How You Shot It is a series where you show us how you shot an image. Many who use our presets love to share their special processing recipes. You can join the SLR Lounge Textures and Presets group on Facebook and share your favorite images and recipes as well! For our wedding and portrait photographers, please join the SLR Lounge Wedding and Portrait Photographers group.

Today’s post comes from Jimmy Bui, a professional wedding and conceptual portrait photographer based in the Riverside area of Southern California. Check out his previous image, “Love Runs Out,” in this postThis image is from his Music to Life series where he interprets music through conceptual photography,  and if you’re curious about checking out his series, please visit his website and look out for him on Facebook and Instagram!

jimmy bui photography


My wife and I will be expecting our first child in September, and I can’t tell you enough how beyond excited we are. Jackie wanted me to shoot some really nice maternity pictures for her, and I definitely felt the pressure since a) I’ve never shot a maternity session before and b) my wife had some really high expectations. Since I’m inexperienced in the area of maternity photography, I decided to approach it with the same creative mentality as I have for my Music to Life Series.

Almost instantly, the song “Loving You Is Easy” by Sarah Mclachlan popped in my head and it fit perfectly with our maternity shoot. It’s happy, upbeat, and bursting with life, and the following lines just summarizes it all too well.

Loving you is easy
Loving you is wondrous and pure
I shout it from the rooftops
‘How long must I wait ’til I see your smile’

How I Shot It

We shot on location at the Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim Hills, California, and we were warned by the Park Ranger of poison oak in the area, so I had to modify my shoot a bit. Jackie had to be bare feet for the pictures, and I did not want her stepping on anything that remotely looked like poison oak, so I decided to shoot this as a composite. Better safe than sorry…..especially with a pregnant woman.  So, I shot the ground separately with the intention of masking it later to the main image.

I used one artificial lighting source with a 3′ Profoto Octa and two Canon 580 exII’s mounted on a Speedlight Speedring adapter set to full power and triggered with Yongnuo 622’s. In order to get the rays of light, we had to shoot early in the morning where there was still a little “atmosphere” in the air so that the sunlight could shine through it and the trees, creating light rays. To get the train up in the air, my assistant just simply flung it up.

jimmy bui photography

Gear and Settings Used

Camera: 5D Mark III

Lens: Canon 16-35mm f2.8 L II

Light source: (2) Canon 580 EX II’s mounted on a double speedlight bracket

Trigger: Yongnuo Yn-622

Light Modifier: Profoto 3′ Octo

Camera Settings: 24mm, 1/400 sec (high speed sync),  f5.6, and iso 100

How I Processed It

I like to do all my compositing, skin retouching, color correction, etc. first before I get to the color grading. Oh, and just a quick explanation, new photographers get confused between color correction and color grading, and sometimes they think they are one and the same, but they’re not. Color correction is simply the process of matching everything to the same color temperature, exposure, and getting the whites to look white and the blacks to look black. This is very important if you want your composite to look real. Color grading is the creative process of getting an image to a certain color aesthetic and look that you want.

So, in Photoshop, I brought the main image in and did some light skin retouching using the frequency separation technique.

jimmy bui photography

Next, I placed the foreground picture on top, put a mask on it, and used the brush tool to erase what I didn’t want. A while ago, I shot some flowers against a black backdrop in anticipation that I may need it, and sure enough I did. I simply place that layer on top and set the blend mode to screen.

jimmy bui photography

jimmy bui photography

After I got all the compositing and retouching done, I brought the image into Lightroom for some color grading and final touches. I could have finished it off in Photoshop, but I just love to color grade in Lightroom. I also created some presets based off the SLR Lounge Presets to make it easier for myself.

I customized one of the SLR Lounge Presets to better fit my aesthetics, which was the Mixology preset 41 VF Vintage Neutral Fade. It’s really easy to customize the presets and here’s what I did:

1) Select a Mixology preset
2) Make Adjustments to your liking using the sliders
3) Save the new settings by clicking on Develop -> New Preset
4) Give it a name and you’re done

So, I just selected the saved preset that I customized, made some minor adjustments, and boom, done.

jimmy bui photography


When I finished editing the picture, I had tears streaming down my face and it made me more anxious to see our baby girl.  It was exactly what I wanted and my wife looked absolutely amazing. She was super happy with the picture and I successfully passed the ‘wife approval test’. I took many more maternity pictures, of course, with several different looks, but this one was the money shot. Special thanks goes out to Rosa Gutierrez who did Jackie’s hair and make up, and also to Sherry Walti and Sam Berona for assisting me with the shoot. Maybe after our baby Kayla is born, I’ll shoot some newborn baby pictures with a Music to Life theme. Stay tuned.

To check out more images from my Music to Life series, visit my blog at