Mythbusters: Wedding Photography Myths Busted
Wedding photography is fast becoming one of the most popular professions. But is it really everyone’s cup of tea?
One of the most famous sayings from Ansel Adams was, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” Over quoted as it may be, we think it fits in rather aptly with the art of wedding photography. Yes, photography is about good lighting and sound composition. But it is also about capturing fleeting moments, waiting for the right expression or emotion and about telling stories. And weddings are full of them all – moments, emotions and stories. No wonder Wedding Photography in India is becoming such an increasingly popular choice of career.
In a country like India, the wedding industry is growing at such a rapid pace and so are the number of wedding photographers. However, with this rapid increase in popularity, a lot of false perceptions related to the profession have also mushroomed. There exist a whole lot of preconceived notions and expectations because this is a legacy industry and there are a lot of anecdotal tales which have been handed down and are still being handed down till date. Most new entrants into the profession see wedding photography as something “easy” to do unlike other genres of photography like fashion and advertising – which require sound knowledge of lighting, posing, post production and so on. Being part of the Wedding Photographer community, we all know that wedding photography is a tough row to hoe. And so, today we’re going to talk about the top myths about Wedding Photography in India and (hopefully) give you a reality check if you think it’s an easy industry to get into!
Myth 1 – It’s easy to become a wedding photographer.
Spend 4-8 hours at a wedding (in the evening or over the weekend), take candid close ups of pretty people and the job is done! Easy, right? A lot of people are of the opinion that anyone can become a wedding photographer since all it takes is a DSLR and a little free time – you are all set for the candid party. No need for formal knowledge, training or experience is the general perception.
Wedding photography is one of those rare genres which is truly an amalgamation of various fields of photography. You need to have mastery of portraiture, fashion, boudoir photography, event photography, documentary and photojournalism and many more. Even more importantly, you need to master lighting. Especially when it comes to Indian weddings, you have to create beautiful pictures out of loud and often mismatched colours, bad ambient lighting, big crowds of people and numerous rituals. The working hours are long and odd. You can expect to be on your feet for at least 14-16 hours, be swift on your feet and yes, you need to do all this with a big smile on your face.
Here’s a little #funfact that you may enjoy! (click to enlarge)
Myth 2 – Wedding Photography means turning into Mr. (or Ms.) Moneybags!
Popular perception and social media feeds that show “success stories” propagate the myth that wedding photographers earn a lot of money, very quickly and all the time. All the biggies in the game charge in Lakhs of rupees, have expensive gear and are always posting selfies in beautiful destination resorts. So Wedding Photography definitely makes you some mad cash!
According to an article published in Reuters, there are more than 2,50,000 wedding photographers in India. Though the number of weddings increase 40% year on year, there are more photographers entering the field than there are couples wanting to get married. There is stiff competition in the wedding photography industry and major price wars. While India’s top photographers do seem to earn a lot (don’t forget that they constantly pay for upgrading their very expensive gear and maintaining top-notch and expensive human resources), it’s important to remember that for every well known photographer there are thousands who haven’t been able to make it. In the middle and the lower rungs, decisions are made on price and, as far as the customers are concerned, the cheaper the better!
Myth 3 – I can be a part-time wedding photographer.
Since wedding photography is easy, I can have a regular day job at a corporate and shoot weddings during my free time.
Wedding photography is not simply a form of art or a hobby you can do for fun. It’s a service and a business – which requires 100% commitment. Weddings are hardly ever restricted to weekends and are governed by pandits and sayers and are, in fact, often midweek. The idea of making a little extra spending cash on the side by moonlighting as a wedding photographer is, no doubt, quite appealing but hardly sustainable in the long run. In addition to shooting the actual wedding and taking leave from work for those days, there are also client meetings to be managed, pre-production and post-processing, marketing, vendor management, gear maintenance etc.
Also, consider this. You’ve accepted a wedding booking about 3 months in advance. But 1 week before the wedding, you’re informed that your super-boss is arriving from a different city and he wants to meet the entire time and identify an individual for a special opportunity abroad. The date of the super-boss meeting clashes with the wedding. So when it’s crunch time, who would you choose? Boss or Bride? Your corporate career or your moonlight hobby?
To give you just a little hope, there are a few, and only a few, photographers who have successfully managed to balance a corporate career along with a wedding photography business for a sustained period of time. After all, there are always exceptions. So yes, it can be done part time. As long as things like family, eating, sleeping, going out and having a personal life means nothing to you!
(There are of course, exceptions to every rule. There are a handful of talented photographers who have made a success story out of having a full-time job AND a wedding photography career…but that’s another story for another day!).
Myth 4 – Wedding Photography is all fun and games
Wedding photography is all about having a good time isn’t it? Spend a few days at a pretty venue, amidst joyous families, good food and alcohol, an enthusiastic DJ – just use your zoom lens and take some pretty candid pictures of people laughing, talking & dancing. Maybe even connect with some of the pretty, young guests on Facebook while you’re at it. Come on, it’s like a night out in town, isn’t it?
Wedding Photography is a responsibility. As a commercial wedding photographer who has taken a paid assignment, it’s your responsibility to capture the most important day(s) in the couple’s life. These are the memories and photographs that they will cherish forever and pass down to their children and grandchildren. There is NO CHANCE for a second take. You either get it the first time, or you lose it forever!
It is your job to pay attention and remain professional. The families will treat you like a guest and offer you hospitality, but don’t forget that you are not actually a guest invited to enjoy the wedding. You’re a wedding photographer, paid to do a job. Through the long hours, the constant delays, the endless rituals, you have to find a way to remain creative and capture the moments as best as you can. You have to focus on the actual rituals, on the stories you can find within the family and friends, immortalise the ambience of the wedding so that when they look back on these photos, everything comes back to them – how they felt throughout their wedding.
Oh, and after the shoot, let’s not forget the wedding hangover in the form of a huge dump of photos to cull and edit! On top of that, you have to be consistent – Wedding Photography is not an ad-hoc or one time commitment. You have to churn out consistently excellent photos, again and again and again. So it takes dedication, tenacity and lots of hard work and consistency to build a successful professional wedding photography business.
Myth 5 – Wedding photography is extremely glamorous — all people are pretty, all weddings have celebrities, all happen at destinations, all have great food.
Social media feeds would have you believe that Wedding Photographers live a very jet-set and glamorous life. It would seem that all successful wedding photographers only shoot fancy weddings that are hosted in destination palace hotels with drop-dead gorgeous couples and guests and delicious food! Oh, and they all have time to take an extra day at the resort and take selfies in the pool with delicious umbrella-ed cocktails!
Wait. There’s more. Wedding photographers fly business class, stay in the best hotels, hang out with celebrities and look amazing while they shoot.
Sounds awesome, I want in!
If one were to believe everything that our friends post on Facebook & Instagram, we would probably all sink into depression. How many of you have seen this Social Media vs Reality video on Youtube or Facebook?
Well, what Wedding Photographers post online is not too different. Yes, of course there are extremely high-budget weddings with unbelievable sets (like a movie production), private islands and jets come into the fore, families pay SRK and Justin Beiber to perform at their weddings and all of that. But the bitter truth is that those are only 0.1% of the entire wedding industry in our country. 99.9% of weddings happen in small venues, often small marriage halls with bad lighting and very average decor+ambience. They take place in crowded cities and places close to their homes. Most couples are regular, girl/boy-next-door type people who feel extremely awkward in front of the camera. And yes, even those wedding photographers who post about destination weddings all the time shoot these as well!
Don’t even get us started on “sunset pheras”. If we had a rupee for the number of times we have been promised those beautiful, beachside, sunset pheras and ended up with black sky because everything at an Indian wedding runs terribly late, we’d be millionaires. In fact, most auspicious muhurat times are 2 am – 4 am in the North, and 6 am or earlier in South India.
Traveling in coach class with tons of gear, having camera bags opened and dismantled at airport security, awkward travel times, odd hours and lack of sleep, and being faced with “vendor food” at weddings are all just a few issues that even successful and money-making wedding photographers face all the time.
With so many negatives, is there any point in becoming a wedding photographer? Are there any rewards?
Why are we telling you all of this? Is there no up-side to being a wedding photographer? Why do we all do it?
Yes, there are negatives. Yes, there are misconceptions. But there are some great rewards too. Being a wedding photographer, you can create magic for the couple and the families. The memories from the most important day in their lives are in your hands. The photos you make for them will bring immense joy to the couple, their families and their future children and grand-children. The joy and delight you get from a family far exceeds the appreciation you could ever receive from a corporation or a brand manager. That joy and delight is priceless – no client will ever be as grateful to you as a delighted bride.
And yes, there are great, big and fancy weddings, there is lots of money to be made but you need to work hard for it. It takes time, effort and discipline to reach the top of your game. So work hard, develop a unique style and be consistent with your professional attitude. All the money and fame will find you!
Have any other myths to contribute? Let us know in the comments below!
Cover Image Credit: Freepik.com