Anatomy Of A Photograph: Portraits at 701 Whaley

Anatomy of a Photograph

A question that I get all the time from photographers is, “how do you light your photos?” so I thought I’d do a quick post processing breakdown so you can get a better idea of my thought process as I approached the portrait below:



Straight Out Of Camera:

So this is the image straight from the camera. As you can tell it’s very dark and there’s a light over part of the frame, but the basic framework of the photo is there. While in retrospect I’d have liked to have seen the light slightly closer to me and angled slightly more towards Kelsey to create a more pleasing light on her face this is a good starting point. Autofocus technology 4 years ago (especially in Nikon DSLRs) was nowhere close to modern Sony mirrorless cameras cameras so we were pretty lucky to have this image in focus at all. It was definitely a case of just being happy with what we were able to get.

Raw Edit: 

So using Capture One Pro 20 we have made a lot of the global adjustments and a few color tweaks. We’ve adjusted the exposure and contrast, gotten rid of a lot of the magenta tone in her dress and most importantly, made some tweaks to her skin tone to balance out the harsh lighting from the sun and strobe.

Clean Frame: 

So if you noticed in the previous two photos that there was a large softbox in the upper left part of the frame. That obviously can’t be in the final frame so in addition to the straight out of camera image, we apply the same adjustments (minus some of the local adjustments that don’t line up or aren’t necessary) to a frame without the light and then auto align the photos and mask out the strobe.

Window Replacement and Final Color Grade

There was a large dark area to the bride’s right, so we took another photo from this series, and replaced that dark space with a window. It balances out the frame and focuses more attention on what’s important. We also warmed up the photos slightly to match the sunset as the dress had gone a bit gray.

Clean Up and Final Tweaks: 

This is one of the most important steps in the entire process. We go through and get rid of all of the distracting elements in the photo so the eye goes directly to the bride. Any cars, people, reflections and street signs get removed and in this particular photo we also expanded the frame a little so that the keystone adjustments (to make the straight lines at the edge of the frame straight) didn’t cut out important elements of the photo. So in the end we’ve straightened the photo, cleaned up all of the distracting elements and fly away hairs, removed the lighting equipment and now we’re left with just the final stunning image!

I actually had a huge amount of fun putting this together so if you have any questions, feel free to reach out on Instagram and I’ll be happy to talk! Want to see another photo broken down? Comment on your favorite on Instagram and it might get chosen. Thanks!