One of the key things to achieve with wedding photography featuring groups of guys is to make them look cool. Guys really get into this type of shot, they like the role-play involved and it can be a really memorable part of the day for them, which results in a striking image. And one way to achieve a cool look with the guys is to use a style with strong visual impact.
As an example of this, here is the first film-noir inspired photo I took at a wedding. The story to this was that the groom, Mark (pictured right) told me at the pre-wedding consultation that he wanted a shot with the boys smoking cigars. Mark’s grandfather had given him the cigar before passing away several months before, so I knew it was an important shot to get right for him. I suggested a 1940s gangster style, inspired by film noir.
As with most shots at weddings, we only had a few minutes to do it on the day. I set up two lights outside at night time. The main light was on a stand with a grid to focus the light solely on the subjects. This also gave a crisp edge to the light, to help create the film noir style. I asked a guest to hold a rim light to the back left (known in the trade as a VAL, or Voice Activated Lightstand), which added more emphasis to the guys’ outlines and to emphasise the smoke.
I took a selection of shots on the night. From those shots, there were a few where the smoke was in the wrong place, covering up faces for example (smoke is pretty hard to control). And there were also some shots where the facial expressions weren’t quite right.
So afterwards in the edit, I selected the shot where the facial expressions were right to create the film noir feel and then I put the smoke into the image in the right places for the effect I wanted. (You can also take this picture with the cigars unlit, which gives you more control – then add the smoke). Finally, I chose black and white for the film noir look.
The result was that the clients loved this photo. They had it enlarged and framed. I also featured it on the last spread in their album.
Out of all my wedding photography, this picture gets the most interest from people – probably because it’s a fun and striking image, it’s got a strong narrative and the lighting gives a 3-dimensional quality.
I’ve evolved this shot for other clients who have seen this photograph and wanted a version for their wedding day. Here, the groom Taner (pictured centre) saw the cigar photo at his pre-wedding consultation and asked for something similar with his group of guys. Taner liked the gangster feel, so I suggested a card game or a pool table setting. As it turned out, the bride’s father had a games room in his house with a pool table and a card table – a nice piece of luck!
It is important to plan these types of shots before the day. This meant that on the day, I arrived at the bride’s father’s house on the morning of the wedding to take this shot. Again, this photograph uses two lights. Both were set up on stands – there was time to do this due to the planning. The key light has a grid over it and that controls the light into a tight circle on the subjects. The second light is to the back left coming back across the frame. It’s a rim light, which adds accent to the subjects’ outlines and also gives a 3-dimensional feel and atmosphere (such as casting shadows on the folds of clothes and creating the shadow on the wall).
It was shot with an ultra-wide angle lens to give the photograph added dynamics – the intention was to make the viewer of the picture feel they are sitting at the card table with the guys.
This photo got the wedding day off to a great start, as the boys really enjoyed it. I showed them the shot on the back of the camera and they loved it, which was helpful for the rest of the day. I had their respect and willingness to work with me, which is always so useful for creating good shots.
Photographs like this can also inspire other wedding guests to make the most of their photo opportunities. I went on after I took this picture to the bride’s house, Emine, and she asked me how I got on with Taner and the guys. I showed the card table photograph and she loved it – she then asked for the girls to have some cool pictures done.
Thanks to Lisa & Mark and Emine & Taner (and all their wedding guests who feature in these selected photos).