Flora Gibson photographs weddings and elopements, both in Big Sur and worldwide! She lives for the non-traditional couple, the madly in love. For us, she’s basically reigning queen of the Pacific Northwest. I had such a great time talking with Flora about How to Stay Creative as an elopement photographer on Climb with Kelsey YouTube show. Disclaimer: I still struggle with this so I don’t have a blanket answer to solve everyone’s problems. I haven’t solved my own. I can definitely share what I do to help the situation, things I do to kind of get out of that funk, and stay creative.
TLDW (too long didn’t watch) – here are some of our highlights and pro tips!
1. Switch up your lens
First and foremost, I love switching out my lenses. Flora normally shoots with her 28mm lens. She shares that her mind works in a wide capacity when she’s in Sur and the redwoods. Her stance is that the photos that have really inspired her and pushed her to switch up her lens has been choosing her 85mm to shoot in the forest. This change highlights the couple with the forest around them versus having the landscape as the focus. Flora says, “focusing on the couple, even when you’re in a beautiful landscape, helps me. That’s art for me.”
Our HoneyBee Weddings style tends to be the opposite! I use the 70-200m f/2.8 to compress our big Montana mountains. We did the same with our Iceland elopement at Reynisfjara. With both Montana and Iceland, there are HUGE mountains and you want it to look larger than life. Using the 70-200m with those photos gives me the bad boss energy, I know my couples are going to love the way it looks! I end up putting on my 35mm and back up whereas Flora shoots wide and needs to go in. Key takeaway – there is not one size fits all! You have to identify your needs and adjust. Stay wild out there.
2. Trying out Trends
In 2023, Flora has been tackling trends which contribute to how to stay creative as an elopement photographer. Flora has been really pushing herself to drag her shutter. She’s been loving blurry images and the movement. When a couple has 90% of their gallery in focus, having that 10% that has a grit to it kind of like film, brings something extra for her couples.
When I work with this style, I find myself interacting with couples differently to produce the photo. It feels like another layer of creative outlet for me. While poses aren’t necessarily cookie cutter, everyone is so different and every place is different, you definitely have your go to marks, playing with trends challenges your mold. This is an example of different ways you can photograph an elopement. One shoe doesn’t fit all, be your own Cinderella.
For Flora, the drag shutter and asking couples to run into the water or to move this way or that way, really helps break up the patterns. Flora shares that by mixing it up, it can “almost introduce a different version. I’ll then get inspired to ask my couples to do something else after the photo so it gives me freedom to be creative.”
3. Use Prisms and Foreground Elements
One of my favorite toys to use is an optical glass triangular prism. For me, GAME CHANGER. I can see the light and composition differently. It’s been so much fun, quickly becoming one of my super fun projects. Side note – this is not even camera related! This is something you find kids using for science projects, but it has been HUGE! You can learn how to stay creative as an elopement photographer by removing predispositions about needing photography specific toys. Don’t be afraid to play!
Another way I use the prism is for photos that have something extra in the shot that you don’t want to see like clutter or trash. I put the prism over the problem area in the camera and the magic of eliminating the problem object feels like wizardry. Flora’s spin on eliminating unwanted objects in photos is to pick up a piece of grass or flower and put it over. An example of this is a sign in the background of a park she wants to block. POINT BEING – if you can eliminate something naturally in the photo process, it eliminates the need for cloning it in the editing process. BIG TIME SAVER!
The 8 star lens filter has been Flora’s new favorite toy. She uses it in direct light which emphasizes the details. A great photo to take with this is of the bride’s shoes! It creates stars within the highlights. Flora also shoots with Tiffen Pro-Mist , especially indoors. Flora shares, “those help a lot to stay creative when I’m shooting inside.”
PetaPixel states, “never underestimate what a change in equipment can do to keep you on your toes.” Mix it up like a mojito, friends.
4. Double Shot of Double Exposure
Double exposure, both in camera and out, are a few ways Flora knows how to stay creative as an elopement photographer. When she is shooting for double exposure, she’ll get low so her couple has nothing in the background and then she’ll shoot a landscape. Finally overlaying the photos together in Photoshop. For her process she shares that, “I’m definitely shooting for Photoshop but I’m doing the creative work in post processing. I find it easier to focus now and then make it exactly what I want later. My mind is racing as the couple is standing there.”
This could be the next Honeybee Wedding creative challenge – doing a multiple exposure or a double exposure in camera with couples! Have we inspired you to try something different with your photography yet?
Last year, Flora was shooting in Santa Cruz and the final photo of the couple looks like they were standing in the middle of a sandstone wall. She joked on her Instagram “I love repelling clients” but in reality, her couple was standing on a small ledge that was only a foot above sand. Flora photoshopped it. She duplicated the top to the bottom so the couple was centered. When she was shooting it, she knew exactly what she was going to do. Flora thought, “I’m definitely going to raise them up and make this look a little more epic than it actually is.”
I have a similar goal with some of our drone shots. I’ll have my couple somewhere safe laying down, and then I get the drone over top. I’ll take a shot and then I’ll shoot an epic coastline by zooming out. You’ll see the whole coastline is really rocky, like in no way in the world would it be safe to go out to those rocks and put a human on it! I photoshopped the couple onto this epic rockscape where they never would have been, and it’s so so fun! The photos – INSANE!! Pssst – we did this for our Costa Brava 2 day elopement. It was MAGIC! Shots like these will make you stand out as a photographer.
Flora has her own method for these shots, which I sum up to her being a magician. “I end up doing the drone shot with a couple actually on the rocks but I make it look like the rock is isolated by water. I photoshop water in (which takes way longer). I’m copying pieces of water, airbrushing them on.”
A few things we discuss for anyone else photoshopping this way is to be mindful when compositing couples onto environments that they weren’t already in is matching the light source. You can do a lot of sorcery in Photoshop to add light to the images and shadows.
Another tip is making sure that the environment that they’re laying on and the environment you’re putting them on is about the same. For example, if they are surrounded by grass and you’re putting them on a clean rock, you’re either going to remove all the grass or add it. Best way to avoid this is to have them stand on a different rock so there is no question they can fit.
Last tip – camera angle. Go straight up and down. Don’t mess with the Zohan.
We both agree that the drone is a whole key to creativity. We love seeing the landscape in such a different way. You get to be a bird instead of an ant for a while!
6. Get Creative in Editing
One way to be more creating as a photographer is in the editing process. For instance, Flora has a love for cropping in during her editing. She shares, “a lot of times I will like the way the grooms catch the bride or tucking her hair. I’ve also done a lot of different creative shoots in Photoshop where I blurred the whole background. This is done in a real obvious way so you know it’s manufactured, but it looks like surreal art. I’ve been proud of myself stretching my creative muscles in that way.”
In addition, Flora finds BDE with her RGB (Red Green Blue) Panel. “My RGB panel is really what I pay attention to as well as creating my own presets from an RGB panel. Having several different sets for if I’m in the forest, if I’m in Big Sur, if I’m in Oregon. I need to constantly be changing my greens and my yellows and my oranges within that.” Using a RGB panel is a skill a wedding photographer needs!
Pro tip – you need to have several presets for each environment! Specifically for elopement photographers as we shoot in such different backgrounds. The color in one environment is so different from place to place. Even within the forest to the Pacific Northwest and up north, the greens are so different.
Flora has been asked how she stays consistent and she has a HOT TAKE that we agree with. She shared, “I think consistency is boring. I’m constantly changing my preset. Most people don’t notice.”
7. Sustaining Creativity on The Daily
Burnout is real, I think every artist struggles. To combat this, Flora follows a strategy to stay on top of her editing. Her process is to edit something from the prior day. To this end, she shares, “if I’m editing the next day from something I shot the day before, I feel more creative. I’m more excited about it! If I let it sit too long, I get bored and I want to pump it out almost like a machine as opposed to an artist. I found myself really liking to hone in on staying on track of what I just shot and editing almost the next day. I’m really excited about it!”
Her process also takes out the angst of oh my gosh they have to get this done because it’s due in two days. Both of us share the client philosophy of under promise and over deliver. It also helps Flora creatively as it allows her that time to really focus on that single couple. Stay creative as an elopement photographer by adding it into your daily schedule
Frequent Honeybee Wedding readers know that for me, having a schedule is a night and day difference to keep my sanity and creativity flowing! I have outlined what it looks like for me to have work-life balance as a creative. The number one piece of advice I can give for how to stay creative as an elopement photographer is taking care of yourself. Avoiding burnout and prioritizing work life balance is the heart and soul of success.
Itching for more of our conversation? Check out the fricken YouTube, where all great things Climb with Kelsey live! You can find more of Flora in her Facebook group: Photography Connection, Art and Inspiration by Flora Gibson Photography. Ready to dive into the ultimate adventure of being a six figure elopement photographer? Sign up for our 3 Part Coaching where we teach you the business of elopements AND you get to come on a real adventure elopement with us! Stay creative folks, it’s good for the art.