Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday: Analysis Of A Wedding Shoot Part 8 - Fast Dance Candids and Party Pics

Good Morning Everybody,
Well, regardless of who you voted for in the November election, we all watched history in the making yesterday. For many of us, it made us feel even more proud to be an American. For those watching around the world, it promised a brand new tomorrow in our world's history. I, as well as so many others around our nation and the world wish our new president success and godspeed with all the challenges he faces as he moves from the celebrations of yesterday to the real work on which he embarks today.

Earlier this week, my buddy Craig Weiglien of Mansion Hill Studios, one of the very talented photographic competition around town set up a movie outing to see Bride Wars on Monday night. It was nice opportunity to hook up with our wedding vendor buddies spending some time just relaxing, laughing and having a good time.

We all had to laugh at the movie though. It seems that only wedding consultants are featured in these kind of shows. Seldom do you see a florist and you just never see a photographer anywhere. It was a nice break in the action from our normal busy studio routine and a wonderful chance to catch up with a few friends. Anyway, how about another episode of Analysis of a Wedding Shoot - here we go...

Analysis of a Wedding Shoot – Part 8
Well everybody, welcome to another episode of Analysis of a Wedding Shoot. In our last episode we discussed shooting the room but now we're ready to party. I've actually planned about three or four segments for the wedding reception coverage before we wrap the series.

In this particular segment I want to talk about fast dance candids. Fast dance candids are those candids of people just out there partying on. Fast dance candids are more than just backing up and putting a wide-angle lens on the camera and shooting away. Fast dance candids are more than going up to the balcony with a wide-angle lens and shooting the whole dance floor. Fast dance candids mean capturing the fun, the excitement, the spontaneity, and all those wonderful party moments during the wedding reception.

So in this section let me step you through the main points I try to cover when doing the dance of fast dance candids. Hit the "Read More..." link below for the rest of the story.

1 -- First of all let me say that I think it's important to have great lighting on your fast dance candids. That's why I set up a room light whenever we’re photographing a wedding reception. We covered that in an earlier Gear Bag Friday post entitled, “Making a Case for The Room Light.” Here is the link. I think the added dimension that the additional room light and my off-camera flash bring to the candids is a huge differentiator from so many other wedding photographers.

2 -- The easiest dance candids are really those that are made with a wide-angle lens. Probably my favorite lens when shooting a 40D or 50D cameras would be the 10-22mm lens. I rack the lens out to 10mm, hold the camera over my head, target on the crowd, and shoot away.

3 -- What do I mean by targeting the crowd? What I mean by this is having a sense of what my camera is capturing as I hold the camera over my head. I'm saying that I'm framing up the shot without ever looking through the viewfinder. This is not hard to learn and the talent can be developed in about 30 minutes of practice at a wedding.

I find that in the early stages of practicing, I generally cut off a lot of the heads of the partiers. These type of images are made periodically over the entire four or more-hour run of the reception. Too many other events and happenings, as all of us know, take place during that entire evening and we don't want to miss any of it.

5 -- Close up fast dance candids. These images, many times, are taken with my regular 17-85mm IS lens on the 40D or with my 24-105mm IS lens on my 5D Mk II. These two lens are typically my favorite lenses I use when doing a fast dance candids. I try to get tight on the action sometimes asking for the revelers to look back into the camera. I found over the years that most of the guests can really ham it up nicely and are happy to give me great fun expressions. I call these coaxed candids. They are a nice addition to our photo-journalistic candids.

5 -- I think the worst fast dance candids are those that simply show a lot of backs of heads and backs, loss of expression and emotion of the crowd.

7 -- There are some songs that really lend themselves to great fast dance candids. That could be YMCA. Yes, we still hear it now and then but it's always great for pictures. Another great opportunity for fast dance candids is when the whole crowd decides to do the alligator and get down on the floor. This is a great opportunity to get that camera high above the crowd shooting down on all the wild and crazy people.

8 -- The most important thing to capture in fast dance candids is obviously the expressions on the guests’ faces. Always go for the best expressions. These kind of images capture the party flavor add to the client’s album and are an integral part of the story. Work at it and don’t ever leave it out.

You know, I said it before but I still think the best way to differentiate our wedding candids from those of so many other photographers is really with the lighting. I think that lighting we put on the scene either makes or breaks that candid. I hate seeing candids that are taken with a wide-angle lens with only an on-camera flash. You see a lot of people partying on but they seem to be partying on in the black hole of Calcutta. There is no depth no dimension to the images.

The added dimension that the room light brings to the scene along with the additional light of my off-camera flash and coupled with my on-camera flash just adds so much more to the scene. It's a triangle of light illuminating the subjects adding that much needed detail, depth and dimension to each image.

So gang, that's it for me today. I hope I’ve given you a little something to think about when you go out and photograph your next wedding. Don't forget to check back tomorrow for Business Day Thursday: Are You Working At Your Business Or For Your Business?" See ya' then, -David


  1. I'd like to add to your tip about getting photos of people's faces. As a photographer you can't be content to stay on the sidelines. Most couples will turn as they are dancing... and you have to follow them around as they turn! It's almost as though you have to dance with them.

    Do you have your lights set up in such a way that you can shoot the dance floor from any angle, or are you limited to one side?

  2. Hey David,

    I was wondering if you have ever tried to light the reception and a similar manner to the way a sports event is lit?

    I'm thinking of using four strobes to light the reception. Maybe with varying power to give them a more dramatic look?

    What do you think of using light modifiers for creating patterns, colors, and other effects for the reception lighting?

    What are your thoughts?

    Thanks, Zechariah