Love (manipulation tutorial). The idea of this shot was as follows. The newlyweds are kissing/hugging/enjoying their happiness while their friends are making the symbolic word LOVE with water splashes. And the guests are showing so much joy, which could be compared only with the happiness on the couple’s faces. See inside the post how this photo was made: 

So, I stepped 20 meters backwards from the models, put on a 135mm lens and placed my camera on the tripod stand. I adjusted the camera settings by aiming on Misha and asked the newlyweds to join the scene.

Then I asked the couple to stay on their own for a while. Without the photographer, friends, etc. Only them alone saying sweet words to each other looking in each other’s eyes. I was going to shoot it from a distance to capture such an intimate moment. Off we went!

One minute later the bride said that her dress got wet from the sand and that they have to go to the restaurant. But I was waiting for the “intimate” moment to come, shooting all this time. And what I got were only these few shots. Seemed like I had to choose among them. One of the shots was meant to become the title one. Well, we would work this out…

The sun went over the horizon; it was going to get dark soon. It always gets dark very fast in tropics by the way. Within just 20 or 30 minutes the night comes in.

I was shooting with a f/2.8 diaphragm, 1/1000, ISO 250. The first reason was to make the shot brighter. The picture should had been bright, festive and having a special mood. And no one cared it was almost night time already. Second, I needed a fast exposure to “freeze” the water splashes. A low depth of the image’s field was also required to sharpen the water drops and blur the background.


This was needed to make the splashes look clear and distinct. Firstly, Misha stood on the newlyweds spot so I could “aim” on him. But the newlyweds were meant to stand quite far away from the place where their friends were making water splashes. Those splashes got totally blurred and that was against the initial idea. So then I aimed on the guests and decided to play a different but similarly interesting focusing game.

That’s how it looked like. It’s just a huge water flow. It would be difficult to create something out of this wall of water. )
Check out a cocktail at the bottom left of the shot. You’re going to see it again in the end of the article.

The guests shouted “hooray!”, splashed the water and had fun. We dismissed them on this happy note. Then Misha found a deep bowl and started to throw the water up in the air like an insane. And another insane was shooting it. The splashes were bigger, but still hardly visible.

Then we called one more insane guy to flash this phantasmagoric scene. Sasha was holding the lighting. I attached a synchronizer to my camera and removed the umbrella from the flash. That made the light hard. There was a semi see-through yellow conversion filter on the flash also.

Misha was throwing the water up in the air shot after shot. Sasha was walking around him trying no to get into the camera frame and I was shooting all this. It was 60 times same thing over and over again.

Misha is a hero.


We presented him with the honorable “Order of Merit for the Fatherland” and finished the session.

When I got home I started editing. I chose this shot as the basis. It fitted more than others, won’t describe all the reasons.

Two hours later I put this picture together.

The problem was to find splashes turned in proper direction. There just weren’t any available. So I made it on reverse.

I put the word LOVE together vise versa. )

Then I connected the letters with the guests from the previous photo.

I added some contrast to the water and the sky to make splashes more visible. Chromatic aberrations showed up as a result. I had to remove the most evident of them by cloning the nearby areas.

Cutting the newlyweds from the background

And placing them under the word LOVE, still vise versa.

Of course this photo wouldn’t be completed without having friends on it. So I added them. Seems like they’ve been there from the very beginning. )

Then I reversed the image and got the photo with a normal word LOVE. One thing, if you look carefully on the men’s shirts, you’ll see that the buttons are on the women’s side. But it’s only you who reads this knows about it. )

Take a look at the guests. They are shot with low depth of field, remember? It means they are in the “sharpness” area. Now look at the newlyweds. Despite they are standing quite far away from their friends, they are in sharpness area as well. During the editing process I put the guests a bit closer and enlarged their bodies proportionally. And there’s no sharpness neither on the left nor on the right from them. Same thing with the cocktail. It is placed between two groups of people standing on a different distance from each other. A bit of subconscious surrealism. :)


That’s all for now. It took me 5 hours to perform all the manipulations with the photo.
Thanks to everyone who took part in this. We’ve done a great job.



I’ll be glad to answer your questions and receive your comments as usual.

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Sincerely, Eduard Stelmakh.