How tough is it to be a wedding photographer

A reporter from a local newspaper recently called me for some comments about wedding photography. She was doing a story about how this field has evolved considerably from even 5 years ago, and in the due course of the conversation asked me “Is it ver tough to be a wedding photographer?”

I answered even before I could think – “The photography itself is not hard at all. Why do you think so many people are getting into it. Of course, everything else about it is tough.”

This thought had been playing in my head for a few days. There are 3 main kinds of ‘new’ photographers I find these days – wedding photographers, wildlife photographers and street photographers.

Wildlife photographers, unless they are truly dedicated and have vast amounts of money to invest, generally slide away into being ‘holiday photographers’ where they post one photo every day of the zillion they took on the safari trip last year. Or they take up workshops every quarter and seed those images through the year.

Street Photographers – these are the ones you find early Sunday morning in markets, traveling in packs and pointing their cameras at old women, kids and mounds of garbage. Of course, they evolve and there is some truly brilliant work that comes out of it, but a vast majority stick to their ‘photo walks’ and repetitive images.

And then the money makers – the wedding photographers. Most of the people, including the ones mentioned above, generally veer towards wedding photography, because it is the simplest. The photography part of it.

If you are shooting an Indian wedding, you get not one, not two, but three chances to shoot most things. Plus, if you ask the priest to hold the moment and move out of the way, he really doesn’t object. Infact, some priests create moments for you and ensure you’ve gotten your shot before moving to the next one.

The only moment where you don’t get too many chances is the mangalsutra part. The rest of it is closeups of all the pretty objects, the jewelry, the prettily dressed, laughing bridesmaids. You’ve to learn to shoot around obstacles and flying objects but that’s pretty easily done.

I’ve shot over 35 weddings, and at one point, it got a little too boring. We began to anticipate the emotions as well… we knew what to look for at a particular moment… the moments when the mother would cry, the surprise on the bride’s face, the shy and sly smile when she looks at her husband, the satisfaction and shock on the groom’s face, the stoic dad trying hard not to cry and wiping his tears away behind the curtain.

True, every wedding has its set of surprises. That’s what keeps us going most often than not.

We try to meet the bride and groom before the wedding to get a sense of who they are, what kind of personalities they are and the rapport between them. That definitely helps us to anticipate and get better photographs. Working with the couple is always fun. But for the rest of it? It gets boring. There, I said it!

As a commercial photographer, I get paid big bucks to shoot the wedding. And we do a great job, even if we say so myself. Because with over 35 wedding shoots under my belt, I know what to expect in almost every kind of wedding. We can anticipate really well and prep for it, which means truly great photographs for the client.

But as an artist, I look for a challenge. Perhaps more wedding photographers will start looking for that. Or maybe not. Perhaps they will continue with the bright and pretty magazine set of photographs. It is pretty simple when you can do a retake.

**

Now, the other part of wedding photography – all the stuff other than the wedding photography itself – that is tough. And in that, India is in its infancy.

Most wedding photographers do not have contracts that specify what exactly each of them is getting into. This means a whole lot of confusion on delivery timings, the number of photographs, payment schedules, coffee table book designs.

As a photographer, I try to work with the customer as closely as possible. This means a lot of conversations, calls at odd hours, researching the wedding, the location and meetings with the couple to get a sense of who they are. Then there is the time we spend on the computer – selecting the photographs, editing them, packaging them.

There is all the developing packages for new clients, understanding what they need, how you can do it best, hours spent researching the locations, venues and meeting and understanding the couple themselves.

Once you are done with all of that, there’s maintaining your website, social media profiles, addressing queries, spending hours on marketing, taking care of your gear, staying relevant in other terms. That’s tough. That takes a whole lot of juggling if you want to stay relevant and on top of the game.

It involves a lot of conversations with people and maintaining your calm through all situations. It involves juggling the requests of several family members, and aligning to your own contract. There is a lot of decision making involved when the client asks you for an extra hour of shoot, or photographs that were not included in the original package. Do you say yes or no – how do you say it and keep the client happy.

And all that juggling and work sometimes de-focuses you from your work itself. More people are quitting their jobs and getting into wedding photography full time. Which is a good time, because the rest of the stuff takes up quite a bit of your time, if you want to be the professional kind of photographer. And that’s why we still like to say that wedding photography is tough.

 

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