We’ve been noticing a lot more wedding shots lately that tell a whole story without showing a whole person. Some crop the eyes or go in tight on hands joining together. Others showcase the gesture of a lace-adorned arm or a rustling dress. But they’re not just detail shots. These images convey character and emotion like wedding portraits, but without showing the subject’s full face.
“Shots of that type are communicating to us in a less obvious way and perhaps in more of an emotional way,” explains Portland, Oregon–based photographer Sarah Falugo. “People are leaning more and more into that rather than everything needing to be a full-length portrait, looking at the camera.”
She says both photographers and clients have moved toward multi-layered imagery that draws on multiple genres, including cinema. “Clients are wanting something that speaks with a less obvious tone about what the interpretation of their wedding could be,” she says.
Miami-based KT Merry also points out that revealing only part of the picture is a common cinematic storytelling technique used to engage viewers’ imaginations and connect them to characters. “They’re not showing you the full picture because they want to kind of bring you in further,” she says.
Merry says her own style of cropped wedding portrait composition grew out of shooting film and learning to work a scene with a prime lens: “You’re moving in and out, you’re recomposing, and you’re doing that usually with your eye and your body,” she explains. It’s an approach that she says taught her to always be intuitively looking for what she calls the “shot within the shot.”
If she’s photographing a couple, for example, she’ll start by capturing them in typical wedding portrait style with heads and all, then move in for a tight shot that leaves out their eyes: “Maybe she’s got her hand on his chest and they’re both smiling, and you just see that moment,” she says. “I think it really does capture that feeling of connection, which is one of our most instinctual needs as human beings.”
Wedding portraits that don’t show faces can meet practical needs as well. Tampa-based Jacqui Cole often shares tight shots that highlight elements like garments and flowers with other vendors as a professional courtesy. “All these elements people have worked on over a year, usually,” she says, “and it’s coming to fruition on that wedding day.”
And wedding portraits without faces can work well for photographers’ own marketing purposes: “If we don’t show the client’s face, then it’s easier for the next client who looks at that image to imagine it’s them, says Sarah Falugo. “If we can connect a client and actually have them imagine it’s their own wedding portrait, they’re more likely to book us.”
But she discourages cropping willy nilly just to try out the style. It’s essential, she says, to compose images with a clear idea of what they’re about. “If the viewer is confused about what the picture is about,” she says, “then it’s not successful.”
While no one sees faceless wedding portraits replacing more conventional shots, they’re one element of a candid storytelling genre that isn’t going away. They add depth to a photographic narrative, whether in an album or on a gallery wall.
“I don’t see us reverting back to the more polished, stylized style of photography,” says Jacqui Cole. “We have the freedom to shoot these fun, really true, authentic moments. And that means a lot of movement and potentially the faces not being in it…I don’t think that’s going to go anywhere because I think both the photographer and the client are liking it.”
Other Wedding Trends You Might Be Interested In:
- Analog Wedding: Ashley Plante’s Naturalistic Approach
- Intentional Photo Blur and Why My Clients Love It