I don't shoot many weddings with receiving lines… I guess because it's kind of old fashioned and a bit formal people don't tend to do them that much these days… But actually, I'm always inwardly excited when they happen.
First off… weddings go by so fast… so often couples get to the end and suddenly realise they didn't even get to say hi to some people. I try and do my bit to help this not happen by making sure group shots are kept down and captured efficiently and not taking my couple away from their wedding for too long where possible or finding other times to fit in the portraits... But the fact is that getting the chance to say hi to everyone doesn't always come around. A receiving line can at least mean that the couple get to touch base and give everyone a huge hug. So, while it can be quite a time consuming part of a wedding… we can all relate to why someone might want to do it.
And from my perspective… as a photographer who bloody loves shooting candids… it's like catnip for me. I can just stand there and get shot after shot of smiling faces and hugs and reunions and the odd tear here and there.
So… if you find yourself shooting a wedding with a receiving line how can you make the most of the opportunity?
1) Make sure it doesn't happen in a corridor. Yeah. This is when shooting a receiving line becomes super frustrating. There's no space to move… you feel like you're in the way big time, the lighting is dreadful and you just can't get anything. Guess what… you can ask your couple to move. It's easy. Because you know that if they just take it somewhere with that little extra room that you can take it from impossible to something pretty damn special. And if you say "hey, you know what… if you just move a little bit this way… I can get some really cool photos of your guests while you do this" no one is going to say no to that.
2) Get behind the couple. This is my tactic a lot of the time... whether it's a line up or informal greeting of guests after the ceremony. It's a great place to get reactions, especially if you've followed step one and have some space to play with.
3) Feel the love and reap the rewards. The rewards being the opportunity to get a natural shot of smiling guests. If you're quick and time it right you can get nearly everyone. When this opportunity isn't there this can take hours of patient persistence over the course of the day. It means you go into the reception knowing you have a load of great stuff under your belt already. I've had weddings where there are key guests that I've really struggled to get a good, outwardly happy shot of at any other point of the day that I've managed to get a great candid of during the receiving line. If your work is as focussed on these kind of natural moments as mine is then this is very, very valuable.
So, what do you think of receiving lines? I know I won't convert everyone… but I'm definitely a (not so secret) fan.