As a Weddingbee.com addict since April, 2009 — a site I found in the midst of my own planning for my recent Sept. 2009 nuptials — You can imagine my excitement when a REAL “BEE” contacted me wanting to do a “Day-After” shoot with her husband.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, BEEs are among the carefully selected few brides who are responsible for the blogs posted daily on the site’s homepage. Of the maybe thousands who must apply, only about 100 are accepted and active based on their awesome personalities and exceptional ability to convey a unique and upbeat message through writing. I consider them minor celebrities to the rest of us site members!
That being said, I was very excited about my shoot with the actual Mr. and Mrs. Star, whose anonymity I have done my best to maintain! I already knew Mrs. Star was a gorgeous actress with a beautiful wedding gown and anticipated great results from the session. However, I don’t think I dared to quite expect THIS:
On the day of, not only was I was amazed by Mrs. Star’s beauty in person, but also by myself, and I don’t care what it sounds like to say that. I’ve done a lot of engagement shoots, and even a little city hall wedding, but for a long time I’ve wondered what I’d be capable of if you put a girl like Mrs. Star with a dress like that in front of my lens. The resulting photos showed me exactly where my potential lies and will be the standard of comparison for all my future sessions.
To recap the actual day, the minute I walked into Mrs. Star’s apartment in the city, I saw the dress hanging in the window and was trigger happy to have at it.
Once Mrs. Star had the dress on, I was STILL loving that window, so I asked her to sit for a bridal portrait. I wanted to complement the natural light coming through the window, so I put on my new favorite toy, the Gary Fong Light sphere with a toned-down setting, and slightly underexposed the background to create a very natural look. Thank you Mike McNamara for teaching me this trick!
We headed up to the roof, where we could obnoxiously hold the elevator without judgment, and took a couple of shots there. I got to try out my newest Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 wide-angle lens!
Walking onto the roof, it was apparent we were going to have some lighting challenges, as it was high noon and bright sunlight to the back was creating too much of a silhouette and bright sunlight to the front would have given me squinty eyes (which I can deal with) but also a dirty building-side background. I went with the good background and back to the sun, which created a nice hair light, and used the Gary Fong as before to provide a natural, well-lit look.
The city background was hard to resist, but I had mixed feelings about the slight shadow on her face. I liked the shape of it her hair created but was it too distracting? I thought of using a reflector, which would have served my purpose best, but without an assistant or bribe-able passerby there was no one to hold it in the proper place, so I captured the image the old-fashioned way.
Our next stop was Duane Reed, yes, you heard me correctly, Duane Reed, haha. When I stopped to buy a hat and gloves there earlier, I noticed an escalator inside and saw its photographic potential. The Stars were more than up for it, but when we first walked in, Mrs. Star in her dress and me with my camera, we were immediately stopped by staff. I was told I DEFINITELY could not take pictures in the store. Luckily, I’m also not above Real. Genuine. BEGGING. Finally the staff member agreed to ask her manager if the couple could go down the escalator JUST ONCE. He agreed, but of course a girl in a bright green sweatshirt thoughtlessly got on right behind the couple and ruined the majority of my shots! When the manager himself came down, he recognized the Stars as regular shoppers and was thrilled they’d want to come to Duane Reed on their “wedding day!” They obliged him with pictures he took on his cell phone, which of course gave me an excuse to ask if they could go down one more time. Well, he had to let us now!
The Stars and I left Duane Reed in a fit of giggles and headed to the nearest Starbucks for our next set of photos. I have to hand it to Starbucks; they have yet to give me a problem for taking photos there. They were very accommodating and kept offering us water and anything to make my special couple more comfortable on their “wedding day.” We snickered every time someone congratulated them — only the three of us knowing their REAL wedding was in October!
Next stop was the New York Public Library, and I was tasked with making sure no one ran off with Mrs. Stars coat and purse as well as my own two bags of personal items and camera equipment. I was a pack mule as I took these shots, but the adrenaline of knowing the light was perfect, the dress was perfect, the couple was perfect and the background was just how I wanted it … Let’s just say I knew what I had going there and I’d be darned if I let a little fatigue and extra weight hold me back from taking advantage of this rare alignment of the stars.
Last stop was a local pub, where Mrs. Star ordered an Iced Tea with two straws. I loved the ambiance of this location, with its rich, warm feel.
Finally back at the apartment, we couldn’t resist one last photo op. on the couple’s little balcony. The following was one of the most difficult shots I’ve ever attempted to get. Pointing my camera directly at the sun, I was quite blinded, and the couple was coming out as complete silhouettes — a nice look, but I wanted to see if I could get that same sun flare while keeping their beautiful faces. Between my fill lighting, the surrounding haze and the background lighting (an overwhelming amount all together), I started with a completely WHITE photo and worked my way down to a shot as close as possible to what I was looking for and finalized the image in post processing. The retouched image was definitely worth all the work I put into it.
I only hope Mr. and Mrs. Star know just how glad I am for the opportunity I had to work with them. Before the shoot began, Mrs. Star shared with me that she couldn’t bring herself to take her dress down from that window since her wedding months ago. Perhaps now, with both its beauty and hers successfully captured in photographs that will last a lifetime, Mrs. Star can finally put the dress away and start eating some bon bons!