Ask Gabe McClintock – Answered


You’ve been awed by his epic destination weddings in Iceland and Mexico, as well as his boudoir photography in a naturally lit bedroom. You’ve wondered how he poses his couples and which lenses he reaches for in his trusty camera bag. Today, Gabe McClintock answers your questions in our first installment of Ask, a new feature here on Photobug! We’re so excited to share with you today the answers to your most burning questions from one of the world’s most renowned and awarded wedding photographers. Without further adieu, take it away, Gabe!

Your light is very special on every shot you share. How do you approach seeking light and posing your subjects?

Thank you so much. I am always looking for good light. Looking at the difference between the highlights and shadows. I am even looking and aware of this when I am not shooting, when I am just out for a walk or playing at the park with my kids. I think training yourself to see these subtleties and variances will help in placing your subjects in good light or using light to do what you want when you are shooting.

Are any of your shots transposed or is the scenery original in all your shots?

None of my images have been transposed. All of the locations are the actual locations that me and my couples are in.


Your weddings, connection and boudoir sessions all evoke a deep sense of intimacy. Were you always able to create or direct that with your clients or did the one genre help shape the others?

Thank you so much. So, I didn’t always shoot with that as my intention nor was I really able to for many years. With a background in photojournalism, I was okay with the documenting part of the wedding, but when it came time to pose my couples I had no clue whatsoever. I was super awkward and in turn my couples were as well. It was over the years of practicing poses in the mirror or watching movies and pausing scenes to study them that I slowly started to learn a little more. Then when my first daughter was born she really changed the way I looked at the human connection and my style started to evolve from there. I changed from seeing how grungy a location I could get my couple in to seeing how close I could allow my couples to become and allow me to capture that. I love seeing how a couple interacts with each other. How they laugh together. And for my boudoir work, I feel the darkness in my images convey a sense of intimacy. Seductiveness. I want my boudoir images to have a sense of mystery to them, more so than in your face.

For your beauty work, do you usually shoot underexposed, or do you shoot a normal even exposure and tone around a bit?

I tend to shoot about 1 – 1.5 stops under, as I am always looking for ways to use the natural light coming in from a window to highlight a part of the body.


I’m curious as to how you approach your portraits with the couple. Do you let them go to their natural pose, pose them, etc. Also how do you deal with awkward couples who have trouble being in their own skin, being behind the camera, shy around their partners?

The best thing you can do for your couples is to allow them to be awkward at first. I think a lot of couples see the images of our clients in these poses and moments and think that they will never be like that or look like that. But what most of them forget is that it took time to get these. They didn’t see the build up to these moments or the silly, awkward moments before or after the image we chose to share. I will place my couples in a location that I want them to be in and  “pose” them but always letting them know that the “pose” is simply a starting point and to make it their own. Remembering that they are not mannequins and can move.  Additionally, most of the images I share online show my couples connecting: being with each other, holding each other. So I often get hired by couples who are comfortable in their own skin and are not overly shy with their partners.


How do you begin to approach a vast landscape and come up with a shot-plan? What sort of research do you do pre shoot?

I try to always look for a backdrop that won’t take away or hide my couple, so I place them with the sun light falling on them against a dark sky or a field of dark green grass. I want them to be part of the environment they’re in and complement it, not get lost in it. As for research, because many of the locations I have never shot in and my schedule doesn’t allow me to show up a week before, I just run with it. I personally never try to pre-plan a session in terms of locations as I feel that I would become blind to what could possibly be a better spot, but because I have it in my head that location “A” (the spot I pre-scouted) is the spot I may be missing location “B” around the corner that might be better. I feel if I show up to place with no preconceived ideas or expectations, I am like a kid in the candy store and always looking for amazing light and backdrops.


How do you approach shots with a vast landscape without losing the subject in the image? Lighting and contrast seem to be key, but can you talk a little bit more about your decision making in those settings?

I want my couples to be a part of the image and not get lost in it. So yes, lighting has a lot to do with it, but also the backdrop behind them; I try to have it a little darker then them so they “pop” off of it. Also, I tend to shoot pretty wide open which allows the viewer’s eye to go directly to the part in focus (my couple). When shooting my couples at F1.4 – F1.8, they remain in focus while the background is blurry enough to keep the separation between them, but in focus enough to see the environment they are in. If you shoot these at F5.6 or higher, what will happen is your couple, as well as 100+ feet behind them, will be sharp and they will more then likely get lost within the image.


Do you use any VSCO filters? If so what are your favorites?

I use VSCO for 99% of my editing and use ASE to apply grain if I feel it adds to the image. For my wedding work, I use Kodak Portra 160+ or 400+ and remove all the grain. For my boudoir work, I don’t have a set preset I use as I want the toning to affect the mood of the image, so I never use just one preset for these sessions.

What are your favorite lenses to work with, and why?

Right now my favourite lens is the Nikon 58mm. I love how versatile it is. If I want a nice up-close portrait, it is incredible as the bokeh is incredible. It also allows me to take a few steps back from my couple and get a wide enough shot but not loose the couple within the backdrop.


How did you get your first destination wedding and how do you plan your connection shoots?

My very first “destination” wedding was a local couple who had seen my work and asked if I’d be interested in capturing their destination wedding. From there, I showed it on my blog and website and submitted to a wedding blog to get featured. From that I booked another and really followed the same formula.

What would you say are the main things you have done in your work and business to REALLY stand out to grab your target audience and price your work where you are?

For me, one of the best things I have done for my business over the last few years is to show online (web, blog, Instagram, Facebook) the type of images I want to shoot again. Right now, I love couples with a sense of adventure and willing to go off the path for images. I want couples who aren’t afraid of shooting in less-than-perfect weather, so many of the images I share on my social media are similar to this. They are in nature and in good light because that is what I want to shoot more of.


I’ve heard you rub a small amount of maple syrup on your lenses to get that legendary McClintock look. Can you confirm or deny this?

That is something that I can’t deny nor confirm…sorry.

What do I do to become like you one day?

I am still trying to figure that out myself!

A very gracious thank you to Gabe McClintock for sharing a little behind-the-scenes magic with Photobug! Is there something you’ve always wanted to ask a certain photographer who inspires your work? Let us know who you’d like to hear from in our next installment of Ask!


(4) comments

  1. Some great thoughts here, will take them with me!

  2. I attended his one day workshop in Brussels and can say, that he is a great teacher and a very lovely person.

  3. Excellent interview of an inspiring and talented photographer who is also humble in nature.

  4. Ian

    An amazing interview and beautiful images.

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