How do I get my photos to look like Christine Meintjies' and Catherine Mac's photography? Can I get that soft white look in my photos without using extra lighting?
It may be possible to get most of this effect in-camera without special equipment, it shouldn't be to difficult to try - here's my attempt at deconstructing the images:
Shoot raw, we are playing with lighting and it will help if we are able to fix things in post.
The pictures are outside in the sunlight, try mid morning or late afternoon, it's not golden hour but we generally don't want to shoot in the harsh mid day sun.
As always in daylight, open shade and a reflector can be your best friends, direct sunlight isn't that flattering,
The subjects are completely in focus but nothing else is - so use a depth of field calculator and set the aperture as wide as possible while holding all the subjects in the area of acceptable focus.
The bride's dresses are always very well exposed (very white but not blown out), so meter on the dress so the camera meter is saying +2 (+/- one third, depending on your camera) you can take a test shot of only the dress and check the histogram (it should almost touch the right without actually touching) - set the shutter speed so the dress is +2 - don't trust the picture on the LCD only the histogram.
Make sure to compose the picture so there's something except sky directly behind your subject but still leave a lot of sky in the picture, the sky will blow out - let it.
Test different directions of the sun, don't include the sun in the picture but if the sun is to the side and slightly to front of the camera you can get "hazing flare" that will reduce contrast and make the image whiter and softer, if the sun is behind you the image will be more contrasty and sharper.
Set the white balance on the dress (you can do this in post) to make sure the dress is really white - but adjust a little if you need to get good skin tones
I don't have time to try it right now but I hope it works
Two ways to do it (in Photoshop) are to:
Duplicate the layer of the image you want to lighten Go to Image>>Adjustment>>Exposure. Adjust to the lightness you want... THEN duplicate that layer (Note: you know have 3 layers)
Go to >>Filters>>Blur>>Gaussian Blur Adjust the Gaussian Blur to a number like say "6" Really blow it out. Hit "OK"
Turn off the 2nd layer that you made so that it disappear. Now you hv 2 layers active. The blurred one on top of the original one.
Now (on the blurred layer) go the the Layers window and dial back the transparency (You'll note that the highlight areas standout a bit more.
It will also help soften skin/surface tones if your subject needs it.)
Play w the above (especially the Blur and transparency settings - more vs less) until you get what you like.
You can also go back and lightened your blurred layer via Image>>Adjust>>Exposure OR Image>>Adjust>>Brightness & Contrast.
Another way (in PS again) is to convert the image to B&W, (Image>>Adjust>>Black & White) play w the setting/variations there... but look at your image.. if say it has a lot of Blue in it... then choose the Blue filters - Red... choose Red - whatever you see the most color of... then using the filter w that color will make it lighter (in the B&W modes).
Some ways to achieve this kind of effect are as follows:
1) Over exposing the image slightly (tripod required)
2) Post processing using software like Photoshop
Personally I would want to never overexpose an image unless shooting astrophotography as you lose the data in the raw image. This makes post production very difficult as it limits your options. Take a slightly underexposed image and then adjust during post processing for best results.
If you cannot afford Photoshop then you could try a totally free alternative called GIMP.