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A Guest Post by Chenthil Mohan.
Shrouded by the plethora of ceremonies and rituals that mark an Indian Wedding, the work of a Wedding photographer becomes much more challenging and unpredictable. The diversity in customs and conventions from one wedding to another paves way for a need to get acquainted with commonalities of Indian Weddings, so as to not miss the crucial events.
How different is an Indian Wedding? Well, completely different if it is not a Church wedding. (Even in the case of a church wedding in India, as a photographer you can be stumped.) A Hindu wedding can run into a couple of days or can also be condensed into a couple of hours.
A few suggestions to keep in mind while planning to shoot an Indian wedding..
Might sound silly, but in most occasions at Indian weddings you could end up meeting the couple for the first time on the day of the wedding. A quick rendezvous earlier will help set the expectations, plan shots with the couple & get them in the comfort zone to be clicked by you. This would make it easy on the D-day & you will be sure not to miss that imperative moment!
It is extremely difficult to get exclusive time with the couple during the wedding for pictures and hence you would have to get most of your shots as the event is happening. Over the years I’ve found that if planned properly you could get a window of 20-30 minutes with the couple for your planned shots. Make good use of it! Ensure to schedule the planned shots before the wedding begins or a day before the wedding. After the rigors of the Indian wedding, the couple won’t be greatly amused to pose for you
Well before the wedding, ask the couple to nominate a family member who would help you. Even in the “small” Indian wedding, you can end up with hundreds of “close” family thronging to be in proximity to the couple, hence creating a framing catastrophe. You definitely would need the photo co-ordinator to introduce you to the close family members who ought to be covered in the photographs and also help in getting you to the Bride and Groom on the day of the wedding. A co-ordinator would come extremely handy in handling crowd while you are busy taking pictures.
As mentioned earlier, each Indian wedding is unique in its own way. Speak to the couple and the family well in advance and understand the wedding, the events, and their importance. In Indian weddings, the photographer is expected to capture certain specific moments of the event. If caught unaware, you might end up missing key moments.
The bride and groom in Indian weddings have their own set of events even before they arrive at the wedding venue. At times, these events could clash and the photographer surely cannot be omnipresent. Irrespective it helps to have a second photographer else you could miss out on some events or you would have a good cardio session running between places with the entire camera gear.
Ironically, you have to be careful with “Family” pictures in Indian weddings. Every one amongst the hundreds that make it to the wedding consider themselves close to the couple and would expect a standard flat “happy” picture with the couple. Plan well ahead with the couple on family group pictures and make use of a family member to help you here. Else, you would end up shooting Gbs of photographs. Also, it may be advisable to suggest a regular photographer to those who may find it a must, while you remain exclusive for the ‘special moments’.
As a part of scouting the venue, check on the lights that are going to be used to illuminate the stage. In most occasions Indian weddings have extremely warm incandescent lights illuminating the stage and can be a spanner in your lighting plans. Also, ensure you carry enough portable lights. Studio lights are a logistical nightmare with a big crowd. It’s a lot easier to shoot with a handful of portable light on a wireless trigger.
Indian weddings are like a BIG carnival, hence don’t hesitate to move around and get the right frame. Be polite but firm with the hordes of invitees who obstruct your frame with the zillion mobile phone cameras. I volunteer to take the picture with their camera, this makes me look good and I get my frame! Indian weddings are extremely colourful and it is OK to saturate your frame with colours!
Mehndi: The process of getting ready for the wedding starts with painting the Bride’s hands and feet with an intricate artwork of henna.
Sangeet: An evening of music and entertainment for the close circle of family and friends. It can vary from a traditional night out to a wild party.
Barat: The groom is decked up in finery and brought in a procession to the heavily decorated wedding venue. This procession could be on a horse, elephant or in a trusted four wheeler. The groom’s family would be accompanying the procession and in most ‘barats’ you can expect folks dancing to a live band along with the procession on the move.
VarMala: The Bride and groom exchange colourful garlands of flowers on a small but decorated stage called “Mandap”.
Pheras: The Bride and Groom exchange vows in front of the holy fire and go around the fire holding hands seven times.
Mangal-Sutra: The Groom ties a Golden Locket/Thread around the Bride’s neck as a mark of them getting married. The Mangal Sutra is the Indian equivalent of a ring in most cases.
Kanya Daan: A ceremony where the Bride’s family formally hands over their daughter to the Groom’s family. It’s a symbolic ceremony which involves the first family.
Bidaai: A symbolic ritual these days where the Bride leaves her parents and joins her husband in the journey to his house. An emotional event; where the Bride and her family usually break down into tears.
Most Indian wedding proceedings do not pause for photographs. So plan well and have fun!
A professional photographer from Bangalore, India, Chenthil Mohan specializes in wedding and kids photography. He is also an instructor with a travel-photography group called “Photography Onthemove“.