March 20, 2014

Pancake Session: Shooting in Tough Locations

Happy Pancake day friends!!

Today we want to talk to you all about some go to strategies for shooting in tough locations! We hear it ALL the time in workshops & mentoring sessions that people will say “well, we don’t get weddings that look like yours…” And while it is certainly true that we have been blessed with some absolutely GORGEOUS weddings, we still find ourselves shooting in tough locations ALL the time. That never goes away! We just shoot it in a way where you wouldn’t necessarily know it. And that is such an awesome challenge to give yourself (to shoot it in a way where the viewer wouldn’t know what it really looked like) for two reasons: 1) it just really sharpens the skill set & keeps you on your toes…you become a better photographer when you have to shoot in tough situations, and 2) when you are shooting the weddings you are getting like the weddings you WANT to get, you are much more likely to attract that bride!

We posted this new J&M Editorial Shoot from Hamburg a few days back, and the reaction here and on Facebook & Instagram was absolutely overwhelming! It was one of our most popular posts to date! And I just had to laugh because ohhhhh if you guys had seen the tough situation we were shooting in THAT day!

Basically, all of the tour stops here in Germany have been taking place in ballrooms like the ones you see below. And the turnout has been absolutely AMAZING…..which is SO awesome, but it also means we are shooting in some pretty tight situations. Most of the rooms when we’re shooting look like this: tons of people, a big projector screen, and about six feet for us to move around in! There wasn’t really room for us to set up any backdrops, so what do you do when you’re in a tough situation? Make it work! So we decided to just use the projector screen. And then during the break, Justin would take our models outside for a few more shots. But using our go to strategies, we were still able to get some images that we love!

So let’s talk about what those strategies are!

1. Dimensional Light & Simplicity of Background. First & foremost, we guide our decisions by two simple principles that have never steered us wrong: look for spots with directional, dimensional light & simplicity of background. You will be amazed how much prettier, more elegant & more high end an image will appear when it shot with dimensional light and not a lot going on in the background.

2. When in doubt, go closer! Crop out edges, cut out anything in the room that isn’t working or is busy or distracting. If you don’t show it, people won’t know that it was there. Instead, focus in on what’s beautiful or emotional about the scene.

3. Use contrast to your advantage. By feathering (shifting away) your light from the background, you can create a darker background. The image you see directly below was still shot on that white projector screen, but by feathering the light away from it while still keeping it on our subject…the background starts to go a darker gray. So you have a lot of options available! You can really put this to use in an ugly hotel room. Bring your subject close to your window light and allow that contrast/fall off of light to the background make everything else go dark so that it hides what the room really looked like. If you really need to keep light off of your background. a soft box will work best because the sides are blacked out & will really help you focus the light!

4. The larger the light source, the softer your light. So a great window or a large umbrella will give you softer, more “painterly” images, while the soft box or bright sun will give you a harder, edgier light. We used both in our brand new editorial shoot from Munich that you see below & you can see the different results and that both can be really nice!

5. Shallow depth of field. If you really need to hide what’s not working about a room, using shallow depth of field is a great way to do that. This means not only shooting more wide open (for us we shoot totally wide open at 1.4 for Nikon 85-90% of the day…it takes a lot of practice to always nail your focus that wide open, but it’s worth it!), but also moving your subject away from the background and moving your feet to be in closer. Both of which will enhance the fall off of a shallow depth of field.

As always, we hope this helps! If you have any questions, just leave them in the comment box below. If you don’t have any questions, just say HI! Comments make our hearts happy AND they let us know if these posts are helping so we know to keep them coming! :) Also, enjoy our latest editorial shoot from Munich!

Happy Pancake Day!

  1. Cindy Habel

    Hi J & M! Thanks for sharing such helpful tips. And awesome images!! xo

  2. Erica Baker

    Gorgeous. Well done! Looking for blank or white space in otherwise cluttered locations is something I need to get better at. Thanks for the tips! I especially love the light in the outdoor photos of the bride – the uneven light makes for a stunning, unexpected image. Hope you are enjoying Germany!

  3. Claire Pelella

    Beautiful work!

  4. Caili

    Love Pancake day! I love the idea of feathering the light…for some reason I’ve never considered that but it makes total sense! Thanks for a great post. :)

  5. Denise Weaver

    I love this post! It so helpful! I would love to know and see what your lighting set up looked like for these shots. I like the fine art, classic look and feel of your work. It is just timeless and so beautiful.

  6. Rebecca Pierce

    So I always want to make a stack of pancakes with warm butter and drizzly syrup to eat while I read your pancake posts. Seriously. I may have to go do that and come back & re-read this. Thank you for once again sharing something so simple to incorporate but so image changing. Enjoy the rest of your Europe travels!!!

  7. Brooke

    Please keep these kinds of posts coming! They do help :) Plus it’s always nice to have lots of pretty images to look at!!

  8. Jennifer

    Love the first picture of Birgit and I wouldn’t believe that it was that background if I haven’t been there. Such a beautiful, classic, iconic portrait of a bride.

  9. Kyla

    As always your photos are stunning! I also love an explanation post with lighting info…you two rock!

  10. Jolie

    These Photos seriously….CLASSY!!! You both are inspiring!

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