• back to back
  • Colorful
  • Contemporary
  • cool pose
  • Indoors
  • Landscape
  • Leading lines
  • Shade
  • Soft Light
  • standing
  • standing on chair
  • Still
  • symmetrical
  • symmetry
  • Wide
  • wide shot

The story behind the image

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We found this gorgeously colored wall in the alley right outside the venue, a restaurant in Downtown San Francisco. We had discussed going somewhere further for portraits but once we saw these bright seating nooks we know we’d find everything we needed right outside.

The problem was that even though the wall had been created as a photo opportunity for willing Instagramers, they had also placed a row of public bikes and parked cars in front of it. So as soon as I walked back far enough to get my shot, and capture more than one color in my frame the picture became messy and the composition fell apart.

So, I had them jump onto one of the little tables. Barely able to fit, they held hands back to back, leaning on each other to balance. I went back into the venue and borrowed a chair which I place right in the middle of the road. The increased height allowed me to crop out the messy cars and get a pulled-back shot of the entire space with all its fun colors and interesting shapes.

In post, we furthered the effect by brightening the colors and removing any messy and distracting objects, generally cleaning up the space.
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Describe how you spoke to your subject(s)

We generally prompt our couples instead of posing them. So, for example, a shot like this is tricky because even though it’s highly composed I still want the couple to look and feel natural. Instead of telling them exactly what to do with their bodies, we told them where to go. And by having them stand on a small object, we forced them to rely on each other for balance. As I figured out the composition and settings they got comfortable and pulled off looking super relaxed in the photo

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What did you say?

do you guys mind standing on that table? wait here, I need to get a chair.

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Tone of Directions



This image is all about this amazing colorful space. We made the couple small to show the scale. We cropped the image so the photo extends beyond the edge and had the couple lookout in both directions so it feels expansive. And the image ultimately uses a lot of triangles to draw your eyes back to the middle after they’re wandered to the edge.

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Center Framed


Describe how you spoke to your subject(s)

I put the camera in live view mode for a shot like this. The focus is limited to the center of my viewfinder such that if I grab the focus and then drag, I risk moving my focus plane off of the subject. So I put the camera in live view. Find my composition and then manually move my focus select box directly over the subject. I grabbed the focus and press the shutter.

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Focus Mode

Live View Single Shot

Focus POints

Single Point

Focused on


Equipment &

Nikon D750
Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G
250 @ f/3.5 ISO560 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

Natural light on a pleasant overcast San Francisco Afternoon, just how we like it. Soft overhead light coming through the tall buildings in downtown San Francisco mixed perfectly with the ambient light coming in from the open spaces around us. There’s often an element of luck to a successful photo and this one is no different.

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Light Type

Natural Light



Editing Workflow

How did you edit this image?

I started by applying a variation on our HL C2 color preset (we’re always tweaking them) and then made a bunch of small adjustments to the white balance. Our presets are designed to have bright and rich colors (which seemed appropriate for the photo) and still retain beautiful skin tones (which is important to us). This preset fit the image without having to adjust the HSL or Tone Curve. I then did some dodging on the couple to make them pop a little, some burning along the edges, a lot of spot removal to remove dirt and distracting objects from the wall, and some PS for the more complicated clean-up.

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Editing Software


The challenge is pretty much the story of the shot. We found a beautiful colorful modern location with lots of messy-looking objects in our way.

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We raised the couple up over the mess by having them stand on a table and then we stood on a chair placed in the middle of an empty street to get the shot.

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Location Name

Trou Normand

Location aDDRESS

Trou Normand, 140 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105

Loation Type



United States

Sometimes all you need to make a great photo is an environment that sparks some inspiration, and then you just work to show with your photo what you found so interesting about that space. In this case, it was about this magical colorful space and we just had to stay in the moment and solve a basic compositional problem. The rest sort of fell into place.

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