Lighting Tutorial: Fairytail Bride

Probably one of the more memorable shooting experiences I’ve had so far, this commissioned bridal lookbook for brilliant couture bridal designer Junko Yoshioka marked a lot of firsts for me: my first bridal shoot, first commissioned shoot in New York, first model casting (I met 2 ANTM alum!!), first time building a set, first experience with a Wacom tablet in post, and my very first lookbook! So, naturally, it was absolutely terrifying. Working with the stunning Alexandra Storm @ VNY Model Management made my job that much easier, although she kept getting lost in the forest

Shooting layered, multi-textured, white-on-white gowns without losing detail proved to be pretty darn difficult, and required a lot of patience, trial-and-error, and a sizeable optometrist bill from the glare on the screen in post. For this ethereal fairytale lighting, I used a 3-light setup in the enchanted fairy forest against a wheat-colored seamless. The main light is a large beauty dish with a diffusion “sock” cover, set at a little over half power (I brought down the power in order to get as much detail in the gown as possible, and later boosted the exposure selectively in post). The beauty dish is set on a stand slightly above the model’s head about 4ft to the right of the her. The first accent light here is a strobe with a grid at half power and a periwinkle gel set about 5ft away to the left of the model. This accent light is helping to define the edges of the dress, and provided a lovely, delicate highlight across the model’s face and arm. I went with cooler colored gels because they tied in with our initial ideas of a wintery enchanted forest. The second accent light is another strobe with a grid, this time with a sky blue gel, set close to a quarter power. It is also set about 5ft away. The main purpose of this light was to provide a little fill, and to keep the cool color palette consistent. At first glance it’s hardly noticeable, especially with the surrounding forest of the same color, but as you’ll see from the “Before” image below, it gave the gown a soft glow around the edges, aiding in the airy quality of the finished product. And that’s all!! Really simple, right? About three hours (per image) in post and several spurts of hand cramps later, the enchanted forest became Alexandra’s new home.

In case you’re interested, here is the idea from conception to completion:

You’ll notice the fine attention to detail and shading, and my absolutely breathtaking draughtsmanship..just like my great great great grandfather, Henri Matisse taught me. ;-p
One of Junko’s reference images.
One of my reference images, taken from M. Night Shayamalan’s The Village.
All the images were shot using a fog machine, aiding in the ethereal quality of the light, and helping the model to better blend into the ‘misty’ forest.
Voila! The final product!

I hope this post was helpful, informative, or atleast entertaining! If you have any questions or comments, by all means don’t keep them to yourself! Share them down below in the comment section or email them to me directly at

Also, if there are any studio lighting setups that you’d like to me to recreate, or any from my website that you’d like an explanation of, let me know! I’m up for the challenge and here to help!!