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30 Days of Wedding Photography

Lesson 45 of 76

Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo

Susan Stripling

30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

45. Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo


Class Trailer

Day 1

1 Introduction 32:46 2 Evolution of Susan's Style 1:01:14 3 Branding and Identity 30:27 4 Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned 20:51

Day 2

5 Introduction to Gear & Equipment 10:58 6 Lenses Part 1 1:06:53
7 Lenses Part 2 27:48 8 Lighting 42:59

Day 3

9 Seeing the Scene 29:12 10 Seeing the Scene Q&A 25:16 11 Rhythm and Repetition 24:08 12 Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds 23:45 13 Rule of Odds and Double Exposures 39:49

Day 4

14 Intro to Business 24:51

Day 5

15 Financing Your Business 30:49

Day 6

16 Q&A Days 1-4 1:25:43

Day 7

17 Pricing Calculator 32:48

Day 8

18 Package Pricing 20:57

Day 9

19 Marketing 23:07

Day 10

20 Vendor Relationships & Referrals 15:03

Day 11

21 Marketing w Social Media 52:06

Day 12

22 Booking the Client 1:00:42

Day 13

23 The Pricing Conversation 08:15

Day 14

24 Turn A Call Into a Meeting 12:24

Day 15

25 In Person Meeting 21:58

Day 16

26 Wedding Planning 28:41

Day 17

27 Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down 19:17

Day 18

28 Engagement Session Details 36:48

Day 19

29 Engagement Session On Location 35:48

Day 20

30 Wedding Details & Tips 25:49

Day 21

31 Detail Photos Reviewed 36:07

Day 22

32 Bridal Preparation 1:02:57

Day 23

33 Bridal Preparation Photo Review 33:14

Day 24

34 Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios 09:18

Day 25

35 Q&A Days 5-11 1:01:22

Day 26

36 First Look Demo 32:08

Day 27

37 First Look Examples 19:42

Day 28

38 Portraits of the Bride 37:45

Day 29

39 Portraits of the Bride and Groom 20:20 40 Family Portraits Demo 25:29 41 Family Formal Examples 27:43 42 Wedding Ceremony Demo 12:24

Day 30

43 Wedding Ceremony Examples 39:01 44 Different Traditions and Faiths 12:14 45 Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo 13:34 46 Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples 44:05 47 Wedding Introductions 29:39 48 First Dance 25:02 49 Wedding Toasts 41:28 50 Parent Dances 08:16 51 Wedding Party 44:27 52 Reception Events 12:57 53 Nighttime Portraits 33:01 54 Nighttime Portraits with Found Light 10:08 55 Post Wedding Session Demo 27:51 56 Post Wedding Session Critique 18:57 57 Wedding Day Difficulties 53:54 58 Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure 16:46 59 Post Workflow - Culling Shots 16:20 60 Post Workflow - Outsourcing 20:55 61 Q&A Days 12-23 1:22:10 62 Post Workflow - Gear 30:34 63 Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing 27:36 64 Managing Your Studio 41:33 65 Post Wedding Marketing 37:30 66 Client Care 14:29 67 Pricing for Add-Ons 18:03 68 The Album Process 44:53 69 Balancing Your Business with Life 47:36 70 Post Wedding Problems 26:06 71 Parent Complaints 42:54 72 Unhappy Customers 16:10 73 Working with an Assistant 27:33 74 Assistant Q&A 16:08 75 Lighting with an Assistant 23:47 76 Q&A Days 24-30 38:29

Lesson Info

Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo

So what we're going to talk to you about today is shooting cocktail hour and shooting the reception room now I know that might not sound like any big deal, you know, it's cocktail hour in the reception room how do we devote an entire segment to that? But it's actually something that in the early years of my business I struggled with what to do during this time? How to best manage your time during cocktail hour in the reception room how to get through this portion of the day if you've done the portrait before the ceremony you have you're in a sixty minutes you have your ninety minutes so you have a great amount of time in which to cover these elements of the day, but if you haven't done your portrait before the wedding, you have to get family formals done you have to photograph the bride and groom and then you still have to photograph cocktail hour in the reception room as best you can before the reception actually gets started. So let's get right into it and start talking about how we ...

cover it now cocktail hour and shooting the reception room that generally happened together usually it's after the ceremony, I don't get a whole lot of time before the ceremony to get into the cocktail hour room or to get into the reception room ah lot of the weddings that I shoot the ceremony is in the same space that the reception will be so they have to do it's called flipping the space after the ceremony, when the guests leave and go to cocktail hour, the decorating team, the staff at the hotel or catering hall arvin, you come in, breakdown the ceremony space and set up the reception space in the same spot. Now, every once in a while, you get a really great opportunity where the ceremony and the reception are in different locations on the same property so you can get into the room earlier. You can start photographing it earlier, but even then that doesn't usually work out because if they're any candles on the tables, be it low candles or high candles, they usually don't light those until right before the guests come in, because otherwise they would just be burning down all day long, and there would be little nut by the time the party actually got started. So even if the space is set up, even if the room is ready to go, we usually don't get to photograph in there until after the ceremony. Same thing with cocktail hour in the standard timeline of how a day runs, usually after the ceremony, you have a sixty to ninety minutes cocktail hour, and then you have a four to five hour reception, sometimes with an after party every once in a while you get a wedding where they have a pre ceremony cocktail hour, which is great, but I have actually never shot a wedding where it went straight from ceremony into reception with no break in between. Now how you manage that time really depends on the type of wedding that it is whether or not your clients have opted to have a first look to see each other before the ceremony that really affects how you're going to spin this sixty or ninety minutes that you have to photograph these two distinctly different things, and before we talk about the gear that we bring to that portion of the day, I kind of want to talk about the logistics of covering that, as I've mentioned before. In previous days of these thirty days I am a single photographer team, I have an assistant, she comes with me to every single wedding, but as far as someone photographing the event it's me and only me, she can help shoot and this is one of the portions of the day that if I need her to, she will help me photograph it. But because we are not a primary and a second, we don't split up all day long and each have separate and distinct duty is now when we talk about the cocktail hour portion of the evening, I will explain what she does because especially if we are really pressed for time, that will be a point in time when I set up the camera for her set the flash I set the settings and I let her go do what we call and like I said, we'll talk about this grip and grins of cocktail hour the on ly person who shoots the reception room is me now like I said before if they do do a first look, you know that during cocktail hour the bride and groom were going to be able to go to cocktail hour you're not going to have to do any family formals because you've done them before this ceremony you'll have that entire glorious sixty to ninety minutes too grab a bite to eat with the food that you hopefully packed and preplanned and brought with you you'll have ample opportunity to photograph the reception room you'll have ample opportunity to photograph cocktail hour, but that doesn't always happen ah lot of times the client's opt to not see each other but for the ceremony which is totally fine by me. But that means that you're our caught tell our is thirty minutes of family formals fifteen minutes with the bride and groom five minutes frantically running your stuff into the reception room and maybe if you're lucky three or four minutes running around the reception room like a crazy person trying to photograph it before they come in I do let my clients know when we're looking at the pros and the cons of a first look that if they don't decide to see each other before the ceremony and again, this is their decision, I'm not trying to influence them, but if we're going to be doing family formals during cocktail hour, if we're going to be doing the portrait of the bride and groom during cocktail hour that not only am I not going to be able to actually document their guests at cocktail hour, I'm not going to be able to photograph the room. They do have an option on my priceless to hire a second shooter if photographing both of those things, all of those things is something that's very important to them, but for the most part, when it comes right down to that, my clients say it doesn't matter. That's okay, you know, can you just get a couple shots of the room before we come in? And again, back to what I have been talking about the entire time, which is managing your client's expectations. So that said, let's, talk very briefly about the gear that we bring to the day I'm going to start off instead of talking about my beloved defore, we're gonna hit the d three s I've had the d three s for several years, it is an extraordinary camera and as I've mentioned before, the reason why I shoot with a d for and a d three us instead of to defour's is because I don't like to spend money if I don't have to. My d three s is an extraordinary camera body it's performing beautifully? Why would I sell that off? And by an additional defore if what I've got works just fine, so we take that d three us, we put the twenty four to seventy on it it's been on it pretty much all day long unless we had to take it off to go to the thirty five one four for a very dim ceremony. Twenty four to seventy goes on it and we put on our on camera flash, I'm gonna talk to you when we get to the portion about cocktail hour, and if you stick with us through the reception days here for the thirty days we're going talk more extensively about the on camera flash, but I do have a flash on the camera. We have the three of us, we have the twenty four to seventy I put one of my photos transmitters, which we talked about the other day on top of that camera, the flash goes right into the hot shoe on top of that, and the reason for that is because I'm already setting up for the reception. I know that there's a very large possibility that I'm going to be using an off camera flash during the reception portion of the day, so we go ahead and we get that transmitter right on top of the camera right away so that we don't have to fumble with it later. The d three s with the twenty four to seventy eight and the on camera flash is not the hammer that I'm going to be using to shoot the reception room. It's the camera that either I or my assistant are going to take into cocktail hour now the d for which, again, my beloved beloved defore I'm working with a variety of linds is when I'm photographing the reception room it's not just the seventy two, two hundred it's, not just the one hundred five millimeter macro, this is a portion of the day we're I'm constantly putting on and taking off a different lens. I'm trying to document one space as quickly and efficiently as possible, so this is the one point in time during the day when the lindsays air coming off and going on the camera, I try to make sure that I don't do it in a into crazy off a fashion, I want to shoot everything that I'm going to shoot with that seventy two, two hundred first. Then I want to take it off and put on one hundred five millimeter macro or vice versa. I don't constantly want to be taking one often putting another on, but we are working our way through a variety of lindsay this document, the reception space, and we will absolutely cover all of that. We have a nice, wonderful brief video for you from blair in jeremy's wedding clients of mine that you've gotten to know a little bit along this entire thirty day process, you're going to get a look at what they're reception space is going to look like you're going to get a look at how I photograph the details of the space you're going to start to get a sense of what we're dealing with with the deejay and reception lights in the room, and then we're going to come back and talk about it a little more so enjoy the video and we will see you when it's over when we got to the reception space, the first thing we did was set our gear down, introduce ourselves to the deejay and take a look around the room. So far, I'm actually not dreading the reception of space, which is usually not the case when you're in kind of a small couldn't find location seems a really low. But the walls have a lot going on like there's a lot of color on the walls there's some up lighting that actually reaches the ceiling. The darker it gets in here. I really think that on camera flash is gonna look really good school really warm, very amber and I think off camera flashes actually gonna be really easy to the only thing that I'm even remotely concerned about is the split dance floor there's kind of like the upstairs and then there's like six steps down, like another dance floor area that could be kind of oddly awkward. I'm kind of concerned about where they're gonna put people for the toasts. It looks like it's gonna be a buffet dinner, I think, which is gonna be totally fine. I'm down with buffy's actually think sometimes faster than played it dinners I'm just worried that when it comes time to toast, I don't want them to put the people were giving the toast behind the bride groom over here about nothing with dance or you don't know where they're gonna go way if we could put them like we've become like here because that way they can talk to them, but then they can also talk to wait like them better and we can light the better what I do is I will stay in here and then and then stapled their feet no, I'll talk to the best man and maid of honor. That would be good because everyone wants to stand next to them. But then it's just it's not a photographic bonanza. That that's a good idea. A little further. Yeah. No, behind it was a bad idea because you got this. Yeah, well, then, ideally lighting wise, it would be to put them here, but then they've got their backs to the rest of the room. Yes. So if we could just put them right over there, sometimes we have to go above and beyond for our clients in ways that we never saw coming. Blair wasn't thrilled with all of the extra greenery on her cake, so I volunteered to take it off and make it more photogenic. I mean, listen, she didn't like it. She was scared to touch it. I'm not scared to touch it. Don't touch your cake all day. I like it. It's better it's better don't you think, it's that she didn't want the greenery shouldn't like it. We're gonna do some room details now, um, you've got, like forty minutes before the ceremony so way light those also that normally we wait for them to light the candles, but we need to shoot this, so we're gonna light the candles ourselves, and I'm going to blow them out. I hate doing room detail shots when the candles were just like crap when the candles are not lit because then it just looks really unfinished. Our okay, that's enough. Oh, I like this. This looks really cool, actually, yeah, just trying to get nice, clean, detailed pictures, just trying to document oftentimes when shooting the tables, I'll have my assistant stepin and moved distracting chairs or glasses out of my way. I mean, listen, I'm not like you can't walk up there and the glasses myself way figured out that after fifty three weddings a year, which we have this year way, split the work. I know it sounds like no big deal to walk three feet and move water glasses, but if I'm doing that for every table and I'm doing that for, I'm trying this literally conserving energy. After spending a few more minutes documenting the rest of the details in the room, it was time to pack our bags and head out for the start of the ceremony.

Class Description

Success as a wedding photographer requires more than just raw talent and the desire to be a professional photographer. To survive in this highly competitive industry, you need strong business skills and a deep understanding of your craft. In this documentary wedding photography experience, Susan Stripling will teach you how to launch and sustain a successful wedding photography business.

During 30 days of step-by-step instruction, Susan will show you how to:

  • Develop your business — everything from honing your creative vision to marketing tactics to studio management
  • Fundamental shooting techniques for every possible wedding scenario by inviting you along to an engagement session and wedding day and with real-life clients — not models! 
  • Post production workflow
  • Marketing and sales
  • Album design
During the start-to-finish documentary coverage of the wedding day, Susan will teach you how she handles each part of the experience, from photographic technique to client care, all with zero re-takes or re-shoots. Susan will wrap up the 30 days with detailed instruction on post-production workflow, post-wedding marketing, album design, post-wedding sales, and much, much more.

By the end of this course, you will have accompanied Susan through every step of a wedding and will have the skills, mindset, and tools needed to make a living — and a name for yourself — as a wedding photographer.


Misty Angel

oh Susan, you are AWESOME!! I am not a wedding photographer (despite dipping my toe in this intimidating pool for one of my dearest friends), I shoot all forms of portraits and love sports too! Your '30-Days' has been the single most influential and educational moments since I started my venture into photography in 2009! THANK YOU! Your honesty, directness, bluntness, humor and vulnerability makes these 30-Days the most worthwhile time spent away from actual shooting; while simultaneously is the most inspirational motivator to push you out there to practice these ideas/techniques! #SShostestwiththemostest You raise the bar in this industry, not just with wedding photographers, but with all genres of photography! I wanted this course to learn about shooting and thought, great... I'll get a little bit of the business side too... OMG! I got it ALL! I'm dying! What an awesome investment in myself, my business and in YOU! PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! I love your new Dynamic Range, I feel that it is a wonderful extension of the work you do with Creative Live! I watch you EVERY DAY, every morning... I know that I continue absorbing your wisdom through repetition! I don't want to be you, I want to rise to your level! So thank you for the inspiration, motivation and aspiration! Keep on being REAL, its what we love about you! We embrace your Chanel meets Alexander McQueen-ness! :) Thank you for stepping into this educational space and providing us with your lessons learned so we can avoid the negative-time investment making mistakes... we are drinking your virtual lemonade!! HA! Like the others, whatever wisdom you offer in this medium, I will be jumping at the opportunity to learn from you! THANK YOU!


All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.


Wow. What a super, comprehensive, entertaining, informative course. Well done. I've taking a lot of photography classes and this one is definitely top of the list. Susan Stripling was very well prepared (and great job by the CreativeLive Team too). Terrific course. Susan shared so much. Thank you! P.S. Love the CL boot camp courses.