[DISCLAIMER] Please don’t try this at home! This photo was shot with professional drivers on a closed road and if you attempt to recreate it it could result in serious injury or death. I’m not joking: unless you really know what you’re doing, don’t try this at home.

So in this edition of the story behind the photo I’m going to go through how on earth we came up with and shot the photos of the Minis below. It’s a bit of a crazy one and goes to show that not all wedding photos have to be boring!

Techie details about the minis photo

Hit the link for all the details.

Down Hall Country House Hotel.

Between Starters and Main course. Seriously.

So Jon the groom loves Paul Smith. The whole wedding had a bit of a Paul Smith theme and the Minis were the centre piece. As far as I know there’s only about 4 in the country and Jon managed to organise 3 for the wedding (well 2 actually in the end; they broke one going over a speed bump the night before!). Anyway, Jon had told me about the Minis in advance and really wanted a different, unusual shot with them. I got my thinking hat on, I really didn’t want to do the standard “Bride and Groom stand in front of nicely parked cars” shot, I wanted something a bit different. The idea for this one came to me while laying in bed at night: why not use some motion blur and have the cars come flying past the couple?


On the day of the wedding things were really tight. Jon and Elaine are Greek Cypriot and as such didn’t know how to have a small wedding! To top things off, the wedding location was a good 45 minute drive from the reception location at Down Hall. As anticipated we were really pushed for time after the ceremony and before dinner. The Minis were due to go home after arriving at the reception location but with a bit of negotiation I convinced them to stay until dinner. We got all the group shots out of the way and when the couple sat down for dinner I headed outside to set up the Mini shot.

I set up as in the diagram below:

Fun different wedding photography, by Alex Beckett.

Camera – D3 locked off on a tripod with a 24mm lens. Polarizer fitted, ISO 100, f/9, 1/13 second.

Backlight – Elinchrom Ranger Quadra with kill spill. Full Power

Front Light – Elinchrom Ranger RX Speed with Chimera X-Small softbox – centre baffle removed. Full Power.

Rather than putting the Bride/Groom in there straight away I set up first with my second photographer (the ever wonderful Chris Beaumont) in their places. We started the Minis off with a slow pass at 5mph so they could judge their distances and slowly build up the speed. Unfortuately we were shooting this with quite a lot of light around so I was having to really wack up the aperture and add a polarizer in order to get a decent shutter speed. All this meant the flashes were working overtime trying to add their kickers. It also meant we had to keep increasing the speed of the Minis in order to get the motion blur we needed. The Minis’ run up was quite short – probably about 100m – and it was on gravel. As we increased the speed up to about 30mph the noise and dust flying was quite terrific. Luckily I could see them coming but Chris with his back to them attested it was quite a brown trouser moment every time they went past. Once I was happy we’d got it all right and the Mini drivers were confident with the speeds/distances I went and got our couple.

This is where I have to admit to being very lucky. Jon and Elaine are a great and fearless couple. Where 90% of other people would have walked out and said, “You want me to do what??” before promply bashing me with a monopod, they simply said, “Sure, where do we stand?”. With that I put them in the middle of the photo and we began again slowly building up the speed of the Minis. The reason we did this again was because Elaine’s dress was a touch large and we really wanted to make sure the drivers knew their distances before the speeds got potentially fatal. Slowly we built up the speed and then added in the pose. The dip they’re in is really quite dramatic but I wanted to go for a pose which had impact and could rival the Minis. I choose this one since it looked great, was easy for them to hold and meant they didn’t have to look at what was coming!

And there we have it. It took a few attempts to get it right. I was shooting with rear curtain sync to try and capture the Minis’ motion blur. That made timing it all a touch tricky but after about 4 takes we got it. Jon and Elaine were truly marvelous, they didn’t get scared once and in fact complained a good deal less than Chris, my second, did! By the end we had gathered quite a crowd with Ushers and Bridesmaids alike looking on. I think they were all wondering what the hell this crazy photographer was doing, that was until they saw the photo!

Things I would do differently:

Yep, while I love this photo there are a couple of things I would change if I were to do it again.

1) I’d shoot later at night. Unfortunately since the drivers all had to leave we were a bit stuck with our timings on this one. If I could have shot later at night though we could have opened up the shutter a whole load more, reducing the flash power required and the speed the Minis would need to travel at. It would also have really popped their front headlights and added to the overall effect.

2) I’d add a couple of small speedlights inside the Minis. The drivers were both wearing sunnies and had really mean looks on their face. If I had popped a couple of speedlights in the Minis we really could have brought that out and added to the photo.

And there you go. To wrap up, here’s another quick shot by Chris who was standing by the Best Man. Yeah, the Minis really were that close!

And finally I have to say a great thanks to the Mini drivers. Without their skills, planning and assistance, we could never have got this shot.

More adventures soon,

Alex 😀

One Comment

  1. Wow that is awesome, I love setups like that, great work for doing it on a wedding as well!

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