Day 93: Tips for Shooting Cocktail Hour

Can I be real? If I had to pick my least favorite thing to shoot on a wedding day, it would be the cocktail hour. People are usually just starting to get a drink and find each other to talk. You can’t butt into conversations and so you have to be really stealthy about grabbing candids, but more often than not, the guests see you pointing your camera at them and they can get really self conscious about it. Then that leads to them throwing your camera an awkward smile which you don’t want, so you’re like, “Yeah okay, well, yes, let’s just get a ‘grip and grin’ type photo” and that’s your life for 30 minutes.

So let’s find some better ways! Here are a few things I do at a cocktail hour to make it easier.

  1. Verbiage. Instead of saying “Hey can I take your photo?”, I say “Can I get a photo of the two of you for the bride and groom?” FOR THE BRIDE AND GROOM. People generally want to be good guests, right? They show up on time, they look super nice for the events, they dance and participate in all the wedding traditions. Taking a photo for the couple is something most people are willing to do to be awesome guests.
  2. Send me another one! This is something I do only if I feel the guests all kind of know each other. I’ll pick a couple and a spot with good light and a good background. I take a photo of them and thank them and maybe throw in a “You guys look so good!” then I ask them to send me another couple. This works surprisingly well. They laugh, understanding I don’t want to move back and forth, and they send me someone else… who then sends me someone else… who then sends me someone else. It’s the lazy mans way and I love it. (The below photos were taken in a very short period of time using this method at a cocktail hour I shot for photographer Lauren Buman)
  3. If you find a couple people who are more eager to be in photos than the rest of the crowd, ask them to help you out! Tell them “If you have anyone you want a photo with through the night, please come grab me!” Opening that invitation to the people who are most into you always pays off!
  4. Follow the bride and groom. If the couple has done a first look and they’re able to enjoy the cocktail hour together, shadow them and get photos of them with their guests.
  5. Listen for laughter. Some tables are just naturally closed off. Stone faced guests don’t make for good candid photos so hover around the louder, more joyous tables. Then when you hear laughter start to erupt, point that camera as fast as you can and shoot. Ninja style.

Hopefully you can keep some of these tricks up your sleeve to make your next cocktail hour less tricky!

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the 100 days. To submit a question, please click here!  If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris

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