Wedding receptions serve as social outlets for friends and family to celebrate the bride and groom in their new role as husband and wife. They’re also chock full of fast-paced activities that can leave you scratching your head and missing moments if you’re not adequately prepared.

Here are some of the best wedding reception photography tips that can be found in our workshop Photographing The Reception.

1. Figure Out Lighting & Positioning For Grand Entrance

Most receptions begin with a grand entrance, which typically includes a high-energy introduction of the newly married couple. Because they happen so quickly, grand entrances often prove challenging (but not impossible) to capture. Find out where the couple is entering from so you are in the best location to capture their entrance. It’s worth coordinating with the DJ to see if there will be any spotlight trailing them in order to decide whether or not you need to add in any additional light. Here are some resources for wedding reception lighting:

2. Find Interesting Angles for First Dance & Parent Dances

When it comes to capturing first & family dances, think creative photojournalism. This situation is photojournalistic in the sense that the action unfolds naturally and cue-free, but there’s plenty of room to play creatively with lighting and angles to enhance these special moments.

Throughout the dance, use medium to wide angles to show the scene/environment as well as tight or close-up angles to highlight the emotions shown in the subjects’ expressions. Click here to see our goals & must-haves for wedding reception photos.

3. Capture Reaction Shots From The Bride & Groom During Toasts & Speeches

Watch the video on how we created this image here!

Toasts and speeches tend to be hit or miss when it comes to humor (depending on which batch of cliched jokes the speakers use), but they’re almost always emotional. During this part of the reception, capturing great expressions on the subjects’ faces is key, whether you’re capturing the speaker or the reactions of the guests (or the bride and groom).

4. Give The Couple Direction For Cake Cutting

A common mistake we often see during this portion of the wedding reception is that photographers fail to tell the couple how to position themselves properly during the cake cutting. Because the groom is generally taller than the bride (but not always), place the groom behind the bride when positioning the couple near the cake.

5. Focus on The Group During Bouquet & Garter Toss

When photographing the bouquet or garter toss, the bride or groom will take center attention early on (the bride for the bouquet, the groom for the garter toss), but the focus should ultimately be on the group who’s trying to catch the flying object. The action often moves quickly, and you can’t ask for a do-over, so it helps to know what to expect and how to light the scene so that you can move into position before the moment has passed.

6. Get Into The Action for Dance Floor Photos

When looking back at the images, your clients should feel as though they are part of the party. Push yourself to get onto the dance floor rather than shooting from the outside perimeter. Doing so will help you meet one of the biggest goals of photographing open dancing, which is making the party look fun and full of people.

Quick Recap: How To Shoot A Wedding Reception

  • Figure Out Lighting & Positioning For Grand Entrance
  • Find Interesting Angles for First Dance & Parent Dances
  • Capture Reaction Shots From The Bride & Groom During Toasts & Speeches
  • Give The Couple Direction For Cake Cutting
  • Focus on The Group During Bouquet & Garter Toss
  • Get Into The Action for Dance Floor Photos

For more wedding reception photography tips, be sure to check out our Photographing the Reception workshop to master capturing unforgettable moments!