During a real wedding, we don’t have the time to photograph our brides the way we can when working on a fashion assignment. We always enjoy shooting the bridal gown spreads for Bridal magazines. This year we had that opportunity again. We did this shoot last June at one of our favorite venues, Biltmore Monarch Beach in Laguna Beach, California. We photograph weddings there often, and it’s a real treat to take full advantage of the many beautiful locations this fabulous venue has to offer. The behind the scenes video was produced by Alan Larson Films.
This is Mary Layson, one of the two models we were privileged to work with. She did a great job! It was a long day for everyone, and the models had many gown changes, including hair. We photographed about 10 gowns on this day.
Behind the scene... We had a great, partially overcast day with nice soft light. But, too much of a good thing is not always good. Even in a totally overcast day, the light is coming from one direction. In this case, because of the back light, we had to “fill” the front. This is our friend and photographer Mike Purdy on the right holding an Elinchrom 53″ Octa softbox on a painter’s pole. For this shoot we used an Elinchrom Quadra Ranger. 400 beautiful watts of light. It comes with 2 heads and an extra battery. The actual heads are smaller than a speedlight, very light and compact. The 2nd head is on a light stand on the left. It’s just raw light with only a small reflector. This 2nd light illuminated the back of the car, but not too much, I wanted the light to fade out in the back. The low angle allowed me to make the gown look more dramatic, and the wide angle lens gave me a nice perspective, the back of the car got smaller fast, and did not compete with the model. All these images were photographed with Nikon D5 bodies, and for this one I used a 24 to 70mm zoom close to 24 mm.
This is our other wonderful model Kim Daniels. Kim is also a good friend, and an outstanding photographer. Mirta chose this location for this particular shot because the columns on the balcony complemented the sleek tall look of this gown. This image was done much earlier than the first one, the sun was nearly overhead and there was much more of it. I like the rich blue sky with puffy clouds. Just enough combination of clouds and blue sky to enhance the image, but not so much drama that would overpower the soft gown.
Here’s the out-of-camera image. Yes, because the sun was almost overhead, we had to use a Photoflex oval translucent panel… See the shadow on the floor? There is a little too much tilt, and there are a few too many flyaway hairs. Kim has great hair! This image was meant to be simple, not like the previous one, so there was not too much done in post other than reducing the shadow from the translucent panel, retouching, enhancing the colors and highlighting the gown.
Lastly, here is Mary Layson again, this time in the beautiful Rotunda area. We chose this spot because the intricate rod iron work of the staircase complemented the beautiful designs and textures of this gown. Again, we have diffused back light with a natural fill from the floor. Nice and even, but without side light, the texture in the gown wouldn’t show well. In post production we helped the color, enhanced the gown, lightened the face, and overall added contrast and “pop” to the image. We also removed the power outlet on the wall.
This out-of-camera image is pretty good... It’s nice to start out with a good file! Again, a low angle gave the model height. Placement of the head was important, I had to be careful to consider where the many diagonal lines in the background would end up. It’s easy to get carried away with your subject, especially when shooting a wide angle, and not notice distracting items in the background. A longer lens with shallower depth of field is more forgiving in this respect.
Behind the scene… My position for the actual shot was much lower. The lens is the 24-70 2.8, close to 24 mm. Our assistant is holding the Elinchrom Quadra with the Octa softbox close to the model. This lighting system uses a radio trigger that goes on the camera’s hot shoe. It allows me to test-fire from there, and also to change the intensity of the flash in very small increments. Sometimes though, as you’re shooting, you realize that you want the light closer, or moved slightly, that’s why working with an assistants is so much better and faster than having to stop shooting and moving a light stand.
Cross lighting the subject created more texture in the gown. Having the model look towards the light gave us a very nice, near Paramount (butterfly), light quality on her face. All exposures were made in Manual mode, in this kind of shoot, I usually use a light meter to establish a starting point. Using a light meter with digital is not a must, but I think the light / flash meter allows you to arrive at the proper exposure faster and with less pops from the flash. The Elenchrom Lithium Ion batteries are very efficient. We had spares but we were able to shoot the whole day with one battery. I was very impressed!