dramatic churh wedding light beam dan jenson photography
  • calm
  • Light Streak
  • Wide
  • Rule of thirds
  • off center
  • Natural Light
  • Natural
  • Moody
  • Light Rays
  • Church
  • Leading lines
  • Indoor
  • holding each other
  • Harsh Light
  • Dark
  • Dancing
  • Window Light

The story behind the image

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This photo was taken after a long traditional Latin Mass Ceremony in a church in Austria. The ceremony itself was a very special experience and the couple was one of the most interesting couples I have ever worked with. Due to the amount of incense during the long ceremony, a big light beam appeared in the back of the church. We changed the original plan and decided to take a couple of portraits in the church right after the ceremony to use the dramatic light. When this couple booked they told me that their wedding is going to be very special and they also wish their photos to be. I knew they are going to love some dramatic images, so I asked them to stay for 15 minutes before we head to their reception.
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Describe how you spoke to your subject(s)

I asked my couple to go up to the first floor and position themselves directly under the sunrays. I told them that I will move around for a second to check some different angles to see how we´re going to shoot this best. Before I start shooting I always try to take a minute to focus on light and composition. I generally start photographing my couples from a good distance to let them get used to it without feeling uncomfortable. As I walked back through the aisle I loved what I saw. I already liked the position of the couple and simply asked them to stay there and enjoy the moment together.

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What did you say?

“Can you go up and try to position with your heads in the light beam facing each other?” then “Just stay there and enjoy the quiet moment together while I check the scene from the distance and take some test shots!”

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Tone of Directions


dramatic churh wedding light beam dan jenson photography


I wanted to achieve a balanced, dramatic image. That´s why I decided to align the space symmetrically. I chose a wide lens to give the relatively small church more space and also show the beautiful environment of the old building. I decided on a tilt-shift lens which I do not use often, but it can help to eliminate distractions and draw more attention to the subject by putting parts of the surrounding out of focus (especially the lower floor with the chairs here). I liked the lines coming in from each corner leading into the image to the couple.

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Describe how you spoke to your subject(s)

Using a tilt-shift lens I had to focus manually. I used the viewfinder and focus peaking of my camera to set the focus right. I had to watch out not to change the vertical angle of my camera because this affects the focus when using a til-shift lens.

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Focus Mode

Manual Focus

Focus POints

Single Point

Focused on

the couples heads

Equipment &

Sony A7 III
Walimex Pro 24 mm 1:3.5 CSC Tilt-Shift
1/640 @ f/4 ISO2000 WB-Auto

The way the EXIF is written out follows the common photographic method (with the inclusion of White Balance at the end). Here it is broken down:

Shutter Speed @ Aperture ISO White Balance.

Light & Weather

This light situation was pure luck and something you don´t get every day. It would not have been nearly as dramatic without the haze in the church and the sunny weather. Luckily we were not too late. The sun was moving down but the light beam was still hitting the couple a bit from behind, creating a beautiful rim light on their heads.

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Light Type

Natural Light



Editing Workflow

How did you edit this image?

The main adjustments were leveling the image and aligning things as symmetrically as possible. I generally tend to expose more for the highlights so I had to bring up the exposure a little bit. I adapted the white-balance and toning and slightly lifted the shadows. Additionally, I cloned out some distractions in the background and the left hand of the groom to make him look more relaxed (I am not a fan of manipulations, but I didn’t realize that he took his hand off of hers when I took the shot and just did not want him to look like a soldier). I also lightened the couple and the lower floor a little bit. I used my own preset as a base.

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Editing Software
Adobe Lightroom Classic
Preset Used
Dan Jenson Base


Because the walls in the old church are not straight and the balcony is not leveled, the biggest challenge was to find a position where I could get things leveled and symmetrical while manually focussing on the couple’s heads at the same time.

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I took about 10 images in burst mode twice to choose the one that’s best leveled and in focus later. This helps especially when shooting with a tilt-shift lens where the area that’s in focus is narrow and changes with the slightest movement of your camera. I additionally tried to crop it perfectly straight and symmetrically in Lightroom afterwards.

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Location Name

Alte Pfarrkirche Götzis

Location aDDRESS

Dr.-Alfons-Heinzle-Straße 36, 6840 Götzis

Loation Type




THINK BEFORE YOU SHOOT! – There are so many things to keep in mind when shooting with a couple. Communication, trying to give them the best experience. At the same time, you have to take beautiful photos in a limited timeframe. This is often the reason why we start shooting blindly.

Try to gain a few seconds to think before you start shooting. Give your couple something to work with. For example tell them to hold each other, close their eyes and take a minute to relax and focus on their true feelings. Be honest, tell them that you are analyzing the light and the surroundings in the meantime and that you are taking some test shots. They can relax now because they are no longer the center of attention and you gained some time to analyze light and think about your composition.

Exercise this in your everyday life and you will improve and start seeing things more intuitively. You will also start to recognize which light situations and compositional elements work best for you and fit your style. Shoot intentionally!

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