How to Photograph a Hindu Wedding

How to Photograph a Hindu Wedding

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..

1. Meet the Couple

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!

2. Planned Shots Vs Candid

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 🙂

3. Photography Co-ordinator

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.

4. Know your Wedding Process

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.

5. Second Photographer?

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.

6. Family Photo?

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’.

7. Lights!

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.

8. Go for the shot!

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!

Some Important Events/Ceremonies in a Hindu Wedding


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!

Happy Clicking!

-1.pngA 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“.

You can reach him through his Facebook or his website.

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Some Older Comments

  • Rajesh July 9, 2013 09:34 pm

    Thanks for the great tips :) is our site

  • Saneesh May 31, 2013 12:05 pm

    I feel to get married soon in a hindu tradition, along with the great photographer to shoot those amazing one time moments...

  • Sandip Sarkar May 29, 2012 03:23 am

    Amazing tips and excellent write up with regard to the Hindu Wedding. In fact I am an amateur photographer who is specifically interested to make a career in wedding photography, I generally shoot landscape and nature photos, would it be possible to switch over as I feel there is so much difference in the mindset (photos are created in the mind that is what I feel ) that you have to apply while composing those two different shots......please advice. I want to send you one of my photographs from a wedding ceremony (Bengali) for you to look and comment if I have it in me to be a wedding photographer, kindly let me know your feedback as it will help me immensely to go forward.[eimg url='' title='photo?photoid=156708049']

  • subrat ( dajee ) March 24, 2012 04:29 am

    I am a small photographer in a small town like BARIPADA,MAYUBHANJ DIST in ORISSA.
    I Learned & improvised my self by your valuable ips.So many Thanks.

  • Brian October 25, 2011 11:48 pm

    Hi all,

    I am a pro wedding photographer in Suriname. It is a country in South America.
    here is a link to my portfolio. It is in dutch but I think you guys are smart enough to find your way.

  • Allan Stephen July 12, 2011 05:07 pm

    Thanks for the heads up man !!!
    I have a 4 night Hindu wedding coming up in a few days time.....This will be my first ever Hindu wedding although ive done numerous church weddings i know this will be different....something colorful...a little bit more spice in the night.....Thanks again....

  • Anna Patrick February 15, 2011 12:02 am

    Indian weddings are so full of life and colours! Here are some interesting photos of fascinating India and its weddings

  • jennica guttierez September 3, 2010 06:05 pm

    Wow! The wedding looks fabulous. It is really important to have a good photographer for your wedding. They made the images lively like a picture perfect.

  • Sachin August 28, 2010 06:15 pm

    Thanks for tips on Indian wedding, pl. put some updates and tips for North Indian (Spl. Punjabi wedding) as it is the most happening and colorful marriage in India.

    Sachin Malhotra

  • Peter Arboine August 12, 2010 07:40 pm

    prabho, nice photos! i think the issue is you are a little heavy on the flash, try and diffuse more, or possibly do without a flash at all, sometimes you get a better effect shooting wide open in certain situations, fast lenses work best in dark situations

  • Prabho August 12, 2010 07:17 pm

    Chenthil a set of two photos has been uploaded for your comments or a crtical analysis which will improve my skill, if i dare call it so.
    also you stated in one of your comments that you use the Video Camera light to your advantage to get the frame. Could you please ellaborate?


  • Peter Arboine August 11, 2010 10:02 pm

    often i found that the videographer's light can sometimes be helpful, just correct the light using white balance adjustment during post....

    in this set, alot of the mhendi photos from the ceremony were lit by the videographer's light

  • hal mooney August 10, 2010 06:17 am

    For years I have used a bracket mounted strobe with a bounce card. Vivitar used to make it, but I don't think they still do. The strobe points up into the card which is an 8 1/2" x 11" Kodak white metering card.
    The card is small enough to maneuver with, but big enough to give smooth, even, wide light. My bracket puts the card directly above the lens, so the shadows go right down behind the subject. The light is beautiful.
    For quick action, and ever-changing scenes like weddings, this system works well, and it's simple.

  • Vijaya Kumar August 10, 2010 03:23 am

    Initially, I tried photographing with my aim and shoot camera. they were pretty good. But the greatest disadvantage of photographing as an amateur are the glaring video lights by the official photographer. It requires lot of cleverness to get around them to get few candid shots[eimg link='' title='The nuptiul knot' url='']

  • Kumar August 9, 2010 04:39 pm

    Chenthil, Thank you for your tips...Very timely as I am planning a wedding shoot out on 27 Aug.

    Basically I live in Dubai and a Nikonian. Will be visiting India and will be covering this wedding of one of my relative... I am not the official photographer but I would like to try my hands on it...I have Nikor 24-70 and 70-200 + SB 900 and 2 SB 600... the only issue is I have only one body (D300s)... I might have to take one body on rent because changing lens will be extremely difficult and one of the above lenses will not be enough...

    Do you by any chance know a rental place in Chennai...

  • Ken August 9, 2010 08:52 am

    Video production is so time consuming I hire to do all my graphic design & videos. I had such a great time reading your comments I might hire one of you guys.

  • Chenthil August 8, 2010 06:50 pm

    @sreekrishnanv The incandascent light from the video camera can be a pain..Over the course of time I either negate it by flipping my WB settings or use their light to my advantage to get the frame I want ! I avoid shooting the same frame as the video guy..

    @Tuhin Thanks ! you should shoot a Bengali Wedding...they bring a lot more color to the table and unpredictability ;)

    @Kirvi_inci Thanks ! I am glad you find it useful

    @Cynthie I am glad you like the pictures :) The last shot is a ceremony that I missed to post up...Its called "Haldi" .." "The Haldi ceremony is organized a day before the actual wedding according to Indian custom. Haldi paste is applied to the bride by her female relatives and friends. The Haldi ceremony is held in both bride and groom's place. In the groom's house female relatives of the groom apply Haldi on him and douse him with water this ritual is meant to sheer the groom of shyness and as a good omen. It is a pre- marriage ceremony."

    @Thanush 1.Lens change though unavoidable, is a nessacary evil in my world :) I carry two SLR bodies..One with a Nikor 28-70 f2.8 and other with a Nikor 70-200 f.28 Glass

    2. I currently carry SB900 and a SB600...Since my kit is a full Nikon Kit, My body or the SB900 acts as a trigger..

    @Meg There are occasions like "Bidaai" where the mood is more sombre and Bride is teary eyed...I switch into "Invisible Mode" in the weddings I shoot... Unless I want them to look into the camera, My subjects ideally shud'nt notice me :)

    @tiberman sajiwan I've mentioned "Haldi" in this comment :) More than the priest, the family memeber who handles the priest would be my best bet coz the family decides what they want...atleast in most cases ;)

    The fun is in the details...hence I normally like to know the significance of the event, which in return gives me an idea to frame !

    Black & Whites ! I've not touched upon them intentionally...They are a genre by themselves...timless classics...gimme a shout if you need a Photograpgher for your Daughter's wedding..Mauritius is not too far :)

    @prabho There is no one single silver bullet solution to capture a wedding...Effective planning would give the photographer an idea on the technical aspects of he shoot

  • Maheen Sidik August 8, 2010 04:45 pm

    Just shot my first Hindu Wedding last week - it was an experience to say the least, but great fun! Your tips are spot on. The shots are here -

  • Ameya August 7, 2010 06:55 pm

    Hi Chenthil
    Thanks for sharing this excellent piece of information. Just wondering what lens do u generally use while shooting Indian weddings. Would appreciate your reply. Regards.

  • Prabho August 6, 2010 10:21 pm

    Hi Chenthil,

    Thanks for the pretty good tips bui unfortunately I feel that some technical tips such as mode setting and type of portable lights to be used have been omitted . As it is an indian wedding comprises of number of rites, rituals & salient moments which are religiously followed and missing a particular one may lend the photographer in trouble. I look forward for more such articles on Indian wedding of various Indian states. BTW your pictures are astounding

  • Rukmani August 6, 2010 08:25 pm


    I Cross my heart before saying anything at all - U r by far the best photographer i have ever seen. Amazing clarity in the way u take pictures. I am a big fan of ur photography. Thanks a million for taking my wedding pics. Could not have found a better person to do this for me!!!! SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS!!!!!

  • "Huck" Huckabay August 6, 2010 11:41 am

    Man, there were a bunch of us waitin' for this one...

  • Tiberman Sajiwan Ramyead August 6, 2010 07:22 am

    Hi Chenthil
    Its my daughter's wedding next month! I am a DSLR beginner and she is pro-applied artist., so you can imagine the little say I have in the photo arrangements.
    Pre-wedding: You have missed out the equally important haldi ceremony on the eve.
    IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO MEET THE PRIEST BEFORE THE WEDDING, if possible; or any other priest, so as to be aware of the salient steps of the ceremony - and capture those highly symbolical moments. In general, the young couples are blissfully unaware of them. At least so it is here in Mauritius.
    Mauritius throngs with young self-taught wedding photographers and they do a fairly good job in general. I note that you have not mentioned high quality black & white photographs. Most of my wedding shots (1973) were in black & white, taken by a pro-journalist-photographer. The colour ones he still took look drab, although they were not DSLR days.

  • meg campbell-back August 6, 2010 06:33 am

    a really interesting post! but following this question: "Thanks Chenthil for those insightful tips. How do you get everyone to “look happy”" ......aren't there parts of the ceremony where traditionally they are not meant to smile? I wouldn't want to be encouraging them to grin at the camera when they're not meant to?

  • Thanush August 6, 2010 03:47 am

    Great post Chentil. Loved the pics. 2 qs.

    1. What lens do you normally use here? (I presume you wouldn't be wasting precious time trying to change the lens.)
    2. What kind of portable lights do you use? And the trigger for those?


  • Cynthie August 6, 2010 03:05 am

    Really enjoyed this post Chenthil!

    Especially like the foot portrait ( hubby like to "step on my toes", too) and the last shot of the mixed ethnicity couple ~ wonderful! Would you tell us a bit more about that ritual...what is happening? And what it symbolizes?

    I spend my childhood in the Punjab (West Pakistan), but have never attended either a Pakistani or Indian wedding.

  • Kirvi_Inci August 6, 2010 02:07 am


    Awesome work and, having been in a large group of Indians a few times and know the nature of them, kudos to you getting some great shots through all of the chaos! Indian wedding are by far the most colorful, hectic and entertaining and I find these steps to be very helpful.

  • Tuhin Subhra Dey August 6, 2010 01:49 am

    Great work! Although I am from Calcutta, India and a Hindu, but never had am opportunity to shoot those weddings (mainly because of lack of Interest in photography). But next time when I will go to India , I will shoot for sure. Although, Bengali weddings are a bit different I guess. Here are some shots I took in an Italian wedding.Thanks for the tips. :)

  • sreekrishnanv August 5, 2010 04:41 am

    thanks for that insight on lighting

    recently photographed my friends engagement and the light from the Video camera was Killing my pics. He would abruptly spoiling my photo very badly.

    how do you deal with Video lighting? I had to be friend him and ask him to switch on lights through out to maintain my tone and settings.

    And with that - i dont know if we really need a studio lighting set up !

  • Chenthil August 4, 2010 02:05 am

    @Ajay: The initial planning and getting the crowd used to you helps avoiding the "flat" pictures. and yeah I totally agree that it is next to impossible to avoid them. I at times use other photographers as decoy ;)

    @Peter Truly amazing pictures !

    @Kiran U've a interesting set of pictures !

    @Sandeep Thanks Dada..Means a lot coming from you :)

    @Arun LoL ..Most of the South Indian Weddings I did and will do... I treat them like a war zone and I'l get a Pulitzer if I did a good job :)....Last year during my workshop we did the Goa was no different from a wedding :) Portable Lights....I guess practice helps.... after two years of shooting weddings I started by make truck loads of mistakes and improve upon them the next time...mostly lighting goof-ups ;)

    @Lovelyn An Interesting website you have ! Part of my feeds now :)

    Thanks everyone...I am glad you all liked the post...!

  • Arun August 4, 2010 01:26 am

    Whoa.. I didn't know my earlier post had got posted!! Lol..

  • Arun August 3, 2010 02:08 am

    Great post!! I haven't had a whole lot of exposure & experience in wedding photography, but I'd rather term it as 'complex'!
    Given the way Indian weddings are structured (as you rightly pointed out), it's way too tough for you (a photographer) to carry out a successful and cheerful shoot!

    Beyond all that, I'd think that lighting each of the situations in the wedding for the 'perfect exposure' is by far the toughest! Well, I really haven't been a master at lights to talk about it, but it was my greatest limitation possibly then!

    To add to all this, the perception of a photographer in India is a lot different from the perception away... Although things seem to be changing by the day, it's still a debatable situation!

    I surely would love to work with a Pro to experience all of it once more. Given the dividends, I think this is by far a popular choice among photographers, but I'd still term it as 'complex'!

    P.S. You're one of the instructors of Photography on the move.. I've known Vaibhav from a workshop we attended together! Good to know the second instructor as well!! :)

  • Arun August 3, 2010 01:57 am

    Great post! Very helpful..

    But in all this, there was only one thing that I found most tough - the portable lights!
    I wasn't a master of lights when I was out there in the middle of the function, but to compose & recompose in different ambient situations, whether to bounce or direct flash does drive me crazy... The WB in all this is not going to be what I'll want for the 'Perfect Exposure'!!!

    The weddings that happen abroad are quite different from what I've read and heard n seen! More structured, more of a single line of events unlike what you mentioned as the paralleled happening of event in Indian marriages.
    Plus, the outlook of a photographer abroad is quite different from how he/she is perceived in Indian weddings (particularly South Indian, since I've been part of only those)... although, a lot of changes have already come to exist, but I'd still think it's quite a task!

    I probably may need to work with a Pro on this to learn the tricks of the trade, but it certainly wouldn't be my pick today! I do know there's a lot in it for Photographers, only, I just can't seem to crack it yet!

  • Keerthi Kiran M August 2, 2010 11:46 pm

    Wow... Thanks a lot for all the tips.

  • Lovelyn August 2, 2010 11:40 pm

    I don't know if I'll ever be photographing a Hindu wedding but if I ever am I'll know what to do. I loved the pictures in this post. Great work!

  • Kiran Rao August 2, 2010 11:02 pm

    Anyone who is intersted in Indian wedding pls go thr my events set on flickr.

  • Sandeep Dutta August 2, 2010 10:34 pm

    Congratulations Chenthil, and a very well composed guide.. This article will surely help a lot of budding photographers.


  • Peter Arboine August 2, 2010 09:58 pm

    great post! I've shot a couple pakistani ceremonies, and they are quite similar, very very hectic, you tend to find there isnt time to plan a shot, you just have to go for it!!

    As always, there is an abundance of beautiful colours!

    Heres the set from my first wedding in case anyone is interested! :)

  • Pradeep August 2, 2010 07:53 pm

    Good article, Chentil. You said it - each wedding is so unique, planning is so important.

  • Chenthil August 2, 2010 06:27 pm

    @Scottyea I am glad you liked it :)

  • kham August 2, 2010 05:12 pm

    Thanks a million Chenthill for the insider information into another wedding culture special days.

  • Ajay August 2, 2010 01:57 pm

    Thanks Chenthil for those insightful tips. How do you get everyone to "look happy" or avoid getting the standard wooden pose in the family photos?

  • Scottyea August 2, 2010 06:09 am

    Thank you Chenthil, If I ever get the chance to shoot an Indian wedding I will be one step ahead with this excellent guide.