Yes I was a wedding photographer, for a very brief time. 5 marriages to be precise where I tried my hand at Wedding Photography . The association started during my brother in Law’s marriage, when we had hired this acquaintance of mine to do the wedding photography.
As a keen enthusiast of photography, despite of me being the client, I ended up in assisting him, holding lights and running all errands – Who cares, as long as I get to learn something . If you have to learn something you have to forego ego – blah blah blah …
Soon I expressed my wish to join him and assist him so that I get a chance to learn , practice photography and have a practical guide around. Across India and in Kolkata in particular, I have seen this trend that there are too many talented photographers, however there are very few , very very few teachers/guides / mentors who selflessly take an interest in developing other talents or sharing the knowledge . What happened next is a story for some other day …
So last season when I worked / assisted as a wedding photographer, I went through this whirlwind of emotions and truckload of learnings. Its worth sharing a few of them here
Erratic schedule – Customer is king . This will remain the eternal truth. Be ready for an erratic schedule where things can get delayed due to the make up of the bride’s mother not done properly , the purohit ( priest ) arriving late ,the watch to be gifted to the groom is locked in an cupboard and the key seems to be lost etc etc. My team was never that big that it could ask for charges on an hourly basis, so inevitably we would end up with long , really long hours . Don’t get me wrong , long productive hours is satisfying as long as it is not for the casual attitude of clients. That is painful.
Tips – Try to get an idea about the schedule beforehand so that one can prepare accordingly . One needs to be flexible, if not contracted on an hourly basis to adjust to the ever changing scenario .
I have a camera too – In any marriage – One must be ready to get few shots spoilt. Thanks to the Mobile God ( don’t know who is it actually), we have a camera with everyone . From young to old, holding a mobile phone camera, there are cameras at different heights with different intensity of flashes on rampage of clicking . Its the age of the selfie and who would lose an opportunity in such an occasion . Add to that the old school videographer with a reflector and a flash gun, attached with a snake like wire which crawls through legs all around without any control. I remember a couple of times when there has been a serious argument and debate between the candid wedding photographer and the videographer, as in who will take which angle and when to focus the light .
Tips – If its a jungle then play the game of survival of the fittest . One must be in close contact with the subject on a regular basis to get the best angle for the picture . For the videographer, the safest way is to take him on your side by discussing business and offering a JV for your upcoming assignments .
Please get in touch with – Imagine the situation – You have been appointed as the official wedding photographer by the bride and you walk in on the day of the marriage in a houseful of 100 unknown people and the bride is busy getting ready . Other than the bride and the groom, please ask for a Point of Contact who will be helping out for any emergency , identifying people , giving access to secluded areas and so on . Be the charming, ever smiling best friend of the bride, over enthusiastically trying to impress, know it all brother of the groom , anyone will do as long as the help comes in .
Tips – Before the marriage, try to get hold of this POC . Request the client to assign a POC so that one can focus on the quality pictures on this crucial day.
Excuse me please – Its the big fat Indian (my limited experience) wedding and emotions run high. At times some difference of opinion , some debate , some scuffle may lead to a situation where one witnesses scenes which are very private and intimate to the family . Try to avoid these situations as much as possible .
Tips – Whenever there is a chance of a breakout of mayhem, heated exchanges, try to excuse out of the room to avoid further awkward moments
What next ? – South Indian films , counting the number of pillars in aluminium grills , countless cigarettes, endless fiddling with smartphone what all I have not done to kill time while shooting for a wedding . Wedding photography also means long real long waiting hours. For a Bengali wedding it would start normally at 8 in the morning and will continue till way past midnight. If travelling from outstation then you may take a break and retire to hotel room but otherwise its long waiting hours between rituals and ceremonies . One has to be extremely patient to remain focused and keep composure, since the main action happens in the night which involves long hours, on your feet and undivided concentration.
Tips – Take as much rest as possible during the breaks . I started reading books and exploring my 30 GB music collection on my i-pod . Music and books always helps me to concentrate . It differs from person to person but one must find one to remain focused. Make sure to sleep well the night before. If its a Sangeet ceremony, then click till the time one needs to.
This or that – As I have only covered few Hindu Bengali weddings, so all views here are confined to them . There is no SOP for a marriage . Some of a photographers favourite moment are – Aashirbad ( blessing ceremony from the parents) Saat Pak ( pheras where the bride and the groom take seven rounds around the holy fire ) , shubho drishti (where the bride and groom look into each others eyes for the first time) , Malabodol ( exchange of garlands) and others . Unfortunately every priest who is in charge of the ceremony , interprets this in their own way. Sequential orders are different . As a photographer its important to know the sequences so that the change and use of lenses can be planned .
Tips – If possible, chat up with priest to understand the flow of events . Promise him a good picture . He will hold and slow down the key moments for you so that one gets ample time to click the pictures.
Indigestion and burrrp – When I planned to start assisting in wedding photography my taste buds were in a state of fantasy as this would be a golden opportunity for having good food while one is at work . But before even tasting my first dinner in my first wedding I realised this is going to be different. These are long working hours, so if you stuff yourself up to a situation where you cannot move, then clicking pictures for rest of the night is gone. In a peak season there will be marriages one after other and if one meal decides to stand up inside stomach then that will have a domino effect on the next days. Most of the marriage meals are higher on the grease factor. Unless you have a digestive system which is equivalent to an Intel Core Processor loaded laptop, its going to act funny .
Tips – The age old rule of Small amounts at proper intervals holds good here , however proper intervals is not possible in a wedding . So whenever you eat – eat to live and not live to eat .
Disaster disaster – There will be one disaster on the coordination. From experience I can say there isn’t any marriage ceremony where all the proceedings have gone as planned . Being a part of such event, its but obvious that there will be one disaster . It may be last minute change in plans , no pick up or drop planned for the photographer , atrocious lighting at the venue , jazzy green or shining red or even worse floral print background where the bride and groom meets the relatives and guests to name a few . I distinctly remember an incident where a shoot wrapped up at 1.30 A.M. and the client did not bother to check on how we will reach home
Tips – Always have a backup plan . It may sound cliche but a back up plan is essential on how to reach the venue , back up plans for light etc.
Wishlist – This is one place where wishlists are more than the Christmas wishlist being sent out to Santa by a kid . Clicking picture with the distant aunt whom one meets only in the marriages. clicking picture in front of the waterbody, with the food in mouth, with the decorator , with the driver of the event manager and what not . Worth mentioning – in my first wedding I had to devote 1 hour to click pictures of the cousin of the bride with his pet doberman. Takers anyone ?
Tips – Depending on the number of invitees, its always better to suggest for a photo-booth so that anyone wishing can go and get themselves clicked and that will take care of all unnecessary distractions .
Standard checklists – This is in follow up with the disaster checklist . There are numerous possible disasters which can happen when you are highly technology dependent. Additional flash gun not working, camera battery not responding , memory card getting corrupted , storage device not functioning, team member falling sick anything is possible here. It may also happen during one of the important rituals going on where one cannot afford to miss a single shot . Murphy’s law was never so existent than this .
Tips – For every plan A there should be a Plan B and for every Plan B there should be a Plan C . Back up batteries, back up flash guns , storage device etc should always be planned .If its an assignment within your city, get in touch with other photography associates nearby location beforehand so that one can seek out help in case of any emergency .
I didn’t work after last season , reason being the company and group getting dissolved as the Star Photographer (not me obviously) losing interest in wedding photography due to his personal reasons . It was an amazing experience and I would prefer to continue to feel that I am on a break so that I will come back soon …and when it comes to my wishlist I want to do a destination wedding at Santorini Greece . Sometime , Someday.
Worth mentioning here I have been immensely inspired by the wedding photography by Sephi Beregerson and Naina . As per my knowledge Naina has stopped doing wedding photography anymore which is a definitely a loss to the fraternity. On the other hand I have come to know lots of people , some of them gradually became good friends and definitely I hold the camera little better now .
What has been your experience with wedding photographers ? Will love to hear from you .