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Photographing the Reception

Lesson 28 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

Photographing the Reception

Lesson 28 from: Wedding Photographer Survival Kit

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

28. Photographing the Reception

Next Lesson: Reception Q&A


Class Trailer



Class Introduction


The Gear That Will Save You in Tough Situations


How Lenses Shape the Image and Help Tell Your Story


Light Modifiers for Your Survival Kit


Gear to Spice Up Bland Images: Prisms, Mist and More


Walkthrough of a Difficult Venue


Why Each Room Works and Why It Doesn't


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Dress


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Rings


Wedding Day Details in a Difficult Situation: Shoes


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in Difficult Scenarios


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Small, Cluttered Room


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Dark Hallway


Photographing the Bride Getting Ready in a Doorway


Portraits of the Bride in a Small Room


Removing the Surrounding Space for a Bridal Portrait


Window Lit Bridal Portrait in a Tough Space


How to Shoot a Quick and Simple Bridal Portrait


Photographing Guys, Complaining Brides and "Helpful" Bridesmaids




Portraits of Bride and Groom: Ideal Situations


Portraits of Bride and Groom: When Things Go Wrong


Bride and Groom Portraits: What to Do If You're Indoors


Bride and Groom Portraits: How to Pose an Awkward Couple


Family Formals: How to Achieve Your Ideal Situations


Family Formals: When Things are Less Than Ideal


Family Formals in an Awful Space


Family Formals Recap and Questions


Photographing the Reception


Reception Q&A


What Can You Do to Safeguard Your Business?


Contracts Q&A


Dealing with Social Media as a Wedding Photographer


What if Advertising Isn't Working?


What to do When Everyone Just Wants More


When Everyone Says I Am Too Expensive


When You Hate Your Job as a Wedding Photographer


Lesson Info

Photographing the Reception

So what we're going to talk about now we're down to the last two segments of the day we're gonna talk about photographing the reception and then we're going to move on to talking about business and marketing all under the umbrella of surviving so let's jump right into it and talk about photographing the reception and when we're talking about photographing the reception I mean first dances and parent dances, toasts and blessings first dances and parent dances are the same type of scenario to people spinning in circles with varying degrees of success on a dance floor and toast and blessing someone holding a mic and saying words, they're very similar so how do I do things? And I'm in my ideal situation we were talking about photographing family formals and I detailed out my ideal situation before moving on and talking about difficulties. How do I determine my ideal? Well, I can't tell you what the ideal situation is for you you're going to have to figure this out yourself. What are you dr...

awn to? What linds is do you like for this part of the day? How do you like your light toe? Look, I can show you what I d'oh but finding your own ideal is something that you have to dig deep and figure out on your own my ideal for this time of day looks a lot like this happy people dancing happy happy people dancing happy in really good light a directional single off camera flash illuminating my subject one flash off camera that's it one ofthe camera flash whether it's the first dance or a parent dance one ofthe camera flash in a really nice scenario a reaction of the bride and groom to someone giving a toast single off camera flash not a combo of two flash is not a nice light not an off camera and an on camera flash one off camera flash whether you are outside whether you are inside with no background whatsoever whether you're inside with a dark background I'm going to approach this from the same way every single time even if it's difficult so let's talk about what that means ideally I would like enough distance to use a long lens or enough space to use a wide lens properly and by properly I mean without any distortion a decent background that has meaning I would always rather shoot into the crowd than into the band because if I'm shooting into the crowd the people in the background means something to the clients if I'm shooting into the band I'm shooting towards a bunch of strangers who don't mean anything to that one ofthe camera flash from a flattering angle and a correct shutter speed to obtain beautiful ambient light. So what does that all actually mean? Taken ambient light meter reading off of the face of your subject be it the person dancing or the person sitting there receiving the toast or the person giving the toast underexposed by two stops this should start sounding a little familiar this sounds a lot like family formals use my off camera flash to fill in the faces with light from a slight angle uh also sounds a lot like family formals and make sure my clients are away from the background so there are no shadows interesting sounds a lot like family formals huh so the premise behind it is the same the angle of light is different but things are not always ideal what if there is no room to get back with a long lens what if there are no good background ideas what if you're in a tent and no matter which way you look you've got bright outside and intent overhang and wires going everywhere what if your background options aren't awesome what if you don't have an assistant to move your light around what do you do then okay we can do these things so let's start with dances right this is my ideal situation why pro long lens I have separation from my background my background is meaningful 00:04:02.118 --> 00:04:04. it's a little bit of the band it's a little bit of 00:04:04.41 --> 00:04:08. the crowd cons none this is my ideal scenario this 00:04:08.65 --> 00:04:11. looks great the light is coming from a slight angle 00:04:11.79 --> 00:04:14. over the bride's left shoulder coming towards the 00:04:14.24 --> 00:04:16. face of her dad everything is awesome. 00:04:18.45 --> 00:04:20. Okay still pretty good 00:04:21.55 --> 00:04:24. pros. Great ability to use a wide angle lens. We have 00:04:24.72 --> 00:04:27. no distortion whatsoever, it's, great, she smack in 00:04:27.1 --> 00:04:30. the middle. The background is meaningful, you've got 00:04:30.0 --> 00:04:32. the reactions of all of her family and friends. The 00:04:32.58 --> 00:04:35. light is coming from over the groom's right shoulder, 00:04:35.13 --> 00:04:38. literally right up over here, my assistant standing 00:04:38.1 --> 00:04:41. right next to this girl. Cons, not a single one. I 00:04:41.81 --> 00:04:42. love this. This is awesome. 00:04:44.95 --> 00:04:48. Okay, pros. Long lens background is meaningful, that's 00:04:48.62 --> 00:04:52. pretty good. Cons the backgrounds closer than I'd 00:04:52.15 --> 00:04:55. like. I'm shooting from between the tables, the dance 00:04:55.42 --> 00:04:57. floor, a small everything is a little bit crowded. 00:04:57.92 --> 00:05:01. I had actually wade out in between the tables and 00:05:01.07 --> 00:05:04. stand amongst the guests to get this shot that's, 00:05:04.2 --> 00:05:05. kind of an awkward place to be in. 00:05:08.05 --> 00:05:10. Okay, pros. The background is meaningful, starting 00:05:10.98 --> 00:05:13. to grasp at straws a little bit here. Cons. Addie's. 00:05:13.59 --> 00:05:17. A short linds. The ceiling is really low at a hard 00:05:17.0 --> 00:05:19. time. Getting back from the clients. The dancefloor 00:05:19.04 --> 00:05:21. was about the size of the space I'm standing in. Here 00:05:22.05 --> 00:05:27. I am, maybe five feet from my subject. I can't get 00:05:27.82 --> 00:05:30. further back, there's nowhere to go, everyone's standing 00:05:30.02 --> 00:05:32. around the dance floor, so I can't step back and stand 00:05:32.34 --> 00:05:35. in the crowd. That's, that's, kind of tough. 00:05:37.35 --> 00:05:42. Okay, pro. Well, the background is meaningful, con 00:05:42.4 --> 00:05:45. wide lands in a small space, difficult background. 00:05:45.6 --> 00:05:49. It is hard to light a tent. I'm not gonna lie with. 00:05:49.03 --> 00:05:51. Ninety is really hard to light attend, while I am 00:05:51.91 --> 00:05:54. still lighting this in the same way that I would normally 00:05:54.15 --> 00:05:57. light a first dance or apparent dance. It's. Tough. 00:05:58.05 --> 00:06:00. The background is super, super bright, it's really 00:06:00.16 --> 00:06:02. hard to get a good meter reading it's hard, because 00:06:02.73 --> 00:06:04. it's kind of inconsistent, the light is coming and 00:06:04.53 --> 00:06:07. going outside, it was cloudy day, so it kept coming 00:06:07.42 --> 00:06:09. out and going away and coming out and going away. 00:06:09.97 --> 00:06:13. Is this good? Yeah, it's pretty good. Is this my ideal? 00:06:13.35 --> 00:06:16. It's? Not, and that's ok, that it's not. I still think 00:06:16.58 --> 00:06:18. it's the best that I could have done in that particular 00:06:18.9 --> 00:06:19. scenario 00:06:20.82 --> 00:06:22. now. Toast and blessings. 00:06:24.87 --> 00:06:28. Pros. Long lens, great separation from my background, 00:06:29.23 --> 00:06:32. the background is meaningful, no cons, everything 00:06:32.14 --> 00:06:34. is great. This is what I wish. Everything looked like 00:06:35.17 --> 00:06:36. thumbs up. We're doing awesome 00:06:38.07 --> 00:06:41. pros long lens separation from background, background 00:06:41.14 --> 00:06:44. is meaningful. Cons none. This is great, we're outside, 00:06:44.65 --> 00:06:46. I'm using my light. I'm illuminating the groom. The 00:06:46.48 --> 00:06:48. bride is there the bridal party's behind them? I've 00:06:48.44 --> 00:06:50. got a meaningful moment. I've got a long limbs, they're 00:06:50.92 --> 00:06:53. separated off from their background. This is awesome. 00:06:55.77 --> 00:06:56. Okay 00:06:57.73 --> 00:07:01. pros background is meaningful cons they're distracting 00:07:01.03 --> 00:07:04. elements there's some guests camera bag on the floor 00:07:04.0 --> 00:07:05. over there the bride shoes are on the ground back 00:07:05.85 --> 00:07:08. there the background while meaningful it's the city 00:07:08.77 --> 00:07:10. in the background it's sort of hard to see it's a 00:07:10.54 --> 00:07:12. little bit difficult to see through the windows 00:07:13.57 --> 00:07:16. the ceiling literally in that place is painted with 00:07:16.3 --> 00:07:19. high gloss white paint so the ceiling in the floor 00:07:19.57 --> 00:07:23. super shiny it is hard to position my life correctly 00:07:23.88 --> 00:07:28. because it is bouncing off of every single a reflective 00:07:28.0 --> 00:07:30. surface back there that over here by the way that's 00:07:30.21 --> 00:07:33. not my life um but if you were even just a little 00:07:33.5 --> 00:07:35. bit off with your light in a situation like this you're 00:07:35.41 --> 00:07:37. gonna get a reflection in the window that's really 00:07:37.21 --> 00:07:40. hard it's ah hard angle this was literally the on 00:07:40.85 --> 00:07:42. ly angle in which I could shoot because there's a 00:07:42.81 --> 00:07:45. table over there there's a table over there I'm kind 00:07:45.73 --> 00:07:48. of on the dance floor it's tough the flash is bouncing 00:07:48.45 --> 00:07:50. off of the windows it's bouncing off the ceilings 00:07:50.35 --> 00:07:54. the space is small does this look good? It does there's 00:07:54.13 --> 00:07:54. pretty hard 00:07:56.37 --> 00:07:57. getting even harder 00:07:58.57 --> 00:08:01. pros absolutely wonderful couple emotional sweet kind 00:08:01.89 --> 00:08:03. of people you'd ever meet I was able to use a long 00:08:03.92 --> 00:08:06. lens that is helpful con 00:08:07.25 --> 00:08:09. they're close to the walls there tables their table 00:08:09.44 --> 00:08:11. is literally jammed up against the wall there close 00:08:11.61 --> 00:08:14. to the other tables hard to place the light hard to 00:08:14.85 --> 00:08:17. find a place for me to stand and the ceiling was really 00:08:17.27 --> 00:08:17. really low 00:08:19.05 --> 00:08:19. it gets difficult 00:08:20.95 --> 00:08:21. tough 00:08:22.95 --> 00:08:25. pro long lens separation from background background 00:08:25.62 --> 00:08:27. is meaningful cons tent 00:08:28.85 --> 00:08:32. say no more tense or tough however that doesn't mean 00:08:32.4 --> 00:08:35. that you can't work the tent and find other angles 00:08:35.91 --> 00:08:40. and still light it properly so the most important 00:08:40.18 --> 00:08:43. thing to me is the lens focal length second most important 00:08:43.96 --> 00:08:46. thing is to determine whether I want to be long or 00:08:46.31 --> 00:08:49. wide or win so the first two go together what lindsay 00:08:49.68 --> 00:08:52. my going to use and what lens is appropriate for this 00:08:52.43 --> 00:08:56. situation the next most important thing the background 00:08:56.06 --> 00:08:58. appearance in the importance of the background third 00:08:58.95 --> 00:09:02. most is the background distance you know how far is 00:09:02.42 --> 00:09:04. your background away from you so remember how we were 00:09:04.84 --> 00:09:06. talking through family formals and I was like I'd 00:09:06.8 --> 00:09:08. rather have this than this or I'd rather have this 00:09:08.72 --> 00:09:11. than this I would rather have a long lens or a good 00:09:11.32 --> 00:09:15. wide lens than unum a zing background but I would 00:09:15.4 --> 00:09:18. rather have an amazing background than distance from 00:09:18.0 --> 00:09:20. the subject to the background so you start determining 00:09:20.95 --> 00:09:23. if these scenarios are in front of you which are your 00:09:23.58 --> 00:09:26. best choices that I can't answer for you that you're 00:09:26.44 --> 00:09:29. going to have to figure out yourself but you know 00:09:29.2 --> 00:09:33. it's toasts are tricky dances are tricky so when we 00:09:33.02 --> 00:09:36. were shooting toasts and dances we went into our super 00:09:36.82 --> 00:09:40. fancy, high end, very versatile of in you, and figured 00:09:40.53 --> 00:09:40. it out. 00:09:43.75 --> 00:09:47. Because I rely on one light so often during a reception 00:09:48.05 --> 00:09:51. I desperately need a new assistant with me however 00:09:51.37 --> 00:09:52. I know that there are a lot of you out there that 00:09:52.87 --> 00:09:55. work by yourselves and I don't want you to be afraid 00:09:55.42 --> 00:09:58. of using off camera flash for receptions just because 00:09:58.24 --> 00:10:01. you're by yourself as you've seen you can use an off 00:10:01.36 --> 00:10:04. camera flash or an off camera video light at multiple 00:10:04.35 --> 00:10:06. different times of the day in multiple different ways with no fear all by yourself as long as you have a stand that's easy to move in a light that's easy to handle we've shot family formals with two off camera flashes all by yourself the only tricky part for me when taking an off camera flash to reception is that sometimes I want to change the angle if I don't have an assistant with me I'm the one that's responsible for getting over to that light and changing the angle around also for today's purposes we're not going to be sandbagging this light stand at all but I thought you were actually taking this to a wedding reception with people who may or may not have had a little alcohol or may who may or may not be dancing kind of crazy I'm going to want to bring a sandbag or something that I can put on the bottom of the light stand to hold it in one place I'm also not going to want to be crazy and place it in the middle of a high traffic area for a first dance I'm generally going to try to put it up by the band's speakers for toasts or blessings I'm going to have to bring it out I'm going to have to set it out on the floor but I'm not really worried about that because during toast in the less things people aren't mingling they're not walking around they're not dancing so I'm going to be okay putting it out on the floor during the first dance it's going to stay in one spot and it's not going to move anywhere during toasts and blessings however I am going to have to cross the floor or go around to turn the light because I want the light to be angled towards the person who is either giving the toast or receiving the toast so that's kind of going to be a difficult thing I'm going to have to cross the floor and turn it your only other alternative at that point is toe literally set up two lights back to back one facing the person giving the toast and one facing the person receiving the toast for cake cutting no problem I bring it out put it exactly where I want it now if you've watched my lighting patterns throughout the past videos that we've been doing you see I like a lot of backlighting I like a lot of side lighting and four first dances parent dances, toast blessings and so forth that's not going to be any different at all I've got the same set up that I had during family formals but I'd like to go over it one more time haven't sb nine ten that is set right into the hot shoe of a foe ticks strat o to multi receiver and it really is just a z z as putting it right up in the hot shoe and locking it down the faux ticks actually screws into the top of this same adapter for the quick stand that we've been carrying around the s t nine battery pack cooks into the front of the flash and hooks right around the actual light stand it's velcroed on there and for things in the reception first dances, parent dances, toasts and blessings I'm just going to use the basic omni bounce that came with the sb nine ten now this is lower down a little bit so that you can see it in the camera but you will see that when we take it out and we put it down and we start using it I definitely raise up the height so that I get a little bit of a little bit of air in these images here now we're shooting in a pretty tiny space here, but the exact same principles apply so if you come inside to a reception room and you find that it is a massive cavern and that freaks you out. Don't worry, just boost up the power of the flash. If you find yourself in a very little room, don't worry. Just turn down the power of the flash and if you find yourself in a little room with low ceilings, same thing, bring down the power of the flash, get your flash, maybe a little closer to your subject and you'll see this lighting pattern will work no matter how big the room. How small the room, how high the ceilings or how low the ceilings you don't have to have a ceiling to bounce off. You don't have to worry if you go into a barn and you have majorly high ceilings. This is one very simple, very easy to use off camera flash that you can use no matter what size the room. So the big problems that I find myself in when I'm shooting receptions are rooms that air huge caverns or rooms that air teeny, teeny tiny with really low ceilings. Just proceed as usual just bear in mind if the space is very small and the ceilings are very low, you might have to lower your light and also lower the power of the light so let's, take it out there, start with some first dances, and we'll show you what it looks like. To wait for them to angle perfectly so that the light goes right and hits their face. And then just pray that they don't start hugging. Or that they don't put their heads on each other's shoulders. Perfect. This looks amazing. Just keep on sleigh and yours look like every first dance ever. This looks great. You just sway around. One more die. Around you go. Thiss looks great. Perfect that's. Amazing, that's. Beautiful. I'm going to shoot the bride and groom first, try to get down nice and low, kind of on their level. Try to shoot some horizontal, come in and shoot some vertical. My favorite thing that they do during this part of the day. You start eating because you're inevitably trying to shoot this and somebody shoving food in their face. So once I've got the bride and groom to go out here, try to take the long path around. So so not like running on the dance floor in front of people. Turn it to face her. Hustle back. Then shoot in this direction. Beautiful. Perfect. Yeah, perfect, perfect hosting, gorgeous done. So as you can see right whether you are in the world's biggest ballroom or the world's smallest space that one light can be used regardless of where you are it's not crazy rocket science it is actually the same way I set up when I am in an ideal location just adapted for a very difficult space if that makes any sense so talking quickly about the settings which I don't want to belabor but are kind of important I've still got my d fifty d seven fifty seventy two two hundred f four at ninety five millimeters and f four what I have loved to be all the way out at two hundred shore I would it couldn't get much further back than I wass I was about four exposure compensation zero remember we talked about that during family formals because I am on full manual I am not using exposure compensation because I'm dialing everything in precisely where I want it to be um I I s o is one thousand and I'm at a sixtieth of a second now what happens if you're shooting these images like so and you look down at your back of your camera or you look at the pictures later and there's kind of ghosting there's that sort of halo of movement around their heads you're too close to your ambient light there you're going to need to raise up your shutter speed it means you've let your shutter speed drop too low in one room, maybe it's, a thirtieth of a second in another room, maybe it's a sixtieth of a second, but you've gotta bump that shutter, speed up to eradicate that ghosting, same thing in this room or in this shot, same settings, still it f four. Still, it'd no exposure compensation. Still, it I s so a thousand, still at a sixty eighth of a second, because I'm not changing anything. The only thing that might change is the focal length of my lenses. I zoom in or I zoom out. Same thing for toast seventy two two hundred four at one hundred two millimeters enough for same thing with the exposure compensation s o is the same shutter speed is the same now I was able to do that because the lighting condition in the room stayed exactly the same what would happen if they raise the lights up for the first dance in the parent dances but drop the lights down for the toasts and blessings well I would have to change my shutter speed or I would have to change my I s o or maybe the power of my flash there are so many different variables you can't just set it and forget it at the beginning of a reception you have to constantly be taking the tone of the room how the light of the room is changing and adjust yourself accordingly for example things are still the same the on ly thing that has changed is my focal length as I zoom in as I zoom out seventy two two hundred will always be the first lens that I grabbed at this time of the day if I can't use the seventy two two hundred if I have to use the twenty four to seventy because the room is really small well so be it you just have to I would ideally like to get back and separate them from their background that sometimes that's not always a viable option f four or f two eight why and win? You know, I have both of those seventy two to hundreds and for those of you guys who are just joining me, if you're writing down these lenses, if you're writing down all the things I'm talking about the dynamic range dot com very first blawg post is my resource list, those photos, transmitters and receivers. I was talking about sb nine ten's the entire way, too put together a cheetah stand for all of this, everything that you would need to be able to make that happen is listed out on that page, so enjoy why. When I picked the f four versus the two eight, I would use the two eight if the background were really difficult, and I wanted to have that difference between foreign f two eight two really minimize that background. I would also choose the two point eight over the f for if the room is incredibly dark and I really needed that little extra help. No exposure compensation because I am one hundred percent on manual a sixty eighth of a second for ambient light but that will vary it varies depending on the light levels in the room and keep your eyes so low but don't worry about it again too much so what if they dance so close together that you can't see their faces you know what I'm talking about when they start doing the first dance and they crush their heads together if they're dancing like this right you've got separation there looking at each other they come around the light cut hits the face their separation between the faces but when they do like this and they huddle together and you can't see their faces at all well there's nothing you can do you can't step out on the dance floor and be like hey don't do what you're doing there in the middle of their first dance you can't stop that all you can do is be very receptive keep your eyes on the whole scene hope that they picked their heads up go crazy when they d'oh but it's kind of difficult I'm still going to light it the same way but if they choose to crush their faces together for the first dance their first dance pictures air goingto be with their faces crushed together it's just it is how it goes what if you don't have an assistant? Do you really need one or can you do this whole thing solo now we've talked about different parts of the day being able to do this by yourself versus being able to do this with an assistant and do you really need one my personal opinion about the entire thing is yes I desperately need an assistant because I've been working with one my entire career because I have come to very much depend on her because she moves the light for me because she makes things more efficient for me I don't need an assistant because I can't do this by myself I could absolutely do this by myself as you have seen but having another person means that I am more efficient because I am concentrating on shooting when I have someone holding the light for me moving the light for me packing up the gear and moving it for me my focus could be one hundred and ten percent completely on my client's and not worrying okay now the maid of honor is talking go turn on the light okay come back over here okay now the brides talking move the light she's not a second shooter she's my assistant but having her makes things much easier for me on the wedding day just much much, much easier so any of you who have watched thirty days and seeing those a large number of days dedicated to dancing and toasting you will have seen how I put the light together you will have seen how I held it up. But how do you survive? When situations are very difficult? You simply adapt by either bring the light lower, moving the light closer or adjusting your settings. I'm not changing my lighting patterns. I just have to be sensitive about what's going on around me.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Wedding Photographer Survival Kit Slides

Ratings and Reviews


I found this course extremely helpful. I own Susan's 30 day bootcamp class and I think that this course is a great supplement to that course. I don't work with an assistant so it was very helpful to see how she would approach a scenario without an assistant. It was also great to see her point of view and thought process when scouting locations for portraits and witness her ability to make something beautiful out of "not so pretty" or difficult locations. It helped me to take a better approach to finding the light, and really paying attention to all of the different details throughout a room. Her business tips were awesome too. I could go on and on but maybe you should just get the course. It's worth it.


Good and useful course as typical of Susan Stripling; I also own Creative Wedding Photography. However, all the class materials should reside on the Creative Live website -- not just the Power Point presentation. I understand Susan's desire to drive people to her website to increase visibility and sales of her own products, but the strategy isn't very customer-centric for CreativeLive customers. People shouldn't have to "google" the name of her company to find the information that she references in this course; and then once on the website scroll through outdated or unwanted information to find, as she states at her website, "Below is the list of gear (as promised) that I've mentioned on Creative Live." If people are smart enough to find CreativeLive, they'll be smart enough to find on the web any presenter that they like or want to know more about. The folks at CreativeLive ought to address this type of behavior before it sets a bad precedent for future presenters.


I love Susan. She will give it to you straight! I own her "30 days" class and it's amazing but one thing I took away from this course was when she said something along the lines of, "Those photographers who tell you they hand pick their clients are lying to you!" Haha. There are TOO MANY young and arrogant wedding photographers who think they are rock stars. They really get me down. And that's why I like Susan. She's honest.

Student Work