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Chris Smith is a professional photographer in Charleston, SC. A photographer for almost 30 years, Chris offers a superior knowledge of creating perfect images. For many years, Chris has been the official photographer of the Family Circle Cup, a professional tennis tournament held annually in Daniel Island's tennis stadium

Anatomy of a Bridal Portrait

I thoroughly enjoy photographing Bridal Portraits. And Brooke’s was one of my absolute favorites this year!

We met at Middleton Place, which is a gorgeous venue to begin with. It was a beautiful day with lots of nice natural light to work with. But I knew that as the shadows got longer and the sun faded, I’d need to add supplemental lighting. Plus even with nice natural light, I love the option of adding an accent light to kick it up another notch!

My favorite “portable” setup when I’m shooting solo includes a Bogen lightstand with a 24″ Lastolite EZYBox which I’ve modified to hold two SB-800 speedlights. Both of these are set to Group A. At the base of the stand I sling a 10lb BoaBag for stability. Just above that I clamp a Bogen Manfrotto Justin Clamp with a 3rd SB-800 set to Group B. When I tilt the stand horizontal, the weight at the base balances the weight at the top, and I can easily carry it in my left hand, while slinging my tripod and camera over the right shoulder.

In the shots at the bridge, I pulled back to show my set up in action. You’ll see the 9-ft light stand setup on the right as my main light, and the flash mounted on the Justin Clamp attached to the railing on the left as a kicker light.

Over the years I found having one extra light source aside from the sun is great. Having 2 extra light sources is better. But carring two light stands is too cumbersome unless I have an assistant. The Justin Clamp works beatifully since there’s almost always something around you can clamp it to. Orr just use it as a mini-tripod and set it on the ground for an accent light. In the final shots with the sunset, I had one of Brooke’s attendants hold it up high behind her to accent the hair and veil.

My use of off-camera flash is often subtle and done to accentuate the natural light that’s already there. So here are a few tips to help you pick out where the light is.  All were shot with Nikon D4, Nikkor 70-200 VRII, with SB-910 as Master, triggered with the RadioPopper Px system:
– Image #2: Group A placed behind her, off camera right, to accent her hair & figure.
– Image #4: Group A off to camera left as a main light to help balance out the background.
– Image #11: Group A off camera left as main light to make her pop out of the shadows.
– Image #16: Group A off camera left and behind her for a side/rim light to compliment the sun coming in from the right.
– Image #19-21: Group A as main light, Group B with a 1/2 CTO warming gel as kicker light.
– Image #23: Group A high and to camera left with 1/4 CTO warming gel to mirror the setting sun, Group B held high and behind her off camera right with 1/2 CTO warming gel as kicker light.

Brooke was a BEAUTIFUL bride and so much fun to work with! I hope you enjoy the images…I sure had fun making them!