• Creative
  • Dancing
  • from a distance
  • Outdoor
  • photoshop
  • Reflection
  • Soft Light
  • Spin
  • Sunset
  • Warm
  • Wide

The story behind the image

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Our couple had to change their plans due to covid. Instead of a large wedding all at once, we instead planned to follow them around New Zealand to three separate events – We helped them plan an outdoor ceremony in the mountains of the North Island, then when restrictions lifted we photographed their reception further north before meeting them in Queenstown in the South Island where they had a small ceremony for family who couldn’t make it up to their first one! This photo was taken just after that ceremony. Four months after they first said their vows to each other this photo was all closing their festivities with a celebration. We had planned ahead of time where to meet up for this final part of their session as we wanted something special to cap it all off and well… look at that view!
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Describe how you spoke to your subject(s)

We asked our couple to hold hands and walk down to the top of the mound. Because we were running out of light and they would be so far away from us we had to direct them upfront. It would become tricky to direct them later on as they were a couple of hundred meters away. Before we sent them off, we asked them to follow a path that would bring them up the side of the hill, one person leading the other. When they go to the top they would find the centre of the hilltop and then perform their first dance for us.

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What did you say?

Ok guys! We have about 5 minutes before the sun dips behind that hill over there so here’s the plan. You see that hilltop out there? We’d love to take each other’s hands and find your way over there together. When you get to the bottom of the hill, it would be awesome if you could head over to the right and if one of you could please lead the other up the hill that will look amazing. Please hold hands so that you’re facing the camera at this point and whoever’s leading, don’t forget to look back over your shoulder to smile at your best friend… Don’t worry, we’ll try and shout out if something is not quite right… Now you guys remember your first dance? It’s only been like a month and a bit haha… When you get to the top we’d love you to try and find the centre of the hill and practice it one last time. Don’t forget your twirls as that dress is going to sell it for sure… Alrighty, we’ll grab your jackets, it’s only for a few minutes, hang in their peeps. We’ll run them over to you as soon as that sun sets. Not let’s do this and don’t forget to look at each other and think about everything that had led up to you two being here on this amazing evening… Oh and watch out for those wild roses on the way, they can be a bit of a pain in the butt if you know what we mean… now go, go, go!

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Tone of Directions

Excited, Energetic


Like we mentioned, we had planned ahead of time to meet up here for this final part of their session but what we hadn’t planned on was an abundance of smoke wafting high up in the atmosphere from the Australian bush fires. This brought with it some stunning rays of light dancing across the landscape and everything almost looked painted in pastel. We decided to go wide for this shot, shooting at 26mm. We wanted this to be a show stopper. A two page spread for the end of their wedding album. I removed the lens hood and held up an iPhone beneath the lens to get that reflection of the sky so as to lend an otherworldly element to the shot. It just felt right in this place and time. Typically we get the best reflection results with a wide-open aperture as the edge of the iPhone is less distinct. But in this case (as they were so far away and I figured this image might get blown up large) I wanted the couple to be sharp. This time I looked for a middle ground and wound up shooting at f/4.5. I wanted to have them floating in their own little world right between two skys but the iPhone wasn’t wide enough to achieve this. I made a note in my mind to do it in post. I found a position that allowed me to line them up with a gap in the mountains (not easy in this location btw). It always pays to consider your background though. Not enough photographers remember to place their couples in the scene, preferring instead to trust that their love and chemistry will sell the photo. We always try and do both.

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Compositional Rules

Leading LinesRule of ThirdsSymmetry


Center FramedMiddle ThirdsWideFull Body


Describe how you spoke to your subject(s)

I used a single autofocus point (small) and manually moved it onto the couple. This meant that the reflection didn’t screw with my focus at all.

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Focus Mode

Single Shot Autofocus

Focus POints

Single Point

Focused on

The couple

Equipment &

Sony A9
Sony EF 24-70mm f/2.8
1/500 @ f/4.5 ISO160 WB-5200K

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 sunset was more diffuse than most on a part of the smoke in the atmosphere but it was still direct light coming across our couple. Without using a drone, our locations to take the photo from were limited so by pulling back and shooting wide it greatly minimised the issue of highlights on the subjects faces.

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Light Type

Natural Light

Light Quality


Time of day




Editing Workflow

How did you edit this image?

Once it was edited in Lightroom we went to work in Photoshop moving the scene up in the frame to align with our original vision of the shot. To do this we used the content-aware tool in little increments first so as to force the computer into drawing just a little at a time to get a better result. We then used the polygonal lasso tool to cut out the sky from above and blended it into the scene by flipping is around and using the eraser to smooth it out. We flattened the image and used the heal brush to smooth out the gradient and edges below. Finally, we cloned out the tip of my finger that you could see holding the phone to the far left of the image.

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Editing Software
Preset Used


Creating a reflection in this way can be tricky. You need to hold the phone on just the right angle and still be able to move the focus points around and zoom in and out.

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We used a regular sized iPhone so we could hold it easier and removed it’s protective case so as not to see the edge. We also removed the Lens hood so we could get the reflective surface close enough.

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Location Name

Queenstown Hill

Location aDDRESS


Loation Type



New Zealand

You don’t have to be constrained by your tools during the shoot. Stay true to your creative vision and if that requires a little photoshop then lean into it.

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