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 …
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.
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.
A couple of weeks ago I was able to do some very pretty bridal portraits for a bride getting married this weekend. We set everything up on just a few weeks notice but I had the weekend open and was glad I was able to fit them in. This is a pretty unique location in a private home area a bit south of Pawleys Island, SC which is about 30 minutes south of the Myrtle Beach area. The wedding planner knew one of the residents in the area and they allowed us to do some pictures around their home as well as down near the Intracoastal Waterway. I thought they all turned out really beautifully and wanted to share some below. I especially liked some of the sunset pictures down near the water with the sun spilling through the oak trees. If properly exposed, shots backlit by the sun can be very beautiful. I hope you enjoy these below.
It was nice going to the Holiday Cottage in Brookgreen Gardens without actually being there for the wedding ceremony. I always get some nice shots of the bride at the cottage area, but it’s nice to have a whole hour just to concentrate on the one thing without being rushed. This gives me enough time to be able to switch lenses and set things up a bit more, for example using my 50mm f1.4 almost wide open. The bride featured here is actually having her wedding in Brookgreen so we were allowed to do pictures in the area without any additional charge. I talked to Sally Gomez, the manager of private events at this location, and as I had heard, she told me it’s a $200 charge to do pictures for an hour in the gardens. This may seem like a lot of money, but you are getting personal service at the cottage and it’s just a beautiful area for pictures. So I would highly recommend considering making the investment if these type of pictures are something you are interested in.
The bride pictured here had a lot of creative ideas and wanted to do shots with the idea of her trying to be the perfect wife, but messing up quite a bit. She actually brought a tray of burnt cookies and some shirts with burn marks from the iron to use as props. I think everything turned out really nice, I pictured in my mind what we would do and I think it pretty much turned out just like I had wanted, hopefully the bride feels the same way. I knew from past experience that a lot of nice window light comes into the cottage, and I think I was able to capture it. After we did shots in the cottage we went out to the lake and then to the gate area where they usually have the wedding ceremonies. The old gate and brick wall is one of my favorite spots in that area. I had this bride do a similar shot of walking through the gate that really worked well for me in the past. I also love some shots of the bride against the gate with the way she is framed by the foliage, hopefully for the actual wedding at the end of March there might be some flowers as well. I had some more ideas for shots to try, but the hour we were allowed went pretty quickly. I got about 20 or 30 really good ones, so it was plenty. I will post some of my favorites below. If you like some of these please let me know in the comments section below, and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook to keep up to date with my latest pictures.
I did some beautiful bridal portraits after my Indian wedding at the Grande Dunes. The members club is a great spot with the golf course out back. It was a little different to do the bridal portraits after the wedding, but it worked out well. I’m learning how to use fill flash more effectively for example in the shot of the bride looking out over the golf course. It was very dark in the area where she was standing compared to the background in the bright sun. If I had just exposed for her, the background would be blown out and white. However, exposing somewhat for the background and filling in the bride with some flash, gives very nice results. Of course you can never beat the light coming in from a big window. I hope you enjoy some of them below.