Image of the Week #388 – The Best Lens for Bridal Portraits

I could not love this image from Sean Bell more. He truly is a master at bridal portraits. He manages to take an ordinary scene for bridal prep and elevate it into art. This is a masterclass in how to take the time to properly assess your environment, to see what assets are to hand that you can utilise and to seek out and implement a vision.

He has very kindly explained his process in quite a lot of detail for us here and this is exactly why we do these Farmers Images Of The Week – To learn from each other. Hearing him talk about how he produced this photo makes me want to shadow him at a wedding, to get in the room with him and see him at work. It would be incredibly inspiring.

Luckily, you can do just that at our upcoming Thrive conference. Not only will Sean be speaking on Day One but he will be leading small group shoots on Day Two. Here you will get the chance to see him in action and ask all the questions that you like. See now I wish I was just going as an attendee so I could take part, damn!

Nikon D780 | NIkon 85mm 1.8 | f/1.8 | 1/2000 | ISO 100

VSCO – Portra 400 +1

What Sean Said…

“I always ask for a few minutes alone with Bride (or Groom) to make a few portraits before heading to the ceremony. It’s a good time to play with the light and also nice for them, to have these moments to just breathe and relax after a hectic morning. I’m always scouting potential for portraits, thinking about how I can modify the light (if I have to) and also what area would work best for the subject, the mood and overall feel of the day. At this point Natasha was doing some final checks and sorting her veil near the window. The winter sun was super low and sharp and being a dual aspect room meant it was flooded with some interesting pockets and slices of light.

I tend to gravitate towards low key imagery during this time as I feel it works well for detail and also gives a sense of quiet before the rush of the day so I closed the curtains, leaving just a small slit and shot a few frames from the side using short lighting, dropping the exposure and forcing the rest of the room to fall away to black. These were gentle images but I was also intrigued by the colour of the curtains and the glow backlighting the veil, so I reversed and shot a few frames.

For this image I used an old dusty mirror and empty wine glass that was perched on the mantelpiece, removing my lens hood to allow the backlight in and shooting through these meant the image degraded nicely with some interesting flares and ‘ghosting’ and I feel gives it an almost impressionistic look. This seemed to suit Natasha’s style and also the atmosphere of the stately home venue.

When using my 85mm I tend to shoot a lot of the day between f2.2 and f4 depending on situation. I’ve found the sweet (and safe) spot to be between these (experiment with your own). For this shot and similar setups however I often open it up fully and use 1.8 as I’m looking for something less predictable and sharp – the lens is not perfect at this aperture but renders a more vintage/filmic look with some heavy fall off towards the edges of the frame.