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One of the many joys of being a wedding photographer is the fact that you get to meet so many truly wonderful people. Not just couples & in most cases, guests too, but also vendors. We were so fortunate to have shot a wedding where we got to meet the makeup artist and really connect with each other.

So much so that we even contacted her to help us out for an elopement that needed some makeup and hairstyling. Through this connection, our friendship got stronger, and we thought – you know what? She has a cool boyfriend – let’s go out and shoot them together somewhere cool. We’ll get more content to show, they’ll get some pictures of them as a couple and well, everybody wins.

We found these dirt rounds in a wide-open field and as we were coming closer to the last bits of light, we wanted to do something a bit more… serious. We were new to this type of shot, where our goal was to get our couple to look calm, cool, and just relaxed without having an “R.B.F”, and so it was a great chance for us to challenge ourselves. It’s all about the little details.

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How did you direct your subject(s)?

We asked our guy to stand, hands in his pocket, shoulders “unslouched” and to look directing into our camera, and to try and get himself into space where he’s “chilling”. But “happy chilling”. We then asked our girl to cuddle into his arm with her head leaning on his shoulder and turned towards us, also looking straight into the lens. But with her, we wanted the faintest, cheekiest little smirk. Finally, we asked her to wrap her arms around his just to add that little bit more connection.

What did you say?

Okay guys, let’s have [guy] stand, facing us, keep your shoulders nice and relaxed but not slouched, hands in your pocket, and look straight into the lens. Don’t think about smiling or anything -. Just, chill. And [girl], we want you to snuggle into his arm and lean your head onto his shoulder. Turn your head so it faces us, and I want you to look into the lens, but have a little smirk. A little, gentle, almost cocky smile. Perfect!

How did you compose your image?

We had our couple stand in the middle of the dirt road which would then naturally create some leading lines that converge towards our couple. This brings the viewers eyes straight to their faces, where the connection between them and the viewer is made even stronger by the fact that they look right into the lens.

How and what did you focus on?

Focusing was very straight forward and we simply positioned our focus points over our couple’s faces (since they were right next to each other, both would be in focus), let the camera do its thing, and then fired the shutter.


How did you use the light in your image?

At this time of the day, the sun was in a perfect position to allow us to cross-light our couple and capture those beautiful warm tones as well as the dimensions created by the shadows & highlights. The sun was just behind us and to our right, and so we positioned our couples to face towards us to allow this light to do its a thing.

What was the gear & settings you used?

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Canon 5D Mark IV


Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L II





Shutter Speed






White Balance


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

We edited this shot with our Protea Presets and focused on keeping the skin tones smooth and warm. We tweaked the white balance, highlights, shadows, exposure, blacks, and all the main sliders in Lightroom until we were happy with the base look. We then enhanced the light by adding a radial adjustment off to the side that just accentuates more of the light. Finally, we add in a vignette and some grain as well as do some minor sharpening.

Software Used

Adobe Lightroom Classic

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What challenges did you face?

The hardest part was finding this “perfect” balance between a couple who look pretty unhappy with life, and a couple who are just… “chilled”. There were so many little things that we needed to pay attention to, like body language, that would make or break this shot.

How did you solve them?

There was no golden solution here. We just gave it our best shot, took our time and really tried to pay attention to their faces & expressions. We also didn’t hesitate to ‘micro adjust’ where necessary. Finally, we also gave our couple a heads up of the type of image we were after – this did help tremendously as they knew it would be a lot more “finicky” than usual.

Can you share any last thoughts or advice?

Challenging yourself to try something new is never a bad idea. Especially when you are often inspired by other work and believe you can make something just as cool. In our opinion, once you have the safe shots – go right ahead. Try things out and if they don’t work – it’s absolutely not a failure. You walk away knowing what doesn’t work. And that is knowledge & experience. Those two things can’t be a failure.

It’s very important to value yourself as a photographer and generally, you shouldn’t be doing shoots for free. Unless you are the one instigating it. If you genuinely want to shoot a couple, whether friends, family, vendors, random people and are willing to give up your time for this – then do it. But if someone approaches you for a free shoot and you’re not comfortable with it, then stand your ground and stick to your values.


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We are Melli & Shayne, a couple coming from vastly different worlds but have been inseparable ever since we met in Zanzibar. We have been passionately capturing love stories since 2014 and have loved every step of the way. We love to meet fellow photographers, to share our knowledge amongst a bottle (or two) of wine and support every one wherever we can.

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