Brent Looyenga of Looyenga Photography is truly a master of his class. He’s constantly pushing the boundaries of what wedding photography can be.
So we were so thrilled when he agreed to fill us in on how he got four truly beautiful shots. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes with this photographer. So if you want to learn from one of the best, read on to see how Brent Looyenga Got the Shot!
This image is a result of a lot of extra time (the bride was running a little over an hour late) and a venue that was beautiful, but natural light didn’t do it justice.
There are a lot of venues like this one (The McGinnity Room in Spokane, Washington). More industrial with dim moody light (in this case a very cool bar) and the plethora of bricks makes for poor natural light. We really wanted to capture the class of the groomsman, the style of the bar, and the darker nature and mood of the venue.
To do this we used a tripod and a 6ft Octagon softbox with a Godox AD200 light inside. My camera was a 5D Mark IV with a Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens, and I photographed this at f/1.4 with the Godox on high-speed sync to keep the aperture down.
I love the look of 1.4 and with the Sigma lens, I retain much of the sharpness. In this case, it allows me to have the groom separate himself even more from the background, as some of the other groomsmen are slightly out of focus (it’s not about them anyway).
So how did we do it? With the camera on the tripod, we lit each groomsman with the softbox individually, making sure to get great light on them, with a good directional falloff. My second shooter (who moved the light for me in this case) also made sure to have the light extended enough to not cast light on him or the stand.
Posing is important, too because editing the photo is much easier if the people never overlap. In this case, after we photographed each person, going down the line from left to right, we then took a picture of the area with no light and no people. This allows us to fill in any spot that maybe doesn’t look right.
In the end, we come out with roughly 9 photos. I stack them all in photoshop and then use a layer mask to put each person in individually over the last shot of the empty venue. This allows me to pick how much light spill I want, and where I want each groomsman.
The photo itself takes a long time, and the editing is also something that takes a long time — but in my mind, if I can create something that is mind-blowing — that makes them love it, then it’s worth it.
This was during a winter engagement shoot where we had been moving around getting some great stuff. Winter can be challenging in some areas. The cold, the lack of color, and the lack of depth all contribute to some interesting shots.
The snow, however, is also an incredible natural reflector which means you can get some super well-lit faces. In this case, that didn’t matter. What I noticed here was how calm the river was — super calm.
Typically when shooting with a drone — in this case a DJI Phantom 4 Pro — you have to envision the world in a totally different way, from the top down. Because of that, you can’t separate the couple from the background because they are ON the background. So you need to find a way to make them pop.
In this case, finding a strong texture (the river) and a dividing line (the narrow bridge) and then adding them (the one thing that doesn’t match) helped me pull them out of the image that otherwise could have been too busy to notice them.
Once you do that, you have to make it look like the couple wants to be there. This often comes down to how they lie down. I typically have them lay two different ways either feet facing the same way or opposite (as in this image). The biggest thing that makes them look comfortable is to make sure their hands and legs have a place to be. Often legs crossed in some way, with hands under each other, or supporting their head gives some variation in the way they are laying down and also makes them look more comfortable.
For this image, the couple was actually having a small intimate ceremony in a beautiful, dense forest on a mountain (Mount Spokane, to be exact). Once the ceremony was over, we wanted to go up to the top to see if we could get some incredible views around sunset. Once we got up there, there was clearly no view. There was nothing.
With the fog as dense as it was, it eliminated every option we had thought we’d gone up there for. The problem is, I can’t just say “well, that’s too bad” and go home. I knew that Fog does some amazing things to light, and with how thick it was, I thought adding a light behind the subjects could be pretty incredible.
We used the GODOX AD200 for the backlight (love that light) and I photographed the whole thing from a pretty far distance on my Canon 5D Mark IV with a Sigma 50mm 1.4 ART lens. Once we got the settings correct with the proper light hitting the trees and the couple, I was pumped. It looked beautiful and unique, and the trees added a tinge of color that I hadn’t even noticed right away. Anyway, it’s amazing what a single light can do to change the way a photo is perceived.
I absolutely love this image. As discussed above there are a lot of challenges when photographing in snow, not counting the actual snow. In this case, we were near the top of Mount Spokane in late winter, the snow was extremely deep (which the couple wanted) but it also caused questions like “how do I get there in these nice boots?”
When I photograph in snow, I always bring my full set of snow gear with me (snow boots, pants, snowboarding jacket, gloves, etc) so I can freely move without worrying about getting wet or cold.
In this case, I created a trail for them to get to this location. I specifically chose this spot because of how the sun was coming through the trees giving us an incredible backlight. Our eyes see this as beautiful, but in order for a couple to be properly exposed (and not a silhouette), we need to up our exposure so much that the beautiful backlight becomes pure white, and we lose all the detail in the snow and surrounding area. Not awesome.
So what I did was add a light (or 3, in this case). I used three-speed lights with high-speed sync in a 4-foot softbox to light the couple. This allowed me to drop the exposure to where I had detail in the snow and could get a much better sense of depth than I would have had I not added the light. It also meant the shadows could be darker, which also adds depth.
In order to get great foreground, I used the Canon 135 f/2L on my 5D Mark IV, which is a beautiful lens even wide open. The biggest problem is a 4-foot softbox can’t project light very far — especially if you want it to be soft. So I put the softbox as close to them as I could without having the light overlap them.
In this case, the light was just behind the bride, and slightly in front of them at about a 45-degree angle from where they were. This gave me some great directional light, and also kept it out of the way. After getting the photo I needed, I then removed the light and took one more. This allowed me to use that extra photo to eliminate the light.
We want to give a HUGE thanks to Brent Looyenga for sharing this wealth of knowledge with us — and of course all of you!