. Your movement isn’t enough to make it difficult to compose the subject, and the flash firing at the end of the curtain is ideal so the motion leads into the subject.

    For longer shutter drags (1″ +) front curtain sync can be easier since it allows you to first compose subject and freeze, then add movement. Perfect example of this is when shooting a “whip pan.”

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  4. Chad DiBlasio

    great stuff guys!

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  5. Charles Magrin

    for some reason i can’t edit my previous comment, so i’ll correct it here: i wrote to quickly, in my last sentence, I actually wanted to write: “It’s probably a matter of habitude, but I think it’s worth telling every one that rear curtain sync is NOT the only way when wanting to capture that kind of funky images and that it works as easy (even more for me) with front curtain sync!”

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Totally agree, btw, that it’s probably a matter of habit. Thanks for making that point. We tend to rear curtain sync more often than not because we tend to like the effects we’re able to achieve with rear curtain sync more so …

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    • Jean-Francois Perreault

      Hi!
      Thanks for the article! BTW I love the vids and seeing how shutter dragging actually looks like. I’ve been doing it wrong :(

      I’m curious about the effect of rear curtain sync vs front. Is there a difference?
      I’ve used shutter drag+rear curtain sync a couple of times and Charles comment about front curtain sync made me think that it would/should be indeed easier using front curtain sync.

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Thanks for your comment and compliments, Jean-Francois. With “front,” the flash will fire at the beginning of the exposure. With “rear, it will fire at the end. That said, with rear curtain sync, the flash will light up the person with light streaks behind (with “front,” they will be in front).

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Personally, we like rear curtain sync. We think it looks better (most of the time), in our opinion. If you look at the last two images in this article, for example, the second-to-last is “front” while the last is “rear.”

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    • Jean-Francois Perreault

      Thanks! I see it now! I was thinking that using front curtain would make it easier to flash the subject since you can compose, then shoot and then trail. With rear, it seems harder to finish up with a good subject composition as the flash happens at the end of the camera movement.
      I’ll give rear curtain another try, I haven’t used it much so I’m sure a bit of practice will help :)
      Thanks again for the tips! :)

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  6. Charles Magrin

    Great article an pics! There is a point I don’t agree though, and it’s about that rear curtain sync topic: From my experience it’s easier to use front curtain sync, as it gives you the ability to choose the right moment when to freeze the action or emotion you want to capture and then use the remaining exposure to “draw” the light effects. It’s probably a matter of habitude, but I think it’s worth telling every one that rear curtain sync is a “must” when wanting to capture that kind of funky images!

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Thanks for the comment, Charles. In our previous article, we did focus on rear curtain sync exclusively and detailed that process with our D750 in particular. In the video (if you took a look a the vid clips), we are actually not using rear curtain sync . We agree that it is helpful to switch it up depending upon circumstances.

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