Bridal portraits at Upper Mill Plantation in Bucksville

Bride posing with her cheek beside the horse - Upper Mill Plantation
I had a lot of fun shooting bridal portraits at Upper Mill Plantation this past spring. This bride and groom just got married at the plantation on Saturday, so I’m now able to post some of these pictures. Upper Mill Plantation has a lot of pretty photography spots. We started out walking to the pond …

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Beautiful bridal portraits at Rosewood Manor in Marion, SC

Bride by bedroom fireplace - Rosewood Manor - Marion - Rosewood Manor, Marion
This was my first time doing photography at the Rosewood Manor Bed & Breakfast in Marion, SC. I understand this is a popular bridal portraits location, in fact there was another bride finishing up her portraits right before we arrived. I actually shot these pictures a few months ago, but as always with bridal portraits, …

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Bridal portraits at the South Carolina State House and Conway Riverwalk

Bride on the train tracks at the Conway River Walk
I decided to combine together two recent bridal portrait sessions into one post since both their weddings were recently over. The first bridal session was at the South Carolina State House in Columbia. It’s always fun to take pictures somewhere I’ve never been. This bride has family that works in the government so we had …

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Beautiful evening for bridal portraits at Atalaya Castle in Murrells Inlet, SC

Bride leaning against the castle wall with out of focus light hitting the moss, Atalaya Castle, Huntington State Park

I was able to work with a really pretty bride the other evening doing bridal portraits at Atalaya Castle in the Huntington State Park. The evening was great except for being a bit cold. Because of the 5:00pm closing time of the Atalaya Castle, we had to stay outside the castle to be able to catch the sunset. The poor bride almost froze to death by the end of the session, but I think it will be worth it to her when she sees the pictures. She did a pretty good job of not looking cold, at least as long as you don’t zoom in on the 36mp Nikon D800 images and see all the goose bumps.

I’ve been trying to get better at posing hands, with bridal portraits you have a lot more time than at the wedding for trying different hand positions. You will notice below I have the bride doing a lot of different things with her hands, not everything worked that we tried, but that is how you get better at it. Another thing I’m working more with is off camera speedlights. I put a Gary Fong Power Snoot on my second flash behind and to the left of the bride on a lightstand. The power snoot creates a more concentrated light that pretty much just hits where you aim it. You will notice it in a number of shots where you see a separation light on the brides hair and her side a bit. It just gives the pictures an extra pop when you can do that. Something a lot of beginning photographers don’t realize, taking a picture isn’t just having a good eye and being able to aim a camera and push a button. You have to get more technical and pull out some real equipment if you want to take something that really stands out. I hope you enjoy some of the pictures below, please like and comment on the post if you do!

Quick edit – I was playing around with some new Nik Software plugins. Google is now giving the complete collection free to anyone that purchased individual plugins before! I’ve never used some of the plugins like HDR Efex. I usually stay away from any strong effects, but after playing around I thought the first image below looked cool! So I added it here. I’m still mostly keeping away from strong effects though, they tend to look dated quickly.

Bridal portraits at Pawleys Plantation and the Conway River Walk

I don’t typically do an many bridal portraits as other types of photography.  A lot of people prefer to do engagement pictures with me and just do some bridal style pictures at the wedding.  But it’s always a lot of fun when I get to. This is one of the best kinds of photography you can do, a bride all dressed up for a wedding, without the stress and limited time of the wedding itself.  It’s pretty hard to go wrong as long as you have a pretty location to work with.

I thought I would post just a few pictures from recent bridal portraits at Pawleys Plantation area and from the Conway River Walk. Pawleys Plantation is a private area so you would probably have to be doing a wedding there to get to do this, but the Conway River Walk is freely open to everyone.  It’s one of my favorite spots.

Bride walking toward to clubhouse - Pawley's Plantation
Bride walking toward to clubhouse – Pawley’s Plantation

Bridal portrait in the flowers behind the clubhouse - Pawley's Plantation
Bridal portrait in the flowers behind the clubhouse – Pawley’s Plantation

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Quick review of the Sigma 85mm f1.4 lens with Bridal and Engagement pictures

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I purchased a new lens, the Sigma 85mm EX DG HSM f1.4.  This quick review is from using a full frame Nikon D700 camera with this lens. I typically only buy Nikon lenses, so I have some top of the line lenses to compare the Sigma too, such as the latest Nikon 24-70 f2.8.  Nikon’s high end lenses have incredible optics and lens coatings that really control typical problems like chromatic aberration and lens flare.  My main concern is taking the highest quality pictures possible, currently Nikon’s 85mm f1.4 lens is $1700 vs $1000 for the Sigma which is a nice difference, but the big problem is you just can’t buy Nikon’s version.  I checked all of Nikon’s authorized dealers and I just can’t find it in stock.  I had read really good reviews of the Sigma lens from photographers such as Ryan Brenizer that I really respect, so I decided I would give it a try.

First of all, the lens has beautiful Bokeh, or the nice smooth out of focus areas in the background and foreground.  At f1.4, you are going to get a very shallow depth of field, a very small area of the picture that is in focus.  However, different lenses even at the same aperture, can vary a lot in the quality of the out of focus area or Bokeh. The out of focus areas of a picture can be as important as the in focus areas. I included the first shot below, not as an example of a really good picture, but because I wanted to show the quality of the Bokeh.  If you notice there is very little flare from the sun, even in the harsh lighting conditions.  The spots of light coming through the trees have turned into beautiful rounded discs, this means there is a high quality rounded aperture.  Of course I knew the Bokeh would be nice from the reviews I had read.

Focus and handling of the lens is really something you need hands on time with to know if it works for you.  My Nikon lenses such as the 24-70 and 70-200 focus extremely fast on the Nikon D700 body.  I knew the Sigma would not be that fast, but I’m pleasantly surprised with how quickly and spot on it locks the focus.  I occasionally miss focus on a shot, but it always seems to be my fault. When you are shooting wide open at f1.4 you have to be really careful to keep your subject in focus, it’s almost impossible if they are moving.  I actually was more afraid of shooting at f1.4 than I should have been, almost all my shots had almost perfect focus, or at least close enough it looked good.

To sum up my quick review, so far I’ve found the Sigma to have excellent focus, beautiful Bokeh, and fast performance.  I haven’t tried it in low light yet such as at a wedding reception, so I will see how it goes.  But so far I’m more than happy with the results I’ve been getting.  I hope you enjoy some of the shots below, they were all shot with the Sigma 85mm wide open at f1.4.  I’ll update this after using the lens more this summer, so far it seems like an excellent addition to my always growing bag of gear.

Note: If the things I talked about in the post sound confusing, there are lots of links that explain everything.  You will learn a lot if you check them out.

Update to this article: A few days after I wrote this I actually found the Nikon version of this lens in stock at the Nikon store for $1699.  I ordered this and will likely be returning the Sigma.  Everything I said about the Sigma is true, it’s a fantastic lens.  So why did I get the Nikon?  It’s all about build quality.  I was getting frustrated at my recent wedding because it was raining and I knew the Sigma is not weather sealed.  While the picture quality is fantastic, I use my lenses so much and in such harsh conditions I decided I should go with the Nikon.  Nikon builds their high end lenses like a tank, and while the build quality of the Sigma is fine, I decided I would prefer the weather sealing of the Nikon.  But if you aren’t a pro, get the Sigma.  It’s great for normal use.

Example of Bokeh from Tamron Lens
This image is just here to show the quality of the Bokeh

Sunlight hitting the veil - Bridal Portrait - Myrtle Beach
Sunlight hitting the veil - Bridal Portrait - Myrtle Beach

Read moreQuick review of the Sigma 85mm f1.4 lens with Bridal and Engagement pictures