India is a land of eccentricities and an Indian wedding is the perfect place to witness some of them. Debating at length about how weddings anywhere in the world are always challenging, an Indian-by-origin but American wedding photographer conceded that Indian weddings are indeed among the toughest to shoot. That was a couple of years ago.
Things haven’t changed much. Walking into a group of wedding photographers, the subject of discussion is usually how the battle of photography on Indian wedding soil was fought and won. Or, was it how 20 good images among a thousand is a pretty good average? There is always a recurring memory of photographers talking about putting the mind and the body through the paces at every single Indian wedding. And, how at the end of it all, they feel as much relief as exhaustion.
You ask, how difficult can it be? As excruciating as it can get. Still want to be a wedding photographer? Here are some facts about Indian weddings that might make you reconsider your decision.
Let’s please not make jokes about the Indian Stretchable Time. For many a wedding photographer, the uncountable horror stories of having to stretch beyond the limits of physical exertion are usually centered on a delayed start. Like the incident of the groom who decided to go shopping for wedding shoes while the photographer sat waiting for the engagement event to begin. For about 3 hours.
#2. The mob
The priest isn’t regulating it. The family doesn’t think it’s a problem. The relatives conveniently ignore it. Poor photographer finds himself crouched perilously close to the bride’s unstable perch on the father’s lap, with about half a yard of shooting space on either side of the lens. The wedding mob, we call it. It’s a photographer’s worst nightmare—a perfect situation to make bad pictures or, worse, miss the most important moment of the wedding.
#3. Everyone wants something (expectations)
So, this hotshot “candid” wedding photographer was feeling high after shooting a few dozen kickass images, only to be dragged in front of the stage by the bride’s father. Guests were streaming in to congratulate the couple and “stage shots” is an important candid moment, the father said. The photographer didn’t want to create a scene. The bubble burst. He thought to himself: should have met the parents before the wedding.
#4. Three’s a crowd, many is chaos
If the mob is scary, you still haven’t met the rest of them offstage. Forget about the group of merrymen ROFLing at the back-end of the hall. You’re not going to reach there in time for those award-winning shots; you have the entire city packed into a hall that accommodates 500.
#5. Summer of 6 9s
The Indian Summer kills. Literally. The 100 Fahrenheit barrier doesn’t exist here. But, you the photographer has to keep going for hours at a stretch. Why? Because your camera and lenses are still going strong, so you have no reasons to stop either.
#6. Space to shoot
The best of action usually happens in cramped “getting ready” rooms. Read this action as: beautiful bridal portraits, classy groom portraits, lovely couple portraits. Throw in the rule that the groom shouldn’t step out or see the bride before the ceremony, and the photographer is left wondering if there’s anything left to shoot.
#7. The invisible ritual
Like about 20 years ago when, as a student, the photographer felt all the questions on the paper have been answered, he managed to make some amazing pictures of every single ritual. The couple is going to be thrilled, he believed. It didn’t end up that way, because there was a shadow ritual with the brother of the bride and the photographer didn’t know about it. We call it the invisible ritual, because it usually doesn’t make it to the album—just like how the wedding ends up becoming forgettable.
#8. Hot and cold
We all love haze, except when we don’t want it and it still appears. On lenses. The photographer is left wondering how the layer of condensation keeps coming back every two seconds, even after a thorough wiping. Remember the physics of hot inside and cold outside, and therefore the layer of condensed air? By the way, have they found a way to beat it yet?
#9. Stage fright
A tiny step back for the nice wide-angle shot of the entire family. Another tiny step back. And then another, only this time the photographer is counting stars lying on his back. Did you know Indian events always happen on a raised platform–one so high that a fall can break your back sometimes?
#10. Midnight wedding
Suppressing a yawn, the photographer looked at his watch and frowned. It was 10 o’ in the night and the wedding was not until 3 hours away. Beyond midnight. Welcome to North Indian weddings. Maybe, he should have taken up the part-time job at the call center after all.
#11. Trial by fire
There’s fire in front of the couple. There’s fire behind the photographer in two neat lamp stands, symmetrically placed so that escaping one doesn’t mean escaping the second. By how many stops should you overexpose a photographer on fire?
#12. Paparazzi for parents
The photographer is on his best monkey behavior, but the parents aren’t smiling yet. It almost seems like the photographer wasn’t meant to be there. Except, he is. They paid for it. But no, that still isn’t reason enough to smile for the camera. Photographer gives up after a dozen attempts. Relate to it?
#13. Dark is the new light
At Indian weddings, a photographer tends to forget whether he has learnt about light or about the dark. It is confusing, really. No manual says the absence of light is darkness—it only says you can’t make a picture. Brave photographers, they still don’t say no to temple weddings before sunrise. Translation: a place where you can’t use speed lights, and high ISOs don’t help much.
#14. Nothing here
They say 13 is an unlucky number. So, we’re stretching the list to 14. You know, just in case.
This post is meant to be a satire and by no means discourages photographers from shooting weddings. But, any resemblance in situation to actual occurrences is intentional and all stories are true. Maybe, you have a few to share too.