This has been a loooong time in the making! Last October, a friend, who was at the time, the coordinator at the Chateau Bellevue, asked me to come visit this historic venue. I’ve photographed at a lot (most of) the venues here in Austin, but not the Chateau. When I saw it in person, I was floored by the historic beauty of this venue. Room after room, I couldn’t believe how many great “pockets” there were in which to photograph. She graciously offered to let me do a portrait shoot. Since none of my brides were getting married there, I began to consider using models and conducting a creatively driven portrait session. That initiated my quest to put all of the elements together, which was a lot harder than I expected.
It all started with the dresses, which after countless hours, were found on Etsy and eBay (both one-of-a-kind/handmade). Finding models also presented a challenge. There are lots of models in Austin, but finding ones that suited the look I wanted and fit my dresses (with minor alterations) also proved to be very time consuming. All this being said, I was so elated when I found Maddison and Jess last fall.
An important part of this shoot was to play with lenses and light. For over half of these shots, I used an all-manual Zeiss (Nikon mount) lens, shot at 1.4-2.0. My eyes grew tired quickly, but the colors, contrast, and sharpness (when you can get the focus right on) that this lens yielded were mind blowing. Most of the images below are SOOC (straight out of camera). They needed hardly any adjustments at all. The most I did to the images was lighten them by about half a stop. I must admit, this happens, but not nearly enough when I shoot a wedding. Having the time to really focus so intensely on composing an image (which I usually don’t have the luxury of doing at weddings), allowed me to get the lighting and depth of field just how I wanted it in the camera. I was so happy when I opened all the images on my computer and didn’t have to fuss with them. The end result was marked by images that were clean, sharp and true to life colors.
Things I learned-
• A grid in a soft box can truly do wonders when trying to direct light.
• Don’t be afraid to put your subject in a dark spot.
• Reflectors are great tools when used inside and near a window.
• If you bring a box of Tiff’s treats to a shoot, you will probably be the only one eating them. I take that back: you and the pregnant make-up artist.
• If you are putting together a shoot with models, make the time and effort to meet beforehand to try on clothes and accessories. I did this, and it made me feel so much more prepared the day of the shoot.
• Bouncing flash backwards and into a reflector that is pointed towards your subject can yield some nice natural light. It’s also a quick solution if you don’t have time to set up off-camera lights.
• Doing something like this is lots of fun, and I should try and do it more often.
Envisioning a portrait’s color palette ahead of time is not always possible, but really important. Figuring out which scenes are most fitting to a subject (I’m talking strictly about colors) was a little bit of a task, but well worth it. For instance, I specifically used Jessa (not Maddison) in the scene with the rod-iron fence because I knew her black hair would tie in so perfectly. The juxtaposition of the black hues with the peach tone of her dress and the sunset light all came together to create, in my opinion, a really great painterly feel. Another example are the images of Maddison in the courtyard. Once outside, we made the decision that changing her lip color to a deep plum would create an interesting juxtaposition against the rest of all the colors, which were all very light grey (the bog and masonry) and ivories (her dress and hair), and all very closely related. This monotony of colors was absolutely intentional. Yes, you can try and achieve the same thing in photoshop with a filter that masks everything, but the end result is very different, and in my opinion, doesn’t have the same depth. I had these image’s colors in my head before I shot them. Some turned out exactly how I had envisioned; some weren’t as successful. Either way, thinking about all the elements before-hand gave me a “sketch” to go off of before I began to photograph, which in turn gave me confidence to carry it out on the day of the shoot.
I didn’t want this to be a huge styled shoot with a large team of collaborators, nor did I want this to focus my efforts on a lot of stuff (no cupcakes, balloons or old suitcases on this shoot). My intention was to focus on colors, light (both natural and flash), the composition of portraits and experimenting with different kinds of lenses. In a nutshell, I just wanted to play and have fun. That being said, there were a few very important collaborators who made this day successful, in addition to making the day a lot of fun. I approached Maris Malone-Caledron to do make-up. Working in the wedding industry, I have the pleasure of working with great vendors. When it came to finding someone to do make-up, MMC is simply one of the best, and I was so grateful that she was so excited to come on board for this shoot in which she knew nothing about. I told her what kind of look I was going for and what kind of make-up I thought would look best, and she executed it perfectly! I had never worked with Erica Gray (hair stylist) before, but she came highly recommended by a colleague, and she also did a fantastic job. I have to send out a special thanks to my friend Allen Doberenz, for bringing his lights and reflectors and being one of the best Sherpas around. Allen really helped me with setting up, adjusting the lights, and holding a reflector like nobody else’s business. Lastly, a big thanks goes out to Beth Walker for bringing her dog out for a few pics. It was so much fun shooting with him, and I think he made a great addition to the session. I can’t get over how beautiful that dog is!
Thanks again to all of those that came on board for this session when I had nothing really to offer except a verbal description of what I was wanting to shoot, which was rather vague. I had a blast and hope to do another one soon.
Stay tuned for Part 2! There are lots more photos. Although similar in content, I’ll be posting some variations on posing and color processing.