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Wedding reception lighting and how it’s handled by photo/video

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I wanted to write this article for two reasons; First, I’d love to answer a question I get from couples planning their weddings about the impact of the lighting options they have for their reception. Namely how up-lights, pin spots and gobos impact the look of a room in photographs. Second, I wanted to have a discussion about how we approach using our various lights to enhance your wedding reception photos without ruining the ambiance you’ve carefully designed.

TLDR: The type of lighting you choose for your reception will have a huge impact on the look and feel of the space. Who you choose to do the photography and video also has a big influence on the look/feel in photos. We work hard to keep your space looking as you intended in your photos, which might be light and airy at an outdoor wedding or it could be dark and romantic in a downtown ballroom at night. Side note: the video team you choose can also have a big impact on the lighting experienced at your reception than what you might expect so ask our advice is to ask questions about during the interview process.

First let’s take a look at three photos representing the three types of ballroom lights we see at receptions most often:

Wedding Reception Ballroom at The Adolphus Hotel showing beautiful uplighting

Wedding Reception Ballroom at The Adolphus Hotel showing beautiful up-lighting


This room has beautiful amber up-lighting which you can see clearly along the back wall between the windows. This type of lighting adds a lot of dimension to a room and looks so much more alive than when it’s left bare. Up-lights come in every color and can often be changed later in the evening to another hue for dancing. Also note, the chandelier in this room contains lights that are illuminating the three large florals on the head table.

Reception lighting at The Ritz Carlton in Dallas. This room as both up-lighting and pin spots illuminating each of the florals

Pin Spots

At this reception in the ballroom at The Ritz Carlton Dallas we had both up-lighting and pin spots which highlight each of the florals in the center of every table. The combination of up-lights and pin spots really adds a lot of pop to the room and draws attention to the beauty and color of the centerpieces. Note that while the room is currently using it’s chandeliers, those were turned off for dinner and dancing making the light more dramatic.

Here specials lights called ‘gobos’ were used to add the pattern to the ceiling of Union Station in Dallas.


What I wanted to highlight here was the use of gobos to add the pattern to the ceiling of Union Station in Dallas. This type of light is commonly used on ceilings, accent walls, and dancefloors. When you’re working with a a large space, like this one, the gobo adds a lot of ambiance to the room.

Ok, now with that out of the way, let’s talk about how we try to preserve these lighting cues during a reception. We really feel like it’s important not to destroy what you and your design team have done, but at the same time, we want to use our skills to highlight and enhance your images.

Wedding reception at The Four Seasons

In this image, the only light I added was small bounce coming from my on camera flash. The band and the video team had spotlights on the couple, including the light coming from the sign, so this was already a bright scene and not too much had to be done to get a great result. I love that it feels natural to the moment, although,  I want to illustrate that video and entertainment can also have an impact on the final images so it would be best to talk to them during the design process.

Wedding reception at The Belo Mansion in Dallas

This image is an example of where I did have to add lighting to a first dance. There are two flashes being used here, one on each side of the dance floor, but they have been set up so that they are not overpowering the gobo on the floor or the chandelier. This setup is critical to maintaining the feeling of the space and adding the beautiful highlight to the brides face.

Wedding Reception image of a private last dance at The Laurel In Grapevine TX

This last dance is an example of how creative use of light can enhance a dark scene without destroying the mood of this private last dance. In this case, a single light was added from behind the DJ booth to give a rim light to the couple. If we had used a bounce flash here, the candles and string lights would be washed out and the room would most likely have rendered too bright.

Image of a bride and groom on stage with Emerald City Band at Arlington Hall in Dallas TX.

Here is an example at Arlington Hall where the couple is singing with the band on stage. Again, knowing when you need light and when you don’t is everything, I love the color and mood of what was existing.

Wedding Reception at The Four Seasons

Ok here at The Four Seasons the video team had two lights pointed at the dancefloor (outer two lights) and the band had two strip lights (inner lights) also illuminating the couple – net result – no flash needed but I could have had the same look if I had used strobes in either of those positions instead of constant lights.

Having a wedding at sunset outside? Candles might be all you need.

Wedding image from Weatherford TX of a bride and groom dancing under the stars

Here we see what some simple string lights can do to a tent. I wait until way after dark to attempt this image and I love how we were able to capture the couple dancing under the stars.

OK so to sum up here are my key takeaways –

  1. The light you choose for your venue can have a huge impact on the overall feeling of the room. It’s really good to think about up-lighting, pin spots and gobos in your overall design.
  2. When photographing your design, we really attempt to keep the overall look and feel of your space in the images. We could easily overpower the lighting in a dark and romantic setting but that would make your images look inconsistent with the design (and at worst over-flashed, like you’re in a gym).
  3. Video also needs to bring in lights for a reception and those lights are on and visible to your guests all night. Talk to them about their approach and try to coordinate that with the other parts of your team.

I hope that helps! Please write or call if you have any questions-we’re here to help! You can always reach us via ph/txt 214-497-7159 or email at