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Learning Library Photo Skills, Wedding Skills

36:02 Duration

Reception: Dances and Toasts

One of the parts of the wedding day that tends to make most photographers nervous are the reception dances and toasts. Wedding receptions are fast-paced, sometimes stressful, and always fun – but how do you know how to approach them?  What lenses?  How do you light them?  Where do you even begin?

Wedding photographer Susan Stripling will walk you through the entire process of photographing reception dances and toasts.  She will help you learn how to light these scenarios with ease!

This tutorial will demystify the following:

  • How to manage a reception timeline
  • What camera settings you’ll need to work with on and off-camera flash
  • How shutter speed affects the exposure when working with flash
  • What f-stops to shoot a reception with
  • How ISO factors into exposing an image while using flash
  • How to set up an off-camera flash
  • When to use on and off-camera flash

Susan will walk you through a realistic first dance scenario, as well as the setup for toasts and blessings.  She will help you understand where to position your lights, how to create a proper exposure, and how to create images at every wedding that will thrill both you and your clients.

She will conclude the tutorial by answering many common questions and help you troubleshoot common problems that can come up during this part of the day.  After this video, you’ll have the confidence to tackle first dances, parent dances, toasts, and blessings with ease!


  1. Susan, quick thing: for toasts, first dances etc like this, will you ever use the flashbender or do you keep it off and just have the sto-fen for these? Thank you!

  2. Umm. are the video lights still on while your shooting these? Im assuming so. If the video lights weren’t on, it would change the lighting on there faces dramatically. Id suggest having a couple video lights up to help for focus, and to achieve the same results as you have presented. That should of been mentioned in the video.

  3. Hey Susan, two quick questions. Do you use single or continuous focus in receptions? Also when photographing dances and party shots do you center focus and recompose or do you use other focus points? I ask because sometimes it can get to dark and my camera struggle finding focus. Thanks in advance.

  4. I was curious… I shoot a lot of receptions in outdoor locations. When it comes to your flash with grip and grins and dancing, do you still have it tilted back a bit when you don’t have anything to bounce it off of? Do you use your Rogue Flashbender?

  5. It seems like the room that this video was shot in had pretty great ambient light to begin with, but a lot of receptions can be very, very dark depending on the venue. The fundamentals of this video would stay the same, but it’s worth noting…ISO might have to just get cranked to adjust.

    1. This is true. No one set of settings is applicable to all events in all spaces and conditions!

  6. what is the basic distance of your assistant to the subject? I am guessing about 10 feet?… I realize the power of the flash can change, but does she stay steady at her distance or at least try to stay the same?

    1. It depends on every wedding, and each venue and lighting condition. She’s anywhere from 10-15 feet from the subject, usually.


Susan Stripling