In case you missed my last post, you can check out Part 1 here, which shows a glimpse into the fun moments of 2019. Today in Part 2, I’m doing something a little different… I decided to get a little “technical” on y’all and share my thought process and strategy behind creating certain images. You’ll see “before-and-afters” … me taking the image, and the resulting image that I captured. Just like all of my Behind the Scenes blogs, photos in this post relied solely on cell phone captures that assistants/others happened to take while I was in the zone. I never knew these shots were being taken, so I didn’t get to choose which moments would be highlighted in this post. But I think the photos below provide some pretty cool “tips” and “teaching moments,” and I hope you enjoy this sneak peek into my mind!
At the beginning of every wedding day, I find a quiet space to stage any “details” that are special to the wedding… rings, invitations, shoes, etc. I feel that the little details help begin telling the story of the day, and this time helps jumpstart my creative juices for the day.
Most of my detail shots are taken with my 100mm 2.8 macro lens, which allows me to get really close to items like wedding rings. Below (left) you can see a close-up low-angle shot of the rings where I can focus solely on ONE line of text on the invitation thanks to the macro lens. On the right, you see a pulled back wider shot with my 35mm lens.
I often place rings on invitations, especially if they have pretty colored detail that the bride & groom picked out. Here I am using a plain white envelope as a reflector to bounce light back into the diamond of the engagement ring.
Getting “down low” is a great way to increase the sun’s rays coming into the lens, causing a more hazy/golden look during “golden hour,” which is typically the hour right after sunrise or right before sunset.
One of my favorite things to do for bridal portraits… find a window. Window light is stunning. I recommend turning off all other light sources and SOLELY using the light coming in from the window.
A lot of wedding day timelines require that you do portraits during the harsh midday sun. When that’s the case, I always try to find an area that’s shaded with open sunlight on the other side (which I’m always standing in), which allows plenty of even light to filter in without the subject being affected by shadows.
Any time a bridal suite has mirrors, I try to get creative with reflections…
Here I am photographing the bride’s bouquet. At first I started with my 70-200mm zoom lens (which is my #1 go-to lens). However, I quickly realized that I wanted a greater emphasis on the bouquet. By switching to a wider lens (35mm), I was able to make the bouquet stand out closer to the camera, rather than compressed up against the bride’s body with the zoom lens. In effect, the bouquet looks bigger and the bride looks smaller. I’ll show comparisons below. The bride and bouquet did not move an inch between these two photos.
I almost never go up front during wedding ceremonies, and NEVER behind the bride & groom (I like being as unobtrusive and invisible as possible). However, when I saw this balcony at Yonah Mountain Vineyards, I knew I wanted to get a couple shots with the audience in the background for once. The bride & groom never noticed me up there, and I came quietly down as soon as I got the shot. I think the photos were worth it…
Sometimes I find really high places so that I can shoot downward at my clients (always a flattering angle) to avoid distractions in the background (traffic, streetlights, etc.).
I got really jazzed about the spot in the picture below, because I could put my subject on the edge of the light. As a result, you can see the sun peaking out from the top left corner, but my subject has even shade on her.
I LOVE the challenge of having to use whatever I can find at a wedding venue as my background for detail shots. Some photographers bring their own styling kits to weddings, but I try to utilize parts of the venue that will also help tell a story of the day (bricks on the sidewalk, the pattern on furniture, the bride’s own invitation, etc.). At the wedding below, I was struggling to find a plain surface outside until I saw this green tray. Green wasn’t one of the wedding colors and didn’t fit the vibe, but I knew that if I made the photo black & white, it would be the exact backdrop I was going for and would highlight the jewelry nicely.
And then I really lucked out and found a little black box. I knew the black diamond would look great against a black background.
I don’t love getting too close to my brides during intimate moments, so I chose to photograph Caroline opening Harry’s letter with my 100mm macro lens (which gave me some distance). It ended up being a great choice, because when Caroline started tearing up, I was able to get a close-up of her tears while still staying farther away.
Don’t be afraid to crop things creatively. I knew as soon as I had Caroline walk down the stairs that I would focus on the movement and all the little details from her dress to her shoes. So yes, cropping out her face was intentional. :)
Below you’ll see me switch between two lenses for the same subject matter. My 35mm, which allowed me to get a wide shot that showed off the front of the venue, and then my 70-200mm, which allowed me to capture the girls’ expressions more closely. I didn’t move my body an inch, but I got two completely different images just by switching the lens.
Okay, let’s talk LIGHTING for the rest of the post!
When I photograph inside wedding venues that have orange/brown walls, and I want my couples to stand out more from the background during their first dance, I tend to “backlight” them. Below you’ll see a flash standing behind this couple. In the resulting image that I took, I hid the flash behind their bodies so that you can’t see it, but so it’ll still creat a “rim light” around their bodies, separating them from the wall. The flash triggers when I click my shutter.
Here I also added a flash behind the couple to add drama and highlight their bodies/veil.
Sometimes it’s fun to leave the flash IN the frame (rather than hidden behind bodies) to create a “starburst” light that gives an image a little more “pop” and interest.
When backlighting outdoors using the sun’s natural light, it’s important to block the sun from hitting the lens directly (which will cause way too much flare / overexpose your image). To block the sun, you can either use a “lens hood,” which attaches to your lens, or you can do what I do — just find an object and place it between the sun and yourself (with your clients slightly off at an angle). In the below images, I am making sure the wooden light post is always directly between me and the sun (avoiding the crazy flare you see in the second image below).
When in getting ready rooms that only have orange overhead light, I often turn the overhead light off completely, making the room dark (and sometimes almost pitch black). But this allows me to create my OWN light using my flash, which is white (clean) and directionally flattering (bounced at an angle).
And last but not least, I love reflectors. I get lazy and don’t use them as often as I should, but bouncing light back onto a subject’s face completely changes the image. Even on a overcast day like the one below, having this little bit of “bounce” lightens the shadows under the client’s eyes and nose, making for a much more flattering image.
There you go! I hope you enjoyed the slightly more technical aspect of this Before-and-After post. So much thought goes behind every photo I take, and I love bringing y’all inside my mind a little. :) If you have any questions, let me know!
- Haley | Athens Technical College
Georgia Senior Photographer - April 15, 2021
- Ayn & Brad | Watson Mill
Georgia Engagement Photographer - April 10, 2021
- Allison | UGA Terry Grad
Athens Senior Photographer - April 10, 2021