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Portraits of the Bride

Lesson 38 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

Portraits of the Bride

Lesson 38 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

38. Portraits of the Bride


Class Trailer

Day 1




Evolution of Susan's Style


Branding and Identity


Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned


Day 2


Introduction to Gear & Equipment


Lenses Part 1


Lenses Part 2




Day 3


Seeing the Scene


Seeing the Scene Q&A


Rhythm and Repetition


Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds


Rule of Odds and Double Exposures


Day 4


Intro to Business


Day 5


Financing Your Business


Day 6


Q&A Days 1-4


Day 7


Pricing Calculator


Day 8


Package Pricing


Day 9




Day 10


Vendor Relationships & Referrals


Day 11


Marketing w Social Media


Day 12


Booking the Client


Day 13


The Pricing Conversation


Day 14


Turn A Call Into a Meeting


Day 15


In Person Meeting


Day 16


Wedding Planning


Day 17


Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down


Day 18


Engagement Session Details


Day 19


Engagement Session On Location


Day 20


Wedding Details & Tips


Day 21


Detail Photos Reviewed


Day 22


Bridal Preparation


Day 23


Bridal Preparation Photo Review


Day 24


Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios


Day 25


Q&A Days 5-11


Day 26


First Look Demo


Day 27


First Look Examples


Day 28


Portraits of the Bride


Day 29


Portraits of the Bride and Groom


Family Portraits Demo


Family Formal Examples


Wedding Ceremony Demo


Day 30


Wedding Ceremony Examples


Different Traditions and Faiths


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples


Wedding Introductions


First Dance


Wedding Toasts


Parent Dances


Wedding Party


Reception Events


Nighttime Portraits


Nighttime Portraits with Found Light


Post Wedding Session Demo


Post Wedding Session Critique


Wedding Day Difficulties


Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure


Post Workflow - Culling Shots


Post Workflow - Outsourcing


Q&A Days 12-23


Post Workflow - Gear


Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing


Managing Your Studio


Post Wedding Marketing


Client Care


Pricing for Add-Ons


The Album Process


Balancing Your Business with Life


Post Wedding Problems


Parent Complaints


Unhappy Customers


Working with an Assistant


Assistant Q&A


Lighting with an Assistant


Q&A Days 24-30


Lesson Info

Portraits of the Bride

Today what we're going to talk to you about our portrait portrait of all sizes, shapes, variations, bride alone bride and groom together camera wear more artistic everything that goes into the portrait section of the day. We will not, however, today be covering family formals, but if you come back tomorrow, you'll see how those air done. Now. I know that in the wedding sections that we've done so far, we've had a video that's corresponded. You've been able to see the first look you've been ableto watch the bride getting ready, but we don't have a video for the portrait session today and there are two reasons for that one, because, as you saw yesterday, the timing of the day really cut into our portrait session. They were able to see each other for the first time, but we only had five minutes to document the bride and groom together before we had to move on and get over to the ceremony space the bride and groom because the weather was so bad because it was raining and because it had bee...

n the bride's dream to have her pictures taken in washington square park, we decided to do a post wedding session. So you will get to see me shoot portrait's of blair and jeremy together, you will get to see me work with them in the bright, blazing sunshine it's just not going to happen right now. However, we have a lot to talk about in terms of portrait, so before we get too far afield, let's step back over to blair in germany's wedding day, and I'm going to show you what you didn't see between getting her ready and going out to the first look to see each other for the first time. So if you'll recall from what you've seen on blair in jeremy's wedding day so far, this is the room that she got ready in. If you watch during the getting ready section, this is the door that she stood in front of for part of her getting ready that curtain off the stage left is where I placed her when she got into her dress for the first time and stepping back in time. This is how the chair was seated when she opened jeremy's gift from her at the getting ready a portion of the day what's going on here in the picture that you're seeing, not only am I in the window sill, but we'll get to that later, it was right after she opened the gift, you can see the gift right there on the window sill the makeup artist stepped in to touch up her makeup really briefly, and I took that opportunity tow hop up in the window sill take a look at what was going on in the space and prepare myself for how I wanted to shoot the portrait's of blair alone in that room before we left. So when I got up in the window sill and I look down, you can see that I have my eighty five millimeter, one point eight on my nikon d four this is the view that I'm getting, so all I was doing here, I was partly taking a picture of the makeup artist touching up her arm, but I was also partly getting an indication of what that scene would look like when I did what I'm about to do next. So here we have me in a window sill and a bride on the floor. I want to take a second talk to about this setup of this before we talk about the actual technical aspects of how the photograph I was taken, I almost always attempt to take a picture of my clients in the room that they get ready in before they leave to head out to either the first look or the ceremony now it doesn't always happen this way. Sometimes things were running late and we don't get a chance to do this sometimes I could tell that the bride would be way too uncomfortable to sit on the floor and sometimes it's just not goingto work you have to, since on each wedding day, what will and will not work with the individual clients that you're working with and for various multiple reasons, this portrait doesn't work for everybody, however, it's usually a logistical reasons why not it's usually either because we're running late or because she doesn't want to sit on the floor in her dress. I try very hard to explain to my clients that when they do sit down on the ground, they're not sitting on their dress were actually flipping their dress out and they're sitting flat on the ground. So what I've done here is I asked blair if she would mind take a seat on the floor and I asked her to sit down. You're going to sit on one hip just to give you a brief example here on the sofa that I'm sitting on she's going to sit on one hip with her legs tucked up next to her, then she's going to put her hand down and just lean on her hand. Now, when a client does that, their inclination is to sink into their shoulder, so what I'm going to tell her to do is when you lean on your hand, I want you to lean towards me it pushes her upper body towards you. I joked that you might feel like you're on the prow of a ship, but you're not and then you take that extra hand or whatever hand you're not leaning on and just drape it across your waist. Don't hug your body, don't stick it here, just gently lay it in your lap that way I have a natural movement from their hand as it goes across their body. I'm standing in the window because I want to be higher than my subject I want to be shooting down onto my subject and I'm muting using my eighty five millimeter one point four almost always at one point four for this type of shot and then reason why I am up shooting down it's simply put because it's a very flattering angle to photograph a woman whether you're one hundred pounds or three hundred pounds it's a really beautiful angle I'm shooting at one point four I want one very specific part of the picture which is her eyes to be in focus and then I want everything else as she travelled down the body towards the ground to become increasingly out of focus in the distance so you can see once I've got everything set up, you can see precisely where I'm standing. You can see precisely where she's sitting, and it looks exactly like this. I'm at one point eight for this one, she was a little wiggly, so I needed a little bit of room in case she moved just a little bit. This sun is hitting her face, coming in through the window, traveling down her body, ending up in the shadow areas in the background because her body is blocking the back of the dress. The sunlight is falling off a zit streams down her body, so you have that gradual fall off both in focus because I'm at one point eight and because the light is actually falling off of her, I have them look up a name, and every client is a little bit different. Some are uncomfortable, some are nervous in front of the camera, I myself, I'm generally pretty much a hysterical wreck in front of the camera, but everybody exhibits their comfort, being in front of the limbs in a different way, and usually all start off with the picture that proceed or follows. This one is an image of just her eyes, and what I'm looking for here is to show off the beautiful makeup, her beautiful skin and her peaceful expression issues waiting teo either go see her groom for the first time are to head off to the ceremony. This is also a really great shot to start with because it it breaks the client in this is usually the first point in time in the day when I photographed her with her being very aware that I'm photographing her she's not getting ready there's not a lot of things going on it's just me and her looking right at each other, so I'll start off simply by saying, lower your chin, lower your eyelashes and just take a second and breathe, and then I'm able to shoot down on her. I've got the focal point of my camera directly on top of her eyelashes because when you are at one point four as we've spoken about several times if you focus and recompose it all at one point four you've lost focus on the part of the image that you want to be sharp. It is such a narrow littlefield that if you even move the camera at all, you've lost your focal point, so the focal point is directly on her eyes. I'm exposing for the skin on her face, letting everything else dark and down in the background and then I fire and then I say, you know what? From there take a deep breath, let it out, open your eyes and just look at me I know what I'm not expecting her to smile. I'm not expecting her to do anything. I want that lovely, unguarded moment when she makes eye contact with the camera for the first time and from there all, then try to get her to smile, I'll say so go ahead and give me a smile, and usually they smile at you like this because they're uncomfortable, and I understand. So I'll say, you know, we're about to go see jeremy for the first time. How do you feel? That's? A real smile, not just smile at me. I'm going to ask you something, that's going to elicit the response that I want from you, so because we only had a very, very, very brief time with blair before we left. Those portrait ce were documented in maybe two minutes before we got up, we hustled out the door. I wanted to show you some examples from other weddings and other wedding days where I was able to photograph similar situations and show you how all that shook out. So stepping back through the years of my work, I wanted to show you side by side the way I used to photograph these sessions and then the way I photograph them now. This is all the way back in about two thousand for this holly and hayes's wedding. I still remember it very, very well, and I just want to start off by saying that I don't want you to think that I'm making fun of my former work, and I don't want you to think that I am saying that there's anything wrong with my early clients? I still like these photographs. I still think they're beautiful. I still remember what it was like to be there in the room that she was in and exactly what it looked like, an exactly what she was feeling when I took this photograph. However, that doesn't mean that as the years go on and I refine my technique that showing a before and showing it after is being disrespectful of the before, so I just wanted to make that very, very clear. But if you take a look at these two images side by side now, I understand that technology changes. I'm not using the same camera system anymore. The sensors are getting better. The iso performance is getting better, but the technical difficulties between the picture on the left and the picture on the right remain the same no matter what camera, body or what linds, I'm shooting with the image on the left, I'm shooting it two point eight. The image on the right is at one point four you can see a very clear difference in the image on the right. Her eyes are where your eyes go immediate, only the image on the left you go to her face, but it doesn't draw focused her, her eyes and the way it does in the image. On the right. I'm shooting the image on the left with a fifty millimeter lens and the image on the right within eighty five millimeter lens. I know a lot of people love their fifty millimeter. I know you love that fifty one point too. I know a lot of photographers say that that is their favorite lens. You don't like that lens. I don't like that focal length, it's not wide and it's not long it's just kind of in the middle and when you go vertical and you shoot someone's face with it, I don't think it's terrific ly flattering. I think that the eighty five has an extraordinarily flattering linds for that sort of portrait. The difference between these two as well? I'm directly on the same plane as the bride in the image on the left, I'm shooting straight into her face, it's a really pretty picture of her. But when you look at the image on the right that I'm slightly above and I'm shooting slightly down it's a little more flattering both of these women have very beautiful fine features they're both very slim and lovely and elegant women however, I do believe that the picture on the right is a little more flattering because of the angle at which I shot it at the other differences the lighting in the image the image on the left I haven't really done a very good job of putting her face in a light that will allow the light to really illuminate her eyes and in the image on the right I've put her close enough to the light source that the light really does get in her eyes and brighten them up another example image on the left image on the right the image on the left was taken in two thousand for the image on the right was taken in two thousand and thirteen the image on the left again while there is nothing wrong with it and I am still proud of that image and I'm showing it today because I am thrilled to put my name on it I feel like as your work steps through the years you have the ability to refine it and to show how I've refined by work through the years will hopefully help you do the same with yours the image on the left fifty millimeters now I have slightly improved things a little bit, I'm a little bit above katie, and I'm shooting down on her face a bit, but still at a fifty millimeter. It isn't a splattering is the photograph of crystal on the right, which was shot with an eighty five millimeter the image on the left, I have not been conscious of my background, she's sitting on a bench, the line of the bench is going through her neck it's kind of distracting it pulls focus away from her eyes and in the image on the right. I've been very careful to keep my background clean and uncluttered and not distract from the focus of the image, which is her face again. I've done a pretty decent light, pretty decent job, lighting up both the image on the left and the image on the right. They both have visible catch lights in the eyes. They both have a lot of light and warmth in their faces. The image on the left was shot at four point five. The image on the right was shot at one point four the reason why you can see the detail in her dress so strongly, and the veil, and every feature on her face and her ears, and the bench that she's sitting on in the image on the left is because I am at four point five the image on the right becomes an image about crystal's eyes, which is what I'm really going for when I take thes portrait another example very similar looking woman not the same woman this misty over here on the left, one of the most delightful people I've ever had the opportunity to know and I'm trying for something a little brighter and a little lighter again at fifty millimeters f two point five however, with the brightness in the back of this image and the way everything is seating your eyes don't really go to the right place. I haven't done a great job of lighting up her eyes while it's still a beautiful portrait of her. I have been able to refine the technique over the years, allison and the image on the right is just sitting on a floor in the loews hotel in philadelphia, pennsylvania. The darkness in the background is just the carpet on the floor can see a little bit of her dress, but I've gotten slightly above her. The window is behind me the window was coming in and illuminating her face and illuminating her eyes and I'm shooting down on her with my eighty five one four at one four with the focal point directly on her I I would never shoot a groom this way I believe that photographing down on a gentleman kind of emasculating him a little bit so when I do shoot men, I shoot them straight on, I don't stand up and look down on them, so here is just some more examples of the current way that I choose to shoot these head shots. This is what I love doing now. That doesn't mean that in the years to come that this is definitively how I'm going to shoot them for the rest of my life, I will continue to refine, I will continue to improve, and maybe somewhere down the road I'll find something completely different that I'm not even doing right now. But the image on the left is when I had corin closing her eyes was photographing down on her eyelashes eighty five one for at one for a focal point directly on her eye. You can see the ex if data below her bridesmaids were cracking jokes, and she laughed. Most of the time. When I'm photographing the bride alone before I ask her to sit on the ground, I will ask any parents that are in the room and any bridesmaids there in the room to leave the reason why I'm doing that is multi fold for one, I don't want the distraction, I don't want a chorus of gaggle ing women going, oh my god, you look so amazing! Oh, my god! And like pulling out their iphones. And while it's wonderful and I love that they have people there to support them, I'm trying to elicit a very quiet moment from the bride a very sweet moment and all of the noises in the background or just one other thing that's going to be very distracting to her during this portion of the day second of all, because I am about to ask her to sit on the ground the second a bride's maid or the second her mother says, oh my gosh, sit on the ground you're going to get dirty the bride who has known her mother her whole life is going to trust her mother about that instead of the photographer that she hired for the day who says no, no, you're not gonna get dirty you're gonna be fine all of a sudden want somebody else has introduced a seed of doubt in her head she's not going to sit on the ground anymore. So if I get everybody out of the room when I very authoritatively but kindly ask her to sit on the ground, she is going to do it boring thes air two completely different moments of the exact same scene photographing ashley on her wedding day in new york the image on the left is right after I photographed her with her eyes closed when I said, just open your eyes and look right at me the image on the right is when I try to elicit a reaction from her so we're about to go see your almost husband for the first time how do you feel? And that was her genuine reaction it's very hard for a lot of people to smile directly at the camera with no reason to smile, so trying to elicit a response like that really does help get a natural reaction out of your clients and again, same thing here it's the same repeating principal over and over and over again clients face to the window I'm near the window either up in the window sill standing on a radiator standing on the chair of the light isn't my back coming in and striking their face falling off into shadow as it travels down the body. The eighty five millimeter one point four at one point four shooting directly down onto their faces and this is something that I have been doing over and over and over again wedding after wedding after wedding now I try to not do the same thing at every wedding I goto I try to be open minded I try to be seeing new things and seeing different things, but there are certain staples that I go at kind of over and over again and that one of them always generally is the photograph of the bride sitting on the ground looking up towards the camera eyes closed eyes open whatever facial expression I can get out of them the great thing about the eighty five one point four is it is the lens that I use for these portrait it also proves itself very useful in other portions of the day as well so it isn't a lens that I just have in the bag just to do these portrait's if you saw a shooting the getting ready it is the lens that I use quite a bit during that time of the day as well so let's talk a little bit more about bride alone photographs because obviously the photograph of the bride that you take while she's sitting on the ground smiling up at your camera isn't the only photograph that you're hopefully going to take of her throughout the day now after I've taken the picture of her sitting down on the ground or ah nature on the better wherever I'm capable of sitting her looking up at me when I have my back to the window and she's facing me with her face in the light I'll often leave her in the same space and then I will reorient myself so if you look at the picture of kate on the left you can clearly see that the light is coming this way that's because kate is still facing the window that I just photographed her in in all of those images that you just saw just like that the only thing that happened there was I switched from one point eight two two point five or I'm sorry two point eight to get a little bit more focus in the image and I came around and approached it from a different angle, so instead of having the sun at my back the way I would if I was standing up in the window now I've got the sun coming from my side it's still striking the client's face in the same way that it was in the image prior, I'm simply observing it from a different angle, which gives me another shot of the same scene, the same lighting setup, but a different take on it the same thing here in the image of corrine to the right, this is the exact same principle of everything that I was doing before except this is actually taken in a steak house in center city philadelphia we did some portrait's inside this is actually in a stairwell leading from one floor to another very dark stairwell. Amy is standing towards the top. The light is coming in from off stage left over here striking her directly on the face and I'm coming at it from the side, so if I'm here and amy is here for me to be photographing her, the lightest coming this way and I make posing for the light on her cheeks I'm not attempting to blow my highlights too terribly but also I've put her in that light deliberately and I'm exposing deliberately so that her face is perfectly exposed in the rest of the image darkens down oh he could castle in huntington, new york I'm it three point five because whitney was moving her hands around a lot I didn't necessarily want their hands to be one hundred percent completely and focus but I didn't want the on ly focus to be on her face we're doing some portrait's my assistant's kind of flu thing and rearranging her veil because her dress which was beated and extraordinary the vale kept catching on it so we had to keep lifting it away from her all that's happening here she is actually standing in the front door of the building right over here the light that you can come see coming in from over here is coming in from an open door that's right here and she's simply standing right inside the door the door is here whitney is here the door is here I am here darkening down as the light falls off inside the building and this is the exact same scenario simply photographed vertically I'm still using my seventy two two hundred it's still close to two hundred in the image on the left I've chosen to focus in more closely on whitney so that the focus of the images is her not her veil in her, but her. And then all I did was state in the exact same focal range. It's still a f three point five, still in a four hundredth of a second, and I simply took a physical step closer to her to focus on her hands. So it's a really wonderful thing when you can take a moment that's happening and take a portrait and then pull another image out of it. It goes backto working the scene which we've been talking about since day one. This is sylvia on her wedding day. You saw her during the first look section in her fantastic stick fur coat when she saw her husband for the first time in front of their apartment building, she's simply sitting, waiting for her ceremony to start she's kind of hidden away in a room at the green building in the guana section of brooklyn. The light is coming in from a window up and off here to the left, striking directly on her face. But it was so bright over here on that side of the image that it it was drawing focus away from the bride's face, which was beautiful, which I really wanted to focus on so what's going on over here on the left side of the frame is I started to close the door. The door leading into the room that she was sitting in, I pulled it three quarters of the way closed. You could actually see the frosted glass on the door kind of see the door handle a little bit, and that became a nice natural distraction from the window that I wasn't able to eliminate from the photograph any other way. Now, you might ask why tonight, just shoot vertically or if I didn't, I shoot closer to her. I wanted to show that she was sitting in the room all by herself, so that necessitated leaving some additional space in the image, but it was distracting, so I found something to block the distraction and make the image more powerful. I'm shooting my seventy two, two hundred at seventy I physically did not have any room to go back any further than that at two point eight, because I want to see a little bit of the focus of the polka dots in her dress and the flowers in her lap and off we go nice and easy, the exact same principles apply. If we're looking for light, it doesn't have to be from a window. It can also be from the sun this is anya on her wedding day, she is a photographer herself, and shooting photographers is an absolute dream. She is delightful, as is her husband well, we were out in the forest near font hill castle and the light was coming down through the trees I made sure that I put her directly in the shaft of light that was coming through the trees exposed for her face. It darkened down the rest of the scene I'm shooting at f four because I want a large a portion of her and her body and her dress in focus I'm shooting that instead of two point eight and I'm all the way out at two hundred millimeters so that I can compress her off of her background again same exact principles in the image before where I was in the forest with anya looking for the light to come through the trees. I'm with carol here in an alleyway in princeton, new jersey, waiting for the light to come through to buildings so we're not in a forest were in an alleyway the light isn't coming between trees is coming between buildings and this light source is about two feet wide it's simply streaming in between these two buildings that are incredibly close together you can see on the wall over here to the right just how narrow that light source is we were walking from one location to another to do their portrait and I saw this light down this alley and I said, hey, do you mind stopping here so that we could make a picture I put her out in the light I put the veil around her shoulders I instructed her to play with the veil and I said just look anywhere you want other than directly into the light because I'm not crazy I'm not trying to blind my clients and when I exposed for the skin on the apples of her cheeks which is what I'm exposing for I want her face to be perfectly exposed. The already dark alleyway became even darker because I am an opera to a priority shooter that simply meant that I brought my exposure compensation dial down by about a stop and a half if you were a manual shooter you would simply adjust your settings accordingly and here is the exact same scene just a different representation asked her to lift her face up into the sun close your eyes and just take a moment to herself to relax still in f four still it two hundred millimeters an eight hundredth of a second it was pretty darn bright out there and my aperture priority necessitated that I roll my exposure compensation down by about two stops because if I'm trusting the internal meter of my camera in a situation like this it's always going to be fooled it's not going to know what to do it's going to see the very dark background in the very bright light on her face that's going to attempt to equalize and if you trust the camera in that instance you're going to end up with a lot of raising of the shadows in the background but then you're totally going to blow all of the highlights on your clients face so when I look at an image like this which is an image that I loved to shoot if you're looking at it from an old school technical standpoint my history graham looks like a disaster but that's not what I'm going for I'm not looking for a perfect bell curve every single time when you're working with bright shadow and our bright light in dark shadow you can't have the light without the dark and that we'll both fool your camera and completely annihilate hey you're history ram so same thing just working a scene light coming from the side this is olivia in the hotel monaco amusingly enough the exact same room that blair got ready and you might recognize the curtains and the dog on the chair it was after I had photographed down on her her address was so snug that I couldn't sit her on the ground and that does tend to happen with more fitted gowns so I put her in the chair I climbed up in the window sill in shot down on her but then before moving olivia out of the way I moved around to the side so I could shoot directly into her with the light coming in from off camera left eighty five f two over here on the left f too so that a little bit mohr is in focus eighty five one four in the image on the right and all I've done is physically moved myself closer to my subject so now while we still have our bride by herself sometimes we do have wonderful opportunities to photograph her outside in the sunshine and now this doesn't always happen maybe it's not sunny maybe we don't have time but I will always try to pull the bride alone when we're photographing the bridegroom together on the wedding day if we are out in the bright sunshine so that I could get a photograph of her by herself with the sun streaming through I've actually had clients tell me that they've looked at my work and bought a long veil simply so I could photograph them in the veil in the sunshine and that is something that is always extraordinarily flattering and a little unbelievable but it also goes to show that my client's do study my work they do know what I'm doing and they tend to plan accordingly which is incredibly flattering this is christine on her wedding day this is it mallard island in man a hawk in new jersey and this was while I was photographing her and her husband together after their ceremony the light was beautiful I had an opportunity to pull christine by herself I'm shooting it at four I want her whole face to be in focus for an image like this I'm a two hundred millimeters so that I can from compress her off of the background, and then I'm going off of the same principle that I always go off of when trying to shoot an image like this. I talked about this in the early days of this thirty days that it was my husband, cliff mountain, who really helped me refine the way that I shot in this harsh sunlight, but I was able to see it before what I was never able to work with it, and I've said this before, but I'm going to say it again when you're outside by yourself when you're not photographing something when you're just wandering around and you're looking at things, have you ever stepped into the bright sun toe, look at something and realize that you couldn't look at it without doing this over your eyes? But the second you put a shade over your eyes, all of a sudden you could look at your subject clearly it's the exact same principle with your limbs in the sunshine. If you have too much sun coming into your lens, you're going to get the flare you're going to get the ghosting you're going to get the low contrast, you have to keep your limbs out of the sun and for me, what that means is all either stand in the shadow of a tree or I'll have my assistant hold a reflector not to reflect light on the clients, but to keep the light from getting in my limbs. Now with christine here there's a little haze, you can see that the sun is very low in the sky, so I was able to let it peek into my lens a little bit it's way morph forgiving later in the day in the later hours of the day as it softer and gentler and coming down in the sky. That is the same principle that cliff taught me way back in two thousand whatever of keeping your clients between yourself and the sun so the sun is clearly behind christine it's shining down on her, you can see it burning through the veil and I'm directly on the other side of her are there blown out pieces of the veil? Yes, there are you don't have to tell me that I I know that could I have fix that by filling her in with a reflector or popping a little flash? Yes, I absolutely could have and I choose to not do that not because I don't know what I'm doing now because I don't have any idea of how to use a flash or I'm a natural light photographer, which is ridiculous it's because I like the effect that it's producing, I know the rules that I'm breaking out, I'm breaking them on purpose and again, as with every image that I've talked about portrait wife so far, I'm taking my exposure off of her face, whether that means taking a physical light meter and popping it next to her cheek, or whether it means that you've been doing it so long that you just know your exposure inside your head. Either way, you come at it, get a good exposure and run with it. Manual aperture, priority external light, meter, whatever it takes to get your exposure. This is a woman who I continue to work with to this day a creative live instructor herself, miss melanie duncan, who is one of the absolute, brightest and sharpest entrepreneurial minds that I've ever met. I had the incredible fortune of photographing her wedding, her husband's sister's wedding and now a lot of the promotional images for the many companies that they run. This is in napa at a really incredible estate, and you can see that I'm following the same principles that I was talking about before keeping my client between myself and the sun, which means that you can literally draw a straight line from the sun behind melanie teo it hitting her body to it, reaching me and I am shaving myself in one of the one of the shadows it's falling on the ground from the foliage, you can see the ex if data at the bottom, you can see that the same principles of two hundred millimeters three point five or four point oh, keeping my eyes so low, keeping my shutter speed manageable when I'm shooting with my seventy two two hundred millimeter. What I'm really trying to dio especially if I'm outside, especially if people are moving a lot, is to not let my shutter speed drop below a four hundred of a second. This is bryant park in new york. There were approximately eight point nine thousand billion people in the park that day, but the bridegroom wanted to take some pictures outside it's, also about one o'clock in the afternoon, which is basically the worst conditions all the way around that you could possibly imagine, but I still wanted to make something beautiful for them, so I chose to position her here where the flowers came in at the bottom and the flowers came in at the top, leading right back into her face. I dropped down and shot up so that I could have the dark backgrounds of the trees in the distance, and I had her tip her face down just a little bit, so there were no distracting shadows under her eyes. The dropping down and the shooting up here really allowed me to eliminate all of the distracting elements that were in the background same thing here and again we're still looking at the same principles over and over and over again draw a direct line from the sun to you with your client in the middle a long lens, beautiful compression off of the background, interesting elements in the rest of the image that give it a sense of time and place. Now sometimes I'll break my own rules. I've shown you this image so far in the thirty days this is one of my favorite images that I made this past year this is sarah at her wedding in cape cod now this is shot at twenty four millimeters if I had shot this at seventy at the seventy, two hundred at two hundred, the compression of this would have lifted her off of the background would have compressed down the scene, but I didn't want to compress the scene. I wanted sara toe look tiny in a vast space, so instead of always wanting to pull my subject off of the background, sometimes I want to go wide to do the absolute opposite a fact which is what I've done here and sometimes it's a matter of looking for sun when it's really hard to find this isn't holly hedges state it was a very dark day but what I did here was I put megan in an area that was less dark than somewhere else, so you know how when you're outside and it's it's cloudy and it's kind of crummy and there's no directional light if you look at a tree standing in the middle of the park, it's still cast a shadow if I introduce that shadow is the foreground of my image and put my client outside of the shadow once I exposed properly it's going to look like they're in the sun even though they're not in the sun they are in a brighter area than they could have been in, so this pushes your eyes straight to megan straight through the door and straight through the light that isn't really light on the top of her head and then again, you have moments that are just cheating. This is jenna outside of the crystal plaza and livingston new jersey, drawing that line between the sun through your client to me f for two hundred millimeters letting the sun come into my limbs because it's lower in the day and much more forgiving when that happens, opening back open to a twenty four millimeter and having anna lift her face up into the setting sun I didn't have that much room to take this photograph and I wanted it to seem vast I wanted her to see little in a big space and so opting for that twenty four millimeters makes the scene looks even more vast than it isthe, and not everything is shooting straight down on a bride. Sometimes I will take the opportunity afforded to me shoot directly at her or to catch her in a moment when she doesn't know that I'm photographing her. Christie was getting ready to get on a carriage with her new husband and kind of take a ride around the property here, and she was getting her veil out of the foliage. Now part of me, the kind humanitarian part of me wanted to step in and help her get the bailout of the foliage, but the rest of me that wanted to take a really great photograph of her kind of let her work with it for a little bit on her own because the light was so beautiful because she was in the right spot for me. I was able to document this moment and catch the light in her veil, and then sometimes I break my own rules entirely, and I shoot it at four with my eighty five millimeter and I shoot straight into the sun. So you find the way that you like to document these portrait ce you get a strong grasp on how you're doing it. Technically, you learn how to create an exposure in your head without even thinking about it. You do whatever you need to do in the meantime to get to that exposure, even if it involves a light meter, even if it involves trusting your camera and then refocusing and re calculating. If if you're not quite getting the same exposure that you want. But everything that I've talked about with the son and the one point for the eighty five and everything. Sometimes I completely do something different. If I see something that really inspires me. So when you're armed with all of the technical knowledge that you have to be able to make something beautiful, in any scenario, you can run with it. And if you see something different, if you see a light source that maybe you haven't tried before, you haven't tried it this way before. This will let you do it in a completely new manner.

Class Materials

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Quicksheet Inside Guide (one large PDF file)
Quicksheet Inside Guide (zip file of individual PDF pages)
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Ratings and Reviews

Misty Angel

oh Susan, you are AWESOME!! I am not a wedding photographer (despite dipping my toe in this intimidating pool for one of my dearest friends), I shoot all forms of portraits and love sports too! Your '30-Days' has been the single most influential and educational moments since I started my venture into photography in 2009! THANK YOU! Your honesty, directness, bluntness, humor and vulnerability makes these 30-Days the most worthwhile time spent away from actual shooting; while simultaneously is the most inspirational motivator to push you out there to practice these ideas/techniques! #SShostestwiththemostest You raise the bar in this industry, not just with wedding photographers, but with all genres of photography! I wanted this course to learn about shooting and thought, great... I'll get a little bit of the business side too... OMG! I got it ALL! I'm dying! What an awesome investment in myself, my business and in YOU! PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! I love your new Dynamic Range, I feel that it is a wonderful extension of the work you do with Creative Live! I watch you EVERY DAY, every morning... I know that I continue absorbing your wisdom through repetition! I don't want to be you, I want to rise to your level! So thank you for the inspiration, motivation and aspiration! Keep on being REAL, its what we love about you! We embrace your Chanel meets Alexander McQueen-ness! :) Thank you for stepping into this educational space and providing us with your lessons learned so we can avoid the negative-time investment making mistakes... we are drinking your virtual lemonade!! HA! Like the others, whatever wisdom you offer in this medium, I will be jumping at the opportunity to learn from you! THANK YOU!


All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.


Wow. What a super, comprehensive, entertaining, informative course. Well done. I've taking a lot of photography classes and this one is definitely top of the list. Susan Stripling was very well prepared (and great job by the CreativeLive Team too). Terrific course. Susan shared so much. Thank you! P.S. Love the CL boot camp courses.

Student Work