Hi everyone, Michelle Ford, here senior editor for SLR lounge. Today, we’ll be talking about shooting reception details coming into a beautifully decorated reception room. It can sometimes be overwhelming and even worse if you only have 15 minutes to shoot everything. The pressure is totally on. So here’s my seven must have images for reception details and some tips on how to get them.

It’s not unusual that the reception room is a flurry of activity right before the doors are about to open to let the guests in. The candles are still getting lit. The water glasses are getting filled, DJ testing the mike, the florist is doing last minute touches on the cake table and everything’s getting finalized and a lot of people are running around. So when I walk in the reception room, I almost want to start small and work my way out into a big picture. But I have to get that one full room shot as soon as possible.

Just in case, the guests start coming in. So, my first stop is to talk to the coordinator or the banquet captain. I need to get someone to help me get as many people as possible out of the room. So I can get that one good clean full room shot. There’s a couple of perspectives we like to take with regards to the full room. We’d like to do either a very symmetrical image.

Usually, the dance floor centered or the sweetheart table as the center anchor for the image or we likes to use a foreground focus like a cake or the table with a nice centerpiece and finishing the composition using the full room to balance it out to do full room shots. We approach it kind of like landscape photographers. The camera itself is set on a tripod for maximum sharpness. The ISO is set to the lowest possible setting and then we’ll slow down the shutter speed. And I mean really slow. Sometimes, all the way down to 30 seconds because I want to blur out any movement from people milling around that I can’t get rid of. Which is why the camera being on the tripod is key.

The aperture selection is used to compensate the slower shutter and of course to maximize detail. Once I’ve got the full room, I can work on everything else and this is where I start small. It buys me time to settle my thoughts down from the chaos of activities that I just left behind in the ceremony. It also buys me time to evaluate my lighting situation and prepare what I need to work on the rest of the room. So what are the first things I want to shoot is the table with all the place cards? Get to it before the Yes to cause it when they do there are holes in the design. But if the guests beat you to it just zoom in fill your frame with a section that’s still intact and that should work. Once the place cards are done then I like to get started on the reception tables themselves. As I said, I’d like to start on small details first work my way out to the bigger picture. So I’ll shoot the items on tops of the plates like the giveaways or the menus.

Next, they’ll expand the view to take on the entire place setting. Be sure to remove distracting elements like salt and pepper shakers or condiments or soda bottles. If these aren’t essential to the overall design. Now take it out one more step and shoot the table in its entirety. Some reception rooms have a variation of centerpieces for their tables. I like to make sure that I feature a table with each style to complete that set. Again be sure to remove all those distracting elements whenever necessary.

Also, when shooting the tables look for an angle that gives you a sense of depth. Line up the other tables behind it and then put your focus table in front. What you do is you’re creating leading lines in a more pleasing composition. The one table that I really like to take time on as well is that sweetheart table. Some tables have fun elements on them like a Mr. and Mrs. sign or maybe they place settings have a personal touch. Be sure to shoot those details as well. So the same rule applies here. Start small and then work your way out.

Notice, I haven’t said anything about the cake yet. I like to do the cake shots or the dessert table after I’ve gotten all the other room elements done. Since all those elements in some form or another are best taken before the guests come in to be seated. The cake itself is usually set up in a corner of the room that can be shot even after the guests have already come in so it’s actually safe to save it for last.

A fun thing to try with a cake table as well as a shoot through kind of shot when you view the cake from between other tables or centerpieces using a 7200 lens or something similar. As far as compression, it makes for a really dramatic image. Speaking of compression using lenses with awesome compression like your 85, you’re 135 or your 70-200 makes for great detail shots. So whenever possible, these are my lenses of choice.

Of course, there could be so many more design elements to consider and so many variations of each element that I’ve named it as long as there is time. I would make sure that each and every item is accounted for but the seven must have images I like to make sure I have. Again are the full room, the seat assignment table, the giveaways, a place setting, a full table, the sweetheart table, and the cake. That’s it for this episode. I hope that was all helpful. Leave me a comment. Let me know your thoughts. I’ll see you guys all next time. Michelle Ford out.