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For Photographers: A Lighting Hack For Shooting In Hotel Rooms

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Today we’re sharing a lighting hack that Rick and I recently stumbled across while shooting bridal details on a wedding day!

I wish I could say that we had completely planned this new lighting idea/setup in advance, but the truth is that we stumbled across it by accident while shooting a recent wedding in Seattle.  Oftentimes, choosing a location to photograph the bridal gown in a crowded hotel room or suite is challenging.  We want the dress shot to feel authentic to the day, so unless we absolutely have no other option we prefer to shoot the dress in the bridal suite, but it’s truly all about where we can find the right light.  We prefer to place the dress in a spot with great directional light (where the light is coming from just one side rather than a spot with lots omnidirectional light) because we like how the directional light falls across a gown, creating highlights and shadows to illuminate all of the different textures in the dress.

For this dress shot, we were keeping in mind that the wedding was going to be at a more modern/industrial venue in Seattle’s Sodo District, with lots of concrete and neutral colors, so we were trying to create a dress shot that would fit well into the album stylistically….but we were struggling that morning to find the perfect spot in the bride’s hotel room, and there weren’t many options.  We initially tried hanging the gown on grey curtains but the lighting was horrible, so we moved it over to the brown door that you see in the behind the scenes photo below, but the brown background and ugly door frame/handle just didn’t look great either.  As the dress was hanging on that brown door, I asked Rick to pull the curtains open a bit more to let in more light, and as he grabbed the curtains to readjust them we noticed that half of the room was suddenly illuminated – and we realized that the back of the curtains were white, and that white surface was reflecting a ton of white, directional light into the room – especially on the back of the curtains on the right side of the room.  We hung the dress back on those curtains, which made the perfect backdrop, and Rick used that white surface to reflect beautiful, natural, directional light onto the dress, making it glow and really accentuating all of its details.

Since then, we’ve noticed that lots of hotel room curtains are white on the backside, and they make the perfect reflectors to create a big soft light source for shooting everything from the dress, to the jewelry, to bridal portraits….

Anna+Ryan Dress-3

That’s our newest accidental lighting hack for shooting in hotel rooms!  Hope it helps YOU when you’re in a tough lighting situation…

Love, R+A


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  • June 30, 2016 - 1:01 pm

    Mandi Mitchell - What a helpful tip! This is great! I’ll keep this in mind!ReplyCancel

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