In this article we’ll address tips on how to photograph an outdoor wedding reception. I love outdoor wedding receptions – you typically have an abundance of light, more room to move around and the settings tend to be beautiful – country clubs, vineyards, and garden weddings! However, as the light tends to fade, there is potential to run into trouble. Let’s go over a few tips to help make your next wedding reception run smoothly.
How to Photograph a Wedding Reception – Tip #1 – Use longer lenses. The beginning of the reception typically consists of the bride and groom mingling with their guests, either during a cocktail hour or after they eat (some couples forgo a receiving line, planning to go table to table at the reception instead). This is a great opportunity for some wonderful images – hugging their guests, showing off the ring, talking and laughing. But you don’t want to be too close – it’s not a group hug after all! By using longer lenses, you can be more unobtrusive and will typically capture more natural looking photos because your subjects won’t know you’re photographing them.
How to Photograph a Wedding Reception – Tip #2 – Use fast lenses. A fast lens is one with an fstop of 2.8 or lower. Two things happen with a fast lens – One, the larger the aperture, the more light comes into the lens meaning you can work with less light as it gets darker. Two, the larger the aperture, the less depth of field you have. If you look at a photograph where everything is in focus, the eye tends to bounce around, not knowing where to land. When you look at an image with a short depth of field, your subject stands out and the background is slightly out of focus. Your eye immediately goes to the subject! Special note: be careful of camera shake on lenses with an aperture of less then 2.8. When you’re depth of field is that short, any slight movement can cause some blur.
How to Photograph a Wedding Reception – Tip #3 – Prep your bride and groom. If I have a couple who’s reception will last into the dark, night time hours, I always ask beforehand what their plan is for lighting the reception. Often times, they haven’t given it much thought – maybe some white Christmas lights! Those little Christmas light give off little to no light. I encourage the couple to think about their lighting – not only for the photographs but for their guests. I’ve photographed weddings where the cutting of the cake is after dark and there is no lighting around it – the guests can’t see! I also explain to them that there needs to be a little light so their photographer can see what they are photographing.
When considering how to photograph a wedding reception, keep these simple tips in mind. A little preparation and foresight on your part will help you to come away with some great images that the couple will love.