JD Land

How I Shot It | Rain Images

With the rain images I won’t get into the exact camera settings I used.  Why not?  Well it will vary for everyone and each individual image so I’ll go into the thought process instead.  Before I ever bring the couple out into the less than ideal weather, I always dial in the ambient exposure I want.  In the below example I wanted to kill ambient so I did just that.  If you want to include some ambient elements, develop a vision in your mind and then expose the ambient for that vision.  When dialing in the ambient I want I always prioritize to keep my ISO as close to base ISO as possible.  Also, there is NOTHING WRONG with stopping down.  It will give you some wiggle room to focus in the dark and if you’ve already killed all the ambient why not give yourself that wiggle room!?

For lens selection, when I’m doing a rain shot, I ALWAYS go with the longest focal length possible.  The more compression you get the more impactful the rain will appear.  For me this is the 85mm F/1.8G as I don’t carry anything longer.

Now time to add the flash.  I usually prefer to set up my speedlite around chest high about 7-8’ behind the couple.  This allows me to use the couple to hide it and maximize the light spread I get in the frame.  To aid that light spread I usually flip down the wide angle plastic thingy from the head of my speedlite.  A Magsphere or anything similar would also work well to help spread the light as much as possible. Flash power will vary based on your ambient exposure but a good starting point is typically around 1/16th-1/32nd.  From there I'm almost always within one or two stops of my final power. 

These are the basics to getting a solid deliverable shot in the rain.  Once you have that down you can introduce elements such as the freelensing in top image.  With the free lensing remember that your F/stop will be whatever your widest aperture is so you'll need to adjust your ambient for that.  Also it’s a good idea to have cover overhead since your sensor will be exposed.  


This will work the very same way in the snow!

Another good thing to take into account with all these types of shots is the location.  You can use that to your advantage.  In the free lensed shot you will notice what looks like a fill light.  That fill light actually came from the giant white stone arches and roof of the patio I was standing under.  I like to travel light on wedding days, so I’ve trained myself to look for helpful things to use on the fly.  It’s a very good practice to have whenever you walk into a room with or without a camera!  And if you’re going to get creative.  Get the basic "safe" shot first!  If you're make your couple go out in the rain you better deliver something!  See safe shot below for the free lensed image.


Feel free to post any questions in the comments! Thanks for reading!

- JD

How I Shot It - Ballroom Dancing Image

I knew I wanted to do this image before I showed up for the wedding day.  The bride had told me in our last meeting that we had access to the venue’s theatre as well as the fact that she had danced on that stage growing up.  We are always trying to find ways to incorporate our couples stories into their wedding photography so this one was a softball.  

As is the norm with weddings, there are hiccups with every plan. Even knowing I wanted to do this image I managed to leave my tripod in my truck which was about a 10 minute walk away.  Not having 20 minutes to spare I had to improvise.  I’ve found over the years that ANYTHING can be improvised!  I backed up as far as I could go and and set down my Thinktank Airport on it’s side.  Ideally I would have loved the compression of an 85mm here but I didn’t have room to do this without a tripod.  So I went with the 16-35 and racked it out to 16mm.  Why?  Because at 35mm or lower I expect to have some kind of distortion in the background and sides.  I know this and I know I can correct for it if I have room to do so.  By going to 16mm I left myself the room in the final image to correct for the inevitable distortion.  Again, not ideal but we are winging it at this point folks.  

For the exposure I determined it took her about 1 second to go from the outstretched position to his arms.  To give myself some wiggle room I set the shutter speed to 1.6 seconds and dialed in my exposure from there.  My final settings were 16mm, 1.6sec, F/2.8, & ISO 100.

The reason I had her start in the outstretched position was because I wanted to emphasize that in the image and not have her moving through that position too quickly.   By starting her in that position it would help to burn that into the image more than anywhere she was moving through.  

The lighting was done by using the Profoto B1 with the 2’ Octa gridded.  The light was feathered towards me so that it just barely brushed the couple with light.  This minimized the amount of light spill into the background.  The modeling light was also turned on and left at full power to aid in making their movements really burn into the image.  

With the exposure dialed in and the B1 in rear curtain sync to freeze the final position of her in his arms, it was time to dance.  We took about half a dozen frames to get one I liked.  In hindsight, the light should have been to camera left to light her face better and I would have had my tripod to allow shooting at 85mm which would have allowed me to know exactly what my framing was looking like.  However, with this image I was wide enough to correct it and make it work.  Something I always tell our associates, know your gear and know what you’re capable of doing with a file.  On wedding days you don’t always have time to get it 100% right in camera.  If you understand your gear and what you can do with a given file though you can get the file you need to complete your final vision in a short amount of time.  

If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments!

- JD

Anticipating Moments - Creative Storytelling

As a wedding photographer, what could be better than delivering a truly candid image to your couple that genuinely means something to them?  These images may not be super flashy or ones that you can throw up on Facebook and expect to get a whole bunch of "likes" from.  They often times are images that don't even make our portfolio.  But, these are images that you can deliver to your client knowing that they will love them.  In the end, that is all that really matters in our line of work.  

To capture these moments requires a lot of anticipation and well, luck!  Yes luck!  The biggest reason for this is that we personally don’t believe in interrupting or aiding a special moment for our couples to make a better photograph.  I would rather shoot an average image that captures the genuine moment, than an amazing image that won’t mean as much to the couple because we interfered with something that was genuine to their wedding day.  That said, all we can do as Photographers is put ourselves in a good position, with good lighting (when possible), in anticipation of a moment.  Then we wait and keep our fingers crossed for some good old fashion luck!  Tyler Wirken has a great acronym for this but I don’t remember exactly what it is.  However, he lives by Lighting, Composition, and Moment (that may actually be the acronym....) and I couldn’t agree with him more about that. I only strive to do it as well as he does, though!

So on to some images from this past year where everything did come together just perfectly and they ended up being images that did make the top of our portfolio, and got a lot of "likes".

With this image, I already knew the bride wanted to do a reveal with her bridesmaids because she told me she did.  I also knew that she was going to get in her wedding dress upstairs which meant the Bridesmaids would most likely have to be waiting for her at the bottom of the steps.  In an ideal world all the bridesmaids are layered within the mirror.  In a typical wedding day world, there isn’t a single bridesmaid standing in view of the mirror.  On this particular wedding day though, a little luck was on my side!  I missed a few bridesmaids, actually about 1/2 of them with this shot.  But the result still told the story that I wanted to tell and it told that story in a very unique way.  Most importantly though, it told that story in a way that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with my Bride and her Bridesmaids.  Keep in mind, as soon as she stepped off of the staircase I immediately stood up and stepped back to capture all 8 of the bridesmaids seeing her.  Always get a safe shot!  Even if I’m about to contradict that statement……

With this next image I may have not been following my own rule about getting a safe shot but I had a vision and from experience, I knew I could get the shot, well I was pretty sure.  

I was told before the wedding day that they were going to be doing a sparkler last dance to end the evening.  With this image I wanted the sparklers to really pop so I dropped my shutter speed to 1/15th of a second.  The flash was gridded and pointed directly at the couple from the camera’s hot shoe, no that is not a typo.  I used direct on camera flash and was happy about it.  The reason for that was I wanted to provide just enough fill to freeze the couple's motion but at the same time affect the sparklers as little as possible.  That was my thought process and when the DJ gave me the heads up that it was the next song I got into position and was ready to go.  One problem.  My idea of a last dance with sparklers didn’t involve a lot of fast dancing and jumping around.  Jeff & Reid’s version on the other hand did.  Well I wasn’t set up to freeze that kind of fast paced motion.  Decision time.  I could bump up my flash power and speed up my shutter speed to get something I could deliver.  Or I could stick with the shot I knew I wanted.  I stuck with it because based on experience, I knew that at some point they would stop to kiss or exchange a loving look.  Anticipating that, and with a little bit of luck in the fact that they stopped to kiss in exactly the right spot, I got the shot that completed their wedding story.  And it won us Junebug’s Best of the Best Wedding Images for 2015.

Here are a few more images that I absolutely love and I think truly had meaning to the couple.


These are just a few examples where everything came together.  The anticipation, the moment, and a little luck, all combined in the perfect storm to create something I feel was really special.  These are images that I think really show the emotion of a genuine moment.  A moment that we had nothing to do with besides documenting it with a photograph.  Now don’t get me wrong, we pose and stage all the time for portraits and love doing it!  But that is during the time that the couple gave to us on their wedding day to be in control of.  The more photojournalistic approach is what we take for everything else.  It’s our job to find a hands off way to make those images look awesome!  



I have often preached that it’s your ability as an artist to stand out and be different that will set you apart and make you great. One of the most famous and well known artists in our history, Pablo Picasso, was known for his originality in his work. He was also the artist that once said, “Good artists copy, but great artists steal.” Wait, what?!?

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