If you’re a wedding photographer, you’re probably used to walking into the bride’s house / bridal suite / hotel room, taking a quick glance around and then thinking….right…so how can I possibly work with this space…
Well, in this post I want to share the details of the most amazingly photogenic living room ever – and my process for photographing the bride and bride’s maids preparing.
Step 1: Find A Window – Move Furniture
The first thing I do when I get to a location for wedding photography – especially for photos of the bride and the bridesmaids preparing, is find the biggest window in the biggest room – and then start moving furniture.
Now, what was really interesting about this space is that it was not immediately obvious how great it was.
There was the usual amount of bridesmaid’s clutter – shoes, purses, makeup cases, jewelery boxes, empty champagne bottles etc.
There was also a lot of furniture (coffee table, end tables, a couch), nicknacks (picture frames, plants, stuff on top of stuff), kids toys and storage for kids toys etc.
It took 5 or 10 minutes to clear out a space that was 100% clutter free and big enough for me to work with. And when I say clutter free – I mean the big stuff like actual furniture, right down to things that you might not notice, like phones and lamps, area rugs, pictures on the walls and those little sticks you use to close venetian blinds.
(If you do take the sticks off your client’s venetian blinds, make sure you tell someone where you put them).
After clearing out the front end of the room with the window, I was looking at a nice neutral taupe wall, a gorgeous new laminate floor, relatively neutral curtains (if they were ugly I would have taken them down) and enough space to work with.
Step 2: Analyze The Light
At this point I start looking at the natural window light that is available and what strobes I need to augment the available light.
However, in this particular living room the layout happened to be just right to provide amazing natural window light without having to use any strobes at all.
Here is what the layout of the room looked like:
As you can see, I had a window behind my subject – but what made this space amazingly photogenic is that there was also a small window to the left and a large doorway opening onto a wall of windows to the right.
So effectively I had a large softbox behind my subject and a large softbox to either side too – which produced amazingly soft and directional lighting without me having to do a thing!
(Normally I would have to use strobes or a reflector to fill in the shadows of my back lit subjects.)
What was really cool was that by opening or closing the curtains or opening or closing the venetian blinds, I could directly control the lighting ratios in the room – all with just the natural window light.
And what was even better was that I could photograph pretty much any combination in front of me without having to worry that someone was not going to be in favorable position.
Step 3: Camera Settings
This back-lit, overexposed window look is fairly popular in wedding photography.
It hides anything that you don’t want to see through the window, if done well (with strobes, reflectors or other windows) it is very favorable to your subjects (especially women in dresses it seems), and once you figure out how to do it, its really easy to do – and to replicate (for future weddings).
The key for this style of photo is that you’re exposing for the front of your subject – not for the window.
The result is that the window is completely overexposed – usually to pure white (although we avoid that if we can).
The one catch is that you can’t do this look if it is excessively sunny outside – you need windows that have either white sheers, white venetian blinds (like these windows did), open shade or an overcast day outside.
All of these wedding photos were taken with a Nikon D800 and a Nikon 24-70. The zoom varies depending on the scene – but for the most part I was shooting at f/2.8, 1/60th and ISO 1600.
Step 4: Post Processing
Back-lit window light images do need a certain amount of post-processing to really pop.
Depending on the level to which you are overexposing your background, your subject can look very flat and washed out.
At a minimum in Lightroom I increase the contrast, brings the blacks way down and add some vibrance.
You also want to make sure that your white balance is correct and depending on how bright the window light is – sometimes it helps to drop the highlights.
Try It Yourself!
That should give you a good overview of everything you need to know to photograph this style of natural window light images of the bride and bride’s maids preparing.
If you’re interested in learning more – including how to get these types of photos with a mobile phone – we have 100 free links just for DIYP readers to my Skillshare class “Window Light Portraits: Learn to Use Natural Light Indoors”.
Just click here to claim yours.
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