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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old August 1st, 2011, 08:05 AM   #1
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Where do you set up at Receptions?

We normally try and set up by the DJ since we are on good terms with all of them, heck have even bailed them out lending audio equipment when theirs has failed. We all work well together and its nice having all the distractions behind the dance floor.

Another thread I started on lighting made me wonder though is this the best place when you factor in that you will need lighting to even come close to seeing the bride and groom. Now the lights, even pretty dim are facing the guests. I suppose if I take them high and angle down using the barn doors this may not be too distracting but looking for other opinions too.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 08:34 AM   #2
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

All the decent brides here give the photog and videographer their own table ..nicely out of the way so we can get to anywhere fast without having to excuse ourselves from other guests.

For the few that don't provide I setup as you do..near the DJ so at least I can liase and chat!!

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Old August 1st, 2011, 08:53 AM   #3
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

Chris, It's interesting to discover the subtle differences in wedding day customs around the world. In my experience the DJ doesn't turn up until just before the evening party, typically about 7pm, then spends time setting up and going straight into playing music. The only times I've ever seen DJ's at the reception (i.e. the meal) is if he is a personal friend of the bride and groom. Another common thing that I've noticed is that soon after he arrives (and incidentally it is almost invariably a he) the groom, best-man or bride's father will offer to buy him a beer, before he's even done anything, yet rarely if ever is that hospitality extended to me who has been there all day (not that I would as I never drink alcohol on a job), but the offer would be appreciated.

Sorry getting off on a moan now after a gruelling double wedding weekend.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 09:29 AM   #4
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

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Chris, It's interesting to discover the subtle differences in wedding day customs around the world. In my experience the DJ doesn't turn up until just before the evening party, typically about 7pm, then spends time setting up and going straight into playing music. The only times I've ever seen DJ's at the reception (i.e. the meal) is if he is a personal friend of the bride and groom. Another common thing that I've noticed is that soon after he arrives (and incidentally it is almost invariably a he) the groom, best-man or bride's father will offer to buy him a beer, before he's even done anything, yet rarely if ever is that hospitality extended to me who has been there all day (not that I would as I never drink alcohol on a job), but the offer would be appreciated.

Sorry getting off on a moan now after a gruelling double wedding weekend.
I have one of these weekends coming up this weekend.

I agree its so different how things unfold in different parts of the country.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 09:47 AM   #5
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

Hi Denny.

I seem to have swerved your thread, I realise that you were asking about setting up to record the dancing, not join in a meal.
I usually set two small cameras (Sony CX550) with LED lights high to either side of the DJ's desk, pointing down to give wide cover of the dance floor.I can dim the lights to give the required light fill without flooding the DJ's lighting effects. I use lighting stands as they have a smaller footprint than tripods.
My main camera is tripod mounted slightly above head height looking out across the floor so the guests are in the background with the couple dancing in front of them. That way I get the benefit of the DJs lights on them. If the situation allows for it and they are not moving around too much, I'll lock of the main camera and go freestyle with a hand-held camera in amongst the guests to get the DJ desk in the background. Again if the situation allows for it I'll put one of the Sonys across the floor facing inwards towards the DJ'd desk instead of one either side.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 01:30 PM   #6
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

Setup? Heck, I'm on the dance floor. I'm not a fly on the wall, everyone knows I'm there and I get my best footage being out there. I don't get in anyones way stay far enough back to insure that but I like to do roundy rounds for the 1stdance, F-D dance, M-S dance and frankly I hate zooming in to get tigher shots. During open dance, I'm on the floor as well and I just have to watch where I'm going so I don't bump into people or vice versa.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 01:38 PM   #7
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

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Setup? Heck, I'm on the dance floor. I'm not a fly on the wall, everyone knows I'm there and I get my best footage being out there. I don't get in anyones way stay far enough back to insure that but I like to do roundy rounds for the 1stdance, F-D dance, M-S dance and frankly I hate zooming in to get tigher shots. During open dance, I'm on the floor as well and I just have to watch where I'm going so I don't bump into people or vice versa.
Same here. I don't set up any stationary cameras, as I like a variety of shots, and don't want to keep cutting to the same angles all night. I'm on the dance floor for the whole reception, unless I do an interview or something. 4 or 5 hours of weaving between people, getting down low, standing up on chairs to get high angle shots . . . I love it all, and staying on my feet makes the reception go by like nothing.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 03:39 PM   #8
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

As I said in a post at the start of this tread, it's interesting to see the variety of approaches to recording weddings. My principal is that I'm there to record their day, not be part of it. If I want to go dancing I leave my camera at home, I don't find much value in the shaky shots I'd get reeling around the dance floor.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 03:39 PM   #9
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

Same here - I'm right there amongst the dancing with my Z1 set wide and Swit LED light - I can dim it to keep the 'mood' of the DJs lights

Makes the viewer think they're right there IMO

P :)
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Old August 1st, 2011, 04:04 PM   #10
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

Some good replies here but to be honest I can not imagine doing much flying around the dance floor with most of my clients.

I am also a full time photographer and I can tell you MY brides hate to have a photographer or videographer in the pictures.

Again I know ego and pride plays a roll, but I try and play nice with everyone at a wedding. From the DJ, Videographer or Photographer, catering people and guests. There are many people wanting to see that first dance, father daughter, mother son dance and I want to be as out of the way as I can and still capture the reactions and emotions.

Not saying what you guys do is wrong just not my style and my brides know my style and keep booking me so will keep on keeping on.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 04:05 PM   #11
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

I agree, everyone has a different take on what they do to document the day. As for being a part of the day, well, I am. I'm there with them for 10 to 12 hours. I'm at the ceremony, postceremony and reception and while I don't dance at the reception (ask my wife, I don't dance at all--I'd just as soon have a root canel with pain killers) I also don't get shaky footage. I generally use a DVMultirig which makes the footage nice and smooth but when I do go handheld (like when the dance floor is packed to the hilt) I can still hold steady long enough to get the footage I need before I move. Keep in mind that if I have 2 hours of reception footage they might only see 1/2 of that. I pick and choose what I use and am not adverse to time shifting but that's my edit style.
It is interesting how everyone has a different view. Not wrong, not right, just different.
Just wondering also how much of the differences in style is region or area of the country or world related? Hmmm, that could be an interesting survey.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 04:35 PM   #12
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

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It is interesting how everyone has a different view. Not wrong, not right, just different.
Just wondering also how much of the differences in style is region or area of the country or world related? Hmmm, that could be an interesting survey.
Exactly correct. I did photography in Georgia before I moved up to northwest Pa.
Down there its much more relaxed and I had a large percentage of brides and grooms who did their photos before the ceremony.

I have been up here for many years, and do 20-30 weddings a year and have had 1, ONE, Uno do this.
I have even offered discounts so we can get those bridal magazine shots. Nope, not happening LOL

I have to explain to them that the huge window of time they allow us between wedding and reception (30 minutes) is not enough to go do cool location work and still get all the formals at the alter. Yes, alter images are HUGE here and EVERY wedding I do wants and expects them.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 04:38 PM   #13
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

First, like George, when I read the title of the thread I was thinking of the wrong thing - in the UK the term "Reception" usually refers to the wedding breakfast, not the first dance/shenanigans afterwards.

Second, it really depends on how the couple handle their first dance and what the shenanigans are. If the couple have paid for a choreographer to design a poor mans Strictly routine (a trend from a year back), then we go to their rehearsal and do a sort of camera plot based on what inanities the choreographer has devised.

If they're doing the more usual Hollywood Shuffle - a sort of shifting of the balance from one foot to the other whilst holding each other's buttocks - before waving madly to urge other couples to share their embarrassment, we tend to move around them if only to bring some life to the show.

After that I suppose we usually degenerate into the sort of camera techniques the BBC used to teach in the days of Pans People on TOTP. For those younger and/or outside the UK these would have been defined as "upskirt" shots had the Pan's People dancers been wearing skirts and TOTP is the popular abbreviation for Top of the Pops.

Seriously, how many different ways are there to shoot people who've drunk too much and can't dance but who are thoroughly enjoying themselves doing things of which they won't want to be reminded the following morning? I am rather surprised how many people have replied to this thread with such studied seriousness but Don is right, there's no right or wrong way. However, I commend Don for being able to find up to 60 minutes of identifiably different material to include in each clients' video or did I mess up the maths?

When I've decided to give up this part of my career I shall be sorely tempted to include a collage of the dancing from the other weddings we've shot that year and see if anyone notices.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 04:54 PM   #14
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

Phillip, well said and I definitely meant the dancing not the breakfast.
I agree 100% that there is no right or wrong way, its what you have sold to your client and what you are comfortable doing.

Our weddings over the last few years seem to be loading the reception to move from introduction, first dance, wedding party dance, cake cutting, toast, Dinner, F/D - MS dances, garter, bouquet toss then dollar dance.

They do this to get all the important stuff done early and then eat. Order changes somewhat but I miss the days when they were introduced then ate, allowing us to set up better lighting etc.

We strongly encourage to allow us a few minutes to set up lighting, do white balances etc, and once in a while get 20-25 minutes to do so, other times we get 10 but that comes with the territory.
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Old August 1st, 2011, 05:20 PM   #15
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Re: Where do you set up at Receptions?

Denny it seems that the structure of the wedding day is different here. Here the wedding dinner (or breakfast as it is traditionally called) is usually in the afternoon, before any dancing. It ends with speeches and cake cutting, or vice versa. Then there is usually a lull, depending on the time of the wedding, when additional guests arrive and the DJ sets up. Dancing is more often than not decided on when the DJ thinks it's the right time. It may just be the weddings that I go to but very few have a structured timetable or plans for the evening such as particular dances or bouquet throwing. Some do attempt a choreographed routine, as Philip alluded to but most just shuffle hoping not to have to spend too long on their own on the dance floor. As for recording hours of footage, I stay for 30 minutes after the first dance and that's it. I cut that down to about 10-15 minutes screen time. I use to stay until the (bitter) end of the evening but often spent more time de-boning the evening to make it a watchable length than I did on the rest of the day; now I'm away by 9pm.There are so many friends with phones, cameras and camcorders who'll grab all those embarrassing moment for them to put on their facebook page.
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