Black and White Weddings - Daniel McGurk

Black and White Weddings

Weddings are often explosions of color. A great deal of work goes into the Bouquets, the Dresses, and the decorations to make sure the event is as beautiful as it is memorable. I love photos with rich colors and deep contrast and this is primarily the style of photo I produce.

With that being said, there is a place in my artistic heart that absolutely goes crazy for Black and White. That same place that appreciates a good glass of wine with a filet. In the hands of someone with experience and a love for the craft, what you lose in color often results in an amplification of a number of key elements; namely Emotion, Texture, and Composition.

Now I completely understand this style is not for everyone. That's okay. While I am based in Charleston, SC, I had the opportunity to shoot for this wedding in the Cairnwood Estate in Bryn Athyn, PA and I wound up converting almost the entire set of photos to Black and White. This is not a fast process; it takes many hours of work to get a set of wedding photos processed, and then to convert to Black and White... well, it's not as simple as hitting a B&W button in Photoshop if you want beautiful, deep contrast, artistic BW photos.

The photo above, showing Ellie descending the stairs with her train being carried and lit by a grand window in front of her is transformed in B&W - the soft beiges of the walls and the tan skin and white dress all blended together in Color; while still beautiful, when converted to B&W the emphasis is transformed into the radiant light shining on a beautiful Bride and Bridesmaid. The effort of preparation and tradition, in my mind, is amplified considerably in B&W.

Originally, this ceremony was planned to be out on the lawn that graces the back of this estate. Mother Nature had other ideas though, and despite a picture perfect forecast, a pop up thunderstorm blew in the exact hour for which this ceremony was planned.

Ian and Ellie were not too thrilled to have to relocate indoors on short notice (this happened at my own wedding in the Dominican Republic actually, a story for another time), but there was a big silver lining. The ceremony was set up into this awesome atrium, reminiscent of a Shakespearean theater set up with over hanging balconies, wrapped in stairs, and the guests crowded in for full support.

Notice how Ellie's Dress absolutely POPS in this photo in the center of the frame. While this photo is cool in color, of course, the way the tall ceiling arches, stairs, balcony, and wall of light frame the ceremony forces your eye back into this frame over and over while still allowing you to explore and see how cool this venue is (need to book 6 months+ out I was told). Simply amazing.

I am back and forth on this shot. I love it in color. I really do. This is one of the few photos I delivered in both color and B&W. The intimacy of this moment is wonderful either way. The lighting is cool next to those big, beautiful windows. One of my favorite nuances in Black and White is the way you can see the shimmering, crystal light on the walls. You almost don't even notice it in color. This adds magic to the moment and the photo.

I. Love. This. Photo. Am I allowed to say that about a wedding photo that isn't of the bride and groom? Ellie's parents were walking out of the hall to the reception tent outside and I caught them in this moment absolutely beaming with grace and pride. In color there are some distracting elements that, in Black and White, turn into complementary texture and composition elements (like the fogged glass, all the white vertical lines, the beige colored stone). This one is pretty in color, but absolutely sparkles in B&W.

Black and White photos can turn even seemingly ordinary moments into stunning ones - this beautiful smile on Ellie's face is the first thing you notice before you start seeing the details in her dress, and begin to wonder what kind of conversation they are having. In color, this photo is a bit busy with colored bottle on the table, the stonework in the back, the dress on the left (which is a rich, dark blue, the centerpiece on the table, and more. B&W can simplify and amplify moments with great results.

Smiles all around. This wedding was amazing.

So think about it, for your wedding. Or your next set of portraits. A true black and white treatment can really make moments shine. 

And many happy wishes and memories to Ian and Ellie for years to come.

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