I make art for people while I tell their love stories. I'm fascinated with creating unique and artistic portraits that will be treasured for generations. Portrait & Wedding photography Spokane-based but available world wide.
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I thought this photo was a great chance to share a little bit of what goes on in my head when I find a scene. Sometimes the light you find is amazing and no matter what you do, you can’t go wrong. Sometimes, however, the light is either terrible or just plain non-existent. This scene was a combination of both of those latter two.

If you scroll the slider to the right, you’ll see what I saw as we ended the engagement session and were headed back to our cars. If you scroll it to the left, you’ll see what I saw in my head, and eventually brought to life with a little creative off camera flash and a quick trip to photoshop.


When I saw it, I knew I had to ask for one more (last) photo. They were happy to oblige (probably because in my excitement, it would have been like taking away a baby’s lollipop). Once they got over the fact that they were going to be posed on the corner of a public bathroom, I had to find my composition. I tried several options by my main focus was choosing a lens that would crop out the edges of the building so keep the elements to a minimum. I wanted the textures of the stone to be a strong element to help guide the viewer’s eye to the subjects. Fortunately I was able to place the camera (on a Gorillapod) on a hill to get the perspective higher). I used my 45mm tilt shift lens even though the tilt shift wasn’t important—and didn’t end up using it except for very minimally (read: accidentally). I probably would have used my 50mm, but I didn’t have it with me.

I could get in depth in to posing and positioning, but I won’t for this post. Maybe a video recreation would be a better way to show that (Let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in seeing). My goal was a really romantic image with the focus on their closeness. I told them that their only job was to stay as still as possible while I was shooting.

So lighting. I carried my flash around with a remote to snap various photos while holding the light in several positions. While I’m doing this, I try to think of it as creating building blocks that I’ll put together later to make up the final image. The settings don’t really matter much, other than trying to use a shutter speed fast enough to keep the light pollution from the ugly yellow light to a minimum. Getting this done quickly is a huge priority so I don’t want to take up time mess with the settings on the flash. To control the amount of light on each element, I’m moving farther or closer to the element on which I’m shining the light.

First I start with the important shot (faces) at a couple of different angles. The first one is safest. It lights the side of his face (enough to tell who he is) and the front of hers together.

After getting the safe one, I changed my angle a bit to get a little more dramatic. It shows less of his face, but I liked the potential of having more narrow light on her face. It also looks a little more like a light that could be hanging from the corner of the building.

After that, I just bounced around putting the light in various places that fill in the rest of the scene, playing up the texture in the rocks. I tried to keep the light in places that potentially had motivation to be real lights that would exist, so this can at least be a scene that’s plausible to naturally find. Some shots are closer, some farther, some sharper angles, some less harsh, until I felt like I had all of my puzzle pieces in place.

At this point, I felt like I had enough pieces—but that never means it’s going to go exactly as I hope. Sometimes not everything aligns well and I end up putting a couple of the safe ones together, with the main focus of getting myself and the flash masked out of the photo. However, most of the time it all matches up and I get to make exactly what exists only in my head.

Once I got to the computer, I put all the photos on different layers in photoshop, masked it all out, and painted back in what I wanted. Here’s the photos, with red outlines to show what I used from each different photo in the final version.

Finally, ending up with something pretty dang cool (or at least something that looked exactly like what I saw in my head).

One last thought I felt like explaining was that this is very similar to light painting with a video light. But there are some reasons why this was a perfect chance for a flash composite rather than a light painted scene. The biggest reason is drama. I wanted a dramatic light and quite a bit of contrast. With a flash, there’s a little more control over where the light is hitting and what direction it’s facing. In light painting a scene, more often, you’ll end up with a very even, flat light just because of the way the way the video light spreads. Also, since there was some ambient orange (ugly) light, leaving the shutter open for 8-10 the seconds it would take to paint the scene, would let that light become a piece of the photo that I didn’t want.

Once again, here’s the shot. Many thanks to Tina & Derek for indulging me one more photo during their engagement session.


Nov 15, 2012
posted in Teaching with 1 Comments

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Video by Logan Westom