• architecture
  • clear skies
  • First Look
  • midday
  • Natural
  • palm trees
  • Soft Light
  • Stairs
  • Unposed
  • walking down

The story behind the image

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We traveled down to Mexico with this super stylish couple for their wedding at a traditional Mayan villa. In the back of the property there was a beautiful modern building where the couple was getting ready. We knew we wanted to shoot portraits there but we only had time mid day because their ceremony extended through sunset. The area was covered in dappled light which is the worst!

There were a few clouds in the sky so we took the coupe to a shady spot first and waited for the light to improve. When a huge cloud start to cover the sun we ran over to the house and immediately started playing with the stairs, hoping we captured some magic before the light became hideous again.
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Describe how you spoke to your subject(s)

This was a funny one because the shot we were trying to get didn’t work out as well as this in-between moment. We had positioned Megan under the stairs and told Sterling to walk up the stairs to the top. She looked so amazing walking up the stairs and we started shooting but the planner ran in to “fix” her dress. We asked the planner to step back then told Sterling to walk down and back up again. The shots of her walking up are pretty but they didn’t have the energy or magic because she was very conscious of her movements at that point. However, the shot of her walking down the stairs had that raw energy that we love so much.

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What did you say?

Hey Sterling can you go back down and walk up the stairs again because you looked amazing!

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I shot this with my 35mm because I wanted to get a lot of the building in the frame as well as some of the energy and drama that a wide-angle provides. Comparing this shot to a similar composition we took with the 50mm, this one feels more dynamic. The figures are bigger in the space because I’m standing closer to them and lower than them which makes them feel bigger and more heroic. This gave us the scale of the building while prioritizing them in the space.

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Describe how you spoke to your subject(s)

I always shoot with single-point manual focus. I use back button focus so I can focus and recompose quickly and easily and that’s what I did here. I took the focus off of Sterling on the stairs then quickly recomposed. I also never shoot wide open and that’s another important part of a shot like this. If I was shooting at 1.4 and recomposed, she would be soft. At the time I was shooting at 3.5 a lot but if I was to do this shot over again, I would shoot it at 5.6. There is really no reason for a shallow depth of field here.

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Focus Mode

Single Shot Autofocus

Focus POints

Single Point

Focused on


Equipment &

Nikon d750
Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G
1/3200 @ f/3.5 ISO200 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 was all-natural light but the spot had some awkward shadows so we had to time it a bit. There were clouds nearby and we waited for one to partially cover the sun. That harsh light became a soft and beautiful spotlight and the previously awkward shadows became really interesting and dramatic. It didn’t last for long but the timing really added to the feel of this shot.

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Light Type

Natural Light

Editing Workflow

How did you edit this image?

We used our own presets. This one is very similar to our HLC3 (we are always tweaking). We wanted it to feel warm but still a little moody to accentuate that unusual soft dappled light from the passing cloud. We used WB to warm it up a little and a dodge brush to lighten the shadows on their faces and upper body. I also used the guided transform function to level out the top and bottom of the building.

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Editing Software
Preset Used


Harsh light. A very helpful planner.

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Saw that the light would change soon and waited it out. Asked the planner to step back and recreated the scene.

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Location Name

Hacienda Sac Chich

Location aDDRESS

Acanceh, Yucatan, Mexico

Loation Type

Wedding / Event Venue



Know what kind of shooter you are and what brings out your creativity. I can’t plan shots 95% of the time. I work best if I can stay relaxed and respond intuitively to my immediate environment. Sometimes having some locations planned out helps me to relax, then after that, it’s all listening to my gut and any images that pop into my brain.

Moments like these are partly why I don’t try to control the scene much. I like the craziness and spontaneity that come from us all fumbling around. Yeah, the planner “ruined” my shot and if I was controlling things more maybe I could have avoided that, but in the end, I’m glad she did.

Also, think about your aperture. If a shallow depth of field does not add to the image then it’s taking away.

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