Earlier this summer, Joe McNally, lighting guru and industry leader, stationed himself outside New York City’s City Hall to provide free portraits to emerging newlyweds who might not have otherwise arranged for professionally done photos.
The idea popped into McNally’s head back in 2012, the day he shot friends of his at City Hall. “I was taking photos and looking around and realized that these other folks didn’t have anyone who was going to take a good portrait of them—maybe a quick snapshot from a phone, at best,” McNally recalls. “It got me to thinking that it would be cool for the couples to have access to a fully executed, nicely lit portrait of themselves on their wedding day.”
More than 70 couples rolled through the back of the Nikon Wedding Truck Studio (the largest group being 15 people), and McNally had to move fairly quickly between his lighting setups to keep up (check out his gear below). “The weather threatened constantly,” he says, “but, hey, love conquers all, without being corny about it. It was just great, and the laughter, smiles and kisses I witnessed in front of my lens on those days definitely mirrored the fun I was having behind the camera.”
As far as posing and directing the couples, McNally took a laid-back approach and “pretty much let them be who they were,” as he says. “Sometimes the session started slowly, but then I would suggest they kiss or hold each other, and invariably that opened the door! Lots of couples got wonderfully romantic in front of the lens.”
Shooting these portraits, McNally was able to give a sense of permanence to the couples, many of whom hadn’t planned for a photographer. “Seeing the pure joy of these couples and their families was a wonderful feeling, knowing that this chance encounter—having a photo studio inside a truck outside the wedding bureau of New York—will lead to these pictures being on the mantelpiece in these folks’ homes for all time, potentially,” McNally says. “I’ll be long gone and these couples, as they live and love together, have children and grow older, will always remember that nutty photog in the truck.”
Joe McNally’s Gear
Camera: Nikon D750
Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR
Lighting: Nikon SB-910 and SD-9 Speedlights, and Lastolite panels, soft boxes and umbrellas to “easily cover a couple, bride and then the occasional big group,” McNally says.