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My Experience at the Silk Inspire 2017

If you have been following my Facebook page or profile for the last few days, you know that I attended the Silk Inspire Wedding photography Festival in Goa this year. There are few places which suck you in their own world making you forget where you come from. Silk Festival is one such event where photography is celebrated, talked and explored into.

One of the big reasons of going to the fest was to meet my guru the ZACK ARIAS through whom I have learned most of the technical aspect of photography, he is one of the most generous and honest photographers who believe in spreading the knowledge with the next generation. I just had to meet him in person and thank him for all that he helped me with.

The festival opened with DJ Pete playing, "I've got the Power" and Sephi and all the panelists dancing on the stage setting up the overall mood of the fest.

Sephi Bergerson opened the session by sharing his documentary work on Polio eradicament in India by UNICEF and showing how his approach for documentary photography translates into his wedding work. He clearly drove home the point that you need to be a good photographer first to be a good wedding photographer.

Sergei Ivanov, a Russion photographer who creates fairytale inspired photos for his couples shared his reaasons for his approach and how it helps him stand out from the crowd.

The one photographer who got everyone in awe was the awesome Jeff Newsome who shared his family photos with us to let us in in his mind space, to empasise how it's important the create images which matter to you and not just what follow the trend or just look pretty. He is in my list of most favorite photographers now on and garnered a standing ovation for his work.

Jen Huang, an elegant analogue photographer who approaches her work from the space of a creative director rather than a spectator of the event brings her own accessories and decorative items to add on to the photos that she already has a list of before reaching the wedding venue.

Another of the photographers who had the delegates by their sleeve was Andre Corsi, who has ethics and honesty as one of his primary driving factors to run his business. Not the one to take up any wedding coming his way, his pictures, perfectly presented with narrative soundtrack got us emotional about the weddings we don't know anything about. He shared that he approaches to shoot a wedding from the eyes of a kid.

Juya Jentil, a Columbian photographers who already commits the oft heard sin of shooting in JPEGs and not knowing how to use a flash, is a prime example of sticking to your guns and not fretting by comparing oneself to other photographers. His bold imagery and use of available lights brought a fresh perspective to my approach to see and observe a location before looking into the viewfinder. (In a personal chat with me he admitted to start shooting in RAW and learn Flash next year :D)

Also, there are funny people in this world and then there is Brian Callaway. If you ever feel low about your photography, you should see his early work, you'll wonder why you haven't won any awards till now considering this guy is still in business. We often come across many tips and tricks in photography, but looking at them as a performer and keeping those hack in your bag of tricks is what I primarily learned from his presentation, the way he has implemented them leads you to try them yourself. I have always felt and good art is that which makes you want to create yourself. It's the same with his work.

I can't say enough Zack Arias and still express what I felt for Zack Arias's journey up till now. I will save it for some another day and hope....

I am the sort of person who doesn't like to talk about gear and instantly get put off with these conversation. It's the philosophy and expression through it is what I am most interested in, not the ISO performance of the new camera or the color saturation level of the edit. Thankfully Silk Inspire was the one that I had missed discussing for quite sometime since I started shooting professionally. I hope this culture grows rapidly in India and we are not copying each other's style but rather creating our own deep personal way of shooting the same project and let the clients choose which one they want to go for.

Thanks to Sephi Bergerson and his team to offer a slice of this culture. Festivals like these recenter you from all the chaos that happens because of running a photography business, meeting deadlines, following trends, managing team and dealing with clients, most of these people don't come from the same vision as yours and invariably pull you away from your own sense of vision. Meeting like minded artists keeps you on the track and bring more confidence to keep going on it.

 

EyeEm photography Awards 2017. My favorite photos and opinion.

Last year I wrote about my favorite photos from all the 100 nominations over 5 categories. To be honest, I was quite surprised to be nominated for that picture. Only after it was selected I started looking for why the expert judges liked it, my understanding is that for a non staged photo it was quite well balanced and composed. It was so centrally composed that it was precisely the reason I didn't like it much. I look forward to compose in ways that's not classical, fortunately or unfortunately that picture is.

This year again I am pleasantly surprised to have been nominated for this particular picture since I had submitted other pictures too. I had really worked around to get that picture during the Vidai ceremony of the wedding. Once I got back home and checked the whole album I was soon over it and preferred other picture over this one. But thanks to EyeEm and the judges, it will always be a prominent picture in my portfolio. Here's the story and the write up I sent after being selected as a finalist.

The final moments of a Hindu wedding in Etawah, India. Traditionally, the bride leaves her parents’ house to live with her husband’s family. It is symbolic as the end of her being a child of the family since she takes on the duties of a wife and a daughter in law in her new house. Many Indian brides cry uncontrollably during ceremony as they know their relationship with their parents will change forever.

The final moments of a Hindu wedding in Etawah, India. Traditionally, the bride leaves her parents’ house to live with her husband’s family. It is symbolic as the end of her being a child of the family since she takes on the duties of a wife and a daughter in law in her new house. Many Indian brides cry uncontrollably during ceremony as they know their relationship with their parents will change forever.

 

EyeEm has always had a way with curation, their selection feels very new age and inspiring, a far cry from the repetitive and imitative feeds of Instagram. Here are my favorites from the total of 100 finalists across five categories and a little information with them wherever available..

A fire in Mandaluyong City, Philippines. The fire triggered the highest alarm level and affected hundreds of families. Photo by John Jerome E. Ganzon

A fire in Mandaluyong City, Philippines. The fire triggered the highest alarm level and affected hundreds of families.

Photo by John Jerome E. Ganzon

A smoky alleyway hidden somewhere in Central Kolkata, India. Photo by Maciej Dakowicz

A smoky alleyway hidden somewhere in Central Kolkata, India.

Photo by Maciej Dakowicz

Street Photography by Mubariz Khan

Street Photography by Mubariz Khan

Photo taken in Shinjuku (Tokyo, Japan) by Junhan F

Photo taken in Shinjuku (Tokyo, Japan) by Junhan F

Street photography by Pau Buscató

Street photography by Pau Buscató

Inside the clinic for infectious and tropic diseases in Belgrade, during a one month stay in the hospital. The series documents the interior of a healthcare institution from a patient’s perspective. Photo by: Ivana Tesic

Inside the clinic for infectious and tropic diseases in Belgrade, during a one month stay in the hospital. The series documents the interior of a healthcare institution from a patient’s perspective.

Photo by:

Ivana Tesic

Playing on Than Sadet Beach in Thailand. by SIMONGruenenwald

Playing on Than Sadet Beach in Thailand. by SIMONGruenenwald

On June 18, 2016, “La Batalla de Campeonas” was held, the first all-female boxing card. The stellar fight was the defense of Mayerling's title “La Monita” Rivas against Melania “Chony” Sorroche. Photo by Clara González

On June 18, 2016, “La Batalla de Campeonas” was held, the first all-female boxing card. The stellar fight was the defense of Mayerling's title “La Monita” Rivas against Melania “Chony” Sorroche.
Photo by

Clara González

FIrefighters. Photo by Ateneo Sta Ines

FIrefighters.

Photo by

Ateneo Sta Ines

Photo by MICHAEL MOELLER
The Street Photographer ANGKUL

The Street Photographer ANGKUL

I wish best of luck to all the finalist, and congratulate them for being selected out of the 5,90,000 entries. These a pictures inspire me, and I am sure, other photographers too, to get out of their home and take more photographs. To feel the joy of creating, the joy we get from other people's work, and finding it in our own lives.

What to look for when deciding on a wedding photographer?

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Yes, you know it already, but you came here out of curiosity to see what I have to offer. I don't need to tell you how weddings are one of the most important events of one's life because you are already looking for someone to capture it in the best way possible. It is just not one of the services you would be employing for your wedding day because it's shelf life is much longer than any of it. It will be a documentary of all the emotions, relations, people and this phase of your life. You would be looking back at it after 5, 10, 20 and 50 years down the line, so it does hold value a lot more than you might realize amongst the cacophony you have to manage right now revolving the wedding. What I aim to do is to take you along to understand the many aspects of it which will help you take a more informed decision and hopefully hiring me, yeah very cheeky ;)

What should I look for in a photographer?

Style, in the photos, not in the getup. You should check the portfolio of each and every photographer you consider for capturing your wedding. No matter what your friends or relatives suggest, do it personally. It might have worked for them but your taste might be different than theirs.  Style doesn’t mean extravagance; it could be a simple picture with good composition and a knack for capturing emotions.  You might also have a liking for a hedonistic style which screams of drugs and it’s totally fine if that works for you. There are different options for different people.

A fancy photographer. (I'm soon getting a Whatsapp message for this)

A fancy photographer. (I'm soon getting a Whatsapp message for this)

A personal style could mean finding beauty in palces where you don't expect and creating a wholesome wedding album, rather than just a bunch of pictures around the couple.

A personal style could mean finding beauty in palces where you don't expect and creating a wholesome wedding album, rather than just a bunch of pictures around the couple.

You might prefer a look that looks like out of a magazine cover.....

You might prefer a look that looks like out of a magazine cover.....

A photo journalistic eye has a discipline for composition and keeping foreground and background elements in context. The shallow depth of field effect is not 'candid photography'.

A photo journalistic eye has a discipline for composition and keeping foreground and background elements in context. The shallow depth of field effect is not 'candid photography'.

or the noir style.

or the noir style.

 

Candid or traditional?

Don’t fall into this trap, it is just bad nomenclature in my opinion. Read my other blog post specifically addressing it. Photographers are just good or bad, at different skill or artistic level, not traditional and candid. If you are referring to the posed photos with your family, we call it formal photos and it is included in our packages.

 

Why wedding photography so expensive?

Well, it depends who you are considering and what is your budget.  But let me tell a few reasons why it’s comparatively priced higher than we are used to.

Art:  Many people think this is just an excuse to rob someone in full day light and giving themselves too much of importance but yes art does cost a lot of money. It’s a lifestyle which helps create and hone a vision and practice to reach a basic skill level.  It involves exposing oneself to lot of different arts by reading, observing, practicing and updating about all that is happening in the art world as well as in the market. Just like a good doctor doesn’t sit back after getting his degree and attends seminars, attends conferences, meets other doctors, updates himself of new discoveries and keeps himself up to date, an ambitious artist does the same and all that hard work shows in his work which will be for you.

The stuff we do to pose as an artist.

The stuff we do to pose as an artist.

Equipment:  I know I say gear is not a mark of the quality of someone’s work but most of us do have lakhs of worth of equipment. A pro camera, which has a dual SD card slot (a live data backing up system) has a life of 2-3 years before it becomes obsolete or is run down by frequent shoots. Each pro lens costs upwards of 50 thousand rupees, many are above a lakh. Multiple lights, backup camera, fast SD and CF cards, kilos of batteries, expensive camera bags, backup cameras in case the main camera fails, multiple hard disks to back up the photos, high end computers and monitors to edit the photos and mind you, ALL this needs regular upgrade as these things become obsolete quite quickly at today’s pace of technological advancement.

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Time: Time is money, the old adage is still relevant. A wedding assignment starts from the day of the wedding and runs to a lot many more days because shooting is just a part of it. The real time goes into editing, the culling of the images, which itself takes two three reviews, color grading it to give a consistent look throughout, arranging them in series to make a coherent photo story, designing the album, selecting the most apt fonts and loads of eye drops. It all takes time and we happily do it because we enjoy providing the best end results and it keeps us from taking up too many projects.

Praneet's (our in-house critic) eyes bleed looking at so many revisions of each photo album and edits to the photos.

Praneet's (our in-house critic) eyes bleed looking at so many revisions of each photo album and edits to the photos.

 

Business cost: Running a photography business is not easy as most of us think. After a while we realize clicking pictures will have to take a back seat to run it. With so many different channels today to promote our work and keep it updated it needs manpower and it doesn’t remain a one man show anymore. Posting to different Facebook pages, groups and communities, Instagram, running your own website, pitching for projects, marketing costs etc. cost a lot of time and money. I get depressed just talking about it.

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A lot of people have no idea as to what to expect in prices from this changed scenario in the Indian wedding photography scene. Their last reference point is the older local studios which are “do-it-all” destinations with printed albums within the range of 30-40k. They get a little taken aback when they hear the prices from 'freelancers' like us who “Don’t even have a studio”.

They have to consider here that photographers are artists and not a cut dry vendor who will send somebody else to shoot your wedding after making a deal with you. A lot of high end photographers also do this and you should specifically clear it out with them. For reference, I have heard senior photographers suggesting clients to allot 10% of the total budget of the wedding for the Photography and Cinematography of the wedding.

 

What should I expect from my photographer on the days of the shoots?

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Well frankly it should be pre-decided before the wedding day if you want the shoot to start from the wedding after you have got ready or much before that. You’ll have to talk to your makeup artist informing her of the presence of the photographer/s during the process. After that a short portrait session with the bride and the groom individually, in cases where both the families are at the same venue/hotel there could be a quick photo session in the morning or afternoon. Sometimes it happens after the group photos with the guest and before the actual ceremony starts in a Hindu wedding. As the day progresses it will be a candid approach to capture the moments between you and the family and the relatives depending on how much access to it you are comfortable with.

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Will I get all the pictures clicked during the process and in RAW format?

NO self-respecting photographer will give away the RAW files of his/her pictures. Firstly because it’s an unfinished work and he/she would like to give you what you hired him/her for. That unique look,style and aesthetics of the photo. There are many missed shots and many wasted ones because of wrong exposure, photo bombers, etc. to get that perfect picture. Forwarding them would mean lowering the value of that perfect picture. Occasionally we do give similar pictures of that series because the moments were just too great and we don’t have the heart to reject it and keep it away from you. So 200 powerful pictures are always better than 2000 meh ones because that would be like listening to your favorite songs with bad notes being added to it by an amateur musician. It spoils the song for you, forever.  Believe me, it takes a lot of effort and years of understanding to know which images to put in an album. Editing and curating is a niche job in itself. There are people who get paid just for that. Regarding the RAW file format, it’s also about the copyright which serves as a proof that the photographer was actually the creator of that image and has granted non-commercial usage rights to the clients. The photographer always remains the owner of the images.

 

What’s a cinematic video?

Remember the old videos of weddings when you were a kid? The single long video clips with a light on the camera showing how many pooris each guest took? That video taking approach is being called a “Traditional video” nowadays. Cinematic videos come with an approach of how we shoot movies. Short clips taken with the approach of making each frame meaningful, in good light, applying the Five C’s of cinematography and then editing it to make a coherent video to represent the overall mood of the event.  It involves more than one cinematographer, and a capable editor after the shoot who takes great pains to select the best clips to make an awesome video, of the correct rhythm, apt background score and title design to make it most effective.

 

If we go ahead with you, how should we proceed.

Awesome decision. Once I’m on board I will try to apply all my means to create the most effective wedding story for you. There’ll be some goofy pictures, some funny behind the scenes and some really memorable ones. Here are a few pointers that I ask each of my couples to ensure a smooth operation.

1.       Do keep aside sometime for couple portraits and brief your close family members beforehand so that we don’t miss out on that opportunity during the chaos of the wedding. One time I have literally begged the bride’s sister to let the couple come with me after the engagement for the couple portraits and once spent half an hour on the light setup in an awesome location in the hotel and getting news that the couple has sat on the mandap.

2.       Assign a close family member who could help the photography team in recognizing the close family members of both the sides and go between us and the family. We promise, we’ll let him/her enjoy your wedding too.

3.       If possible have a word with friends and family for not obstructing our view with their own camera or phones. I don’t mind including them in the frame composition but all photos with them won’t look nice.

I have seen as many as 8 photographers fighting for the right spot.

I have seen as many as 8 photographers fighting for the right spot.

4.       A picturesque frame is as good as the real location is, ok most of the time we make it look better, but it helps if the scene if already spic. We generally help clear the stage, backdrop for the portraits and miscellaneous items at the mandap. All that we do is to help get you better images, we need your co-operation in that. A word with the event manager regarding this goes a long way.

5.       Have fun at your wedding, it’s tiring, keep yourself hydrated, some snacks nearby, tell us your favorite music, we’ll play it during the portrait session.

My favorite shoot time snack is Mouth Wide Shut's cookies. I'm it's in-house taster.

My favorite shoot time snack is Mouth Wide Shut's cookies. I'm it's in-house taster.

 

6.       We generally take 4-6 weeks before delivering the images and video. Booking charges are 50% of the total amount. The remaining 50% is to be paid after the wedding and before the final delivery of photo album and video.  Don’t worry, we are not good with running away with money, we have been caught numerous times ;)

7.       We create a password protected web gallery which you can view on our website and share with your friends for a month. The higher resolution images and the video will be delivered on a Pen drive which will come in a lovely gift package.

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OK! I am sold on this, but don’t have a budget for it.

We understand that there are many things to spend on during a wedding and there might not be as much of an allowance as much as you would have wished. In case you like our work, just feel free to get in touch, we would see how we can make some changes to fit your bill if that is possible. There might be some tradeoffs though.  I occasionally do side projects on my own in documentary genres and if your wedding/event is something I’ll be excited to do for my portfolio, we might come to an agreement for that.

I have covered most of the points which I encounter frequently from prospective clients and also friends who had/have hired other photographers. I will be adding more point as and when I deem them fit for this article. Feel free to ask any other question that you may like to be addressed here and I'll be more than happy to help.

P:S:  If you have been following my older post or my Facebook page, you know that I have been nominated for the EyeEm International Photography Awards 2017 for a wedding photo I captured this April. This year, EyeEm has started a popular awards category and the image that gets most likes wins this section. If you feel generous, you can visit this picture here and like it to help me win that category award.

Why I also shoot for free.

Photography is one of the best jobs that I have stumbled upon. It's less of a job and more of something that I love and can buy food with it too without getting grumpy doing it. You can believe me because I have switched many jobs over the years. It has not been very long that I started photography professionally but once I did it started with some documentary assignments for NGOs, one for Star Plus on which the tele serial Durga is based on, and some events. I never really planned where it will take me. The first wedding I did was bang opposite my house in a park and was a 'Saamuhik Vivah', a group wedding of several couples facilitated by a charity organization. the article on it used to be on my older website, sometime I'll upload it here. It was one of the most unique and beautiful thing I had experienced photography wise, it was funny at times too.

Over the time I have infused more energy into understanding the genre and look for different and unique weddings to come by. There haven't been many but heck, it's just a start. I want to be known for my wedding work seriously like the recognition I have got for my street photography. But it also comes with its own perils. Shooting commercially brings a pressure onto you and a rough shot list which you have to cover anyhow. That spoils the opportunity to look beyond what's happening at the forefront. I do have a second shooter for that but still it was a while since I shot a wedding just for myself. I wanted to have fun, photograph only when I found something picturesque, to be relaxed, and not shoot if I didn't feel like or didn't find anything of interest. I required this excercise to confirm if my instincts are still sharp or not.

The opportunity came by quickly. An old friend, Rahul whose hostel room in FTII I have sprawled in for days to download their movie database for days and shared stage with in one of the plays while holding my toughest not to laugh during the rehersals because of the disdain look he gives to my character, invited me to his wedding.

I was told that a special folk dance will be performed at the Baraat which is known as called "Chhaliya"  and I planned to meet up with this team of folk dancers. Since I was there I took my camera along, a very simple setup, with just one lens and no lights. The intention was more to move around, observe, meet people, experience a wedding after a long time and shoot only when I felt like it.  It wasn't a job you see.

So here is Rahul Bora, beautiful and goofy as hell. But he'll be quite sober here all the time.
 

And here are his feet. :D

The pretty Daadi.

The customary tilaks for all the ladies.

Those lovely noserings.

A groom that brooms at his own wedding is uber cool.

A groom that brooms at his own wedding is uber cool.

The group of Chhaliya dancers getting ready to lead the Baraat.

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There's a little back story that the leader of the Chaliya dance group shared with me, in the olden times the folk dancers used to accompany the war parties and lead them with a white flag and would be tailed by a dancer with the red flag. After winning the war, they would lead the procession with a red flag and tail it with white one. In current scenario, there's no civil war here, thankfully, and Chaliya dancers have been adapted into weddings where the Baraat is similarly led by these flags. The white flag here is a signal of the Baraat reaching the bride's place and while returning with her the flags would swapped in a similar fashion. Not politically correct now, but that's the way it is and the tradition is preserved this way.

 

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A slightly different version of the story can be read here on Wikipedia.

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Unfortunately I couldn't shoot till the end but I thinnk I achieved more than what I had expected to. I got to shoot a wedding without a checkllist in mind, or the usual set of lenses and flashlights that I carry on assignments and still could manange to follow a picture story of all the proceedings. Next time when I do this I intend to do this with a film camera, about which i do have a story to tell. Till then, please spread the word and help me shoot more weddings. :)

A Brother's Wedding Gift.

Last year when I had photographed the pre wedding shoot of Debashmita and Prasanna, , I met their lovely set of friends, the jovial and the jester kind. It was quite nostalgic to see a set of youngsters belonging to the same campus. This year, one of them called me to photograph his sister's wedding in Etawah, it was a very short call, without the general to and fro questions prospective clients have, I was sure that he wanted me to photograph it.  The only hitch was that the family had hired their own set of photographer. I took it on as it sounded very special, he said, "The little sister wants good photos of her wedding, I can't contest with my father over his regular photographer so you just do your own thing." I was touched on the first sentence and got excited to see Etawa for the first time.



Spoiler: One of the photos shot there got me nominated for EyeEm International Photography awards 2017 for the second year in a row. 

 

One day before the wedding, Vimal, my second photographer and I took the Lucknow expressway for Etawah, it a long straight road with no traffic, as of now, and no petrol pumps (kid you not) on the way. As we entefrd Etawah we saw rows of wheat farms on both the side in the morning light and it looked beautiful. I decided there and then that we have to do the couple shoot in these fields. As we reached at Nidhi's, house (the bride), treated to wholesome breakfast, we again set out to look for additional locations just in case. There was also a sugar refinery that I liked but was advised not to shoot there so we went on with the plan A. 

The juxtaposition of DJ lights and ladies in Sarees and traditional attire having fun on the dance floor was uber cool. Check this out. 

Here's Mayank, I met his for the first time one day before the wedding, and had a quick chat to schedule a couple session early morning.

Early morning and we set out to have fun in the fields. 

Initially Mayank wasn't very gung ho about shooting in the fields, firstly because he wasn't very sure how these fields that he sees regularly would be a good setting for the picture and secondly we was also a little shy because of the onlookers. To battle that I showed them a couple of pictures which they loved and also start giving him instructions to tease Neha, giving him a bunch of wheat chaffs to hit her with in the face, it got her really surprised and she started laughing. It really helped getting them at ease and they started to have fun during the shoot.

One of the things I aspire to do during a couple shoot is not to fabricate it by making them pose, but to bring out their natural self in it. We don't have to prepare the photos for somebody else. It's for the couple and they should remember it later on as a representation of their chemistry on that day,month and year of their life. Sure I will direct them, give them situations to imagine, take them to place that are interesting, and all that to only bring out the character and the chemistry between the couple.

 

As much as we wanted to roam around more, we had to move back as it was a long day for both of them. After some rest, our schedule had to start at Mayank's house where he was getting ready and then moving on to Nidhi's hotel room while she was getting her makeup done.

 

Finally in the evening we started with Mayank'sgetup. There was ample time to shoothim and then move on to Nidhi's hotel where she was being decked up for the wedding night

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It must have been the longest wedding that I have shot so far, the couple came to the mandap at around 5 in the morning. With so many breaks between each ceremony, and a full pressure shower head in our room, I had lost the count of the number of times I had a shower.  It effectively kept me fresh throughout the wedding. Unnecessary detail, but that shower head does deserve a mention. :D

After the wedding the welcoming of the bride by her new sisters in law took place by singing thier folk songs, generally teasing the new bride in the family.

Every wedding that I have shot has some different customs from the other, it varies from family to family and region to region. Here the Vidai was orchestrated four time, each brother lifted Nidhi each time to the car and it was repeated. This got me opportunity for trying out different ways to capture the same scene. Would love to know which one did you guys like.

So much we thought that we churned out a decent wedding album for Nidhi and Mayank, there's more in store for me. The picture below of Nidhi's vidai has been selected for the EyeEm International photography awards 2017 for the photojournalism. This is my second nomination for a consecutive year for the same category.

I do not know if this image will win or not, I hope these pictures will become an important part for Nidhi, Mayank and their families to relive those moments time and again but awards and nominations are a sign that I am doing some good work in photography which stands up to the international standards, and is not like just because there's a personal connection to those images but it communicates to people who connect to those moments only because of the merit of an image. I am still not good enough for my standards but recognition so early in my photographic journey indicates that I might be on the correct path.