Bridal Shoot (with behind-the-scenes shots and camera settings)

Hey, it’s Photoshop World week, and to celebrate, today I thought I’d share some shots from a recent bridal shoot I did for a project I’m working on.

The shoot took place at Casa Bella – a beautiful 9,000 sq ft. luxury home/venue for weddings and events in our area. I teamed up with my awesome wife Kalebra who did all the styling and art direction for the shoot (she’s just a blast to be on a shoot with — she brings an energy, and fun to the shoot that’s contagious. Also, seeing how she sees things, and how she works with our subjects is really something to see — she should do a class on it).

Above: Here’s the behind-the-scenes shot (photo by Juan Alfonso) of me taking the image at the top of the page. I’m sitting on an Apple box (see below) so I’m not quite on the floor (maybe 6″ up from it) but I put my camera (a Canon 5D Mark III)  directly on the ground in front of me, tilted up at the bride, using a Canon 14mm super wide-angle lens. You can see I’m pretty close to where the bride is standing, but look how much farther away she looks in the image up top.

Above: These Matthews Apple Boxes come in really handy. This is a half box (just 4″ high), but in a lot of cases, it’s a whole lot better than sitting on the ground. They are sturdy as anything, and you can stack ’em, too! We have them in different sizes, and use them mostly in the studio, either to get a higher angle or a much lower one. 

Two things that super wide angle does:
(1) When you put it on the floor like this, it makes the entire scene have more of an epic sprawling look — even in small spaces like this.

(2) Putting it on the floor like this, makes the floor appear MUCH more reflective than it really is, and you get a shine and reflection that you won’t get standing up, or even shooting on your knees. I can’t tell you exactly why it works like that…but it sure does.

Above: Shooting w inith our bride the same spot— I just stood up, backed way up, and used my 70-200mm f/2.8 zoomed in to 140mm.

Camera Settings:
I’m at 200 ISO at 1/400 of a second at f/2.8. I shot at f/2.8 for two reasons: (1) To get the background behind her a bit soft and out of focus, and because believe it or not, even though she was standing in front of a door with glass panes, the door is inset from the front of the house by quite a bit (there’s a large covered entryway), so the light wasn’t that bright. That’s also why I had to increase my ISO to 200 — there’s not as much light there, at that time of day, then you’d think.

Above: A third look with her in the exact same spot — I just walked closer, and then zoomed into 142mm. 

When we first walked in, I asked Kathy (who was assisting me on the shoot), to rig up a flash with a Westcott 26″ Rapid box octa mounted to the end of a monopod, but as it turned out — we were able to just go with natural light the entire 4-hour shoot, and we never used it once. That’s pretty rare, but the lighting throughout was pretty good, even though a few times I had to raise my ISO to 200 or 400 here and there.

Above: More of an editorial look for this shot taken in the bride’s dressing suite, just using the light from the windows. f/2.8 at 1/80 of a second at 200 ISO. Again, not as much light as you’d think, which is why I had a slower shutter speed and higher ISO, even at f/2.8.

I converted the image to black and white in Lightroom CC, and added the duotone effect using Lightroom’s Split Toning panel (shown here).To get the duotone look, I boosting the Saturation amount and moved the Hue slider to a brownish hue in the Shadows only (no adjustments to the Highlights split toning at all). TIP: When you’re setting the Hue and your Saturation amount is low like it is here, it’s sometimes hard to see exactly which hue you’re choosing, so hold the Option Key as you drag it, and it acts as though the Saturation amount is set to 100 which helps a lot.

Above: This is one of my favorites from the shoot, taken in the bridal suite. I switched to the 70-200mm for this one, and I’m at 70mm (I would have liked to have gotten back farther and shoot at 150mm or so, but my back was against the wall, so I couldn’t go back any farther, and didn’t want to switch to a wide angle — I wanted the look that the 70-200mm gives. I’m at f/2.8 at 1/250 of a second shutter at ISO 200).

She’s far enough away from the window that the lighting is very soft and subtle, which I really like.

Above: The “dream-like” quality is provided with a soft glow in post. While you can get a glow effect in Lightroom, it’s not awesome, so I usually use a plug-in. I’ve been using Luminar a lot more lately (a plug-in from Macphun that’s gotten really popular in the past few months), and they have a great built-in glow effect. I also have a bunch of presets that I made (that MacPhun is giving way with a promotion they’re doing), but in this case, I’m not using one of my presets — just the Soft Glow filter.

Above: I loved this hallway, and since our bride had been in ballet, she was cool with doing some dramatic poses. All natural light coming in from a nearby door.

Above: That’s me, sitting on a 1/2 height Apple box again, with the camera directly in front of me, right on the tile floor, with the 14mm lens aiming up. Once again, note the reflection on the floor.

Above: Finally, a shot with lots of light — I let the windows totally blow out again, and I intentionally overexposed the whole image for a bright, airy look. I had to go down to 1/30 of a second shutter speed to let this much light in, at f/2.8 at 200 ISO and I’m at 85mm on my 70-200mm. Again, my back is up against another wall. Would have liked to have gotten back further, and zoomed in tighter, but it’s still one of my favorites from the shoot.

Above: Taking advantage of our subject having been a ballerina, Kalebra had her strike this pose, with her positioned in front of one of the French Doors in the estate. We pulled the sheers to cover the window and somewhat control the light, but we wanted that blown out, over-exposed look — we just wanted it soft.

Hope you found any/some/part of that helpful. Can’t wait to share the whole project with you when it’s done. :)

A big thanks and shoutout to Kalebra for the styling and art direction, and for being my partner in this production from the start, and to Jen Coffin for helping with the production side big time. Thanks to Kathy Porupski for assisting on the gig, keeping things moving, and helping all the way around, and to our bride Julianna for being so patient, and easy to work with. :)

Have a great start to your week, and see ya back here tomorrow for Guest Blog Wednesday.



  1. Amazing stuff as always. I can’t wait to see the whole project when it is done! Thanks again for sharing the BTS with us – it really helps me to understand the process you go through to get these great shots. And, of course, a big shout-out to Kalebra for more awesome styling!

  2. Hi Scott,

    First off, I’m a fan of your work and own several of your books.

    I hope you don’t mind my thoughts on this shoot. I went through them as if I were looking at the results of my own shoot.

    I’m not a fan of the two shots done from the apple box, to me the skewed perspective adds an ominous look to the images.

    The shot of the bride (8129?) is great, love the surroundings, her expression, but her dress could have been draped better. If this were my shot I’d remove the wrinkles and work on that panel of the dress that points towards the camera so that it points more towards camera right.

    The closeup shot of her with the flowers is also good, love the slight upward curve to her lips, but I’d fill in the gap in the lower left of the flowers so they look more balanced. I also wish I could see more of her left eye. Last thing, the back of her left hand faces the camera and would look better turned away a bit.

    The b&w shot of her in the bedroom, I’m not a fan of the way her arms are positioned, IMHO it doesn’t look like a natural pose. I think it would be better if both arms were more symmetrical to each other. Maybe show a bridesmaid or the bride’s mother helping her with her veil. I find my eye drawn more to the bedpost than to the bride. The left side of her veil sort of points to it as does the corner of the window nearby. Even the plant and lighting on the right lead your eye towards the bedpost first then the bride.

    The color shot of her sitting on the bed, her pose looks stiff and her veil shows too much and sort of overpowers her, and she is the main subject. The ornate bedpost’s pattern of lines is distracting. I’d try to tone it down as much as I could. I think moving her to the center of the foot of the bed and moving to the left so that you could crop out the bedpost might look good. There’s the arm of a chair or something in the lower right of the shot that sticks into the frame a bit too much. The bodice of her dress is skewed so that it looks too loose on the left side.

    The shot of her on the couch is lovely, but …. I’d get rid of the funny bump of her dress that’s in her lap. The piece of furniture behind her to the left is distracting. I’d lighten that ornate panel and lower the contrast, blur it and the rest of the background a bit to help isolate her and the couch more. It’s been my longtime understanding that you want to avoid an arm or leg from over bending like her right arm is doing. A bit of Liquify on the bony part sticking up softens the effect. The base of the lamp(?) I’d clone out so there’s just window. The last thing I’d do is darken, just a bit, the lower left corner of the image where the red/white of the rug and the large area of tan carpet are, and lighten the bit of red pillow above her right shoulder.

    Again, I’m looking at these photos as if I had shot them and were editing them afterwards. Scott has his own vision, and if you get right down to it almost every photographer would shoot the various images differently and post process according to their own vision.

    I hope I’m not making enemies by posting these comments.

  3. Thank you Scott for this tutorial. You are a Legend. I have all you books and I enjoy them every time I read them. Thanks again for your time and your fantastic team for putting all these tutorials for us to learn the art of photography,
    Vladimir Zolotarev

  4. Great photos, I love the “feel” they give off. I am wondering why you would prefer to shoot far away rather than getting in close with lets say an 85mm prime lens of 50mm lens? What are the pros and cons to shooting that way?


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