Behind the Image – Wedding Gowns Sam Coran

Behind the Image – Wedding Gowns


I had the opportunity to shoot some wedding gowns for a designer client of mine, and I wanted to share with you how I went about planning and executing the shoot.

Gear Used:
Sony FE 16-35mm F/4 ZA OSS
Broncolor Move 1200L
150 Octabank

Location: Choosing a location is of course very important when it comes to accentuating the subject of your shoot. For these wedding gowns, the client and I wanted the shots to have a touch of elegance and class, so we chose the Italian-themed PAX Ristorante at the Dusit Thani Hotel. The location offered natural light from the high windows as well as a mix of available light from within the restaurant.

Light. Whenever I light my set, I always ask myself, “Do I want the natural light to be part of the image? Do I want to kill the ambient light with my flash? Or do I want to have a mix of both?” If you want to have more of the ambient light in your exposure, you need to drag the shutter (slow shutter speed). If you want to kill the ambient light with a flash, you use a fast shutter speed that is the highest sync speed of your camera, (mine is at 1/160th).

I usually shoot with the Broncolor 1200L Move pack because of its portability. You don’t need to worry about a power source, plus the 1200W power can overpower the sun at anytime. There are now HSS triggers as well, but at the time of this shoot, the HSS triggers were still in pre-production.

Modifier. I chose a large modifier for this shoot – a 150 Octabank from Broncolor. Why such a large modifier? Because when I’m on a set, with no assistants, this modifier is easy to set up and fail-proof. No matter where you place this on a set, you will always achieve a beautiful soft light. A large modifier like this will mimic the look of natural window light.

Getting set up

Camera. The A7RMII is my camera of choice. The high dynamic range is essential when working with RAW files for a shoot like this, and my clients love the quality of the images I get from this camera.

Lens. At the time of this shoot, the only available wide lens native to the Sony FE line was the 16-35 f/4 ZA OSS, and I still use it for my wide-angle shots.

Once I had my gear and location chosen and my models ready to be photographed, I needed to play around with the mix of natural light and light from my strobes.

Positioning the lights

So, I placed one light in front of my subject and one light behind. See the image above.

Nearly there!

Since the gowns are already white, however, the background light seems to eat up the subject in the images above. We must remember that the viewer will always have their eyes on the brightest part of the image. If the background is brighter than my subject, then my viewers will look at the background first, and I don’t want that to happen. So I went ahead and got rid of the background light.

People always ask me how I choose what aperture to use on set. I always set the aperture based on how I want the image to look. If I want to have a sharp image across the frame, then I set my aperture to around f8 or f11, and if I want the subject sharp and background blurred, then I aim for a wide aperture from f2.8 to1.4.

But how do I then choose my shutter speed? As I mentioned before – That depends if I want more ambient light in the scene or not. If I want more ambient, I choose a slow shutter speed, and if I want to kill the ambient with my flash, I choose a fast shutter speed.

That brings us to ISO. ISO is the last piece of the exposure triangle. If my lens can’t open any further to let more light into the sensor, then I crank up the ISO. If I want to keep my shutter speed at a certain value but still have more ambient light in my final exposure I crank up the ISO.

After a few minutes of seeing what different exposure combinations looked like, I was happy with an aperture of f5.6, a shutter speed 1/125th, and an of ISO 100.

I kept my shutter speed at 1/125th because this value still lets the ambient light from the window into the exposure as seen below. The window lights are the white rectangular shapes that you see in the final image.

Here’s the final image.

Final Look
Sony A7RII, FE 16-35mm F/4 ZA OSS @16mm F/5.6, 1/125sec, ISO-100

Since I needed to give my client a variety of images from this set, I played with the lights again to give the scene a different look. I placed the light behind my subject and got the image below.

Alternate Look 1
Sony A7RII, FE 16-35mm F/4 ZA OSS @16mm F/5.6, 1/125sec, ISO-100

I continued shooting different angles using the same thought process as described above and ended up with the final set of images below.

Alternate Look 2
Sony A7RII, FE 16-35mm F/4 ZA OSS @16mm F/5.6, 1/125sec, ISO-100

Alternate Look 3
Sony A7RII, FE 16-35mm F/4 ZA OSS @30mm F/5.6, 1/125sec, ISO-100

Alternate Look 4
Sony A7RII, FE 16-35mm F/4 ZA OSS @35mm F/5.6, 1/125sec, ISO-100

Alternate Look 5
Sony A7RII, FE 16-35mm F/4 ZA OSS @28mm F/5.6, 1/125sec, ISO-100

Alternate Look 6
Sony A7RII, FE 16-35mm F/4 ZA OSS @16mm F/5.6, 1/125sec, ISO-100

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