Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Brides Always look better in natural light. By that I mean controlled, indirect, sunlight; e.g. Window Light or Sky Light.  They rarely do well when blasted with a point light source (flash) especially if the thing is mounted on the camera!  As a PPA Certified, Master, Craftsman, with over 25 years experience in Portrait and wedding photography this lighting philosophy is the number one credo I drum-into my photography students: Use Natural Light (window light or skylight) whenever and where ever you can. Keep your subjects out of direct sunlight and never use flash outside if the sun is above the horizon.

In fact, I tell my students to leave the speed lights in the car—they’re a crutch for lazy photographers. You need to force yourself to look for and see where to place your subjects to take advantage of great natural light both on the subject and in the background. 

The following images are from one of my favorite bridal sessions.  I love ethnic weddings and this took place at one of my favorite locations in California—The Hakone Gardens in Saratoga during their annual Japanese festival call the Matsuri.

 f4.0 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 400, Lens @ 200mm
For this portrait I used her head dress as a scrim, to soften the harsh sunlight, creating a nice soft, directional light on her face. Then I used Silver Efex Pro (in post) to create a grainy, mono-chrome enhancement.

Moving into one of Hakone’s authentic Japanese buildings I placed her in a “window light” set-up…

 f3.5 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 800, Lens @ 80mm
This light here is actually from a standard open doorway.  The tricky part here was balancing the exposure between her dress and the dark background.  As I moved her close to the doorway stopping down the lens, to prevent over exposing her dress, the background would go too dark. I had to get that marvelous background properly exposed!  So, I moved her away from the doorway and raised my ISO from 400 to 800, did a test image and finally opened up my aperture to f3.5 (nearly wide open—something I rarely do!) to see the balance you see in the final image above. I was using my 80-200 f2.8 lens, hand-held, for this and all the images you see here.

Next, we moved outside, again, into full shade…

f5.6 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 800
f5.6 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 800
I placed her so that the sun going down behind her would create some nice specular highlights in my background.  I backed-off so I could use my lens @ 200mm for some nice bokeh and we did a nice series of medium close-ups.

One of the last set-ups we did, after the direct sun was finally off the main garden area….

f4.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400, lens @ 200mm
My bride had changed from the traditional white wedding garb into her post-ceremony outfit.  Earlier in the day a Japanese performance artist had painted these huge canvases, with a broom-like brush, that I decided would be one of my backgrounds for this session. It all came together in this image! The biggest problem I had was getting the tourists out of my shot! I was backed-off about 25 yards on the other side of a pond, my lens at 200mm, to get this angle. The tourists didn’t know I was even there—they thought this photo-opportunity was part of the Matsari event!

My goal on every wedding has always been to do natural light portraits of every bride.  Since we went digital in 2000 and as our cameras got better and better at higher ISO’s our natural or existing light (reception coverage by any type of continuous light) capability has only increased.

It’s a good time to be a creative photographer!

’Til next week…as always, should you have questions or comments I would be happy to get back to you…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

1 comment:

  1. I just love these bridal portraits to bottom of my heart. I am also getting married at one of iconic Chicago wedding venues and would love to have such adorable bridal portraits done for my special day. Thank you so much for this great inspiration to make my wedding memorable.