How I Got the Shot – Photographer Nicole York’s Princess and the Pea Concept

Posted by: on Mar 12, 2018

How I Got the Shot – Photographer Nicole York’s Princess and the Pea Concept
The below article is from Nicole York, a commercial, advertising, fashion, and editorial photographer based in Colorado. Follow her on Instagram @nicoleyorkphotography and online at We thank Nicole for pulling back the curtain on her latest shoot and contributing to the How I Got the Shot Guide: Women’s Edition!


This shoot was based on the differences in the way we see fairy tales as children, versus adulthood. The Princess and the Pea was the perfect concept to use because there is a great amount of the ridiculous in the story when viewed through the lens of maturity and a culture increasingly more in touch with the value and complexity of femininity. That a woman should have to prove her fitness to be a royal wife by being forced to go several nights without sleep is a concept we would scoff at now, but I also thought would be a fitting metaphor for our current cultural shift.

Shooting Tethered

Tethering my camera to my Asus laptop using CaptureOne helped me by allowing me to see large previews of the images as I captured them, so I could see exactly what the light was doing, make sure that the shadows were open, be assured of sharpness, and test some color grading to make sure that the light I used would give me the end result I wanted.


The biggest challenge of the shoot was mimicking candlelight. It’s difficult to make flash resemble candlelight because candlelight is fairly weak and contained to a small area. It’s also tricky to put the light on the subject without throwing shadows and highlights in the wrong direction for the supposed light source. Booming the speedlight was a key because it brought the light in from a downward angle, which kept the light and shadows moving in the right direction for the candles.

Setup and Lighting

Since my vision for this photograph took place during the night, I knew I would need a fairly low exposure with lots of blue in the midtones and shadows, but I also needed a strong enough key light on my main character–the princess–to make her stand out. The only light source that made sense for the time period was candles, so the key light would need to mimic candlelight as closely as possible. Having those considerations to deal with, I used a mid-sized octa double-gelled with blue gels and placed fairly far back from the scene, so that the light would be even and cover the whole scene. Once I had that exposure where I wanted it, we began placing the key light, which was a Canon 580 EXii gelled with one yellow and one orange gel and shot through a snoot to keep the light very directed. As soon as the light was properly placed on a boom, my assistant held up a Westcott diffusion panel between the light and the subject to diffuse light. This set-up gave the scene the nighttime, candlelit feel that I wanted.      


In post-processing this image, the biggest tricks were compositing in “wallpaper” in Adobe Photoshop, and then color grading the image to preserve the nighttime feel while adding a sense of cinema to the image. All post processing was done in Photoshop, using a combination of color adjustment layers, curves, masking, and blending modes.

Gear Used

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Asus Laptop
  • CaptureOne Pro
  • Tether Tools TetherPro USB Cable
  • Canon 580EXii
  • Snoot
  • Blue, Yellow and Orange gels
  • ProMaster strobe
  • Westcott light stand
  • Adobe Photoshop

The Team

  • Model: Tessa Hooper
  • Model: Jennifer Wilde
  • Model: Karl Brevik
  • Dress Designer and stylist: Allison Nicole Designs
  • Makeup and Hair Stylist: Nina Marie Diaz
  • Assistant: Nehemiah Urban
  • Videographer: Kevin Davis
To download this guide and including 29 more articles, download the How I Got the Shot: Women’s Edition on Each educational article features a different image, behind-the-scenes video, and a detailed breakdown of how the shot was made.