6 Essential Parent Dance Tips for Impactful Wedding Photos

6 Essential Parent Dance Tips for Impactful Wedding Photos

Parent dances, such as the mother-son dance and father-daughter dance, are critical events during most wedding receptions. They are opportunities to capture beautiful, emotional moments that showcase key relationships in your client’s lives. They also give photographers plenty of opportunities to showcase their creativity with interesting compositions, impactful lighting, and more. To help you take better parent dance photos, here are six essential tips.

The following images are provided by the wedding photographers at Wedding Maps and used with their permission.

Plan and Prepare

Photo by Jeff Tisman (Website)
As with other events during the shoot, communication is key. During your wedding talk-through, discuss the nature of the parent dances. Will they be slow dances or choreographed spectacles? Understanding this helps you prepare for the kind of shots you'll take. 

Also, ask about the duration of the dance to ensure you don’t miss out on any moment. For shorter dances, consider leaning more towards safe shots and a single lens. For longer dances, you have more freedom and flexibility to get creative and even change lenses. Lastly, always check for any planned surprises. Being in the loop ensures you're always ready to capture unexpected, poignant moments.

Here are a few common variations to plan for.

Choreographed Dances

Photo by Stefani Ciotti (Website)

Mother-Son and Father-Daughter Dances at the Same Time

Photo by Vows and Peaks (Website)

Mother-Daughter Dance

Photo by Kivus and Camera (Website)

Understand and Assign Roles

If you have multiple photographers, assign each photographer a specific role.  For example, you might have your second shooter stay on the middle angle, capturing the standard photos while you, the lead shooter, roam for more creative shots.

Photo by Roy Serafin (Website)

Use a Wide Angle Lens

A wide angle lens allows you to zoom out and encapsulate the entire environment. This provides context and showcases the scale of the venue, giving viewers a full perspective of the dance floor and the emotions surrounding it.

Photo by Picturist Photography (Website)

Zoom in Close

While capturing the grandeur is essential, the heart of these dances lies in the intimate moments. Zooming in allows you to capture the subtle emotions — the teary eyes, the tight grips, and the beaming smiles.

Photo by Belinda Philleo (Website)

Consider Using a Wide Angle Lens Up Close

Marrying the two approaches above, consider getting close with a wide angle lens. This offers a more intimate and dynamic view, capturing the energy of the dance. However, remember to be unobtrusive, especially keeping in mind the audience and the videography team.

Photo by Mauricio Urena (Website)

Photo by Creando Fotos (Website)

Expose for Your Backgrounds

Backgrounds should never be an afterthought. Ensure they're properly exposed and not overpowered by flash.

Photo by BridgetQ Photography (Website)

Use the Appropriate Lighting Techniques

The best lighting technique will depend on your photography style, the scene, and the overall mood that you envision. Here are some common interesting lighting techniques to consider.

Soft, Diffused Off-Camera Flash: This lighting method provides a gentle illumination, highlighting subjects without creating harsh shadows.

Photo by Roc Focus (Website)

Natural Daylight: If the reception is during the day, leverage the golden hues of natural sunlight for a warm, ethereal glow.

Photo by Larsen Photo Co (Website)

Flash as Spotlight: Use flash to accentuate the dancing pair, making them the focal point against a softer background.

Photo by Andy Madea Photo (Website)

Ambient Lighting: The inherent lighting of the reception can lend a moody, atmospheric aura to the photographs.

Photo by Thien Tong (Website)

Get Creative With Your Vantage Points and Compositions

The angle of your shot can significantly influence the story it tells. 

Side Angle: This perspective ensures both dancers' expressions are captured, immortalizing their shared emotions.

Photo by PMC Photography (Website)

Higher Vantage Point: Consider photographing from elevated positions like balconies for a bird's eye view.

Photo by The Macmeekens (Website)

Foreground Elements: Incorporating elements like flowers or decorations adds depth and intrigue to the photographs.

Photo by SMJ Photography (Website)

Viewer Reactions: Moments like the bride’s reaction to the mother-son dance can be as moving as the dance itself. Don’t miss these.

Photo by SMJ Photography (Website)

Creative Compositions: Use techniques like negative space for an artistic touch, as you see in the image below.  Other common compositional techniques for the parent dances are leading lines, symmetry, and rule of thirds.

Photo by Maddness Photography (Website)

Choose Your Backgrounds With Intent

A clean background highlights the subjects and perhaps a beautiful background, while shooting towards the audience captures both the dancers and the crowd reactions. Neither is necessarily better than the other, so the decision is based on your artistic and storytelling intent.

Photo by Ladman Studios (Website)

More Examples

Here are a few more examples of parent dances for your inspiration.

Photo by Sean Thurston (Website)

Photo by TKM Photography (Website)
Photo by Magda Moiola (Website)

Photo by Frank Balzan (Website)

Photo by Party of Two (Website)

Photo by Uniquely Created Photography (Website)


Beyond these tips, always stay alert for other unique parent dance images and moments. Remember, each wedding and dance is unique, and the key lies in capturing the authenticity of emotions and the beauty of relationships. As a photographer, you're not just taking pictures; you're telling stories, and these tips will ensure they are tales worth revisiting. For more images and inspiration, see this parent dance article on Wedding Maps.

Pye Jirsa's picture

Pye Jirsa is a director, photographer and educator. Founder and Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography, a boutique Southern California wedding and portrait photography studio, and SLR Lounge, a photography education website, Pye devotes his time to helping photographers develop their shooting and business skills.

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Photographing dancing during the wedding, especially parents/children dancing is extremely important as it creates one of the most heartfelt moments! Some people say they never look at they wedding pictures or watch smartshow 3d slideshows from their wedding day, but all these photos would be looked at at least once and it's already worth it.

I love photographing parent dances even more now that I'm a parent myself—it's always the one time I tear up on a wedding day 🥹