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Our couple asked us, “What are our options for our after-wedding photo shoot?”. Naturally, we were down for anything— including anything a little crazy. As all of us were outdoor-enthusiasts, we ended up eagerly deciding to take on a 2.5-hour hike to the top of a mountain in the province of Malaga, Spain for sunset photos.

The trek was worth it; and after the sun had set and it was getting dark, we were ready to make our trek back down the mountain. But then, out of nowhere, we looked up to see the sky blazing with stars, Milky Way, and all. We weren’t going to pass up this opportunity for a million-dollar photo! Our proposal to stay for a starry photo was followed by a resounding “¡CLARO QUE SI!”

To achieve this, I set up my camera on a tripod and took a few test shots to discern exactly where the Milky Way started and ended, and how long I’d need my exposure to be for the stars to come through in the photo. Once I got the right framing, I took the shot about 5 times with settings adjustments until I got a sharp, in-focus photo (waiting approx. 10 seconds for each photo).

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How did you direct your subject(s)?

Getting a perfectly clear shot with moving subjects (even if they’re just breathing) during a long exposure can be difficult. Having them sit leaning against each other gave them both support and the ability to remain still and comfortable at the same time. I asked the groom to rest his arm on his knee to offer some dynamic to the pose. I told them to breathe softly and normally, gaze up at the stars and be present together in this moment of wonder.

What did you say?

“Get comfortable. I’m going to take this same shot a couple of times. It’s important that you stay still for the shot—it’ll be about 5 to 7 seconds long each time. I’ll count so you know. You don’t have to hold your breath or stay rigid, the best thing to do is get into a position you feel secure in, and hold it while breathing normally. Gaze up at the stars— all you have to do is just be present with each other.”

How did you compose your image?

I wanted the Milky Way to line up with them and point to them in the middle, to show that they were the real stars of the show. Positioning their bodies facing away from each other not only helped with supporting each other but helped in distinctly illuminating their silhouettes. Despite the amazing, star-blazed background, I really wanted them to be the highlight of the photograph.

How and what did you focus on?

I think the focus was the trickiest part of getting this shot. Since I was at f/2.8 and was restricted by lack of light, I focused on the couple. A LED light stationed behind the couple facing the camera made it possible for me to focus on their silhouettes. Because it was already pitch black outside, I chose to shoot with manual focus in live view mode, so that I had complete control of the frame. Even then, I had to wait until the long exposure was finished to see the final result of the photo— that’s why taking test shots is really important! It took about 5-6 times (6 seconds each) to get a shot where the subjects were sharp and in focus.


How did you use the light in your image?

The only natural light we had was coming from the starry sky. Other sources of light were the light pollution from the surrounding cities in the far background, and the LED light we used behind the couple. As our available light was very limited, the whole lighting set-up was very intentional! The Milky Way behind them, the city lights in the background, and the LED light to illuminate them.


What was the gear & settings you used?

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Sony A7 III


Sony FE 28mm f/1.8 GM





Shutter Speed

6 seconds





White Balance



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

In Lightroom (Classic), I used a few different gradient filters. One from the top of the image down about one-third of the photo adding de-haze, contrast, and upping the whites in the stars. Another gradient filter was added pumping the shadows for the foreground, so we could see her majestic flowing dress. To bring out different colors in the sky, I used another gradient filter reducing the color temperature to blue on the top right of the image. Additional minimal brushing whites on the dress were added as well.

Software Used

Adobe Lightroom Classic



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What challenges did you face?

Our biggest challenge in creating this image was the technicalities. We to capture love fun, spontaneous, and “unposed” moments in our photography, so having to arrange this shot without premeditation caught us a bit off guard. We had no idea we’d be met with a Milky Way when we decided to do the hike!

How did you solve them?

We knew that a shot like this would take some time— with test shots, posing, etc. But we met the challenge head-on: while Jake told our couple about what we needed to do, I was already setting up the tripod taking test shots. There was lots of communication as I kept them updated on the progress of the frame, and when I was ready, Jake helped them pose. Everything fell into place perfectly!


Can you share any last thoughts or advice?

When it comes to taking star photos, especially with a couple, plan for a long photo session. In order to get one killer shot, it might take you an hour. Have a game plan. Make sure your couple is aware of your game plan AND the amount of preparation involved. With everyone on the same page, you’re bound for success!

Jake & Genessa Photography

Shooting since


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We are Jake + Genessa!A wedding PHOTO + FILM duo, based in Madrid, Spain. Bringing your memories to life in true-colour, stunning images. Booking final dates of 2021, + 2022!

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