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Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples

Lesson 46 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples

Lesson 46 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

46. Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples


Class Trailer

Day 1




Evolution of Susan's Style


Branding and Identity


Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned


Day 2


Introduction to Gear & Equipment


Lenses Part 1


Lenses Part 2




Day 3


Seeing the Scene


Seeing the Scene Q&A


Rhythm and Repetition


Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds


Rule of Odds and Double Exposures


Day 4


Intro to Business


Day 5


Financing Your Business


Day 6


Q&A Days 1-4


Day 7


Pricing Calculator


Day 8


Package Pricing


Day 9




Day 10


Vendor Relationships & Referrals


Day 11


Marketing w Social Media


Day 12


Booking the Client


Day 13


The Pricing Conversation


Day 14


Turn A Call Into a Meeting


Day 15


In Person Meeting


Day 16


Wedding Planning


Day 17


Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down


Day 18


Engagement Session Details


Day 19


Engagement Session On Location


Day 20


Wedding Details & Tips


Day 21


Detail Photos Reviewed


Day 22


Bridal Preparation


Day 23


Bridal Preparation Photo Review


Day 24


Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios


Day 25


Q&A Days 5-11


Day 26


First Look Demo


Day 27


First Look Examples


Day 28


Portraits of the Bride


Day 29


Portraits of the Bride and Groom


Family Portraits Demo


Family Formal Examples


Wedding Ceremony Demo


Day 30


Wedding Ceremony Examples


Different Traditions and Faiths


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples


Wedding Introductions


First Dance


Wedding Toasts


Parent Dances


Wedding Party


Reception Events


Nighttime Portraits


Nighttime Portraits with Found Light


Post Wedding Session Demo


Post Wedding Session Critique


Wedding Day Difficulties


Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure


Post Workflow - Culling Shots


Post Workflow - Outsourcing


Q&A Days 12-23


Post Workflow - Gear


Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing


Managing Your Studio


Post Wedding Marketing


Client Care


Pricing for Add-Ons


The Album Process


Balancing Your Business with Life


Post Wedding Problems


Parent Complaints


Unhappy Customers


Working with an Assistant


Assistant Q&A


Lighting with an Assistant


Q&A Days 24-30


Lesson Info

Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples

I wanted to start re capping a little bit of what you just saw it to kind of explain a little bit more in the instance of blair and jeremy's wedding we actually photographed the reception space before the ceremony took place now this isn't normal but not a lot about the day was normal by this point in time you saw that we were running late you saw that we were dealing with inclement weather you saw that they had to take their ceremony and move it inside to essentially what was a garage on dh then there was a brief period of time because the ceremony and the reception we're in the same paint space and guests were starting to arrive where they had to hide blair and jeremy away a little bit earlier than normal so I was afforded the ability to go right into the reception space which was right there next to the ceremony space and document some of this before the actual ceremony took place that gave us great time during cocktail hour to really document caught tell our but let's talk to you a...

little bit about this reception space first now if we hadn't I had a chance to photograph this before the ceremony because they did see each other before the ceremony because we did get those family formals done I would've had the entire sixty minutes of their cocktail hour to photograph both this space and the guests at the reception this was an easy one they didn't have a ton of guests they had under a hundred people there caught tell our can become a little bit more of a logistical difficulty when you have two hundred people two hundred fifty people five hundred people one time I photographed a chinese banquet that had nine hundred people that was a long cocktail hour to deviate very briefly if if a guest list is that high if we're looking at over five hundred people over six hundred people that's one of the points in which I will actually advise my clients to consider hiring the second shooter because there simply is no way me as one person khun document nine hundred people by mike self or if I do it means that I have less time to focus on the bride and groom during the reception I'm pretty comfortable up to about four hundred five hundred people being by myself but anything above and beyond that I just simply like to have another body they're walking around through cocktail hour and reception saying can I get a picture of you guys can I get a picture of you guys grip and grinning like crazy so this was the reception space that we were dealing with it blair and jeremy's wedding ah little different from maybe some of the weddings that you shoot or some of the what other weddings you've seen from me it's a split level room which filled me with great fear at the very beginning there's a very low lying kind of chandelier thing which you can see in the top of this photograph they have sprung for the reception lighting package, which is a great and a terrible thing you can see that there's up lights on the walls there's really interesting stuff going on in the back of the room, but there are the moving lights of death on the dance floor, which are the bane of my and many photographers existences were way to talk during the reception portion of that about how I manage that lighting, but it is difficult and I'm not gonna lie when I walk into the room and I saw those flowers for rolling on the floor, my heart just dropped into my shoes because it's a very difficult type of light to manage it's not because I can't shoot it it's not because I don't know how to shoot it it's because the options that I have to overcome those lights are not options that I really like photographically, but if you stick around for a few days, I promise we'll talk about that in great detail, so this is the space that we were working with and the great thing in the terrible thing about weddings that you see something new every single weekend, sometimes you're in a ballroom, sometimes you're outside sometimes you're here, which is the artist sano ironworks in manny young, right outside of philadelphia, you never know what you're going to walk into and what's really great about it as well, is that I could come here and it could look like this. I could come back next week, and it could look completely different, they could light it completely differently, the place where we got married front and palmer in philadelphia, we lit it, and we decorated it in a certain way. When I went back in january to photograph a wedding there, it looked completely different. They went with a different color scheme, a different type of lighting package, a different feel for the day, so it was almost like working in a completely different then you so it's a great and a terrible thing when you work at the same locations over and over again, you get comfortable with the place you start to learn great ways to shoot it in great photographic opportunities, but then you're kind of blindsided every time you go in because you don't know what they've done with the decor and with the lighting. So this is artist on, oh, this is what we were working with, so let's talk a little bit about the things that you saw me shoot during that video that you just watched first and foremost, we had the cake and what you saw a little bit of what it was actually me being a florist and redecorating the cake myself. She wasn't entirely thrilled with her florals in some ways the tables look great, she was really happy with all of those, but there was a lot of greenery and her bouquet, which she wasn't a fan of and you didn't see the portion of the day where she was upset with her bouquet and we actually picked all of that greenery out and you got a little bit of a snippet of me moving some things around on the cake they had put a lot of foliage around it, she really didn't like it. She didn't want to touch it, none other bridesmaids wanted to touch it, and there was no one left from the floral team to sort of fix it, and I asked her I said, if you really you really hate this, I'll take care of it for you. I have no qualms fixing it for you if you don't mind and she said, no, do it! So he took the cake topper ofthe we removed all of the greenery, we cleaned up the space and we put it back on now that is not something that you see me do at every single wedding I don't normally go in and start touching the cake, but in this instance, I knew it was something that would make the bride happier. I had the time to do it, and she gave me permission and to do it so we clean the cake up a little bit, changed it around a little bit and as you'll notice the candles when we got started, they weren't lit. But if we were going to photograph the cake, if we were going to do any of the kind of that detail work before the ceremony, I didn't want to shoot it with the candles not lit, and then have to come back later and shoot it again when the candles were lit. So we actually lit all of the candles around the cake and around that area shot what we needed to shoot and then blew them out very easy. If you have any questions about doing this, you can always find that maitre d you can always find the person in charge at the reception space and say, hey, I really need to shoot this one table. I don't need to shoot the whole ballroom, but can we light the candles on this one table and then blow them out? And a lot of times they're going to let you do that? I advise against going in and just doing it. Without asking for permission, she don't really want to irritate the venue like that, but we lit the candles, they were lit for maybe three minutes and then we blew them all out and kept on going so we're going to talk in great detail in just a few short minutes about the different lenses that I bring to a reception and the different uses of all of those lenses. But talking through the things that I shot for blair and jeremy here you can see that my dear beloved seventy two, two hundred is at play here I do shoot details with the seventy two, two hundred I do shoot them at two hundred millimeters and there is several different reasons for it. The great thing about the seventy two, two hundred for details which we're going to talk about ad nauseum in this entire hour is it allows me to compress the background. So what I've done here is I've utilized the compression of the seventy two, two hundred all the way at two hundred I've chosen two point eight instead of four or four five are beyond because I want to use both the depth of field at two point eight and the compression at two hundred millimeters to really knock out that background toe, add the compression and then up the field and make it a more blurry industry indistinct abstract background because of what what you're really seeing behind that cake is the deejay and the djs booth and the deejay speakers and I don't know about you but a deejay booth and deejay speakers really don't have a place in detail photographs of the day I'm trying to stay at one hundred sixtieth of a second now that sort of flies in the face of my general rule with my seventy two two hundred with my seventy two, two hundred a lot of the times I'm trying to stay at a four hundredth of a second or greater because I don't want there to be any camera shake attend to get shaky hands as the day moves on my clients tend to move really quickly in front of me and I need to make sure that I'm maintaining a shutter speed that allows every single thing to be not blurry but when I'm shooting an inanimate object when I'm shooting something that's not moving when I'm shooting a cake or a table or any type of foliage I know that it's not going to run away from me so I'm more comfortable with a slower shutter speed in that instance I don't have a tripod well take that back I had a tripod and then someone stole it so I don't have one anymore but even when I did have a tripod I'm not going to put my camera on the tripod for something like this I need to move quickly I need to get through the space quickly. I need to maximize my time. So picking up and moving a tripod just to do detail shots like this is not something that I'm going to do on the wedding dais y an hand holding my seventy two, two hundred, one hundred and sixty fifth of a second got all of your exit data down here. My assistant is off camera, right holding our dear treasured ice light. The point of the ice light here is toe light up the side of the cake. You can clearly see where the light hits and then falls off and to illuminate the cake topper which says, best day ever now what's going on in the rest of the frame is needs shooting through the candelabra that you saw just off to the side of the cake all of these lines going up are the lines going up that are supporting the candles on the top. Get back far enough with my seven, two hundred fill in the light that's not there with the ice light even at one hundred sixty eighth of a second and still pulling a little bit of ambient light and we've got a pretty darn nice cake shot. I always take the time to go through the room. I always photograph all of the details, whether they are elaborate or whether they are simple what really drew blair and jeremy artist sano ironworks and what made it a really great place for a wedding reception is because it already comes with really good to core you've got the iron works on the walls you've got the really cool panels of color on the walls you've got the wrought iron on the doors you don't have to bring in all of those things it's not a tent where you have nothing there with you it's not a hotel ballroom that doesn't have any personality the space already comes preloaded with great personality, so the details that they brought in to enhance the space where minimal and wedding blog's I've ranted about this already wedding belongs are going to lead you to believe that a wedding isn't a good wedding unless it is overflowing in bursting with details that the client made themselves out of material, they sourced themselves that they found on pent arrest and so on and so forth and whatnot. But I don't care when I show up to a wedding when I go into a reception, I don't care if you have three tea lights are you spent two million dollars on your dick or it doesn't matter to me, but whether you spent two million dollars on your dick or or you have three tea lights it's my responsibility to capture the details that you do have there as beautifully as I possibly can and it could be just as simple as making the right linds selections in the right setting selections on a grouping of I think there were eighty lights on a table seventy two two hundred all the way at two hundred even though these two clusters of light where maybe twelve to fourteen inches apart focusing on the lights in front all the way out at two hundred at two point eight the compression and the depth of field together knocks out those lights in the background makes them a beautiful induced sticked shape I'm working with my rule of thirds which is kind of one of my favorites at the candles over here on the far third visual interest in the rest of the frame I'm still a one hundred sixtieth of a second because I can hand hold a seventy two two hundred one hundred sixtieth unless the candles get up and start dancing and at this point in time during the day I am working on aperture priority unless the lightest super crazy and I need to move it over to manual that happens maybe once a year honestly but for the most part I've got my auto eso working for me and my auto eso is telling my camera listen the second you have to go under one hundred sixtieth of a second I want you to bump up to the next so level so you can see that it's at nine hundred so maybe it gets darker and then to stay in a hundred sixtieth of a second, we have to go upto eso thirty, two hundred, the camera will make that decision for me. And as I've mentioned before, I am not using auto eso because they don't know how to set my eyes so I know perfectly well how to set my eyes. So I'm using auto s o because I can trust the camera to do it for me. So one hundred sixty eighth of a second to eight, two hundred millimeter s o nine hundred in this room, with all of these different light sources with the candles and the lights on the walls and lights on the tables and lights on the floor. I'm shooting these at auto white balance, and as we talked about during this ceremony, sometimes this is something that I have to convey to my post production team. They'll come back to me and they'll say, hey, these up lights in this room, were they amber or were the most questions I get is where these purple or were these pink? Because as the lights flicker and as you photograph the lights in the room, especially those god bless on those led lights it could be really hard to get an accurate rendering of color in your camera no matter how you white balance it, so sometimes I will have to step back in and say, hey, it was really warm in here hey, it was really cold in here but again just just showing that a picture of a cluster of tea lights on a table I'm going to enter this in competition as the greatest detail picture I ever took no am I proud to put it up here and show it to you? Of course I am because it's technically proficient it's well thought out it's a pretty darn good picture of tea lights, so moving around through the space this was the head table that they were sitting at and as I've mentioned their details were simple they weren't anything crazy, they were very true to how they wanted the day to look and feel and this was their table they had candles on it, which we lit before taking this picture very, very simple greenery on a really lovely sign that said love is sweet and so a lot of times when you don't have a ton of details in the room, I'll do my best to try to photograph each of them in a slightly different way just to give a bit of variety to the reception room images that I'm taking over here on the left I met an eightieth of a second that's that's pretty low of a shutter speed to handhold you're seventy two two hundred but again the table's not going to get up and go cavort through a field it's going to stay right there so I employed that trick that I talked about before that I learned from job using where if you're trying to shoot a slow shutter speed taking a breath hold your breath, let your breath out really slowly and fire three times and the one in the middle will be in focus and again as I've mentioned before, I have no clue how this works or why this works totally works great trip tip to try I'm a two point eight because I'm attempting to photograph in both sections the love is sweet sign that's the focal point off my frame and I want everything else to be a little more indistinct I don't need to shoot this at eight I don't exactly want those curtains in the background on the left side of the image to be bright and sharp and in focus because they were a little wrinkled and I wanted to knock them out just a little bed and I'm at one hundred and ten millimeters on the left and one hundred and eighty five on the right and I'm at s o ten thousand on the left and thirty six hundred on the right any image on the left? I'm just shooting it with the light in the room. There wasn't a lot of additional light. My assistant was holding an ice light very off to the side. She was a bit far back. It wasn't really doing a lot to illuminate it as obvious by the fact that it was at s o ten thousand. Now you look over here at the image on the right it's an esso thirty six hundred and you can very clearly see that light from the ice light is coming from off camera left and hitting the sign you can see how the shadows are falling off. You can see the dimension that the light is coming from. The image on the left was shot simply straight on the image on the right was shot through one of the reception tables. So you get the line of the candles from another reception table filling in the bottom left of the frame, same scene two different ways of showing it ones not right ones not wrong. I like them both, so we deliver both to the clients. From there I simply went around from table to table and I tried to find an interesting way to shoot the decor on the table and also show the different backgrounds in the room you can see with both of them. They were shot at two point eight the reason being that I am trying to knock those backgrounds out a little bit there, both shot at two hundred millimeters same thing I was talking about with the cake we're attempting to compress he's off of the background on were also attempting to work with the depth of field at two point eight to make the background amore graphic more distinct element in the photograph. This would look vastly different if it were shot at eight f sixteen that's, not what I'm going for. Still, my isos are able to be kept pretty low eleven hundred and seven hundred twenty and because we're still a aperture priority. I'm at one hundred sixtieth of a second for both. So talking about how we handle everything logistically, we've talked about this a bit before let's recap it again. We're going to go on the assumption here best case scenario that we've got an hour the bride and groom have seen each other before the ceremony. We photograph the bride and groom together, we photograph the family formals. The ceremony has happened, everybody goes off to cocktail hour on our sixty minute time clock starts. This is how that goes. I started the reception space almost always I'm going to do what I can in the space without meeting my assistant to help me light it. Every once in a while I'll carry the ice light myself if I can set it down or prop it up or put it on a stand, I'll do it to photograph something little but I save the big stuff I save this stuff that I need somebody else holding the ice light for towards the end of my sixty minutes because I need sandra to come back in and help me. Sandra spins a decent amount of time grip and grinning caught till our and we call them griffin grins because that's exactly what they are hi, can I get a picture of you guys? People put their arms around each other they put their heads together, they grip each other, they grin, we shoot, we move on. I like doing these photographs during cocktail hour because they're not sitting at a table they don't have half eaten plates of food in front of them they're either jauntily holding their drink for their holding it down so that you don't see it and they're automatically grouping themselves into groups of people they know. So if you go around to each cluster and to each group and say, hey, can I get a picture of you guys? They put their arms around each other, they smile, you shoot, I shoot too sometimes sanders shoots three and you move on so I didn't always have her do gripping grins and cocktail hour I really beat myself up trying to do it myself, but I realized that this was a portion of the day after the marathon of everything that has happened so far that I can breathe, I can recoup, I can take two seconds to call my daughters and tell them good night I can't go to the bathroom, which I haven't done an incredibly long amount of time. I can eat half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Just take two seconds to breathe. You don't have to be running nonstop full, hard core all day long. It's nice to take a second to re center yourself and keep moving, but after I've taken five minutes to myself, I can really take the time to document this room. It's a more peaceful time for me and she's perfectly capable of can I get a picture of you guys all by herself? So, again, she's, not a second shooter, you've seen the periods of time in the day when she stepped in to help me out and she worked for me for nearly three and a half years before I started asking her to do cocktail hour, so it took us a while to get to this space. So I started the reception space she gripping, grins, cocktail hour, she then assist me with lighting the room if I need help lighting the room. Now, as I've said, this is best case scenario, this is if we have an hour, what do you do if we only have ten minutes? What do you do if we only have five minutes? Well, then we do this even faster, maybe if we only have five minutes, she runs into cocktail hour and grabs a quick half dozen shots, and I take a couple of wide angle shots of the room in a few pictures of an individual table, and then we're done because that's all the time we have maybe we're skidding into the room as their starting tow line people up to come in for dinner, and all I can do is one wide angle shot of the room again. Best case scenario, this is how we're going to do it, but as we lose time, we simply crunch down what we're doing, make it go faster and figure out what we can eliminate without sacrificing the coverage if we completely run out of time. So let's, talk briefly about caught tell our and what she is doing while I'm in the room, starting to kind of knock out some of those details shots. All she's doing is heading over into the room kind of get a picture of you guys kind of get a picture of you guys and I set the settings of the camera for her I've already taken a look at the cocktail hour space I know what it's going to look like I know what the lighting in the room is going to look like and so I set the settings I set the flash I give it to her and she goes off on her merry way to start documenting these are very standard settings for what we're usually doing during khan tell our were at an eightieth of a second keeping the shutter speed low enough that we're not going to have any ghosting or blurring of the subjects but we're still going to be able to pull in some ambient light in the background, eh? Five six listen I love sandra like a sister but she is not prominently a photographer so while I would normally shoot these at four when she goes out into the room and starts doing them I said the camera at five six for her in case the group's end up a little staggered I don't want her to have to worry about her settings at all and five six is something where I know that it's not going to be f eight we're not gonna have the whole room and focus it's not f sixteen but it's going to allow her to make sure that everyone in the photograph is perfectly in focus, she's got the twenty four to seventy millimeter on that d three s, which means that she can use the whole gamut between twenty four to seventy. Usually she sticks in between about forty and sixty. And then in this instance where at s o eight hundred, these settings are chosen so that I could bring in some ambient light in the space without over flashing the subjects. Now she knows that if she goes in there and she takes a picture and everybody is super super blown out, the first thing she's going to do it she's going to readjust the so if she shot this picture and their faces were a nuclear blast, she would take it from eight hundred down to four hundred. Or maybe she would adjust her shutter speed instead of an eightieth of a second, she'd bring it up to one hundred sixtieth of a second, or she would take the flash power and roll the flash power down. We're shooting all of these pictures, all of these grip and grins all of these things during cocktail hour on manual so we can make that adjustment. Her flash on camera is set to auto instead of t t l r white balance is set to flash and the flash on the camera as I've mentioned before in the section about gear we have it you put it straight up and you click it back one click it's shooting behind us just a little bit this is allowing the life to fuse a little bit we have a little bit of balance but we don't have the balance problem of when you bounced it off of the ceiling where it hits the ceiling falls down coats the top of the head then falls off over the body this much more accurately mimics a more natural light look and again just another example settings have not changed because they're working at eightieth of a second f five six she's about fifty two millimeters here s oh eight hundred so she just works her way around the room can I get a picture of you guys gonna get a picture of you guys every once in a while you have a guest that says no thank you and then you say ok and you move on to somebody else so I generally have to make a couple tours around the room if it's a smaller grouping maybe she'll take a tour around step out for a minute and then come back because it's on ly caught tell our and we don't want to burn out the guests on us right away we don't want to be up in their faces before they've even had a drink or gotten on the dance floor so we have to make sure that we're not annoying people so now let's talk a little bit about photographing the reception room itself. We'll talk about the lenses that I used to do so on what each of those lenses does now I know that you've seen me already talk about here and equipment you've seen me talk about the lenses that I use and what they're used for, but let's talk about them again in this specific context of photographing a reception space, we start off with the twenty four to seventy millimeters this is a nice, basic, simple linds I'm going to use for nice basic simple shots I don't have anything wider than a twenty four in my bag I have considered getting a sixteen to thirty five so that I could do some super wide room shot, but the number of times I would actually pull that lends out of my bag during the day doesn't really justify the cost of buying what I like to call a specialty lynn's nikon has an extraordinary linds they have the fourteen to twenty four but again it's an expensive lynn's while it's an extraordinary linds I can't justify the cost of the lens because I'd never use it a shot, a wedding, two shots, a wedding maybe once during the hora that's not a smart financial decision on my part so twenty four to seventy lets me do things like photograph a detail that small but might not, you know, need me to pull out the macro for it. This is just a very lovely menu that was printed on a doily very beautiful shot at four five so that I can make sure that a lot of the words are in focus. Twenty four to seventy perfect tool for this sort of thing twenty four to seventy is a really extraordinary great lens to photograph the room kind of wide it's not so wide that you have distortion on the sides. You don't have to worry about it. It's starting to look like a fish eye because it's wide but it's not that wide and in this instance, this was at pleasantdale chateau. It was during hurricane irene. The wedding went on as planned. It was beautiful. We were inside all day long. This was my last shot of the night because I wanted to go outside and I wanted to shoot through the windows because even when I'm shooting the details in the reception space, I'm trying to give them a sense of time and place. I view the details in the reception space almost like an environmental portrait of a detail, so twenty forty, seventy at twenty four. At four so that the entire cake isn't focus at an eightieth of a second because I can hand hold it at an eightieth and bring in some ambient light in the room I s o sixty four hundred because it's dark and I actually opened the french doors went outside, stood in the rain shot through the windows and then got my umbrella and went home twenty four to seventy. As I've mentioned before, I like the look of a long linds I like the compression of a long linds I like how it makes a space look intimate, but sometimes I'm going to want to use my twenty four to seventy at twenty four to make something seen small in a vast space. This is the vizcaya down in miami extraordinary place if you've ever been there and this is christine and jerry take just sitting out in the foyer waiting for the reception to start now if I'd shot this with my seventy two two hundred it would've looked completely different but I wanted the cake to seem small and lovely in a space that is huge and towering, so I chose to shoot it at twenty four so that the cake didn't get lost in the center of the image I chose to shot and shoot at two point eight so the cake is the only thing that sharply and focus all of the lines lead you right into that and again, very deliberate choice of linds for this very specific situation twenty four to seventy again in charleston, south carolina. Absolutely beautiful space is one of my favorite images that I made that year, and this is a very as I've mentioned before, kind of one of those transformative images that you make, where it really changes the way you view the scene around you. One of my favorite things about this image was to sit at w p p ay sixteen by twenty competition and watch some of the judges argue about it because they thought that it was ah composite, which it's not because I don't do that what I'm doing when I'm trying to shoot the room, regardless of what linds I'm using, regardless of what focal length I'm out, I'm always trying to see it in a way that nobody else has seen it before. I want to shoot this space and I want to shoot this room in a way that no photographer has ever done it, because I want my work to look different from everybody. Else's, who's ever been in that spot ever and ever will be. So I went outside, I was taking a look around the space, and I looked in through the windows. And I realized that the cake was sitting in this room that was completely dark if you look really, really closely down in the bottom right, you can see the tables, you could see the chairs, you could see the bar in the background, but what's happening here is because the entire room is dark I'm looking in the window and I'm getting a reflection of the building that's behind me, but the table that the cake is sitting on has a pin spot on it and it has a chandelier over it so that's a beacon of light in the space, so I'm not getting a reflection of the building behind me. Focus on the cake twenty four to seventy eight seventy millimeters one hundred twenty fifth of a second because while I'm trying to show some ambient light, I'm also trying to block out some ambient light taken exposure reading off of the cake and off you go twenty four to seventy really lets you make a space look a vast even if it's just a dozen people standing on a ridge watching the sunset I wanted it to seem bigger I wanted it to seymour kind of intimidating and more vast, so I chose the twenty four to seventy at twenty four at a twenty fifth of a second hand held uh hold the breath, let it out shoot three times, get something and focus and it really pulls in the sky that low shutter speed gives you all of the clouds lets those candles burn in the foreground and then the subjects are silhouetted in the background twenty four to seventy. Also a great linds for shooting room shots being very careful, even though there's minimal distortion on the edges. You still want to be conscious of what's going on in the edges of your frame at twenty four millimeter. This is the bowery hotel in new york, and I choose to chose to shoot through the open doors so that the lines on the door push you straight into what's going on in the space shooting at f four because I wanted the front part of the image perfectly and focus and I wanted the rest to melt away. If I had wanted the whole room to be in focus, I would have needed a tripod so that I could have gone to f sixteen or f twenty two. That was why I bought my tripod before it got stolen. I know I harp on it, I'm still bitter. It just happened the twenty four to seventy again full room shots. I'm always trying to be careful. When I do document the entire room, I try to stand on a chair. The reason why I try to stand on a chair is because I want to get a little bit above the scene I want to shoot down on the tables so that you don't just see the table in front of me. You see the rest of the tables stretching out into the room, so I get up a little bit higher. I have my assistant standing next to me usually to make sure that I don't fall off because I can be clumsy, but again, a great focal length to photograph an entire reception space, such as here at twenty six millimeters, you can tell I'm still a little higher than the rest of the space and standing on a chair in a corner, I don't bring it here with me. I borrow a chair from the room, stand up and shoot down a tenth of a second hand held at five six this is what f twenty two looks like. You can tell that I'm at a very slow shutter speed because you can see the burst, the star bursts of light. I'm actually not using a tripod here. I've climbed up in the balcony that looks down over this space and I have my linds and my camera wedged into the corner of the balcony so that it's held steady. If I didn't have it, I would use that tripod that I owned that hadn't been stolen yet. Oh to really get this shot but a long, slow shutter speed a long exposure really showed what that party was like. People were dancing crazy, you've got a lot of motion, it wouldn't have looked the same if it was shot at a thirtieth of a second or a sixtieth of a second. So that's kind of a call for a tripod that's why you would bring something like that tool wedding it's for those long exposures either of the room with no one in it or the room with the party happening, I still view this as a room shot because it's a shot of the room it just gives it a little more context when you have the people in there breaking it down again long slow shutter speed at f twenty two so that the entire room is in focus three hundred s o three twenty so you can clearly tell that I have got this on a tripod letting it go, letting it do its thing. Every single one of those lights becomes a tiny starburst f twenty two twenty four millimeters I s o one twenty five obviously this is on a tripod. There is no way that I could hand hold this at all but even handholding at a thirty a bit of a second at four twenty four millimeters you still get a great sense of the room it's still a great room shot but you don't have the ghosting and blurring of all of the motion of the people because your shutter speed isn't low enough again twenty four to seventy just documenting the room sometimes if we get bored we try to make the room shot a little more interesting f twenty two s o one hundred world's longest shutter speed all that is is my assistant and I holding a teeny tiny son pat video light that we used to use a couple of years ago and just quietly walking through the reception space with it while the shutter was wide open taking this really long exposure were not being crazy we're not running around we're not disrupting the guests were just taking a walk through the space and it just gives it something a little different like that which is at riverside farm in pittsfield, vermont. The bride and groom were going to do a sparkler exit they were eating dinner dinner service had gone on for a very long time we didn't have a whole lot of shoot, so we got ahold of some extra sparklers and went outside and kind of went crazy again twenty four to seventy really great lens for room shots, very versatile there's a reason why it is one of my work horses so back to my seventy two, two hundred because we haven't talked about that near enough today, the seventy two, two hundred is something that I'm going to use an awful lot for shooting rooms now, it's kind of a no brainer when you're looking at a detail that's outside. Yes, it's really easy to shoot a reception detail outside with the seventy, two hundred cause you can get way back for something like this. Back in pittsfield, vermont, you could see that it is pouring down rain. I'm at two point eight because I want to focus only on the sign and every lead. Everything else in the background go away back to that hundred sixtieth of a second I'm with my seventy two, two hundred, but I am shooting it in eighty five millimeters, I couldn't get quite far back enough. I was actually in my car driving around the property. It was raining so hard, I couldn't even go out under an umbrella, so I drove around, lowered the window, took a couple shots and kept right on going seventy two, two hundred again in a space that you might not necessarily think about using it. You might not think about shooting your cocktail hour details. With a seventy two, two hundred but this is outside. We did have some really nice light, and I have absolutely no problem stopping a waiter and saying excuse me, can you hold on one second so I can take a picture of that? You mind moving it right over here into this light shoot and move on four hundredth of a second because there are moving parts f four so that everything in that bowl in the forefront is in focus. Two hundred millimeters for the compression and I s o to fifty because we're outside and it's. Pretty darn bright. Same thing here I s o one hundred two hundred millimeters f two eight shutter speed is through the roof because we're outside it's super bright, but because I had the waiter stop and pause and hold the drinks in the shaft of sunlight. By the time I exposed for the glasses, everything else darkened down and it looks like she's holding it in a void. Which is exactly what I was going for. Seventy two, two hundred for a reception room. Detail off camera light with my ice light coming from offstage left two point eight so that the bride and groom's names are bright and prominent in the front, but everything else fades away two hundred for the compression so that you can stack those seating chart cards one right on top of each other and I s o nine hundred. Theis is nice and low because we are providing our own light. These are orders sitting out in the caught tell our space there actually sitting under a heat lamp, so I took one of them pushed it a little bit further back into the heat lamp, so it was lighting it up nice and bright. Two hundred millimeters for the compression two point eight for the depth of field one hundred twenty, five hundred twenty fifth of a second to let in a bit of ambient light, but to crush out a lot of ambient light also so that it's not distracting from my focal point, and I s o nine hundred because it's pretty bright under with the heat lamp, I'll use the seventy two, two hundred to photograph things like the invitation. Sometimes when I'm in the bride's getting ready room, there isn't really a good spot to put the invitation out to take a good photograph of it, so I'll hold it. I'll ask them if they mind if I hang onto the invitation, I'll keep it until the reception during dinner service, when not a whole lot is going on, I'll set it out and take that time to photograph it then. Again apparently I have a thing for a light shining through glasses I snag two signature cocktails from the bar, set them down in a shaft of light, photographed them and gave them right back we do not did not and will never drink alcohol at an event I don't care if you offer it to me I don't care if the clients get their feelings hurt if we don't take it I am not going to drink a drink at your event unless it's a diet coke or a glass of water and again none of these are accidents everything that I'm photographing is placed deliberately in a specific place for a specific reason these glasses were set and I set myself so that you would be able to see the engraving on the glasses against the bright spot of the background we have no additional light going on here because we don't need it I'm essentially making a silhouette of the engravings on the glasses ah for thousands of a second because it's mid day we're in a tent it's really bright f four so both of the heart are in focus but not much else to hundred millimeters for the compression and I s o three twenty because it's bright outside the bartender was serving drinks at the bar took a glass of wine set it on the bar thousands of a second it f or two hundred millimeters for the incredible compression and I s o one hundred because it was still daylight this bar was outside but I shot through all of the other bottles and glasses and wine bottles and waited and angled myself and was ready for the bartender to set that wondering down in that one space so that I knew that I could nail it before the guest picked it up and walked away with it I'll even use my seventy two two hundred at two hundred to photograph a tiny detail two hundred millimeter at two eight we've talked about it before the combination of depth of field and compression focuses just on that circle of rhinestones right on top of their menu ah little light from my assistant coming off camera right you can see where it's coming from based on how the shadow falls under the plate and off we go again that combination of two hundred millimeters in two point eight two really isolate whatever detail your photograph and you get that one two punch of depth of field and compression really pretty fantastic sometimes I will shoot that seventy two two hundred at seventy if I feel like it warrants it such in this situation or eighty five it doesn't have to be all the way out at two hundred but when it is it is magical it could take alarm long farm table and really compress it down to being something really intimate and really beautiful or it could take a detail on the bride and groom's head table, separated from everything else and pull it off of that twinkle light background. I'll use my seventy two, two hundred at a longer length to make tables that are further apart look like they're closer together or look make table settings that are kind of spaced out far apart look like they're closer together seventy two, two hundred in a reception space, taking some tables that are waiting to be laid out during the flip of the room, shooting through some twinkle lights, compressing them on top of one another. You even get compression at one hundred twelve millimeters two hundred millimeters shooting through the candle set on another reception table to get at the cake, which is one of my favorite things to do. I like to go around to the other side of the table. I like to find kind of a pathway to get through those tables to get to the cake. To make it interesting, anybody can take a picture of a cake, anybody can hold up a video light and shoot a picture of a cake. I'm trying to make an environmental portrait of the cake so that it has a sense of time and place, busy room lots going on, lots of things that were distracting, that air set out next to the cake. So I chose to obstruct part of my lens with part of something that was on another table so that your eye goes directly to the cake. Now some of you might say, why didn't you just shoot a vertical and crop in tight? Well, they didn't want to I wanted some negative space and I wanted some space in the image again shooting through the table's it takes us back to the part where we were talking in earlier days of this thirty days about composition, about creativity, about layering and about pushing your focus, which is what I'm trying to do here. I want every element that it is in this frame to take you straight to the cake right there in the centre, but also to support what I'm doing here. So what have we learned today is talk briefly about it. We've talked about managing your time during cocktail hour and the reception time shooting the reception room space. We've talked about what to do if you have a full hour versus what to do if you only have five minutes. We've talked about my gear of choice for all of the above mentioned scenarios, we've talked through all of the different lenses and what their purpose is served when we're shooting the reception space itself. And hopefully, I have taught you something today that might help elevate your reception room shooting or your cocktail hour shooting to the next level. Or at least streamline it and make it easier for you to handle. Thank you so much for sitting with us today, and I'll see you again tomorrow.

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Ratings and Reviews

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.

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