Ten years of wedding photography thoughts and experiences penned in a post
If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you would know that we love LOVE. We love happy, pretty pictures, off-beat concepts, grand romantic gestures, gorgeous backlight, and the works. If it has to do with love, weddings, couples and families, we love it. But it wasn’t always so. Some of you may know that becoming a wedding photographer was not exactly a childhood dream for either Arjun or I. It was more like a happy accident – we both left comfortable, well paying corporate jobs to do something different and here we are today.
I’m not going to lie. It hasn’t been easy. And it wasn’t exactly what we thought it would be. But we have loved every step of the journey and I think I can speak for us both when I say that we wouldn’t change what we do for anything!
Now that we’ve been doing this for over a decade, I thought I would pen down my thoughts on what we’ve learned in all this time. If you’ve been shooting weddings for a while, or not even that long, I’m sure you will relate to a few and say “Yessssss. Exactly.”
#1 Nothing ever goes to plan
You can hold pre-production meetings to your heart’s content but I guarantee that you’ll find Indian Weddings to be the perfect playground for Murphy’s Law! Timelines go haywire, people don’t show, power may fail (yes, we’ve actually lit an entire mandap with our LEDs and Ice Lights during a massive generator failure), decor and ceremonies get washed out in rain (but the show goes on with umbrellas!). The takeaway here is that the show always goes on – doesn’t hurt to have a couple of safety pins and a stick of Ruby Woo lipstick in your bag! Who knows what you might need.
#2 Appearances Matter
I’ve heard photographers complain about being treated like vendors at a wedding. In my experience, it really helps to dress and talk the part and what you will get in return is courtesy at the very least and a warm guest-like welcome at the best! No, scratch that. Be treated like a family member at the very best! Wedding clients pay us a lot of money for the contemporary, artistic and off-beat photos that we are best known for. So let’s face it, they deserve well turned out professionals who are courteous, friendly and helpful.
#3 Fitness is Key
This is my Achilles Heel. If you’ve shot even one wedding in your life, you have got to know how exhausting it is. Long hours, being on your feet almost all through, holding heavy cameras and lugging bags and suitcases to and from the assignment, not having enough time to eat well and any other physical stress you can think of. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found myself to be more creative, more productive and much more enthusiastic about chasing the shot right through all those exhausting days when my physical & mental fitness is at a good level. Towards the end of the season, when I’m tired, been eating too much wedding food, not had enough sleep and spent too much time in an aircraft, I begin to flag. I swear every single year that I will be fitter by the next season and I’m still working on it!
#4 We are getting older. They’re getting younger
When we first started, it was kind of fun that the couples getting married were approximately the same age as us. That was part of the appeal – meeting new, young, interesting people across the country and the globe. But a decade later, we’re not that young. We don’t necessarily want the same things in life and/or relate to the same things as our couples. We’re older, wiser and better at what we do. And that’s never a bad thing! Over time, we’ve gone from being the buddy-like photographers to being the photographers that are reliable, experienced and those that can be leaned upon for last-minute advice or help. And I have to say, I enjoy that as much as I enjoyed the phase of being friends with them.
#5 Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time
I learned very early that nothing ever comes from comparing yourself to others. Comparing destinations, pricing, volumes, styles is truly pointless – it only pulls you down and brings in negativity. On the other hand, learning from your peers and aspiring to improve your work year on year is a whole different ball game – that, in fact, is of prime importance. Your taste, your style and your personality should be what guides how you take photos – in fact, those are the two kinds of goals that I set for myself every year (1) Widen my life experiences with books, movies, art, cooking, travel and everything else that I love – so I can “see” more and differently next year; (2) a more tangible list of techniques to master before the next season.
#6 Inspiration can come from anywhere
Wedding Photography is an intensely dynamic and competitive space, very heavily influenced by trends in style and technique. But I believe that following only wedding photographers and their work can be restrictive. That’s a lesson carried over from my undergrad English Lit days. I remember having to study the political and socio-economic situation of a time, and the life history of an author to understand works of literature in their entirety. And the same principle applies here too. I truly believe that every photo I take is a sum of my persona, my life experiences, my taste in art, literature, food, culture and everything else that makes me who I am. I guarantee that if you put Arjun, I and our entire photo team in the same room with the same situation, we will all come up with different imagery to tell that story. So for inspiration and for my own advancement, I follow and study so many different things and people – I watch films, I read all kinds of books and magazines, I follow art and DIY blogs, I cook and watch food shows, I travel and watch travel+nature shows. As time goes on, my taste and style will continue to evolve and that’s the most important part of the job – to stay inspired and begin each shoot with renewed enthusiasm.
#7 Moments over drama. Every single time
I know how tempting it is to consciously chase Instagram-worthy and award-worthy photos (both being of a different kind, of course). That is the stuff we use to get ahead, create our portfolios, catch the viewers’ attention and promote ourselves. So we can’t ignore the importance of it. But it’s equally important to remember that photographing weddings is like no other commercial photography assignment. We all know that nothing brings a family together like weddings and funerals. So a couples’ wedding day(s) is so much more than an opportunity to create portfolio images – it brings the extended family together for a celebration that they would want to remember for eternity. Our job is to immortalise those memories for them – and we need to do that with a 100% commitment and professionalism. That’s not to say that we can’t do both – my personal goal is to get a minimum of 1 portfolio-worthy shot per function and spend the rest of the time getting the couple and their family the shots they would want and cherish forever. Pay attention to the small moments, the interaction between the couple and their family and friends and I guarantee you’ll find enough scope to do both!
#8 I love happy, bright, pretty pictures
As much as weddings are about drama, emotions and a lot of heavy stuff, I have to admit that my favourite kind of pictures are the ones that are happy, vivacious, full of laughter and happiness. Soft, dreamy, backlit portraits will always have my heart over dramatically lit environmental portraits. That’s not to say that I can’t or won’t take other kinds of images – I’m a professional and I’ll do everything that’s required to do my job, but my own taste and personality always tends to have me lean towards the bright and happy!
#9 Plan. Plan Again. Plan Some More. And get the shots
This is something that has always helped me a lot. I’m a planner, a list-maker and that is why I excel at “production” as they call it in commercial photography and film terms. I know that wedding photography is a lot more documentary and as-it-happens than controlled commercial shoots. But who said you can’t learn from another genre of photography? We hold extensive pre-production calls and meetings with our clients, to make sure that we understand their wedding flow, their expectations from their wedding photographer, the details of events taking place, make checklists, find SPOCS amidst their close family and friends to guide us through everything. You can never plan enough and yet, things almost never go to plan. So a combination of great planning, some quick thinking on my feet and a generous dose of common sense goes a long way in helping me ensure that I am always where I need to be and not miss the important moments.
#10 Find Your Tribe
This should maybe find it’s way to the very top – I think it’s one of the most important things I’ve learned. Wedding Photography, like every other profession, has its highs and lows. At the very core, it’s a pretty lonely profession. Yes, you have your team and studio and a great workspace. You also dress and behave like guests at a wedding but you’re actually there to do a job. You’re a part of the action but also a little removed. And nobody understands all of that the way another wedding photographer would. Yes, they’re your competition. But they also make for good friends and a community. I can proudly say that I count some of the top photographers in the country as my friends. And am on friendly terms with the rest. We each come to the others rescue when it comes to gear, tech help, creative ruts or even just some friendly banter about our work. It keeps me sane and it’s amazing to know how many people out there share similar life experiences. So if you don’t have a tribe yet, find it NOW!
It’s amazing how the journey of becoming a wedding photographer has shaped so many aspects of my current persona. And I’m sure that it will continue to do so. But, for now, those are my 10 Things in 10 Years! Stay tuned for more inside stories.[su_divider top=”no”]
Praerna is the co-founder and creative director at Twogether Studios. The ying to our collective yang, Praerna is a detail-oriented perfectionist and likes nothing better than being a part of a big-fat-Indian-wedding with all the chaos and fun.