Wedding photography is a wicked wonderland. It draws you in with all its hype and flash, not to mention the lure of great money…and just as soon exposes you to the harsh reality that there’s more to wedding photography than just setting your exposure and making a picture. If you’ve already taken the plunge, here are a few survival tips:
The organized bloke that you are, you’ve most certainly planned out every step of the shoot. From the portrait session to the rituals to the group shots. If you think that’s how things are going to pan out, you’re in for a rude shock. More often than not, you’re going to see sessions overlapping each other, leaving you with little time to execute your plans. The only solution to this is to improvise and think on your feet, and not slip into panic mode. Assume delay is normal, and be prepared to make good pictures no matter the location or light.
#2: Low light
If you’ve been to an Indian wedding before, this wouldn’t come as a shock. It can’t obviously get any worse than the most unpalatably lit wedding you’ve been to. Yet, be prepared to gear up for bad light battles and arm yourself with fast lenses and speedlights, or make creative use of the light on offer.
#3: Space to shoot
Guests and relatives actively participate at Indian weddings, literally. They crowd the wedding stage, sometimes even leaving you with no space to move your lens around. The only way to make pictures in these cases is putting your foot down and demanding your space to shoot. Even if it means shoving the bride’s overenthusiastic aunt out of the way.
#4: Lens’ working angle
One of the biggest mistakes Indian wedding photographers make is in choosing the lens. At most Hindu weddings, it is impractical to use the lens most wedding photographers favor—the 70-200. You’d be better served by a wide lens that lets you get close while giving you the range to shoot all the action around you. However, it’s always a good idea to carry a few lenses that give you a wide range—from wide to medium telephoto.
#5: Group shots
If you shoot weddings the photojournalistic way, you’ve perhaps not given much thought about capturing group shots. Like it or not, this can be a serious handicap. At some point during the ceremony, you’ll find yourself getting pulled into shooting group pictures and if you still want to make it an enjoyable experience, find ways to make interesting group pictures. Or as an alternative, you can drag yourself away from the line of direct sight of guests or relatives. Your call!
#6: Missing the rituals
Rituals are an integral part of Indian weddings, and it’s not just the sacred thread or the rounds ceremony that you’ll need to capture. Make sure you’re well versed with the many different rituals and ensure you have at least one picture of every ritual. Sometimes, this could mean making an image of a ritual that lasts for all but 30 seconds.
#7: Pictures of important family members
Your wedding customers will predictably be annoyed to see pictures of important family members missing from your album. It’ll be your worst nightmare. To avoid this, make a list of family members you’ll need to photograph (speak to the bride and groom in advance) and include these pictures in your “shot list”.
#8: Equipment failures and spares
Memory cards can fail anytime. Your camera may encounter a “fatal error”. You might run out of juice in your speedlight. These are not worst-case scenarios–at some point in every photographer’s lifetime, one if not all of these are bound to happen. And, it could happen to you on your first assignment. Be prepared. Carry a backup camera, spare batteries and memory cards, and insure yourself in every possible way from equipment let-downs.
#9: Capturing the details
Often, your wedding customers will expect you to capture the fine details (even if they do not explicitly state this). This includes the pretty candles or the colorful gerberas that make up the wedding décor, or even the 10-pound, crystal-embedded saree that the bride has handpicked. Stay safe, and shoot the fine details whenever you can.
#10: Working around the video light
The biggest grouse Indian wedding photographers have is the revolting yellow cast from the videographer’s tungsten light. There is no solution to this—post processing can salvage some of the original tones, but will still leave remnants. A workaround is using a speedlight to drown out the ambient light (of which the tungsten light is a part). Or, master the art of custom-setting your white balance.