Wedding Photography Planning - Part 1
Challenges for wedding photography in India:
- Weddings in India are filled with ritual and celebration that continue for several days.
- The rituals and process in a Hindu wedding vary widely.
- The pre-wedding and post-wedding rituals and celebrations vary by region, preferences or the resources of the groom, bride and their families
- Usually around 100 to 10,000 people attend. Attendees are frequently not known directly by the bride and groom.
Weddings can be the most important day of a couple’s life, and the photographic memories are a wonderful gift and keepsake. Of course where expectations are very high and perfect shooting opportunities are few, we try our best to fulfil everyone’s wishes by advance planning.
Staying on schedule with the official timeline is as important and significant as taking the actual photographs. Setting a realistic timeline in advance of the wedding day will help us to put everyone at ease, and will also keep a steady flow for the event.
Before the Wedding Day
Setting expectations in advance of the wedding day is one of the most valuable steps to a successful event and to successful photographs. Is the ceremony outdoors, at noon, on a summer day? Sounds like sweaty guests, and an uncomfortable bride, or dappled light and harsh shadows, prevent us to see the expressions on a couple’s face. Having the proper knowledge of actual timings and lightings saves lots of time on big day and saves last moment rush.
As a professional photographer, we help the couple to set their expectations of the day by asking them what the most important photographs are for them. We often begin a meeting with a check list, and suggest to the couple that it takes a minimum of five minutes per shot for family/group photos.
How early is early enough to start photographing? Two hours before the ceremony should be enough time to photograph the couple as they get ready; the attire details; the wedding venue; and some of the portraits. The following order is helpful when photographing a personal wedding photos:
1. Bride/Groom details (Dress, suit, tie, bouquet, shoes, flowers, etc.)
2. Bride getting hair and makeup done / Groom portraits before and after formal attire
3. Bridal/Groom portraits
4. Bridesmaids/mother of the bride/important women in bride’s life/ Groomsmen/father of the groom and other important men in groom’s life
The Hindu wedding ceremony can stretch to any length of time. In some communities it's fairly quick while in others multiple rituals extend the hours. As a wedding photographers, we have to adopt fast as per shooting conditions such as different lighting conditions for both indoors and outdoors, optimum focus issues, space issues, etc. The most important ceremonies includes:
The wedding kicks off with the Baraat, the all-singing all-dancing wedding procession of the groom and his family. The Baraat can and often does include luxury cars, booming music, and a horse.
After the Baraat kicks off the wedding festivities with music and dancing, the Varamala ceremony keeps the joy going. The nuances of the ceremony vary from community to community but in every tradition it is the first coming together of the couple.
The Kanyadaan is one of the holiest and most traditional parts of a Hindu wedding. It marks the movement for the bride from her family to her husband and his family and is thus an extremely poignant event.
The father of the bride, or an elderly relative if the father is not present, places the bride's right hand upon her groom's while reciting Vedic scripture. This is called the Hast Melap, 'the joining of hands.' The bride is given to the groom on the condition that he helps her achieve her dharma, artha, and kama.
The Saptapadi acts as the symbolic forging of promises that will keep the bride and groom together for seven lifetimes. It is the climax of the wedding. The ceremony involves seven specific promises the bride and groom make to each other.
Traditions vary from region to region - like the Gujaratis and Sindhis, instead of seven steps, the couple walk together four times clockwise around the fire for their Mangal Pheras.
The is the most emotional part of the wedding. The bride is leaving her home to start a new life. Emotions are high; emotions are mixed, happy, and sad all at the same time.
c. Couple and Group Photos
Once the ceremony is finished, the couple and attendants will adjourn to a separate area for photographs. It is difficult to take stunning photographs if everyone is packed into the reception unless you can get some height on the room by going up a staircase or getting on a small stage where you can shoot down into the group. The couple will probably want an image of every guest at the wedding, so we do our best to keep track of whom we have and have not photographed. Efficiency is a key here, and managing expectations is a fine art.
D. The reception
We try to keep this short and sweet. Many of these images will look the same, and it can be unflattering to photograph people gyrating on the dance floor. Makeup isn’t fresh, libations have kicked in, and people generally do not look their most attractive at this point in a wedding.