Indian Wedding Photography- how it started, all that is wrong and how to still get the best out of it.
This article touches all the issues which plague the industry today and talks about ways for the prospective clients to wade through the current jungle and find the most suitable photographers for their wedding functions.Pranjal Kumar
If you are a prospective bride/groom/ or a family member/friend of the person who is going to get married or has recently got married then hold on, this article is for you and I am sure that you will be able to identify with each and every word which is written below. So read on!
Not getting married/do not need a photographer anytime? No worries at all, you may still find some food for thought here!
Indian wedding photography or these days "CANDID PHOTOGRAPHY" as an industry started taking shape in early 2000s and by 2010-2012 started acquiring a substantial space in people's minds. There were numerous reasons for this development, some of which are presented below:
1. Indian economy had started booming after a late but steady period of liberalisation. There were multinational companies all around, good schools and hence good jobs. Indians now had more disposable income. They were buying everything, travelling extensively both within India and abroad and above all, western concepts were making inroads into India as this era of globalisation had made Indians more receptive.
2. The photography industry was no different; educated, well travelled and talented Indians brought a new concept to India- natural photography. Some started calling it Candid photography. It consisted of capturing moments and natural expressions discreetly without asking anyone to pose for the camera. The conventional or traditional photography started taking a backseat.
3. Videos were not left behind, the concept of documentary film making came to weddings as well.
4. Indians were amazed and awestruck with all this, the demand for candid photographers and cinematographers thus started increasing. Seeing the demand, engineers, doctors, fashion photographers and almost everyone started venturing into this industry.
A new industry was born.
Having traced the birth and development of this industry, lets further understand what it involves.
A photographer, some equipment and that is all, RIGHT? Well NO! It involves:
1. A good, talented and skilled, patient, creative, dedicated, hard working and technical person called a photographer/videographer. (I bet you would have never considered so many requisites for becoming a photographer. Think about complicated photography gear, hours and hours of repetitive shoots, uncontrolled Indian wedding setup, lack of good shooting environment such as bad/low lighting, tight schedules, nose poking guests and above all omnipresent mobile phones which can appear anytime and anywhere between the camera and a good shot.)
2. Many more such talented skilled people discussed in point 1 above. Yes, we may call such a collection as photography team.
3. Very expensive, ever changing, fragile, wear and tear prone and above all; multiple in numbers-photography gear.
Well this is not all, we have just reached about 40% of the requirement.
4. Very expensive, ever changing, fragile, wear and tear prone and above all; multiple in number-edit machines and storage mediums (mind you, it is digital data so needs at least one backup before your photos and videos reach you).
5. A good, talented and skilled, patient, creative, dedicated, hard working and technical person called an editor (Well, I know I am being repetitive, but I am a photographer! ). We need many many such editors to go through terabytes of data generated after each and every wedding, sort out the best, edit those and give those a shape. There are different editors for photographs and videos.
6. Very talented and dedicated people as production controllers to assign a team for your wedding based on your requirements, work out the logistics on the day/days of shoot, assign the data to editors, keep you updated with the work progress, attend to changes post delivery and stay with you till the final closure.
7. Talented, skilled, patient, creative and dedicated persons called album designers to work on your photo albums.
8. And yes, the content writers, IT personnels, marketing personnels, sales personnels...
So it's a company with all the functions and associated work? Yes, wedding photography is a company product and not a job of one single freelancer.
How much time does it usually take to get the photographs and videos?
Having understood what it takes to offer wedding photography service, lets try and understand the process and in effect the time taken:
1.You call up a photography company, tell them your requirement, receive and finalise a proposal, receive a contract and pay the advance. You have hired your photographers! Yes, but this is basic!
2. Post the booking, your actual preferences are understood, your story is discussed, music, photography and videography preferences are discussed. We call this storyboarding. Yes, this exists in wedding photography!
3. The actual shoot is carried out, data is backed up in expensive special hard drives and sent to the editors.
4. Hours and hours of video footage is scanned through by the film editors, best of the shots are selected, appropriate audio tracks are placed, storyline is formed, colour correction and enhancement is done and then a wedding film is born.
5. Thousands of photographs are scanned, best of them are sorted, colour correction, skin toning and colour enhancement is done and then we get the wedding pictures.
6. The edited media is shared with the clients, changes are incorporated (if any) and the final output is shared in well packaged hard drives.
7. The photos are selected for the photo albums, the designs are made and shared with the clients, changes are incorporated and finally the albums are printed and delivered.
The process described above easily takes about 3 months and involves numerous people at various stages.
It is 2017, where is Indian wedding photography industry now? Well it is as below:
1. Thousands and thousands of people, traditional photographers, engineers, doctors and just about everyone else have re branded themselves as "CANDID PHOTOGRAPHERS", have made their own websites or have listed themselves on many aggregator portals (aggregators? just google candid wedding photography) and suddenly made us realise that India is full of photographers.
2. Many such "CANDID PHOTOGRAPHERS" are freelancers, do not have their own teams, hire other free lancers (sometimes they do not even know their team members), outsource the edit work with little or no control on the quality, hire equipment and self pronounce themselves as India's best photographers.
3. Some pay the aggregators ( I am sure you know these terms- handpicked, featured and star rated), do SEOs and ads and become self pronounced- India's best, overnight.
4. Some who do not have a matching profile; illegally beg/borrow/steal from others who have and show others work as their own.
5. If self proclaimed "INDIA'S BEST WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS" title does not work then there are paid wedding awards everywhere ( yes this is an industry in its own as well). You pay Rs xxxxx and you are India's best (mind you, these awards proclaim proper audits, fancy jury and glamorous presentations with extensive media coverage). In the end its Candid Photography which gets abused.
6. Since these are free lancers with no equipment, no infrastructure and little or no support, ridiculous quotes are offered in the market. Candid Photography gets further abused.
7. More often than not, edits are never delivered on time, remaining payment is intentionally forgone and the photographer disappears. And you have no one to catch as you never saw or enquired for any physical address of the company. You thought quote is low because its a freelance and outsourced model.
Sadly and unfortunately all of the above is true in the current industry in India. There are no regulatory bodies and the country is full of Best Wedding Photographers! Seeing the demand, some foreigners have set shops in India as well. We are gullible.
Fortunately there are still ways in which you can still hire the genuine photographers and get the best for your wedding. Follow the steps below:
1. Please change your mindset. You are hiring artists and not just another wedding vendor. So you may be looking for free lancers for your cocktails music, mehndi walas etc. but not here. Do remember, everything spent on weddings (we Indians are amongst the highest spenders in the world when it comes to weddings. Infact, weddings are our lives 2nd biggest spending event; the first being buying a house) will disappear from your and people's memories once the functions are over. You need to have a good photography company to capture everything in an artistic form so that you can cherish these years later.
2. Google out, go to aggregators (these have some good listings too), take references from your relatives/friends and make a list of photography companies you may go to, to finally hire one.
3. Go through the profiles, achievements, credentials, backgrounds of the people and see their work from individual weddings. Its easy to publish one good photograph from every wedding and thus show you 20 good photos. Its difficult to show you 20 good photos from one single wedding.
4. Figure out if they have their own team or hire people. Companies with full time crew should be preferred.
5. Figure out if the edits are done in house or outsourced. Run away if they are outsourced.
6. Physical office addresses are a must. You need to know whom are you paying. Also ensure that you sign a contract so that you have a record of what you are paying for.
7. Go through Google reviews, click on reviewer profiles, check if they are authentic (if you can find photos and films of the same person on the company's portfolio then nothing like it). Google reviews are otherwise hard to fudge (only if you can trace the authenticity of the reviewer) as a bad review can only be changed by the reviewer and cannot be even deleted by the company.
8. Go for more experienced photographers than newer ones. If a company has experience then its portfolio will show. You will get to see thousands of photographs and many films on its profile.
9. Talk to the company person if you want. You will understand a lot by talking. Indian weddings are never on time, often involve great flexibility and require a lot of people management skills to shoot.
10. Check the background of the people whom you are talking to. Often the company websites list these in the about us page. Run away if they used to do traditional photography before and feel that a tele lens takes a candid shot.
11. Remember that a lower budget option is usually not the best. The above 10 parameters should be given weightage rather than the budget alone. Wedding photography and cinematography is expensive since it involves so many things. Its next to impossible to offer good photos and videos at low budgets. If you are low on budget, you should consider hiring just one service (say only candid photography or cinematography) or for just one day instead of going for a lower budget quote and hiring everything and then ending up with bad products.
12. Respect whom you have hired. Remember, you have hired an artist and not just another wedding vendor.
This article has been written by Pranjal Kumar from CandidShutters.
CandidShutters was started in early 2012 by Pranjal Kumar in Mumbai, India. They can be found at http://www.candidshutters.com. They have their offices in Gurgaon and in Mumbai.