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I was shooting a personal project that happened to be a funky, queer, 90’s kid-style elopement out near Palm Springs in SoCal… as you do. At the end of the shoot a suddenly a rainbow appeared behind us. Mind you, it’s always been a dream of mine to shoot a queer couple with an actual, real-life rainbow in it. I wanted to make sure this capture was as joyous as I felt.

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How did you direct your subject(s)?

These two were a hoot and were having the time of their lives, so it made my job easy. When I turned around and saw the rainbow, we all freaked out. I told them, “Run to the rainbow! Go! Be gay!” After getting some shots from further away, I told them to drunk run towards me (not particularly hard in the sand!) and embrace five feet in front of my camera while screaming the name of a certain biological male body part.

What did you say?

Run towards me! When you’re about five feet in front of me, embrace and scream ‘penis’ as loud as you can! They need to hear you say that word over in LA! I need to suffer from hearing damage! Aaaaaand go!

How did you compose your image?

Composing and cropping this shot was difficult due to the angle of the rainbow and how far away it was, as well as distracting elements in the background. I wanted to make sure all of the rainbow’s leading line led to the couple, but I was worried it’d look like one of them would be shooting a rainbow out of their head. In the end, I opted to center the couple and make Noah’s facial expression the clear focus.

How and what did you focus on?

I used my R5’s eye-detect autofocus in servo mode to zero in on Noah’s closest eye for this image. Servo eye-detect is my go-to for shooting couples, especially when movement is involved.


How did you use the light in your image?

This was shot with harsh direct sunlight at the end of golden hour. Without a cloud in the sky, lighting proved a struggle for composition in such a stark environment – I wanted the rainbow and couple to be centered, but this meant the blonde model’s face would need to be in shadow. Luckily, the sand here was white and reflected light to fill in her shadow somewhat. If I had to do this shoot again, I would have sucked it up and taken a picture of them with the light on both of their faces, a picture of the rainbow out of focus, and composited them in photoshop.

What was the gear & settings you used?

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Canon R5


Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L





Shutter Speed






White Balance


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

It was pretty hot this day in the desert, and I wanted my edit to reflect that heat and the harshness of the surrounding area. I used my own personal harsh lighting preset, brought the highlights down, and tweaked the hue and saturation sliders slightly for orange and blue, slightly denaturing the oranges and giving the blues in the background a little more oompf. To top it all off, I applied a saturation brush to the rainbow. I considered brushing in some exposure to the blonde model’s face, but I felt this was a situation where doing that could leave the image feeling fake or overedited.

Software Used

Adobe Lightroom Classic


Own personal Presets

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What challenges did you face?

This was shot at a wind farm. As you might imagine, it was incredibly windy. Shooting the couple backlit meant having their hair fly towards me and covering their faces like Cousin It from The Addams Family, so between this and the placement of the rainbow, shooting them facing towards the sun was the only option.

How did you solve them?

In the end, it worked out even though the lighting wasn’t optimal for how I wanted to compose my image. The blonde model’s face is in shadow, but it serves to accentuate the joy and laughter in her partner’s face. At the end of the day, making people feel something is more important than a perfectly crafted image.

Can you share any last thoughts or advice?

This shot helped me conquer my fear of harsh lighting, and reminded me how important emotion is to a photograph.

Luke Payne Photography

Shooting since


Current Home

United States of America



Howdy! The name’s Luke – I’m an adventure elopement and wedding photographer focusing on creating artsy and emotional imagery for chill and offbeat couples, as well as fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community. While video was my forté growing up (I made my first short film when I was five and had a green screen in my basement a few years later), I fell in love with photography in high school. Needless to say, I’ve had an inseparable bond with the medium ever since!

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