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This image I shot was at one of my favorite locations I have ever visited to this day. I was actually a part of a content shoot (Hosted by Dallin & Cienna) in Alabama Hills, CA but the twist to this content shoot was that it was real couples & real elopements. The real shocker here was the unexpectedly freezing weather. One could easily think, “Oh, it’s the desert and the sun will be out… That is easily a 90-degree day.” Wrong. Unfortunately, the beginning of our sunrise elopement consisted of runny noses & 30-degree weather. This was easily conquered by lots of warm embraces by the couple and some hand warmers!

This shot was taken around 8:00 AM in the morning; so still a little chilly but nothing the sun’s warmth couldn’t tackle. After roaming through the desert and scavenging through the tall rocks, we finally found the perfect spot with a tad bit of shade to take this shot! The beautiful location of Alabama Hills & the appearance of the sun, later on, made for the most magical sunrise elopement in the desert.

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How did you direct your subject(s)?

As I mentioned before, it was a freezing morning in Alabama Hills, CA… I mean literally 27 degrees. In this image, the couple and I were up in the rocks of this dessert and a slight breeze kept creeping into the remaining portion of this elopement. This couple was basically pros when it came to being in front of the camera; however, I simply guided them to more of a warm and cozy pose that also required some movement to keep the blood flowing!

What did you say?

Alright Aaron, I’m going to have you stand directly behind Alexis and wrap your arms around her waist real tight and hold her bouquet with one of your hands, okay? And Alexis, all I need you to do is just lean into his grasp and enjoy this moment with your new husband! If you guys would like, you could give me a little sway back and forth as well!

How did you compose your image?

For my composition, my overall goal was to capture the coziness and intimacy of this prompt. I wanted to get in close and frame my image to feature the couple rather than the environment. Even though the rocks and mountains were beautiful, that was not the focus of this moment. The number 1 priority here was to capture the feelings/intimacy of this moment. I achieved this by filling the frame predominantly with the couple which helps to amplify the feeling of intimacy.

How and what did you focus on?

My main focus in this image was directed towards the bride’s face and the expression she had as her groom nuzzled in close. Shooting on a Sony A7iii, I was using my autofocus on center priority, which basically means I prioritizing the focus of the center of the image rather than wide mode which simply selects what is closest to the lens. Along with the center focus mode, my auto-eye-focus setting was turned on which detects the face/eyes of individuals and automatically focuses them in all images. I almost always shoot on a center focusing mode because I almost always center my subjects in my images and then crop if necessary in post.


How did you use the light in your image?

At this time during the session (about 8:00 AM), the light was very harsh unless we were in the rocks which we were. The light was backlit and primarily the sun was hiding behind the big rock to the right of the bride. It was fairly easy lighting-wise to capture this image since we had the shade of the rock covering us. However, if I had the chance to do it all again, I would position my couples with their backs to the rock which was hiding us from the sun. I say that because my ultimate “lighting goal” you could say would have been to have the sun outlining the rock making a somewhat glow around it and my couple.

What was the gear & settings you used?

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Sony A7 III


Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 iii





Shutter Speed






White Balance


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

I used the Dawn Charles preset “Pack 3” to edit this sunrise session and I would say the overall tone I was after was a warm, cozy feel to contrast the freezing cold morning we were feeling. No matter what preset I ever use I always tweak my HSL sliders to my liking. For example, for this image, I really played around with the yellow and orange luminance sliders to get the skin tones just right as well as the orange and yellow “Hue.” I did not clone or heal anything in this image; however, I did use my brush tool to add a little extra sharpening to their faces to (as I like to say) “Snatch them up real good!”

Software Used

Adobe Lightroom Classic


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What challenges did you face?

I think the biggest (and somewhat unexpected) challenge that appeared was finding creative spaces with that dreamy lighting to make the couples’ best features pop. During blue hour, it was just too easy! But once that sun was fully in the sky, we were simply exposed in the big open dessert. Don’t get me wrong, I am not afraid of some harsh or backlit lighting, but it is nice to have some variety here and there!

How did you solve them?

I think our biggest savior during the morning session was the all of the big rocks! The couple loved the scenery and I loved the variety in lighting scenarios it provided. It was a bit of a walk from our initial location but 100% worth the walk! Always get to know your locations well or be with somebody who does!

Can you share any last thoughts or advice?

Recently, I have been telling myself to be more inviting to what comes naturally to my couples in elopements & weddings. For images like this, a simple prompt for guidance can be all that is necessary to get your couple started. Then allowing them to connect & do what they do best can create the most intimate, natural, and heartfelt images. For other photographers wanting to create an image like this, just embrace more movement and what comes naturally to your couples… Sometimes a hand placement on the groom’s cheek may not be natural for that couple. They may feel a little bit weird doing so. Allowing them to do what comes naturally to them is key.

Joshua Bingham

Shooting since


Current Home

United States of America



Hey there! I’m Josh and I am a wedding and elopement photographer based in Richmond, Virginia. I am huge outdoor junkie… Mountain hikes, beach surfing trips, sunrise jogs… you name it! Being a “How I Met Your Mother” fan… my go to quote (and maybe my email signature) is: “Your wedding is going to be Legen…Wait for it… DARY!!”

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