There’s no question that brides take center stage on their wedding day. Look through any number of wedding blogs or wedding photography portfolios, and you’ll find that bridal portraits represent a large percentage of the featured images. Of course, you will also find portraits of the groom, but usually at a much lower rate, and the images don’t usually possess the same level of creative artistry showcased in more of the bride’s portraits. While it’s true that weddings often revolve around the bride, it’s important to remember that it’s the groom’s big day, too.

Problem: Meeting Only The Minimum Requirements

When it comes to photographing the groom, you’ve no doubt seen the photos of the groom putting on his coat, adjusting his cufflinks, watch and tie, or maybe even standing in a straight line alongside his groomsmen. These images all work well for capturing moments that tell the story of the day, but more often than not they’re captured in a pretty straightforward manner with minimal creativity, which is probably why they’re featured less prominently on blogs and in portfolios.

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Solution: Add Artistry With Off-Camera Flash

During a recent wedding, I had the opportunity to photograph the groom and his groomsmen, which is usually tasked to second shooters while leads stay with the bride. Whenever the opportunity arises, I like to approach photographing the groom and his boys with the same level of artistry expected for bridal portraits. For this particular session, I decided to stagger the groom and groomsmen in a V-formation, and I lit the groom with a gridded off-camera flash while leaving the ambient light just bright enough to minimally reveal the groomsmen.

I could’ve captured the usual images of the groom as described above and called it a day, but I feel we as photographers should always push ourselves to capture images that will wow our clients and exceed their expectations.

You can find more tips on capturing remarkable groom portraits in our Photographing the Groom workshop.

Here’s how we captured an artistic groom portrait using off-camera flash:

Step #1: Dial In Ambient Exposure

Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II at 200mm, f/4, 1/200, ISO 400

To set the mood and tone of the image, start by dialing in the appropriate ambient exposure. The vision you have for the end product will determine which ambient setting is appropriate. To highlight the groom and help him stand out while standing amongst the groomsmen, I adjusted my settings to keep the ambient light relatively low (see settings above).

Step #2: Pose Subject(s) And Find Your Angle(s)

To add depth to the image and break the mold of the standard straight line up, we posed the groomsmen in a v-formation. With the groomsmen standing at a slant, this formation also draws the viewer’s eye to the groom, who is standing in the center of the frame with his chest directly facing the camera.

I decided to use a telephoto lens zoomed to 155mm while standing approximately fifty feet away from the groomsmen in order to compress the image and minimize the lens distortion that usually accompanies wider angle shots.

Step #3: Position Off-Camera Flash With Grid

Overhead diagram of pose formation and flash placement.

To minimize light spill, we placed a grid on the flash and positioned the flash to light the groom from the side. By placing the light here and directing the groom to look toward the flash, we were able to highlight his features and keep the light off of both the groomsmen and the background.

Step #4: Cue The Action

Once I had the groom and groomsmen posed and the flash placed, I simply cued the action by asking the guys to joke around and make fun of each other. They already have their own inside jokes, so it usually doesn’t take much to get them laughing. At that point, all I have to do is look for and capture their best expressions.

Step #5: Create A Composite In Photoshop (If Necessary)

Both images: Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II at 155mm, f/4, 1/200, ISO 400 (from 50 feet away)

While I could have worked with either of these images (see above), I preferred the groom’s expression in the first image and the groomsmen’s poses in the second image. I knew it would be relatively simple to create a composite from these two groomsmen portraits, so I made initial adjustments to the first image in Lightroom using an SLR Lounge preset, and then synced the settings to the second image.

Next, you’ll need to export the images to Photoshop. To do so,  select the images, right-click, and select “Edit In,” and then “Open as Layers in Photoshop.” When the files open in Photoshop, auto-align the layers. Then, on the “final” image layer, add a layer mask and use the paintbrush to paint black over the areas of the image you wish to conceal.

You can see how the image transforms in the GIF below:

You can follow this same workflow for any composite using multiple images. See here for more information on how to create composite images.

Here’s a look at our final image:

Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II at 155mm, f/4, 1/200, ISO 400 (from 50 feet away)
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