Have you ever tried to photograph a wedding reception? I now have a greater appreciation for those photographers who do this for a living.
Yesterday I was blessed to be able to attend the joining in marriage of my 57 year old brother and his new bride. They met as teenagers at a summer camp more than 40 years ago and now their lives are joined together forever. The wedding was a joyous celebration of family and friends. The food was great and there was live music too.
However, the ceremony and the reception took place in a private club that appears to be used most often for live music. It was crowed and cluttered and it is an understatement to say that the lighting was variable. The bride, who is a big fan of my wildlife photography, asked me to take some photos of the wedding. I agreed, but only after ascertaining that there would be an “official photographer.”
The relatively dim lighting in the club meant that flash would be required for virtually all shots, and I did have an external flash with me, but I was using it for the first time. Throughout the reception, I ended up doing a lot of experimentation as I twisted and pointed the head in different directions to bounce the light.
As I was getting seated at my table, I decided to take some test shots of the little white bucket that served as my seating card. I was initially confused when I saw that all of my shots had a purple tinge to them. What was I doing wrong? One of my brothers helpfully pointed out that there was a purple light shining down on us from right behind where I was sitting.
I quickly learned that uncluttered backgrounds were almost impossible to get and that composing shots of moving people in confined spaces is near impossible (and it’s even harder to get shots with decent expressions on their faces). There was a live band and I managed to get some decent shots of some of the band members, who were relatively stationary, though the constantly changing lighting made it a challenge.
The groom has more than forty tattoos, including many of the characters of the Wizard of Oz, and the wedding cake featured numerous scenes from that wonderful movie.
I did eventually manage to get some candid shots of people during the reception, but I haven’t yet decided if I will share them on this blog—I’ll probably check with the bride and groom to see what they think.
What did I learn? Most of the “official” wedding shots probably need to be staged, preferably in an outdoor setting or a place where you can control lighting and background. The candid shots from the reception that look spontaneous and fun are really, really difficult to get and there are no guarantees that you will get good ones—you really do need a second shooter to increase the odds. Finally, it takes a lot of energy and stamina to take photos at a reception—I got a good workout doing all kinds of stretches and deep knee bends trying to get shots.
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.