7 Tips for Great Reception Photos

great wedding reception photos

Tips for Brides

I know that most couples, and my clients especially, want beautiful, natural portraits on their wedding day. Usually outdoors, maybe with a pretty river or some mountains in the background. That's my favorite kind of photo, too! There's an organic beauty in that that can't be replicated. But what some couples don't consider is their RECEPTION photos. The reception is such a great opportunity for fun candids! So while I don't recommend planning a lot of posed photos during that time, there are a few things you can do to make your reception photos the best they can be!

1. Hire a Great DJ/band!

DJ Kat organizing and pumping up the day!

DJ Kat organizing and pumping up the day!

I know. My first point doesn't seem to have anything to do with photography... but it does! A great DJ or band is going to do a lot more for your reception than play music. They're going to keep the timeline on track. They're going to get your guests out of their seats (hello, photo ops!). They're going to help one event flow into the next seamlessly. And! The best DJs know that they shouldn't start the big moments (cake cutting, first dances) if the photographer isn't ready. I love when DJs give me a heads up that they're about to organize something photo-worthy. So make sure you find someone who is used to organizing those special wedding-only events.

2. Watch Out for DJ/band Lights

I say this because most people don't realize that laser lights or flashing colors are going to show up in their photos! Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It can add ambiance and fun to your reception images. And it won't be in EVERY photo. But it's something to keep in mind if you'd rather not have rainbow speckles on your faces ;) 

3. Hire a Professional Lighting Company

See the pretty uplighting on the walls in these photos?

This isn't a necessity by any means. But it's something that I wouldn't have thought about before I was a photographer. Professional lighting companies can completely transform your reception and it adds an extra dimension to your photos! Certain reception venues will benefit from lighting more than others, so check with your venue and see if they have photos from past weddings where you can compare and see what you'd like to do.

4. Make a Timeline

These guys are just in this post because they're cute.

These guys are just in this post because they're cute.

You may be sick of timelining your wedding day by this point, but trust me it's SO helpful! For you, for your vendors, for everyone! It helps me know when to be ready with the camera. Sometimes the wedding coordinator or DJ even lets me know WHERE the event will be taking place ("they'll walk through that door and stand on this side of the dance floor") and that is SO unbelievably helpful! I use off camera lighting at receptions, so if I can know ahead of time where things will be happening, I can move those lights to make sure we have amazing lighting! Also, if you decide to change something, make sure your photographer knows! I was at a wedding once where the coordinator told me and the other photographer to go set up for a sparkler exit at one area and the couple changed their mind and exited through a different door without telling us and we missed it entirely! Things like that are very easily avoidable! (though in that case, the coordinator should have let us know, not the couple!)

5. Consult Your Photographer Before Big Events

This is one of those things that most of my couples are too excited to think about (I don't blame them!). But the times when I get a few seconds to tell my couple what would be photographically ideal always pay off! Sometimes it's as simple as "put your backs to the wall as you cut the cake so your guests can see your faces" or "throw the bouquet in this direction" and it makes a huge difference. It can be the difference of having your DJ in the background of your bouquet shot, or your eager bridesmaids. I know which one I'd prefer... no offense, beautiful DJs! ;)

6. Plan for Some Reception Portraits!

Tiffany Heidenthal - Outdoor Wedding Photography_0103.jpg

Trust me, if you give your photographer 10 minutes of your reception time, you can get some special portraits of the two of you to remember that part of your wedding! Sometimes I just pull my couple outside really quick and we get a nighttime portrait. Sometimes, I just tell them where to stand on the dance floor and tell them to keep dancing! Either way, it's not something that should take a lot of time from the reception, but it can add so much to the photos you'll enjoy later!

7. Do an "Exit"

Even if you don't want photography coverage for the entire reception... it's still really nice to have some "exit" photos. It's the perfect final page to a wedding album and it's a fun thing for your guests to participate in! So even if you don't want your photographer to stay until the reception ends, do a quick staged "exit" to get some fun photos! I promise, no one will know the difference after it's all said and done ;)

Decorations, colors, and venue set up is all purely aesthetic, so my advice there is just to follow your heart or let your coordinator take care of it. My reception was in the woods, so I didn't do much decorating. I wanted nature to be my ambiance. But however you choose to decorate, these tips will help make your reception extra photo gorgeous!