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This elopement was very special for me – it was my first of 2022 after 3 months of minimal shooting. I’d been doing a lot of reflection over winter honing in on areas I could improve upon. One of those areas was being more confident in directing a scene and allowing the artist within me to come through. I’d been inspired by watching lots of movies over the winter and knew this would be the perfect place to create beautiful cinematic images for my couple.

They got ready in a stunning old country mansion in Glencoe and were so welcoming, making me feel right at home when I arrived. I always arrive 20-30 minutes earlier than I tell them, so I can chill out for a bit, which I find helps them relax. I also take time to scout where I am and find ideas for framing and composition where the best light is. Their bedroom had huge windows with wooden shutters looking out to the mountains. I knew this would make the perfect location for getting ready shots because I could use the wooden shutters to control the light and create dramatic, minimal getting ready shots.

I shut all of the wooden shutters apart from one, which created a small shaft of light. Then, I simply asked the groom to stand in front of the window at an angle, get ready as he would normally, and to occasionally gaze out of the window. Then, I exposed for the highlights and photographed him from the side, which cast the background into darkness.

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How did you direct your subject(s)?

When I arrived, the groom was already fully dressed, but I always like to tell the whole story, so asked if he’d be cool to take his jacket and waistcoat off and then put them back on near the window. He was more than happy to do this.

What did you say?

Okay, so stand here with your body facing the corner of this window frame and slowly put your jacket on as your normally would, doing up the buttons. Look up to the mountains outside every now and then and I’ll snap away

How did you compose your image?

It’s so easy to rush into shooting and I’ve definitely fallen foul of doing this in the past. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and had a very clear image in my mind of the shoot I wanted, so knew I needed to just take my time with it. I positioned the groom against the wooden shutters, framed slightly left of centre with his arm on the left vertical rule-of-thirds line, giving more space to the side of the image he was looking and where the light was coming from. Composition plays such an important role in the feel of an image and giving more space to the direction he was looking at helped convey a sense of anticipation of what was to come. I wanted the image to be very minimal, so I underexposed this shot by 1 stop to remove any background distractions.

How and what did you focus on?

I focussed on the groom’s eye using single-point autofocus. I usually use Eye autofocus, but it wasn’t working at this angle, so I took my time to make sure it was in focus using the preview button on my camera afterward.

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How did you use the light in your image?

I wanted to achieve a cinematic, minimal look, so I turned off all of the lights in the bedroom, closed all of the doors and curtains, and all of the wooden shutters apart from one, so I only had one light source. This allowed me to throw the background into darkness. I love to use a single light source where I can, so scouted the room beforehand to find the best spot for this.

What was the gear & settings you used?

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Camera

Sony A7 III

Lens

Sigma Art 85mm f/1.4

Filter

None

Other

None

Shutter Speed

1/250

Aperture

f/1.4

ISO

160

White Balance

5927

How did you edit your image & what did you use?

The editing required a little more work than usual because the brown background shutters were reflecting the light. After I had reduced the exposure and shadows quite a bit, I needed the background a little darker. So, I used the new LR feature to select my subject, then inverted it and reduced the exposure and shadows some more. I also used a gradient filter to darken the left side of the image even more. A couple of the vertical shutters were still slightly visible, which were distracting, so I used the heal tool to get rid of them in Lightroom. Then, I used a brush to gently paint in some light on the groom’s suit and face and some more in the direction the light was coming from, so it looked natural. Lastly, I warmed it up a bit using the white balance.

This is a lot more work than I’d normally do on an edit, but it needed it to achieve the minimal look I was after.

Software Used

Adobe Lightroom Classic

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What challenges did you face?

The wooden shutters were light-coloured on the inside, so reflected some of the light, meaning I couldn’t throw them into complete darkness in-camera as I would have liked.

How did you solve them?

I underexposed by a stop and knew I would need to use tools in Lightroom to finish off the look. In hindsight, I probably could have underexposed it even more.

Can you share any last thoughts or advice?

The biggest thing I learned from this image is not to be afraid of pushing an edit to achieve the result you’re after. One of the biggest challenges I faced when I first started was how to use light and sometimes got lost in the technicalities. Once I’d practiced and learned how to direct light, I was able to relax and be confident that I could create great shots for my couples regardless of the location.

David Conaty

Shooting since

2021

Current Home

Isle of Skye

Website

Instagram

Hi, I’m David, an elopement photographer based on the Isle of Skye, and I’ve been shooting elopements in the UK since 2021. It all started when I took up photography as a way to spend more time with my Dad when he got ill. When he passed away, I inherited all of his gear and wanted to make the most of it. And, well, here we are. I found comfort in photography in a way I never thought possible and it has allowed me to express the creative side of myself which had become lost. I’m fascinated by human connection and feel honoured to peek into the lives of my couples for their elopement, telling their story in a way that reflects their true spirit. I’m a bit of an introvert, a lover of wild and epic landscapes, and a sentimental romantic at heart. In my spare time, you’ll find me in full on Dad mode to my twin girls, Eisa and Reina, who keep me on my toes!

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