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Often, my images begin to take shape a long time before the moment of capture. I find visualizing shots and imagining images that I want to take in the future, helps me see opportunities when they present themselves. I have a small library of photos in my mind, ready for the right time and place for me to take them.

This might sound difficult, but it’s actually as simple as finding inspiration from other images and photographers and wondering how you can take ideas, tweak them, and make them your own. Look around. Ignore trends. Seek out the creative and different and daydream.

Also: scout locations. Before a wedding, walk around with a coffee to places you’re likely to go on the wedding day and imagine photos. You don’t even need your camera. Try to do this at the same time of day, so you can observe the light.

In this case, I had pre-visualized a tilt-shift image similar to this. For me, tilt-shift lenses offer opportunities, but they can also be over-used and used in the wrong scenarios. What can make a tilt-shift image interesting is elevation, because when you shoot slightly downwards at a lower subject it creates a “miniature” effect that can look surreal. This spot gave me that. It also offered a powerful symmetry. A vale of land with a single lonely tree. I love minimalism and composition and this location drew me in.

Initially, I was just going to shoot the couple, but the bridal party was present so I decided to utilize them all. It was a good decision I think. The photo took about 5 minutes. I chose the 50 1.2 because of its bokeh. Its rendering of OOF is one of the most beautiful of all lenses. Would I use any other lenses? Yes, of course. I use a bunch of different lenses, depending on what focal length I’m seeking. I find 35mm is the most versatile for tilt-shift photos.

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How did you direct your subject(s)?

This photo is very minimal and quirky. In the spirit of the location and style, I wasn’t seeking romance and laughter and energy: I wanted simplicity. So I had the group stand perfectly still & expressionless. Very easy to direct.

What did you say?

Girls, I’ll get you to stand that side, boys, that side. Stand the same distance apart, quite still and facing me. Like that – perfect!

How did you compose your image?

Composition is very important to me. I’m not a great believer in the theory of composition, and I can’t name particular textbook methods (aside from rule of thirds), but I believe shooting in a way that is aesthetically pleasing is a skill that grows the more you shoot. Generally, for portraits, the rule of thirds is a good one. But for creative photos there are no rules: you need to feel your way towards what works best for you and the image, and trust that what is aesthetically pleasing to your eye is also pleasing to other people viewing it.

In this case, I didn’t want too much space below the bridal party, because the lower part of the image is simply grass. Having the bridal party at the bottom also added to the feeling of smallness. Also, the focus for this image, for me, is the tree, so I composed this centrally. And I wanted the playfulness of the OOF area to be enjoyed – the upper part of the image to my eye is very interesting.

How and what did you focus on?

The where and how of focus is paramount for this shot. I used a canon 50mm 1.2 mounted with a tilt-shift adapter on a sony a7iii. An unusual combination. But quite simple. Dumb tilt-shift adapters are cheap (mine was $20). They literally just allow you to tilt a lens up and down, with no EXIF data transfer or AF capabilities.

Because it’s a dumb adapter, I used focus zebras to get the right things in focus. This is the hardest thing to do when using a tilt-shift set up, because the focus area is very narrow and behaves very differently to standard setups. To make sure I don’t miss focus, I slowly move the focus up and down and shoot dozens of fast images at a high fps. Later, I choose the perfect image. In this case it got the upp bodies of the bridal party in focus, and the lower bodies OOF. But even this shot wasn’t perfect: if you look closely you can see that the top of their heads is also slightly blurred.


How did you use the light in your image?

This photo was taken in a valley at dusk on a cloudy day. There was soft ambient light, but no sun to speak of. THis meant that I didn’t have to worry too much about where or how the group was positioned since the light was very soft throughout.

What was the gear & settings you used?

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Sony A7 III


Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L





Shutter Speed






White Balance


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

I used my own adapted preset. I darkened the top half of the image because it was too bright and I wanted attention drawn down to the bridal party. Also added grain and removed a telegraph line.

Software Used

Adobe Lightroom Classic

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What challenges did you face?

The main challenge was nailing focus using a tilt setup.

How did you solve them?

I overcame this by very slowly adjusting focus and shooting a ton of frames at the same time.

Can you share any last thoughts or advice?

Would I shoot this same shot again? No, I wouldn’t. And here is the point: this image is interesting precisely because it’s unique. Shooting it again would be pointless and boring. I would definitely shoot something similar, but for me, the process was a success because I did something that was different. So next time, I will do something different again.

This is the hardest thing to do in wedding photography, and in a world saturated with photos. But the challenge is an exciting one.

Van Middleton Photography

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I’m a wedding photographer based out of Byron Bay, Australia.

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