Wedding Speeches and Toasts are moments that provide photographers with great opportunities for storytelling and creativity. As with any moment during a wedding day, the photographer can take the lazy route and simply capture photos with boring lighting and angles, or the photographer can utilize interesting lighting and compositions to create impactful imagery. In the following article, we’ll review tips on elevating your photography of toasts and speeches.
Note, the information from this article is from our Wedding Photography Training System. For more in-depth education on mastering wedding photography, we highly recommend checking it out.
Compositions and Angles for Toasts and Speeches
Utilize the “3 magic angles” – As with all photojournalistic moments of the day, be sure to capture the full story utilizing wide, medium, and tight compositions. These are sometimes referred to as the “three magic angles.” We most often capture medium and tight photos of speeches and toasts, but neglect the wide shot. The wide-angle shot should include the subjects and the location while also giving context to the action in the image. See an example in the image below.
Capture the moment from the bride and groom’s perspective – When possible, give the image context by photographing the main subject from the perspective of the couple and vice versa. These layers add to the storytelling and interest of the moment.
Less Can Oftentimes Be More – A handful of great images, with interesting compositions and great emotion is much better than dozens of average photos. In fact, too many average photos can detract from great ones and decrease the overall value of the deliverables. Capturing great expressions on the subjects’ faces is key, whether you’re capturing the toaster or the reactions of the guests (or the bride and groom).
Find Other Interesting Foreground Elements – Shoot-throughs, which might include guests, table centerpieces, candles, or other decor in the foreground, work well for lending context to action and adding visual interest to the image. Once your lights are set up, you’re free to move around and get creative.
Lighting for Toasts and Speeches
When it comes to lighting for toasts and speeches, the two best lighting techniques are Pinned Off Camera Flash and Bounce Flash. Let’s review each below. Note, we do not recommend using direct flash.
Lighting Technique #1 | Fixed Pinned OCF
Fixed pinned OCF is often the best lighting method for covering toasts and speeches because it highlights the subject of the photo without affecting the ambient lighting and mood of the reception.
If placed correctly, a single light can be used to highlight the speaker and the couple (see “B” in the diagram above). It is crucial that the light be placed far enough away to spread enough light but not so far that the light does not reach the subjects. Also, the light should not be overly zoomed/pinned.
Below are lighting diagrams to help you understand the setup.
Adding a rim light allows photographers to capture dynamic images.
Here’s a “safer” two-light setup. The lighting is less dynamic, but the angles will be consistently flattering (as there is less chance of split lighting falling on the bride).
Here’s an even more dramatic two-light setup.
Here are some key tips for great Fixed Pinned Lighting photos:
- Single flash, zoom for coverage/spill
- For subjects that move, open up spill (i.e. do not use a grid)
- Watch shadows (especially if the subjects are standing/seated near walls)
- Move. Shoot through. Interesting images can be had with alternative angles.
- Don’t rush! You have time.
- When the subject changes, adjust and continue. You only need one camera to capture every angle.
- Reveal the background – You may be able to lower your shutter speed if necessary as the flash should freeze the action. While risk of capturing movement (or blurry movement) is present, it’s minimal because of the flash, and the rewards for doing so include opening up the ambient light to reveal more of the scene, which is great when the location is beautiful.
Lighting Technique #2 | Bounce Flash
While not as ideal as fixed pinned OCF, bounce flash is still a solid go-to for lighting toasts and speeches during a wedding reception (so long as the reception is being held indoors in a venue with neutral ceilings).
With bounce, the on-camera flash becomes the main light while the off-camera flashes act as rim lights. That said, the distance between the on-camera flash (or you the photographer) and the subjects will determine in large part how much light reaches the subjects. Of course, you can adjust flash power and the zoom on the flash, but that will only get you so far. Having to shoot within a given (often tighter) space can limit creativity when using bounce flash.
Because of the close proximity needed to use bounce flash, photographers should be mindful of how long they occupy the space needed to capture images. We suggest getting in, getting the shots, and then stepping back out of the area so as not to take too much attention away from the toasters!
Toasts and Speeches often happen late in the wedding day, sometimes in your 10th hour on the job and beyond. This makes it easy to “take it easy” and stick to safe and boring shots and lighting. But to differentiate yourself from your competitors and maintain your highest level of creativity and quality, follow some of the tips in this article.