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Portraits at Twilight – How We Shot It

By Matthew Saville on April 9th 2013

The Photos

301_6564-4(Click here for a larger image!)

The Equipment and Settings

The Shooting Conditions

This is one of my favorite things to do:  Wait until just after sunset, after 90% of the other (portrait) photographers have packed up their bags and headed home.  In case you haven’t already figured out my style, this is when I bust out my tripod and beg my subjects to hold VERY still.  ;-)

The second habit of mine is to look in the opposite direction of the sunset, and use the sunset / post-sunset light to illuminate my subject.  In this case, I got lucky- The crashing waves, the clouds and the color in the sky, and the direction of light on the subject all lined up perfectly.

Shooting telephoto portraits at slow shutter speeds is not easy, but with a steady hand (a cable release can help too) and a steady subject, you’re bound to get a few sharp frames.

To get a sense of the scene, here are a couple other images from the shoot:



The Post-Production

With light as soft and gentle as this, the post-production is simple and mostly subjective.  I could go soft and gentle, or I could go contrasty and harsh.  I usually process images based on my emotions during the photo shoot, and in this case the ominous waves crashing in the background definitely pushed me towards deeper tones and greater contrast.

I couldn’t decide whether I liked color or black & white better, so I arranged these two images as a diptych.

I used the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Preset System, which you can read more about or purchase by clicking HERE.

Thanks for reading, and take care!
=Matthew Saville=


If you are interested in becoming a master at natural light portraits, (photographing couples) …then you should check out our Natural Light Portraits for Couples DVD Workshop!  This comprehensive video workshop collection will help you master everything about photographing people in a simple, natural light setting…  Click here to visit the SLR Loune Store and get more info.

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Noah Stephens

    A bit too contrasty for my tastes. 

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  2. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for posting.

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  3. Wil G

    I liked both the color and b&w… the waves crashing made the colored image more dramatic… one another token, the b&w have very interesting deep shadows.. well done!

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