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A photographer shooting a reception has some flexibility.
Whenever I get to the reception hall well before the wedding party arrives, I will spend time shooting reception details. These details include the cake, the gift table, the centerpieces and other decorations, etc.
It is important for me to be ready at the door when the wedding party arrives for the grand entrance. I will photograph each couple in the wedding party as they enter the reception hall. Then, of course, I photograph the bride and groom as they enter to their audience of well-wishers. I will if possible follow them to their table with my camera.
The elements of the reception that I consider essential photos include the grand entrance, the cake cutting, the toasts and the first special dances. If I am there long enough, I will photograph a bouquet and garter toss.
One element of the event I always photograph is the guests. I will go around to each table and photograph as many guests as I can at their table. Usually, I will ask them to smile for the camera as I feel those photos are much better than pictures of people talking to another person or eating. I never guarantee I will photograph every person at the reception, but I do as many as I can.
Receptions are almost always dark, and I believe it is important to use an external light source so that the photos don’t look dark and grainy. During one recent wedding in which I was the videographer, I watched the photographer take pictures during the entire reception without any additional extra lighting. Her reason was that she didn’t like the look of flash photos.
In my view, there certainly are ways to use flash so they don’t look like harsh “flash photos.” I believe it’s important to get sufficient lighting on the subject being photographed. Dark photos at a reception can be lightened some in editing, but photos that are too dark will look terribly grainy when they are lightened. There is a camera setting that addresses the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor. This setting can be set so that it is easier to take photos in a dark room without flash, but adjusting this setting too high will result in grainy photos.
That being said, many of the newer cameras do work better in low light than others. For me, though, I still want to use additional lighting to get the best photo possible when I photograph the wedding reception.
This article is part of a blog series on how I approach a wedding photography assignment. Also included are articles on: bridal prep; How do I photograph wedding details? How do I photograph a ceremony? How do I approach family formals? What do I do in between the ceremony and reception? And how do I complete the job once the wedding is over?