Commercial Wedding Shoot with Models at Courtyard Marriott St. Petersburg Florida

Commercial Wedding Photography on historic tile floor at Courtyard Marriott -- SETUP: f/5.6 1/80th ISO 400 STROBIST: SB-800 @ 1/2 power with shoot-through umbrella on light stand 9' high behind model & SB-600 @ 1/4 power with diffuser cap to frame right held by assistantThis was my most complex indoor shoot to date involving two models, two makeup artists, a dress designer, a florist, a caterer, a hotel sales manger and one photographer's assistant.  I am very happy to say it turned out to be perhaps my best indoor photography work to date.  It is very satisfying when a big team effort results in such final images.  

I had worked with the bride model, Nancy, before on a commercial fashion shoot in Safety Harbor.  The sales manager, Ryan, of the Courtyard Marriott, who hired me to makes these images, I had met in weeks past at a networking event then in subsequent meetings discussing various photography projects.  My photographer's assistant was Natasha, a former DSLR Photography Lesson student.  When you can have that many people you already know on a photo job, it makes it much more comfortable.

The above shot of Nancy sitting on the historic tile floor of the hotel was my idea, which I came up with on a survey of the hotel a few weeks before the shoot itself.  I am standing on a marble staircase (pictured below) offering the perfect logistics to make this kind of shot.  I wanted to go with a muted light setup producing a bit of a natural vignette to the image as I chose to most prominently light the model in the center.

 St. Petersburg Commercial Wedding Photography - Models Brad & Nancy framed by arching historic doorways - SETUP: f/4 ISO 200 1/60th STROBIST: SB-800 @ 1/4 power with reflective umbrella on light stand to frame left & SB-600 @ 1/4 power with diffuser cap to frame right held by assistantThis archway shot was another I had previsioned during a location scout of the hotel.  I really like repeating patterns and these archways caught my eye right away.  There were actually three arches, but the first one could not be worked into the shot.  This photograph turned out just as I had imagined.  

St. Petersburg Commercial Wedding Photography - Nancy reflected in the swimming pool - SETUP: f/5.6 ISO 200 1/100th STROBIST: SB-800 @ 1/2 power with shoot-through umbrella on light stand to frame left & SB-600 @ 1/2 power with diffuser cap to frame right held by assistantThe bride reflected in the pool was another pre-planned shot.  As you might be able to tell, being able to scout a location some time before the scheduled shoot is advantageous as one then can move from location to location and concentrate more on executing the shot at best as possible rather than where will the next shot even be.  Again, I am pleased with how the shot turned out because due to the width of the pool I could not get my speedlights that close to Nancy, but as it turned out there was no lack of light for the shot.

St. Petersburg Commercial Wedding Photography - Models Brad & Nancy on the historic marble staircase - SETUP: f/4 ISO 400 1/100th STROBIST: SB-800 @ 1/2 power with shoot-through umbrella on light stand 9' high behind me & SB-600 @ 1/4 power with diffuser cap to frame right held by assistantThe original marble staircase was something the hotel sales manager definitely wanted to showcase in one of the shots.  I previsioned perhaps the bride walking down the staircase or maybe the bride on the bottom of the staircase being helped down by the groom, but thanks to the models' creativity with their posing, I liked this shot the best of the staircase series.  I cannot say how much it helps a photographer to work with great models!  It makes my job so much easier.

St. Petersburg Commercial Wedding Photography - Models Brad & Nancy facing the original hotel elevator - SETUP: f/5.6 ISO 400 1/80th STROBIST: SB-800 @ 1/2 power with shoot-through umbrella on light stand 9' high behind models & SB-600 @ 1/4 power with diffuser cap to frame right held by assistant

To feature the hotel's original elevator I chose to once again use the nearby marble staircase as a vantage point.  Shooting straight on to the elevator produced a flat shot.  I felt shooting from above like this created a dynamic image showing the bride & groom's anticipation, while at the same time including the elevator in the shot, as well as the original tile floor.  I chose also to again keep the lighting soft & muted, to help create that classic look.

St. Petersburg Commercial Wedding Photography - carrying the bride over the threshold - SETUP: f/5.6 ISO 400 1/80th STROBIST: SB-800 @ 1/4 power with shoot-through umbrella on light stand to frame left & SB-600 @ 1/8th power with diffuser cap pointed at back hallway wall handheld by assistant

There was no trouble to light up the models from the front (within the room), but this meant the hallway looked very dark.  The solution was to place one speedlight on the left of the door frame pointing toward the opposite wall.  Not only did this fill the hallway with light, it provided a strong backlight to the shot.  

St. Petersburg Commercial Wedding Photography - models using their own creativity - SETUP: f/4 ISO 400 1/100th STROBIST: SB-800 @ 1/2 power with shoot-through umbrella on light stand @ 1/4 power in bedroom to the right & SB-600 @ 1/16th power with diffuser cap to frame left directly on the floor pointing straight up Both Nancy and I had the same idea for a through the doorway bedroom scene shot.  However, her and Brad came up with the pose and prop setup (shoe placement, jacket coming half off) on their own, which I would say made the shot nearly entirely if not for the tremendous challenge I had trying to light everything.  It was by far the hardest shot to light for me ever.  Getting rid of shadows behind Brad was the main challenge.  Putting the second speedlight on the floor behind him solved it, after lots of trial and error.  Ultimately I did have to clone out one shadow along the right side of the bed from umbrella edge spill.  This was also the last shot of the day (3.5 hours of straight shooting!) so it was great to end on one so challenging.

I appreciate the work of everyone at the hotel that day helping make the images in this photo story.


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Holiday Inn Harbourside Indian Rocks Beach Florida Wedding

Holiday Inn Harbourside Indian Rocks Beach Wedding Portrait - SETUP: f/11 ISO 200 1/250th STROBIST: SB-800 @ 1/2 power to frame right & SB-600 @ 1/2 power to frame left

People often ask me, "how do you get your photography jobs?"  Usually I stumble around with various answers, but from now on I will definitively say that first and foremost bookings are from referrals or the result of in-person networking.  Through joining NPPF (now FCCP), a photography group, I got to know the organizer Jeff Donald.  Marc (pictured above with bride Eileen) is a member of FCCP and was seeking a wedding photographer with short notice.  Jeff referred him to me, I was still available, so voila, a wedding booking!

For the above photo we all braved the mid-day Florida heat to make for me what was my favorite shot of the day.  It is always worth it to make the extra effort to get a particular shot.  While the couple had their wedding lunch I went to scout locations and found this to be the most natural and scenic one on the grounds of the Holiday Inn Harbourside in Indian Rocks Beach.  Even though it was around 1pm and the shot had to be done in direct sunlight, my 2-strobe technique managed to produce surprisingly satisfying portrait results.

Eileen and her new wedding ring - SETUP: f/5.6 ISO 800 1/60th SB-800 @ 1/4 power hotshoe mounted using Nikkor 105mm VR f/2.8G macro lensHaving significant wedding photography experience is key in knowing what shots work, and especially for establishing what I think of as "go-to" shots like the one above.  I first came up with the idea for this shot at Bianca's wedding in summer 2010 (see similar image).  

First Wedding Dance at Holiday Inn Harbourside Indian Rocks Beach - SETUP: f/5.6 ISO 800 1/10th SB-800 @ 1/4 power hotshoe mounted using dragging shutter technique with zoomWhen making the type of "dragging the shutter" type shots like the one above, it is of course good to have lights in the background to enhance the effect of the technique.  The more lights the better, but if you can only include one or two it will still make a big difference.  Marc & Eileen had two kettle drum (?) players at their reception and they mostly played island themed songs which suited the harbor front location well.

Indian Rocks Beach Wedding Photography - SETUP: f/11 ISO 200 1/250th STROBIST: SB-800 @ 1/2 power to frame right & SB-600 @ 1/2 power to frame leftThe "under the veil" shot is another one of my go-to shots (see last photo here), but of course it is used by many wedding photographers.  We were all very hot by this point (me visibly so!), but I wanted to make sure to get this shot before we returned indoors as I hope in twenty years Marc & Eileen will think to themselves, I am really glad we made the effort for that veil shot as they look at a print of it on their wall.

Bilmar Hotel Treasure Island Florida Sunset Beach Wedding

"The Dip" on Treasure Island - St. Petersburg Beach Wedding Photography - SETUP: f/5.6 ISO 200 1/80th STROBIST: SB-800 @ 1/4 power frame right & SB-600 @ 1/4 power frame left

There are always challenges photographing a wedding, but for me personally this was the most difficult due to the news I got about the oldest member of my family when I first woke up that morning.  I have a strong ability to compartmentalize so I rallied and once I first put the camera up to my eye, no one all the six and a half hours I was on site at the Bilmar Hotel on Treasure Island had any idea what I was really feeling inside.  

Wedding rings hung from a necklace with a cross - SETUP: Nikkor AF-S 104mm VR micro f/2.8G lens @ f/11 ISO 200 1/100th SB-800 @ 1/4 power hotshoe mountedThe wedding rings were with the bride, Jessica,  in her hotel room, which is unusual as the groom tends to keep them on hand.  Looking for a good place to photograph the rings, I recalled what I did for a Christmas wedding last year, which was to hang the rings from a string type object.  The bride took off a necklace she was wearing an assisted me in getting this shot.  The cross was already on the necklace.  

The view from the 7th floor of the Bilmar Hotel - SETUP: f/8 ISO 200 1/60th STROBIST: SB-800 @1/4 power to frame right & SB-600 @ 1/4 power to frame left both handheld by volunteers!The bride had a very loyal wedding dress assistant her continued her job the entire afternoon and evening.  For the above shot I had two volunteer assistants hold my speedlights as there was not much space at all to setup a pair of light stands.  The weather looks great outside right?  Well, to the east clouds were rolling in fast and within 20-minutes it was raining right at what was to be the start of the ceremony.  There was only a 30-minute delay which was actually welcome, allowing the bride more time to get ready and the guests to cool off in the reception area.

The groom is pointing at you - SETUP: f/5.6 ISO 400 1/60th SB-800 @ 1/4 power hotshoe mounted & a room lamp providing backlightI learned a new trick for shooting in hotel rooms:  use one of the room lamps as a backlight in tight quarters.  I had the groom, Justin, and the other groomsmen squeeze between two beds causing them to get into a fan-like pose and also allowing the table lamp to backlight them.  This is definitely a type of shot I will be doing again in the future!

Treasure Island Beach calm after the storm - SETUP: f/11 ISO 200 1/200th SB-800 @ 1/4 power hotshoe mounted - B&W processing using Silver Efex ProOnce the rainstorm passed it was kind enough to leave behind all sorts of clouds decorating the sky.  I much prefer clouds to a cloudless beach sky.  Not only are day time photos much better, I think sunset shots with clouds are much more dramatic as well.  

The groom cries upon seeing his bride - SETUP: Nikkor AF ED 80-200mm f/2.8D lens @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/800th using natural lightIt was an emotional moment for the bride and especially the groom once the ceremony began.  For me, it is nice to see as I like to see people express genuine emotion.  It also of course helps the photographs.  

Tall grass sand dunes of Treasure Island - SETUP: f/11 ISO 200 1/160th STROBIST: SB-800 @ 1/4 power to frame left & SB-600 @ 1/4 power to frame rightThe bride in a quiet moment faces the Sun and the Sea.  This type of shot, where the subject is not looking into the lens but rather off into the distance is my favorite type of portrait.  For me, I wonder what the subject is thinking about.  I hope that some years down the line when the bride looks at this image, she, herself, will also wonder what she was thinking of at that moment.

A vivid sunset falls on Treasure Island St. Petersburg - SETUP: NIKKOR AF ED 80-200mm f/2.8D lens @ f/8 ISO 200 1/100th STROBIST: SB-800 @ 1/4 power to frame right & SB-600 @ 1/4 power to frame leftAfter I took the final photograph of Jessica & Justin at sunset time, I had a few moments alone as I packed up my strobist gear and they started to walk back to the hotel for the reception.  This gave me a few seconds to send my own thoughts out to the horizon, as I do every day, but even more so that time.

Father and infant son wedding day St. Petersburg

Wedding tuxedo going on the groom's baby - f/5.6 ISO 200 1/160th Strobist: SB-800 resting on bed + natural window lightI had never seen an infant baby being dressing in a tuxedo before.  While photographing a recent wedding in St. Petersburg there was a lot of time to photograph both the bride and groom getting ready, as well as their infant son.  After getting dressed himself, the groom started to dress his son.  The order he chose for getting dressed was perhaps unwise as the baby threw up onto his dad's shirt in the process.  Luckily, another suitable shirt was on hand for the groom to change into with only a small spot on the baby's shirt that no one would notice.

Babies dominate attention, and even on the couple's wedding day I felt more people were excited about seeing and holding the baby than perhaps the wedding itself.  I am of course immune to this power baby's seem to have and was drawn to photograph him more because of his unusual attire and the fact his father was dressing him and soon to be married.  That was a scene I had not witnessed before and was the source of my interest photographically.  

Sandpiper Tradewinds twilight wedding couple - f/5.6 ISO 800 1/60th Strobist: SB-800 at 1/2 power to frame rightFor a brief few minutes the couple and I after their wedding ceremony had time for a few romantic shots.  I wonder on the baby's wedding day if he will show any photographs of himself that I took at his parent's wedding during the reception slideshow?

St Jude Cathedral Wedding in St Petersburg Florida

St. Jude Cathedral Wedding in St. Petersburg Florida - f/6.3 ISO 400 1/50th Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/4 power to frame left SB-600 @ 1/4 power to frame rightBrian and Kelsey had a very fun and jovial wedding.  I do not think I ever saw less nervousness in either the bride or the groom before a wedding.  The fun continued through the wedding ceremony that referenced Disney story lore at length.  I had heard from Kelsey that they were Disney fans, but I had no idea the priest would be making theme park ride metaphors during the ceremony!

Ruby Red Slippers on the St. Petersburg Florida bride - f/5.8 ISO 400 1/80th SB-800 Speedlight hotshoe mountedKelsey told me she was also a big Wizard of Oz fan.  Therefore I was not surprised to see her wearing very Dorothy-like ruby red slippers under her wedding dress.  I could find no yellow brick road to use in the foreground, unfortunately.

St. Jude Cathedral bride & groom during the ceremony - f/4 ISO 200 1/125th SB-600 Speedlight hotshoe mountedThis was a Catholic wedding which has an hour-long ceremony.  Since the bride and groom do not stand right in front of the priest all the time, there were several opportunities for clear photographs of the couple, which is rare during wedding ceremonies.  I could also not go within a large marble circle surrounding the alter area so using my trusty Nikkor AF ED 80-200mm f/2.8D lens was a must.

feeding each other cake at wedding reception - f/5.6 ISO 800 1/60th SB-800 Speedlight hotshoe mounted @ 1/4 powerAlthough the above shot shoes a very animated cake feeding custom, what followed was very neat and orderly.  I have to say I am disappointed that nowadays couples do not smash cake into each other's faces.  To me there is then no reason to perform this custom if it is just a neat nibble of cake.  I liken it to find out the sex of one's baby before delivery.  Just takes the fun out of it, at least to me, though it must be said I am very fond of maintaining old customs.

garter belt surprise at St. Jude Cathedral wedding reception hall - f/5.6 ISO 800 1/80th SB-800 hotshoe mounted at 1/4 powerThe DJ prompted the bride & groom to tell the guy who (reluctantly) caught the garter belt when to stop hiking the belt up the lucky bouquet catcher's right leg.  During this I wondered to myself, what if the woman who catches the bouquet is wearing pants?  Do all women who attend weddings wear dresses or skirts?  I will make a point of observing this at the wedding I next photograph at the end of June.

Sacred Heart Church Palma Ceia Country Club Tampa Wedding

Sacred Heart Church Tampa Wedding Ceremony - f/8 ISO 200 0.8s on tripod with cable releaseThe wedding of Ryan and Monica was the grandest wedding I have been involved in photographing so far.  Monica's father must really, really love her!  This was also my first opportunity to not only photograph a wedding inside the spectacular Sacred Heart Church in downtown Tampa, but just to see inside of it after long admiring its large circular stained glass window on its front face.

The groom getting some necktie help from his father - f/8 ISO 800 1/100th SB-800 Speedlight hotshoe mountedMy day started out photographing the groom getting ready in his spacious waterfront room in the Tampa Marriott Waterside.  The NBA channel was on and causing a bit of distraction as one of the classic playoff series between the 90s Knicks and Pacers was being broken down game by game!  Everyone in the room got a bit caught up in it.  

The bride getting assistance with her floor length veil - f/5.8 ISO 800 1/200th SB-800 Speedlight hotshoe mountedI was next on my way to the Sacred Heart Church to photograph the bride as her assistant helped her put the last, tricky touches on getting her head to toe length veil just right.  The woman helping the bride seemed like an expert, but to my ears she spoke mostly only Italian!  It made me feel like I was in a movie to be inside such a architecturally rich church, seeing an enormous veil enveloping the bride, being put on by an old, petite Italian woman.

Palma Ceia Country Club Wedding Reception Ballroom - f/5.8 ISO 800 1/80th SB-800 Speedlight hotshoe mountedThe reception was at the Palma Ceia Country Club where I photographed a wedding last October.  I thought I knew what to expect but the reception this time was in a much different room and even the manager said he had never seen the room decorated like it had been.  The preparations started at 5:30am that morning he told me.

Wedding day hugs and congratulations - f/5.6 ISO 800 1/80th SB-800 Speedlight hotshoe mountedOne type of shot I always look for is what I refer to in my mind is the "hug & kiss" time for the bride & groom as they receive congratulations from the wedding guests.  To me the intensity of this time tells me a lot about the wedding, the newlywed couple, and the types of relationships they have with everyone at the wedding.  The hugging at this wedding, as you can see above, was as impressive as every other aspect of this lavish, emotional wedding.