TC30062022

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A bride stands beside a window

As intimate wedding and elopement photographers based in Scotland, we often find ourselves shooting inside very characterful old historic venues. These are very rewarding spaces in which to shoot… but not without their challenges! Kilmartin Castle is one of these… A bijou 16th century castle, it has tiny windows, so we knew that our greatest challenge, in terms of interior portraits, was how we would use the light. We were drawn to this window as it was south-facing and offered the brightest diffuse light of any of the windows in the room. It was also an uncluttered space, allowing free movement of the bride (and us) to capture her from various different angles.

We quite often aim for a chiaroscuro look with our internal portraits, so we were paying attention to how the light spills over the body, and the contrasts and micro-silhouettes created between the highlights and shadow. It’s not an easy technique to master, or specifically, to process well, especially if the light source is too strong.

We knew the space in which we were working was very dark, so the potential for a strong contrast between light and dark was a little bit of a worry. However, we were very happy when we captured the first few frames using this window as a light source, as we knew we’d be able to make it work nicely.

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How did you direct your subject(s)?

We had asked the bride to just lean against the wall, next to the window, and feel the light on her face. Then just to relax into the moment. We kept communicating with the bride, give her lots of positive affirmation about how beautiful and soft the light was and how atmospheric the shot was looking.

What did you say?

“Please just gently lean against the wall to the right of the window and look towards the mirror” [there was a mirror opposite the bride, situated within a tiny alcove]

How did you compose your image?

We positioned the bride in a portrait orientation, as this allowed us to capture her full body length. She was positioned just to the right of centre, vertically, however, the edge of the wall that formed the right edge of the window bay ran along the right-hand vertical third of the image. This created a compositional bridge between the right of centre and right-third, which just sort of worked. The window occupied the top left quadrant of the image, which actually wasn’t ideal, but we felt that we needed to see the whole window, rather the crop part of it out.

How and what did you focus on?

For this image we had actually focussed on the bouquet, as we loved the way the individual flowers were being picked out in the light. But we also loved the serenity on the bride’s face, to which a very slight soft focus added value.

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How did you use the light in your image?

We worked primarily with natural light, though some artificial lamps were also on within the room, which added a little warmth to the dress, though the natural light was vastly the stronger light source. We were, in essence, backlighting the bride.

We enjoy playing with chiaroscuro in our internal portraits, which helps create a sense of tonal depth, so we are looking at how the slight spills over the body, and the contrasts and micro-silhouettes created between the highlights and shadow. We shot a series of images using this lighting, but from different angles.

A bride stands beside a window

What was the gear & settings you used?

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Camera

Nikon D750

Lens

Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 G

Filter

None

Other

None

Shutter Speed

1/250

Aperture

f/2.0

ISO

640

White Balance

Auto

A bride stands beside a window

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

We used our own Lightroom preset that we designed for use primarily in interior settings. This has relatively muted tones. It also uses a relatively shallow tone curve, raised blacks and low contrast to keep elements within the image quite soft.

We used an inverted radial gradient mask centred on the upper body of the bride to drop the surrounding exposure by two stops, adding emphasis to the bride. We also used a linear gradient vertically on the right third of the images as that wall was catching some annoying orange light from a lamp elsewhere, so we used this mask to reduce the temperature to the same temperature as the rest of the image. There was also a rather brighter highlight patch on the bride’s right shoulder which we also reduced using a radial gradient mask.

Following export from Lightroom, we took the image into Alien Skin Exposure and used the IR tool to add a little additional halation to the light, primarily to diffuse the window itself, as we didn’t find that a particularly attractive window itself. It also softened up some of the contrast between light and dark on the bride’s face.

Software Used

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Preset

The Caryls - Interior

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What challenges did you face?

We were essentially shooting in a very dark interior space! So light (or lack of) was the main challenge.

How did you solve them?

The dark backdrop of the castle interior really lend itself to the evocative chiaroscuro style or portraiture that we really love. So we just positioned the bride in the best window light available and ran with it!

A bride stands beside a window

Can you share any last thoughts or advice?

The key to creating this sort of look is really being able to control the light. It would be pretty much impossible to achieve this shot in a light, bright (lots of windows) interior space. So if you’re looking to create this sort of chiaroscuro portrait, look around the venue for the room that allows you to create a dark space (perhaps by closing all curtains, blinds or shutters) and position your subject in a soft pool of light that you can control…and work from there!

The Caryls Photography

Shooting since

2018

Current Home

Scotland

Website

Instagram

We’re Katy and Jim: lovers of life, light and the great outdoors! We’re a husband and wife photography team, based in beautiful Scotland. We’ve been photographing weddings regularly since 2018, and it’s been quite a ride! We’re two quite different people, who essentially love the same things (nature, adventure, travel and people). While Jim is very much a cerebral person: a creative yet analytical thinker who loves a research task and is very methodical and detail-oriented; Katy is more of an intuitive soul, who is spontaneous, creative and empathetic. You could say we’re chalk and cheese! But we find that by working closely together, and listening to each other’s gut instincts, we always bring out the best on a shoot—two heads are better than one, as they say! As photographers, we’re passionate about storytelling, documenting the heartfelt moments and capturing not just what a couple’s wedding day looks like, but what it ‘feels’ like. When we deliver a gallery, we always aim to transport a couple back in time, to allow them to re-live their special day all over again! We feel that, at heart, this is the power of wedding photography. We specialise in intimate weddings and elopements throughout Scotland, the UK and beyond! We’re always super-excited and inspired by destination weddings and the opportunity to shoot against a different canvas.

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