When it all comes down to it, photography is light. Cameras are only able to function because of light, so really, light is everything.

For about 3 years, I noticed that I would get absolutely bored when editing reception photos. Photo after photo of the same guests dancing all night, with the same flash lighting everyone up, making every photo look the same as you scroll through. In the last year, I’ve made the transition into an all natural light photographer, and that changed everything for me. When you think about how you want to remember your wedding day, what do you think of? For me, when I look back, I notice that when I stopped using flash, the photos started to look more like how I remembered them in that moment. Instead of powerful flashes going off and changing the environment, you use exactly what you’re given, and then your memories really become frozen in time, without being changed. And what is the secret to having really beautiful reception photos? LIGHTING! Here are 8 simple tips and suggestions on how to light your reception to get incredibly unique images:

1. Chandeliers – these are probably the fanciest route you can go, but they can spice up any space. Chandeliers don’t have to be as huge and glamorous as you may expect. I’ve worked in plenty of venues where these are built right in – hello Loft on Front – I’m lookin’ at you!

2. Edison/Bistro Hanging Lights – probably my all time personal favorite. These lights are classy and elegant, and can brighten up the darkest of wedding venues. They look great indoors or out, and you can definitely get away with buying less strands of these, as they have nearly full-sized lightbulbs inside, you don’t need as many. Can be purchased at places as convenient as your local Target!

3. Uplighting – this is typically done either through a DJ or an event lighting professional. I’ve worked with some amazing vendors back in Ohio, but I’m still looking for some great ones in Wilmington to recommend! Either way, having uplighting stationed throughout your venue can change the look and feel of your entire reception. One of my favorites was at my friend Zach and Jess’ wedding, every photo had a romantic purple glow in the background.

4. Glow sticks – although it may seem silly, glow sticks are growing ever more popular each wedding season. I’ve seen them pulled out on many dance floors, as well as a glow stick grand exit! With the right photographer, you can get some really fun motion shots while dancing around with these in your hand on the dance floor! Plus, the kids love them.

5. More twinkle lights – you can get even more creative with them than just hanging them up high. Why not turn an entire wall into a backdrop to dance in front of or pose for some photos in front of? Personally, I don’t think there’s ever such a thing as too much. These can be purchased in bulk for much cheaper, too. And if they’re hiding behind a layer of tulle then there’s no need to splurge on fancy Edison bulbs.

6. DJ Lights – some DJs have really incredible lighting setups, and some couples think they won’t need those, but they really add so many colors to make your images pop. Many DJs will include these in any package!

7. Surprise Fireworks – this is incredibly uncommon, but sometimes, if you choose the right location, you may end up having your reception at the same time as some events downtown. And if you’re double lucky, you’ll be able to sneak outside for some intimate firework photos. Try checking out events in your area before the big day and see if this is a possibility!

8. Sparklers – of course the tradition of having a grand sparkler exit is not a new one, but it’s a classic for a reason. The photos as you and your new spouse running through a line of your closest friends and family members (as you try not to be scorched by the drunk ones) is timeless, and is sure to be a very light and fun way to end your night – and also skip out and saying goodbye to your entire guest list.