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Creative Wedding Photography

Lesson 24 of 33

Shoot: Reception - First Dance

Susan Stripling

Creative Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

24. Shoot: Reception - First Dance

Lesson Info

Shoot: Reception - First Dance

Now we don't know when we're going to do a first dance whether it's going to be a thirty second for stands or whether it's going to be five minute first dance that kind of turns really awkward because it just keeps on going I try to find out from the bride and groom if I can't find out from the bridegroom I try to find out from the band or the d j if it's going to be a quickie or if it's gonna be a long one and if it's going to be a long one or they gonna motion for people to come up halfway through but for the intense and purposes of this class let's pretend that it's going to be a nice long like fifteen minutes for stands so because we don't have a whole lot of room that we're working with we're gonna have a first dance right here and this isn't entirely different from what it would be like in kind of a smaller then you so we're just gonna have you two come on up here and you're literally just gonna like if you could just kind of come over here and just sort of hold a dancing pose, y...

ou don't even have to like sway or move so when we're looking at photographing dancing I'm going to have my assistant stay in the same spot the entire time I'm not gonna have her kind of rove around and the reason being if she starts roving around and she's trying to second guess what I want and I really want her in one spot then it's just gonna be a huge clustering mess of where you and where am I and why were you over there because I wanted you over here I have her stay in one spot so if you guys want to go ahead and you know have a little dance here I'm gonna drag a massive tether around you which I would never do on your wedding day it's gonna come over this way a bit and do you mind scooting a little further into the tables here further away from me okay so you're gonna pop that right on up there and the first thing I'm gonna do you don't even have to look at me you just look at each other you just got married can you spin her around so that your clasp hands are facing this way like just keep turning bring bring bring yes ok good and then just looked at each other like you're going to dance and then shall come a little closer to me so let's say we're going to start off shooting like this the first thing I'm going to do is have my assistant is close to me as possible can look at each other she's ready there we go so I'm going to start off standing right next to her the reason being because I don't know if it's a short one and I don't know if it's a long one I don't know what's about to happen we're gonna pretend like I have no clue whatsoever, but as you can see, what I've done is I've used my off camera flash as my main light because I don't know if it's gonna be sure and I don't know if it's going to be long, I need to get my safe shots first, so I'm going to shoot directly into the scene and get a really good reaction of her and then maybe I'll wait until they spent around again, I'll get a really good reaction of him and then I'm gonna start moving let me scoot over just a little bit we're pretending that she stayed in the same spot I'm goingto tethered around this way from houston, they go this way, I am actually going to adjust them toe where I need them to show you what I want now in the real world, you can't stop your bridegroom from dancing and tell them what you want. You just have to wait for it to happen, so I'm gonna get you guys to kind of spin just slowly and I'll tell you when to stop, do teo stop and look at her there we go so after I've gotten a nice, safe shot I'm gonna come around to kind of the other side and what I'm going to try to shoot here is I'm going to try to have my light kind of coming from behind them, so just look right at her same settings is before we're going to see if that actually works hang on and so cute we're going to take a quick look and we're going to see what that looks like bam nailed it, it's exactly what I was looking for now my settings have not changed my flash settings have not even remotely changed. I've simply changed my angle, I've moved to the other side entirely, and when this is happening, you have to wait for them to spin because a lot of times what you'll get go ahead and actually hold her how you were and keep on moving, I keep going stop hang out right there if you're not really careful with what you're going for, you'll end up with something kind of like this, which is where you kind of think maybe they're in the right spot and then maybe it's kind of what you're looking for, but, uh ge whoops nothing's, right? You know, because he's turned and when the light hits them, the light is coming from here, it's hitting the back of her head but it's not even getting to his face at all so you have to be very mindful of where your light is coming from and you have to think I think of it as like if that light were a beam of light that was constant all the time if she was holding a flashlight, where would this light be hitting? Well, if they're that way it's going to smack her right in the back of the head and it's only gonna hit his forehead because he's taller than she is so I'm gonna wait until they keep coming around now go ahead and just straight up face each other and you're going to come over here amongst all of our sophisticated hand movements between myself and my assistant my personal favorite looks like this which means right where you are just drop it so she compacts the flash down and she gets down like this she doesn't move if she's trying to stay directly behind the client she has no idea where I am so she doesn't know what behind the clients is she's going to get down and trust that I'm going to do what I need she's going to keep an eye out on either side because when I'm ready for her to get up I'm simply going to go to the side and do like that and then she's gonna telescope it back and get right back up again for what you can get with something like this we're going to try with the exact same settings she looked right at each other get a little closer together oh, and twirl keep coming this way towards me. Bring her towards stop get nice and close together. You know, this is such a horrible day at work for both of you and see what we've got if that happens taking a look at your exposure, taking a look at what's going on, you get a nice little room of light around their faces now when I take a look at this shot because I can't chimp it on the back of my camera because of the tethered we're only seeing it on the screen. She looks stan tastic, he looks fantastic, but I don't like the positioning of his chin, so I would wait until the next time that they came around and make sure that when I composed, I'm not putting the part where her hand meets his face up against a white background, so obviously you can see I had her adjust in and out just a little bit because was a very, very, very tiny room, but for the most part she's going to stay in exactly the same spot I'm going to move and if I'm picking the spot where my assistant is going to stand usually at a standard wedding reception she's either going to stand next to the band speakers or on the far corner of the dance floor depending on whether I want the light to be at a good angle if I'm shooting into the room or into the band and it really depends on the layout of the room in the lighting in the room as to which I determined is best questions from me studio audience who's looking glazed so if you had a room in which the ceiling was black because you're aiming straight at them with that change in any way how you're no not really exactly not really it's time I mean it works whether the ceilings fight or whether the singing ceilings black I just don't want a tractor beam of light straight at their faces and I don't want to bounce it off the ceiling so I go midway between the two any other questions from over here no please of what it was an outdoor wedding and you had you know the reception itself was outdoors are we in a town where we hold right there just outside the door yeah you know something like that if it's midday I'm not going to use additional light unless it will work you know what if they're stuck in really unattractive lighting and no matter what I do even flash full on a full power isn't gonna do much of anything I'm not really gonna be able to use a light you know not gonna run a generator and bringing out. Some light on it luckily I don't find myself in those situations very much but when I do it's very frustrating or when your background isn't necessarily ideal but all you could do is the best that you khun dio and as you can see in here I mean, if I walked into a reception and it looked like this I would have a couple minutes of hyperventilating realizing they're sitting again you know, the drape that they put on the wall and there's no decor here and everyone staring at me and I don't know what to dio you know, but as you can see, we made several very lovely, very compelling photographs of just this and if it's I'm at the four seasons if I'm at the hyatt if I'm at the motel six I'm still going to approach the scene the same way if the room is bigger if there's more to core obviously it affords me more ability to make more kind of dynamic types of images because I'm able to use those elements but I was still able to light that beautiful toast in these lovely reactions and a couple of really nice dancing shots in the middle of a foyer so it can still be done at one eightieth of a second when the client is moving will it be blurred? Can she show us how to shoot when there's movement going on exactly the same because as an eightieth of a second, you're using your flash to freeze your subjects. But however, if you do shoot it and you realize that you are getting a lot of motion blur, or if the deejay has brought his really helpful laser lights and pointers with him, which is awesome, and we totally love that you're going to have to raise your shutter speed to compensate. So just, you know, just be very mindful. Maybe you've got your s o a little too high. Maybe your shutter speed is kind of going a little crazy. If they are moving and I am seeing movement, I will adjust my settings accordingly. But for the most part, at an eightieth of a second that's actually a little higher than I would normally shoot. Ah, first dance, because it's a little bit bright in here. Usually it's, actually even a little bit slower and with the flash unable to freeze the subjects. Okay, well, we have one more eyes. The last question from gabby see photo. I see susan bouncing off the ceiling. What would she deal with? Colored ceilings or walls do exactly the same thing. I see a trend here. Internet it's true, I mean, the things that I'm trying to teach you about every single portion of the day are done wherever it is if I realize that when she put the light up let's say these things on the ceiling or a little bit lower down if I realized that was becoming a problem I would just adjust her flash accordingly and honestly in in a that room's so small if we were having trouble with the ceilings a room this small might be an option for a video light and I would put it exactly where the flash was but I feel like a video lights very intrusive okay? And, um some general reception shooting please this one's interesting from remain bird in bolivia help susan oh no the bride and groom loved to have me shoot them with every single table. What do you recommend to make this not is boring no more like like it's for justice born boring I mean there's it is what it is and I do have clients like you know for some people table shot still is a thing and a lot of it is a cultural thing. Um where you do um you know are a lot of armenian weddings persian weddings, chinese weddings where it is accustomed to go toast each table and then take a photograph with them we just make it fast I told a bridegroom listen like how many guests do you have? Okay well let's let's estimate like three to four minutes per table because you have to go to each table you have to toast them we have to get the people back out of the bathroom we have to get the people off the dance where we have to get the people from the bar I would recommend you do it during dinner don't do it while people are dancing and we're gonna go we're gonna toast I'm gonna get half of the table to go over behind the other half of the table we're going to shoot it and then you've got to move and I tell him every second that you stand there in new hug everybody is another second keeping us from another table and every second that I'm with you for your table shots which I'm glad to do if it's what you want is a second that I'm not documenting what's going on in the rest of the room but as far as making table shots boring do their boring like they just r and generally the bridegroom do them because they have to not because they want to and the way to make them not as awful is to just keep them lighten move fast great and keep sending those expectations again that scene again coming back to that absolutely or communication as best you can but every once in a while you'll be at a reception they're like you know what we really want to do table shots and you're alive let's, go let's, do it. I'm so you know what? If you really want to do that it's gonna take like, the next forty five minutes or you cool with that and they're like, yeah, we got to do it and then I say, let's, go all right, I'm here for you, whenever you want, right on and we have another question about from max photo. How do you handle a bride and groom have been dancing and are completely sweaty when they're ready to cut the cake they're sweating when they cut the cake. I thought about that before you get on the dance floor shit you have no, they're just they're sweating when they cut the cake and sometimes, you know they're sweaty, but if you're shooting a wedding outside, we've done out the reports in an outdoor ceremony in an outdoor cocktail hour. They are dead before they come inside there's, only so much you can do with it. If they're extra extra sweaty, you know, maybe we'll run a little, you know we'll run a batch of portraiture on them before we proof it. But if you sweat, if your hair falls down, if you need extensive retouching, we're going to make the proofs look beautiful, which is something that sidecar is going to go over. But if you want additional retouching, if you hated your hair, you sweat it up. You know a ton if you soaked through your shirt that's either an additional fee or it's complimentary when you put it in an album. Okay, so no portable showers. Or wouldn't that? Because if we had one, I would have gotten anyone heard me last. Section b c five england for that, what we need is one of those missed tense, right? Like where they just had missed you. And you just kind of go in it at least. Yeah. And one last course, please. Morning. Okay. So from my, um he knows is that you're using the seventy, two hundred all the time. Do you only shoot close ups or if you could explain again? Why are you using the seventy two hundred? I mean, do I only shoot close ups? No, but if we're in a space like this before in a very small, very difficult, very cramped space, that's generally going to be my go to linz. If I'm shooting in room, we're in a room where I have more space, I'll be able to do a little bit wider or I'll be able to do a vertical, which I'd actually be glad to show you if I could borrow you guys back up again if you don't mind standing right by the door and I you can actually just stand there, you would be like a family member on the edge of the dance floor if you could just kind of like right here and again, I have to wait for them to hit, so keep going with her, and I'll tell you in the stop, tio dio dio dio theo, stop actually puller, but yet yep, actually that's pretty good take a big step to your left, and the reason why I'm adjusting them is because we're working in a limited amount of space. If this were a regular wedding, I wouldn't be able to do such a thing, so I'm going to show you we've got, you know, our aunt on the corner of the dance floor with her ipad, who will not stop taking pictures and we've got the video hundred for who will not get out of my way, but we're still going to take a vertical of what's going on here exactly like I would on a wedding day like so. So I do want to show you that no it's not all close ups you know we shoot vertical and as you can see by looking at the image you can see where the light is coming from you know, she's she's a little bit maybe a little bit close to the subjects become apparent take a little bit more of a look that's actually not half bad except I'm really ticked that the aunt with the ipad will not get out of my own but no I mean you're not going to shoot straight into absolute nothingness thank you guys very much you know you're gonna have people standing on the side of the dance where you're gonna have the tables behind you so yeah, I'll go vertical if I can I'll go wider if I can you know, I was just shooting kind of close to illustrate what the lighting was doing but even in a small space like that you could do a vertical and I do prefer the seventy two, two hundred if the space was even smaller than that, obviously it would force me to choose a different lens but you know, I was it's still a pretty small space and I'm still able to shoot pretty long just be careful if you're going to do a vertical and you do have a wide angle that's generally not terrifically flattering people susan can I ask one teeny tiny no, you can't you know that's why you're here please uh mindful of what the clients have paid for the details they like for us have you ever had a situation where you know the deejay might to turn down the disco lights too soon or the green dot one leak do ask you that already do it in post ah, okay. It was a good citizen. I affectionately call them woop woop lights because it's like being in a party bus and it's like when they turn the lights off, all I can hear is like, I think like they should come with, like, an air raid thing because it's the worst and the djs bring it and they bring it to venues where it's not appropriate and where it doesn't fit the tone of the rest of the wedding and where it looks stupid. So the first thing that I would do if I realize that there about a party bus me is I'll ask them, hey, guys, is this gonna be on the dance floor the whole time? And if it is, can we keep it off during the first dances and the parent dances? You know, usually they're like that's cool we were gonna put it out there anyhow because they're not going to go nuts on the important dances like that and then I'll say, hey, guys I know you have the ability to move it it's really distracting if it hits the people is there any way we can tilt it up and just kind of have the light show on the walls and the ceilings instead? No sometimes it's not a problem at all because all they want they've been hired to do this I can't stop them from doing it, but if I could get them to raise it up so it's not making the guests epileptic that would probably be pretty good and sometimes they will sometimes they won't because they think I'm stupid I don't know what I'm doing so in the instance that that happens, the only thing that you can really do is raise your shutter speed up to compensate for the blinding light understanding that when you raise your shutter speed you're gonna lose a lot of the ambient light in the room but that's all you can do it's the best that you can do in that situation and it's terrible and I really, really, really don't like it and it's another thing I try to educate the clients about before the fact, but sometimes they don't listen or they don't care and it's one of those things it's almost impossible to fix and post and I'm sorry if you hire a d j that pinpoints, you know those horrid horrid things I'm not fixing that in the proof stage I'll fix it for an additional fee or I'll fix it for an album but this is what you wanted at your wedding this is and I'm not being rude like this is what you wanted this is what it looks like you know you don't like it I can fix it for you but I'm not going to fix it for free it's not my fault that you realize later that it was a bad decision so in the time that we have left on me go ahead grab my other lends real quick we're gonna talk about dancing so one two little girls little girls are you so generally in an instance like this the second that little girl hits the dancefloor some very well meaning guests is going to grab me shove me towards the dance floor and say the flower girls on the dance floor and in standard while I shoot it someone else is going to tell me again I don't know what their obsession is with it so anybody haas is like the saddest party with no music ever anybody have music on an ipod anything we could dance tio no okay we're gonna pretend to dance now don't do it we're going to take dance so I can still talk we're going to take dance so you know what? You and her you can have a seat so you guys come over here and all you're gonna d'oh you can do whatever you want you khun dio this you can spin her around you get you can do but you are my perfect choice for this just face each other this way on you can stand there and look horrified by what he's doing just totally but come this way so that you're both facing each other keep coming like this way this way yeah like I want you over here and then do you mind if I move you put you right here see again do you mind if I move you? I'm not gonna touch a client if I'm not sure if they're going to go with it so when something like this happens blind staring around or something tend to spend a lot of time doing I have managed to misplace my stuff in again that's what happens when I go somewhere without my assistant so flash on camera and off camera what I'm going to do with this turning on my own camera flash I'm gonna put it on like sixteenth power right? I'm gonna throw up heidi a little bit what I'm trying to do with this I'm goingto light the two of them as evenly as I can with a little flash from here and then I'm going to use her flash to give it some dimension so embarrassed this poor girl with your hardy hardy dancing that was actually really frightening thank you for that so we take a look at what we've got that is pretty much darn close to what I'm looking for and it's you look really embarrassed by him let's try it one more time come up with my flash just a little bit all right on the count of three embarrass the life out of that poor child there we g o way so I'm guessing this is, you know, probably your uncle oh that's drastic actually that is intensely adorable and it shows you kind of exactly what I'm going for and then it shows you a problem. So what it's showing me is that my light is correct. I have my flash that's on my camera filling in just a little bit and I have my off camera flash giving it a little bit of dimension. Now I noticed that I've got a little bit of motion blur, which means that what I've done is I d there got my isaac it's tough looking at it's hilarious I've either got my I s o too high or I've got my shutter speed too low or a combination of the both. So what I'm going to do to try to fix this I'm gonna actually raise my shutter speed and lower my eye s o to see what that looks like I'm gonna come back over here again I'm gonna give you a count of three and let you embarrass this little girl here who is such a trouper for this one too three you got there that is pretty fantastic so you can see that the combination of changing my shutter speed to a sixtieth of a second and changing my I s o I allowed my flash off camera to do a little bit more work you guys gonna have a seat thank you very much you are awesome she looks so scared of you and you can see exactly what's going on you can see it because you see exactly what her flashes coming from you see that my flash on camera is just adding on a very very very a little bit of phil so it's not just this dark pit with a shining beam of light it wouldn't look the same if my flash on camera we're not on my flash on camera were in on it would have just been her light lighting them which could have been cool but for the most part I need a little bit more fill in on people's faces and we adjust our settings as needed she'll follow me a little bit around the dance floor I'll put her maybe on one corner then maybe I'll move her to another corner and then I'll follow her side to side as I go back and forth I don't move her around a lot and I'm always conscious of exactly where she is because I need to know how her flash is going to hit the subjects that I'm photographing. So I kind of like it. Um, sometimes we have to raise the power of the flash. If the dance floor is really big. Sometimes I have to raise the power on my flash if the ceilings are really high, and then I adjust my shutter speed and my I s o accordingly, sometimes the twenty four to seventy is a little difficult to use, the little heavy. The dance was really crowded. All switch over to my twenty eight or my thirty five, and those work really fantastically as well. And again, all of these things change as you get into a bigger venue, a venue with a higher ceiling, where your assistant has to be further away from the subjects. And these are things that I want you to practice on your own before you try it at a wedding.

Class Description

Join award-winning wedding photographer Susan Stripling for a 3-day journey through the world of artistic, compelling, and financially successful creative wedding photography.

Throughout this course, you’ll explore lighting, posing, capturing detail, and much more. Susan will simplify the potentially daunting process of selecting the right equipment for every wedding’s needs. You’ll learn about transforming poorly-lit or visually uninteresting wedding settings into picturesque images.

Susan will also guide you through the workflow she uses, and explain the composition principles that result in dynamic images. You’ll explore concrete, on-the-fly troubleshooting strategies for unexpected wedding events.

By the end of this course, you’ll have the tools you need to think on your feet while photographing every phase of a wedding, with jaw-dropping results.



Outstanding, one of the best courses on Creative Live. Wow! The delivery is sharp, on point, and focused. I've learned tons. There are so many gems I've watched this video many times and have now purchased more videos from Susan Stripling. Outstanding presenter. My photography has already improved greatly by implementing some of the techniques shown.

a Creativelive Student

The content of the course was perfectly taught at a "real" level. Susan's work clearly, speaks for itself, but her willingness to be so generous with her knowledge is fantastic. She has become an instant favorite of mine and her style is truly special and unique. The course was reasonably priced and I am beyond thrilled that I have taken the time to learn from one of the best in the industry. INCREDIBLE course in every way!!


I Loved this course. I would definitely take another course by Susan Stripling. Her images are beautiful. She has the posing, timing, lighting, mood, etc. all down perfectly and makes amazing, beautiful pictures. She is an excellent communicator as a teacher too.