Dreamy, ethereal, light-filled portraits.  

You follow your favourite blogs and Instagram accounts to get your daily dose, and you wish one of these pics was also yours, maybe in a scenic location, or with a loved one.  Yet, when you go to prop your trusty iPhone on its selfie stick - or better yet, you dust off that DSLR camera-  the photos turn out flat and boring, with no life or personality, let alone that “dreamy” feeling… and there ain’t no way they are making it onto your highlight reel (better known as your Insta story) .. right?


I’ve been there too, fellow despairer,  and I take pictures for a living!  It’s taken me a few years to really understand how to bring this magical feeling onto film, and here are my top three tips:

  • Wait for the magic hour; the golden hour. This is the time of day when life takes on that perfect quality. Where you remember all the positive things that have happened to you and sincerely believe in the good of humanity (unlike 3pm in the afternoon when all you crave is sugar or wine and genuinely dislike people). Magic hours are otherwise known as dusk and dawn. Or rather the hour before dusk and the hour before dawn. At this time of day, the sun sits lower in the sky and the light is warmer in colour temperature and appears softer, which creates that golden, ethereal vibe in your images. As a wedding photographer who chases the magic hour, I plan my photo shoot around dusk so my bride and groom can bask in the glory of this light.  Obviously a clear sky is mandatory, as without sunshine there is no gold. 
  • Position the sun behind or to the side of your subject/model. This is how you create ‘angels’, those perfect halos of sunshine that frame the outline of your subject’s hair. You will need to compensate for the lack of light on your subject’s face by using a reflector or another light source to bounce the sun back. And be careful not to shoot directly into the sun as your camera will struggle to focus and you may experience lens flare (unless of course you are intentionally aiming for that - something I will cover in my next post!). Creating rim lighting is my preference, however another option here is to face your model towards the sun. This can make for some squinty images so make sure you give them plenty of breaks! 
  • Using a long telephoto lens with a shallow depth of field (I'm talking an aperture of around f4-5 or larger) is always my go-to, especially when photographing individuals or couples.  This creates a beautifully blurry background (otherwise known as bokeh) that really draws attention to your model, especially when they are drenched in golden sunlight.  My only caution here is to make sure your focal point is focused on the client's eyes as with such a large aperture, you don't have room for error.  

So, there you go, my top tips for producing magical photos will hopefully earn you some double taps and maybe even a few shares.  Feel free to email me with any questions or send through your photos - I'd love to see them!