How To Capture More Movement in your Reception Photos - Using On Camera Flash

Are you tired of taking what feels like the same old and bland reception party/dance photos at your weddings? Beyond that, do you dread having to edit what feels like the most repetitive and non-exciting batch of images in your collection?

Reception dance photos for me—although usually pretty simple and quick to edit if my flash settings were all set up properly—have always felt really bland, not only while shooting, but also when I would have to edit them. I struggled every weekend to capture images where you could feel the movement, joy, or overall party atmosphere of the real life moments, but my images always ended up falling flat.

A little while ago I had had enough and made it my mission to figure out how to infuse some life into my party shots.

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No matter what your reception dance scenario, once you’re able to capture the movement and feel of the party, as well as learn to incorporate light drags into your images, you’re going to walk away from every wedding with different images every single time that can instantly transport anyone—who was at the wedding or not—right back into that moment in time.

The first guideline that makes a giant difference in the feel of your reception party photos, is that the wider the lens, the more movement/motion you’re going to be able to capture in your shots.

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I used to just keep my 35mm on after the first dances concluded, but couldn’t quite figure out why my images didn’t feel as action-packed; turns out, my lens just wasn’t wide enough to really encapsulate that party feel. I now use only a 24mm prime lens on the dance floor and find that it works so well for capturing the feelings that I’m going for.

Here’s a rough breakdown of a good place to start with your settings in order to start working in the movement and light drags that we’re working towards:

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1 - get your f-stop way up there.

Start out around f9 or so and stick somewhere within that upper range; you need your aperture to sit somewhere around there so that you can compensate for the super slow shutter speed that we’re going to implement

2 - slow that shutter speed down to around ⅛ of a second or so and then adjust accordingly

Depending on the other light sources in your unique situation, you’re going to have to adjust your shutter speed one way or the other - no two dance situations are going to be the same, so play around and find what works best for your unique situation as well as the vibe that you’re trying to create.

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3 - Manage your ISO accordingly

ISO will depend on your f-stop and shutter speed but it shouldn’t have to be too high, especially considering the fact that we’re using our flash pretty strongly.

4 - Crank up your flash

You’re going to want to point your flash directly onto the humans that you’re photographing and have it set either at full power, or at ½, ¼ power, again depending on the lighting scenario that you’re dealing with.

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5 - Capture light drags for more movement-infused images

Lastly, don’t forget that if you want to capture the light drags and the motion, you have to MOVE your camera after you fire it. The flash freezes your image/main focus, while the motion that you cause paired with the slow shutter speed captures those fun party-packed moments and motions that you often see in dance photos