A few weeks ago I was so excited to be called and given the heads up that this elegant and dramatic photo shoot at Elmore Court was going to be published in Your Glos & Wilts Wedding Magazine; the magazine you really want to get your hands on if you’re getting married in these two beautiful counties.
I do love collaborating on fashion shoots for this incredible industry that I work within and was so pleased to have been on location with Lilyfee Floral Designs, Double Dutch Hair & Mark Up, model Bridget Pickerill from Elliott Brown, bridal gowns from Sarah Elizabeth Bridal Boutique, and of course on location at Elmore Court.
The first flickerings of an idea started when Cor and I were chatting at a wedding show that spring and we decided that we wanted to work together on something a little bit different. When I shoot bridal fashion it has to be dramatic and it has to be different. I spend a huge amount of time on the lighting and getting it right. “That will do” does not feature in my vocabulary! When we came to shoot at Elmore Court it was in the depths of winter. Lighting was critical. So whilst the team worked on hair, make up, fitting the dresses and the last final flowers; NKP’s Charlotte and I went to town with the lighting!
I had titled the shoot; ‘A Decadent Simplicity’. I had visions of clean and simple elegant lines with a touch of luxe through the flowers and accessories.
The eclectic, decadent backdrops and dark architectural features of Elmore Court date back to Elizabethan times and we accented these with jewel colours and muted rich dark pinks to match the already there shimmering copper tones and dark luxuriant tonal mood for the shoot.
As a photographer I want to evolve bridal fashion shoots. To celebrate carefully curated, beautiful bridal gowns; in every day settings yet properly lit as if they were works of art. The richness of the backgrounds highlighted the clean lines of the bridal gowns, and by taking away any excesses that you would normally find in a bridal fashion shoot we created a sense of luxurious simplicity.
Overall I wanted an air of velvety luxe to truly showcase these carefully selected pieces that need little or no embellishment and to create some theatre in the images that could be within reach and recreated for a bride on her wedding day. I’ll talk you through each shot and how it was lit below. Although this was a bespoke bridal fashion shoot I also wanted for every image to be potentially recreated in a real life time frame. In the UK we are not blessed with the best weather in the world and there are many many times when you need to be able to use lighting to create those heirloom images often in dark old country houses and barns that we love.
Here’s our Photo Shoot Story…
These photographs were taken in one of the bedrooms. Its a very dark room with a huge Gothic four poster bed and this fabulous area with a copper bath set again dark wooden panelling and dark blue painted walls. When we shot this image it was sunset and so we used a couple of lighting techniques. Firstly we used off camera flash to the left of the model using a speed-light on a stand inside a small soft box connected to a remote trigger to throw some light at the model’s face. We placed a small constant light on a cool setting and approx 50% power within the bath tub, and finally using some good old fashioned ‘light throwing’, Charlotte got busy with the golden hued reflector. We opened the curtains a fraction to harness some of the amber winter sunset to throw some warmth across the image and to accentuate the flowers. We had just minutes as the sun sunk below the horizon!
For this next collection of images we were in The Hall with its huge mullioned windows. However the light of the day had gone and the sun had set. There was a huge Christmas tree to the right as you looked at the model. Again we lit these images using a speed-light and a constant light. The constant light was placed behind the model on the table out of sight and at an angle designed to create a halo effect around her head. A further two constant lights on mini stands were placed to the sides at the front. The speed-light was then tilted and diffused to add a pop of light in an otherwise low lit room.
To create the final image in this part of the collection I had asked Clare of Lilyfee Floral Designs to add some huge feathers to the floral crown (I think everyone else thought I was crazy but Clare totally knew what was going on in my head!). I then asked Bridget to pick up her dress and sashay towards me. Using the same lighting techniques as before but with some slight angle adjustments to create a movement in the image on her skirt only.
This next part of the collection was photographed in the Drawing Room. As we were in the depths of winter the light pouring in was not adding to the effect I wanted. It was cold and stark and I wanted velvety richness. So I closed the curtains and lit these images in the dark! Soft boxes were used and a tripod was a necessity as was manual focus! Using two different lenses and some focus lighting from Charlotte we created these beautiful soft images.
These next images were taken at the other end of the Drawing Room. I had spotted a fabulous mirror when Cor and I had been for a recce some months back and just knew that this would create a fabulous image. The natural back light of the lamps either side of the mirror created all the lighting I needed when adding in a little bit of bounced in fill flash.
These next images were taken in one of the suites. Another completely different set of lighting conditions. We threw open all of the heavy drapes and let the daylight flood in. The warmer dark brown panelling warmed up and diffused the harsh daylight. By adding a small constant light behind Bridget it meant that as her hair was the darkest part of her in the image (I appreciate this sounds daft as she has light blonde hair!) it separated her from the background where she so easily could have blended. The rest of the lighting was the natural light from the window, again with a little bit of good old fashioned reflector work from Charlotte to add the softness we needed.
Those of you who have been to Elmore Court will recognise where this next image was taken and will also know how dark this staircase is. This really took quite a team effort and a lot of light measuring! There is some natural light from a window to the left of the image however this is fairly high up in comparison to the door frame itself so once again we threw light from the window light source using a reflector and then infilled the rest of the space with a speed light mounted inside a soft box on the right. Interestingly this was not the finished image but I just love it! We were completing the final lighting checks and Bridget was wrapped in a blanket to keep warm (no matter how warm a venue is, if you’re standing still you get chilly!) and it created a real look of innocence and vulnerability safely cocooned within the stone archway.
Back in the Drawing Room again the natural harsh winters light was still not doing us any favours so I closed the heavy drapes and lit the area from scratch. I kept the small wall lights behind Bridget to the right on the fireplace lit to create some interest in the background. I then added two constant lights either side of the archway out of sight and one behind her. The lights either side were on half power and the light behind at 85% on a cool tone. I then had a speed-light mounted in a soft box in front of Bridget above my head as I took the photograph.
Where might you ask is this taken…? If you were to go into the Drawing Room and through the archway where the images above were taken and turn to your left you will see a small alcove on your left. You will also note that it is painted an incredibly dark grey/black colour which presents a problem if you are using lighting of any sort as there will always tend to be a reflection of sorts which I didn’t want! Never one to make it easy for myself but as I said earlier “That will do” doesn’t cut it in my team!
This was lit with one light only in a pitch black setting. The curtains were closed behind me and all the internal lights of the room went off. The camera was mounted on a tripod and manually focused. I then added a soft box and speed-light on 1/16 power to diffuse the light so that it didn’t bounce and glare back at me. The results have a luxury high fashion feel to them. I was rather pleased!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the mini tutorial and behind the scenes insider info. If you’d like to collaborate on a shoot please get in touch!
My thanks to the A Team:
Hair & Make Up: Double Dutch
Flowers: Lilyfee Floral Designs
Bridal gowns: Sarah Elizabeth Bridal
Photographed on location at Elmore Court, Gloucestershire