Madhumitha Rangarajan said goodbye to a career in retail and graphic design to pursue her passion for photography. Read her inspiring #PassionToPaycheck story below.
The job of a wedding photographer may appear to be glamorous and enjoyable – take pictures for a day or two, be part of the festivities and earn a fat paycheque at the end of the party. That perception is as far from reality as can be. Madhumitha Rangarajan would know. From holding multiple meetings and understanding what types of photographs the families want, to handling mood swings, last-minute anxieties and bridezillas, Murphy’s Law, technical glitches and crashed hard drives - a wedding photographer’s job is stressful to say the least.
On the upside, one gets to capture and be part of a couple’s special memories, which is what led photographer Madhumitha to zero in on wedding photography as her ultimate career choice.
Armed with a post-graduate degree in retail management, Madhumitha’s first job was as a department manager at a Pantaloons outlet in Pune. “But retail marketing held no appeal to me. I was more inclined towards a creative field,” she says.
Banking on her lessons in visual communication and design (which is what she studied in her undergraduate course), she moved to Chennai to try her hand at a creative vocation. Eventually, she joined Sony Music Entertainment as a product manager after working at a film publicity & design company as a graphic designer. At the time, photography was a stress-buster of sorts.
“I took my first photo with one of those manual still cameras that my father owned. As part of my degree course, we had learnt the basics of photography, but I did not think at the time that I would be doing this full-time!”
The affair started with photography accompanying her as a silent companion on her travels, “An image has the power to transport you anywhere in the world. For me, whenever I’d feel tired of my commitments at work, I’d find myself leafing through the photos I had taken of places I had visited, and then they wouldn’t seem so far away.”
Then came an opportunity to be the official photographer at a friend’s wedding. That’s when Madhumitha realised that people felt similar nostalgia for personal occasions as she did for the places she had travelled to, “It’s in the tiniest of moments that you can watch your world be changed by the most incredible thing, and for some people, it’s their wedding day.” And Madhumita believes her role is to capture those intimate moments.
The more photographs she took, the more she realised that this was something she wanted to do full time. However, the workload was high and she wanted a more flexible routine that would allow her to hone her skills as a photographer. “As a product manager, my job was a one woman show. And after a point, when projects started picking up pace, it became increasingly difficult to manage my time,” Madhumitha confesses.
Faced with the dilemma of choosing one line of work over the other, Madhumitha made her pick and plunged full-time into photography.
Madhumitha has been a part of many weddings and says every single one is different – the people, the cuisine, the celebration – the entire vibe. These dissimilarities are what help her capture the best photographs – each different from the other, says Madhumitha. “Just like no two brides are similar, neither are their families, and that helps me conceptualise my work,” she explains.
Madhumitha believes one should try to understand what they want to achieve with an image, “Personally, I believe in documenting moments as they are. Weddings showcase the beautiful truth in relationships and hold a sense of purity that, I believe, can best be captured by documentary photography.”
“When I started, we were still working around manual cameras. Now, with the accessibility to DSLRs, clicking a photograph has become more simplified, but it also has made the task difficult. Every tenth person is now a photographer because they probably own a DSLR camera.”
“The plus point, though, is that if someone really has a knack for the art and intends to pursue it, the increased accessibility to digital cameras gives them more time to experiment and determine how to fine-tune their work,” she says.
Weddings are extremely demanding, not only in terms of the physical effort that goes into capturing every moment but also in meeting the family’s expectations. “I’ve not, in so far, met people who’ve come with a one-track mind about what they want.” says Madhumitha, “On the contrary, they’ve always trusted me and given me free reign. Weddings are such intimate occasions; it’s understandable that the family, and especially the couple, would want to take away their greatest memories in the photographs, but being given that freedom to experiment and weave your way around the occasion builds the photographer’s confidence which I believe reflects in the work.”
Despite the crazy pace when she’s on assignment, Madhumitha prefers to work alone and says, “It’s a personal choice. I know it is hectic trying to be everywhere at all times so that I don’t miss anything, but I enjoy it!”
She says that one of the best things about her job is that she is never made to feel like an outsider, “Emotions run high, celebrations are at their peak and you are made to feel like family, even if it is just for a day. And it comes so easily and naturally.” It is because of these smaller things attached to being a photographer that she believes makes the art so incredibly satisfying.
To budding photographers, she suggests, “The first step is to try and improve your skill. Bring it to a point where the work will speak for itself and help earn projects.” Additionally, she says, “Put yourself out there. Take as many photos as you can, of as many things. This will not only help improve your craft but also build a valuable portfolio.”
And most importantly, she says, “If you are looking to make a name as a wedding photographer, have an open mind and trust the relationships you see unite. These are the secrets to capturing the perfect image.”