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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.