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modern arizona wedding in the desert

For ceremonies, couples are mostly looking at each other so you don’t see their full face a ton, but I love the moments when they look out at their audience after the officiant says something that makes them laugh, or mentions something about their guests! I wanted to create a moment like that! I wanted to create and capture that feeling of “we’re so happy we’re surrounded by our favorite people”!

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How did you direct your subject(s)?

This image was taken at a workshop I host with Olivia Markle, called Yellow! Normally during a real ceremony, I obviously wouldn’t be directing the couple at all but since this is a styled shoot we direct the couple with prompts, for this photo I jokingly told them to look out to all their guests who they are so excited came – when in reality the guests we’re just our students so it got them to laugh! I love being sarcastic with my couples and making jokes to get them to loosen up and get those real smiles out of them!!

What did you say?

okay now lookout to your guests and see all your very best friends and closest family in the audience who you adore sooooo much

How did you compose your image?

I wanted to capture the landscape, specifically the full length of the amazing cactus behind them! I also wanted to add some magic to the image by putting something in the foreground so I grabbed a piece of a plant laying around and held it in front of my camera on the left side, which is how I got that pretty light spot there!

How and what did you focus on?

I always use autofocus and for this image, I focused on the bride’s face! I use back button focus and I use continuous focus mode with my camera’s max amount of focus points available (for me that’s 52!) This allows me to move my focus point to wherever I want, so I moved it to be on the bride’s face then I pressed down on my back button to focus and then click the shutter!


How did you use the light in your image?

This was around 2.5-3hrs before sunset so the light was still pretty harsh but pretty low in the sky which is great! The key for me when shooting in this type of light is to shoot dark, aka underexpose. It’s going to seem like the couple is super dark but I want to keep the highlights of the sky from being blown out and when editing all it takes is to bring up the blacks and the shadows and your couple will be correctly exposed again!!

We backlit the couple – aka the sun was behind them! The sun was also off to the left which I usually prefer to be directly centered behind them which creates super hazy images from so much sun right behind them. With the sun to the side of them, we got crisper images which I prefer for the majority of photos!

modern arizona wedding in the desert

What was the gear & settings you used?

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Nikon D750


Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 G





Shutter Speed






White Balance


modern arizona wedding in the desert

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

I used my Tessa Tadlock Preset #1 and then bumped up the warmth until I got that glowy goodness that I love! Then I added a little bit of contrast. Next, I went to the HSL sliders and bumped up the oranges to give their skin more life and blues to make the pretty blue sky pop! Lastly, I upped the luminance at 20 because their faces were a little grainy, so that smooth it out!

Software Used

Adobe Lightroom Classic

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What challenges did you face?

The blaring sun can always be a bit challenging!

How did you solve them?

Under exposing!! Trusting that you will always be able to bring those shadows up while editing!

modern arizona wedding in the desert

Can you share any last thoughts or advice?

I’ll never get over how much I love the look of something blurry in the foreground! I really think it just adds so much extra spice and sparkle and interest to an image!!

Tessa Tadlock

Shooting since


Current Home

United States of America



Hi!! I’m Tessa! I’m an extra firm believer in livinggggg. I’m an enneagram 7 – which basically means my motivation in life is having fun!! For me that means making time to get outside every single day, puppy hiking, playing pickle ball, wake boarding, surfing, traveling, riding bikes or longboards, playing games, dancing (taking class or just in public to embarrass my bf), playing with my pups (my favorite people ((puppies are people)) in the world), reading romance novels and working with happy, easy going clients! I’ve been a photographer for 6 years, after the first year ish I started solely focusing on weddings and elopements and feel so damn lucky to have a job I’m so passionate about and create magic with so many crazy amazing people in crazy beautiful places!! I’m also a photography educator which I FREAKIN LOVE! It’s always been my favorite thing in the world to help people figure out what they’re really passionate about and find a way to do that, so diving into the photography educator world has been soooo fulfilling and fun for me!! It’s also really challenging and scary but I love it so much!! My fiancé and I moved to the central coast of California 4yrs ago and I’ve never been happier or more excited about where I live!

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