When I first started shooting weddings, the first part of the shoot I fell in love with was the bridal portrait session. And to be honest, that still is one of my favorite parts. I love shooting women! I love making them look beautiful, happy, engaging, coy, seductive, you name it! I love exploring the artistic capture of all women. The couple portraiture is really fun for me too. And the family formals have their own charm. There's really nothing like seeing a dad tear up looking at his daughter in a bridal gown.
But to be honest, for a while, the receptions were kind of flat for me. Fun for the wedding party and guest, for sure! But as the photographer, I felt rather limited. Many times, receptions are dark, and have funky DJ lights shooting through them. Sometimes, they can even be pitch black! I think that's why many wedding photographers just kind of shrug, hit the dancers with bright, directional flash and call it a day. But for me, adding in some interesting lighting and playing around with shutter drag has made all the difference.
I still make sure that I manage to capture emotional, intimate moments (during first dances, slow dances, speeches, etc.) But when it comes to the party time, I find that adding in a few off camera flashes and getting some backlit shots creates really dynamic images that make the reception feel alive! If you're trying to capture the feel of motion, try using a really slow shutter speed. Your flash will freeze the subject, but the drag will create some cool motion effects with the ambient light.
So if you're shooting out in the middle of a field somewhere, where there's no ceiling to bounce off of, no reflective surfaces to work with, and basically a total lack of light, don't despair! Get yourself a light stand, a few pocket wizards, and create some dramatic images for your clients!