3 Keys to a beautiful couple shot

Photography, especially wedding photography, is unique in its own right in that a wedding photographer has to be proficient at many styles of shooting in order to get the job done. We have to know how to do portraits, photojournalism, architectural photography, product photography (for those little rings and details) AND do it all in .5 seconds! It is very difficult to do any of these types of photography well, let alone do them all in one day and shoot 1,200 final images that all rock our clients faces off. Whew!! Not an easy job! Sooooo, today we are going to talk about portraits (I hate that word and if anyone knows a better one, let me know) and a few different techniques in doing them.

Our lovely models today are the amazingly hot Blake and Andrea whose wedding we shot in October. These guys are the bomb and we love them to death! :)

Image number one!

OK. So I dig this shot a ton that my hot wife took and would like to not only talk about why it rocks, but how we did it.

We were shooting their session on their wedding day about 2.5 hours before sunset which is not the best time in the world to shoot because the sun is still pretty high in the sky. The best time of day to shoot is 1 hour before sunset, and the first hour of the sun rising because the sun is going through more atmosphere which disperses it wider and makes the light softer. The one and only thing that makes light soft and pretty, is the size of the light source. You can diffuse light all you want from any light source, but if the light is not BIG, then it will still be harsh.

So because the light was still pretty harsh we busted out our 5-in-1 reflector, took off the outer reflector which then makes it into a scrim. A scrim simply lets light pass through it, but disperses it out so it gets soft and pretty (and if your couple is standing under a tree then it gets rid of nasty speckled lighting!). Then, here is the big tip, we move that big diffuser of ours as close as we can possibly get it without it being in the frame to get the light source as big as we can which makes the light soft.

So in this shot, our assistant was off to camera right holding the big diffuser. We then had our couple turn about 35 degrees away from the light source (which gives us a loop lighting pattern, or a pattern of light where there is highlights on their camera right side, and some soft shadows on their camera left side). This in turn gives our couple some dimension and helps the shot to not look flat.

So because the background is not diffused and getting direct sunlight, it is going to be lighter than the subjects. This looks great as long as the scene is evenly lit, because our subjects, which are slightly darker, end up getting the attention of your eye because they are the contrasting point of interest.

A couple other elements that bring this shot together:

Posing:  In guiding our couples during the shoot times, we often tell them to move into each other REALLY close (because close is good for married people and looks great in the shot).

Composition:  Note where Jody placed the couple in the frame. They are not dead center (which many time makes shots look compositionaly dull) but are off to one side a bit and their eyes are in the top third of the frame which is the dominant part and helps bring your eye right to them.

Lens Choice:  For this shot, we went with a long lens which compresses the image and helps the shot to feel close and intimate, and also helps throw the background out of focus to keep the attention on our bride and groom.

– White Balance:  The last thing that really makes the shot is that the color is really nice. The color in this image was achieved the way we get all of our color, by doing a custom white balance setting with our Expo Disc.

Image stats:
Canon 70-200L 2.8 IS at 150mm
ISO 200, F/4, 1/400th of a second shutter speed
Editing time: 0.5 seconds

That is it for now! I hope you have enjoyed the shots and seeing the process! We love being able to share so we hope that this post gets you pumped to go out and shoot some awesome images!!  Let us know if you enjoyed this post and we’ll make sure there’s more like it!… Part II is coming up next week and the shot dissected just might be one with some on-location strobe lighting… Whoo hoo!

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  • http://dennisbullock.net Dennis

    Great info Zach! Thanks…

  • http://www.brandmanphoto-blog.com Melissa

    YES!!! Love this post – keep ‘em coming! Love hearing the “behind the scenes” perspective.

    Thanks!

  • http://jeffandash.wordpress.com ash

    i so appreciate you guys sharing your wealth of knowledge! you guys are great teachers.

  • Derek in Finland

    Awesome as always! Looking forward to part II! :-)

  • http://dawnbeirnes.blogspot.com Dawn Beirnes

    love these posts!!!!!! You guys are fabulous!

  • http://www.celebrationpackages.com Reuben Poon

    Wow, this is SO AWESOME how you took one amazing image and broke it down to its individual components!!!

  • http://alisawhitley.com/blog Alisa

    Thanks for sharing and please keep the tips coming!

  • http://mbrittonphotography.com Matt Britton

    Love it. You guys are blogging geniuses! Much to learn from the Gray team.

  • http://www.carlosbruno.com Carlos Bruno

    Man … you’re GOOD!
    Don’t think in anyone can give those details and not be too much technical.
    McNally and Strobist (DH) need to check this post out.

  • http://simplyknotphotography.com Ryan

    Thanks Gray’s! You guys ROCK!!!

  • http://davidmolnarBLOG.com d a v i d m o l n a r

    zach you are such a great teacher! i have learned so much from you! thanks for being our friends. hey want to go on a cruise on sunday?

  • http://www.lydiashannon.com Lydia Shannon

    Thank you so much for this awesome information! This is the second time today that I heard how great the ExpoDisc is. Do you guys use the neutral or portrait one?

  • Nicci

    GREAT Teaching. Thank You soooo much!

  • Zach

    Lydia-

    We use the neutral one so that is looks totally natural. This thing rules!

  • http://www.summarfamily.blogspot.com chesley

    great info!! keep ‘em coming!

  • Wendy

    Love it! You have a gift for teaching! Give Jody a hug for me. :)

  • http://www.weddingtonboots.com Jen Hewlett

    I’ve just discovered your blog and I love it!
    I’ve recently launched a wedding wellie business, and as I have such a modest budget – I’m doing everything I can myself – including the web images/photography. I can imagine you cringing, having such an important thing like photography left to a complete amamature, however, I managed to borrow a really nice camera from work and got some pretty cool shots (i think?? http://www.weddingtonboots.com/page3.htm).
    So thank you to your blog, I will use your tips for my next photoshoot which will be of the bride in the wellies. Wish me luck and I welcome any tips for a cool photo!
    Byeee Jen x