Shooting wide open in natural light with Jessica Notelo

I always try to shoot natural light – in order to do this use the lens to its full potential by having it wide open. For me this is usually at F1.4. I only usually adjust ISO and Shutter Speed and keep the aperture at F1.4 to give images a sharp, yet creamy look.

Even though the subjects are moving in these two images, I still strictly keep to F1.4. I trust in my lenses and my Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art lens never lets me down. For the throwing up of the bride shot, I either focus on a face that is of equal distance away to what the bride will be mid air, or I focus and shoot as she’s in the air. Yes, this lens is that fast.
When the couple are walking towards me I am generally walking backwards in front of them and continuously focus and shoot as we are walking. Both of these photos were taken at F1.4 with a minimum ISO. Shutter speed is adjusted for exposure.
You can see the benefit of the low F-stop in the blurred out trees and greenery in the backgrounds of these images. I love how rich and creamy it looks. It is signature to my style, which is why I will never compromise on having a low F-stop. In the last image, the couple had been placed in front of a wire fence with about 1 meter in between. Because of the low F-stop, the fence blurs out and is barely even visible in the photo, leaving only the rolling hills behind them. This obviously makes editing the image a lot easier too.
– If it’s very dark at a wedding reception and I need to use flash, I always bounce the flash off available surfaces to balance the light so that the background is warm and bright-ish and the subjects are not white and overexposed. I do this while keeping to F1.4 and a relatively high ISO (2000 – 3000).
– I always use my centre focus point and then recompose. Obviously the doesn’t work for certain types of photography, but it has worked very well for me with my lenses.


In this first reception image, I used 100% natural light to compliment the intimate mood of the moment the bride and groom were sharing. I could have brightened it up, but I like the mood that the slightly lower key image created for that moment. You can see this area was quite dark and in the second image, below, I used an on camera flash to light the groom during his speech. This was bounced off the wall/glass ceiling quite far away. You can see that I still shoot at F1.4 by the ambience of the background and bokeh seen in the fairy lights. Because of this I never use my flash at full power. Usually at the lowest power.



– Vignette: The 35mm Art Lens has its own signature vignette, which 99% of the time works beautifully with my style of shooting and pulls focus onto the subjects. It’s only for certain images of a venue, for example, that I remove it in Lightroom by using the lens corrections filter. I love the 35mm vignette so much that I have emulated it in my mobile presets that I have created (seen below) 


I do a fair amount of editing on my phone. During the reception I take 10 minutes to quickly edit several sneak peeks for the couple so that when they return to their honeymoon suite they have some professional pics to go through. Whether I snap some pics from the day on my phone, or import them to my phone using the camera WiFi, it’s always handy to have some ready-to-use presets that are waiting for me on Lightroom Mobile.

Happy shooting!

Jessica Notelo, Sigma Ambassador