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How We Shot It

How We Shot It – Night Wedding Portrait

By Leo Hoang on August 27th 2013


Recently, two of my friend’s got married at a lovely venue here in the UK, Great Fosters.

I was a guest at the Wedding; however she did ask me if I could video her ceremony and speeches, so with that in mind, I packed my tripod, D800, 24-70mm and one Speedlight.

My friend’s already had their official portraits taken earlier in the day by the official photographer, but they also wanted a few more around the venue at night. By sunset, their photographer has already left as she was only scheduled up until the first dance. They asked if I could take a few photos outside with them, and I was happy to oblige.

The shot they specifically wanted was of them on the bridge which crosses a little river, and without a doubt, it was a good choice for a spot to shoot.

How I Shot It

Shooting this scene did present some challenges as the only thing really lighting the area were a few lights down the centre of the bridge. The issue that I came up against was the lack of light surrounding the bridge, and if I did a long exposure to bring out details from the surrounding areas of the bridge, I would have burnt out the couple due to the long exposure. If the couple did not over expose, I would’ve had to deal with the issue of motion blur, as they would not have been able to hold a pose for too long.

I knew I wanted some starburst effect so I had to close down my aperture a bit. I didn’t want to leave the shutter open too long, as I knew the couple would have had to hold their pose for this shot, so I wanted to aim for an exposure of around 4sec max. With that in mind, I also wanted to keep the ISO as low as possible to retain as much detail as possible.

I trust my Nikon D800 to have a clean file at ISO1600, so that is what I decided to max out at.

So with an aperture of f/9, ISO1600 and 4sec shutter, I ended up with a very underexposed image.


As you can see, the couple is decently exposed, but the image as a whole looks pretty dull considering the bridge is extremely dark.

I then asked the couple to move out of the frame, and here I took a 30sec exposure while keeping the aperture and ISO the same and here’s what the scene looked like.


As you can see in this frame, the bridge was stunning.

How I Edited It

I took these two frames into Lightroom where I applied the “01 Standard Import Present (w/ PC)” from the Lightroom 5v.1 Preset System, and did a few base adjustments. The shot of the couple, I merely applied the import preset, however the second frame of the scenery itself, I did a bit of dodging and burning to try even out the exposure a bit more.

I found the walk way to the left very over exposed with the lighting on the path, and the bridge to me was still a bit under exposed, even with a 30sec exposure.


I then imported both frames into Photoshop where I simply layer masked the couple into the frame of the scenery.

Once I completed the layer masking of the couple, I clone stamped out the lens flare which appeared on the bridge as a blue/green dot and here’s the result!


My personal preference at this point would be to add the “45 VF Warm Punchy Vintage” preset, from the Lightroom 5v.1 Preset System, to give it a more rustic look.

If I were to re-take this shot, I would’ve preferred to have lit the couple with a flash to avoid any subtle motion blur, as with this shot, when zoomed in 1:1 you can see a subtle motion blur as they held their pose. However, when viewing from a distance, it’s not too bad and I am still very happy with the final result.


Nikon D800
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
– FotoPro – MGC-684N Tripod


Leo Hoang is a professional photographer based in London who shoots Weddings, Events and Real-Estate.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Makis Markidis

    Simple tutorial and a nice approach if we concern the lighting situations. The final result is very nice. Good job Leo!

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