Stuffy poses, tight smiles, staged backdrops.... Wedding photographs were once just that. Enter unexpected, lively shots, offbeat, natural frames, comical, intimate moments captured on camera in real time, and the world of wedding photography has changed. In today’s brand of popular ‘candid’ photography, real and offguard moments sell, endorsed by a savvy, budding tribe of shutterbugs experimenting with fresh ways to freeze our Kodak moment.
For Delhi-based Ritika Singh, photography happened just by chance. A friend approached her for a wedding and she clicked a few pictures. Then, through word of mouth, it became her profession. “Couples who choose candid photography are more demanding,” she points out. Sure, they are ready to spend more money, but also want to get their money’s worth, even if that means trawling through photo galleries on blogs and social networks to find a photographer with an eye for the usually unseen wedding moments. Calcutta-based Sulekha treasures the unusual photographs Diptish Prakrit produced of her wedding in March. “He clicked when the subjects were unaware of being photographed, when I was smiling at someone, when my mother was crying.” Diptish, who has been doing wedding photography for three years now, says the trick is to heed “any moment that marks the couple as husband and wife. It could be the bride closing her eyes, the groom taking a deep breath. The world changes for them the very next moment”.
So while the old-world, photo-studio wedding photographers are far from a dying breed, offbeat wedding photographers have swiftly created a niche for themselves among the young and well-heeled simply by offering what old-timers in the business don’t—“life in their photographs”. It’s why candid photography has taken off in India, says Mayuresh Patil, a Mumbai-based photographer, “People want want their photographer to build up a story that has an everlasting quality”. Naina Redhu, who runs her photo company Knotty Tales, knows how to do that well. Based in Noida, this young photographer travels across India, documenting weddings, building a familiarity with her subjects that lends itself to the warm, intimate images on her camera. Recalls Anuradha, whose wedding she shot early this year in Maharashtra: “She accompanied me throughout the event, when I was coming out of the bath, or when praying in front of my parents’ photograph.”
Indeed, the job of candid wedding photographers begins way before the actual wedding. For Diptish, it starts “when the bride is getting ready, the groom is shaving”. He makes sure he’s always backstage, capturing “friends and family working hard to perfect every detail before the guests arrive”. Then there are other details to be shot, the empty venue, flower decor, the henna on the bride’s hand, the food, the wedding rings, the bridesmaids.
In fact, many of the trendy, ‘fine art’ photographers have learned how to anticipate the next unique moment. “Weddings in India are especially hard to shoot because of the various cultures. I study the ceremonies of that particular culture in advance,” says Nidhin G. Poothully, a wedding photographer in Bangalore. “Having a background of the couple, how they met, little anecdotes from their life helps build a platform to weave it all into the story of the wedding,” feels Naina. For Mayuresh Patil, it is important to establish one link with the couple before the D-day, so that “they have a certain degree of confidence in me”.
But Ritika Singh also believes in living in the moment: “I go with my instinct,” she says. The trick is to always be on your toes. “There have been times when I’ve lowered the camera just for a second and I’ve missed an intimate moment between two people,” recalls Naina. Also key to capturing little moments well is to blend in with the crowd, and not intrude into the sequence of events. That’s precisely why many young couples prefer picking artsy photographers, believes photojournalist Sanjay Gupta. “They don’t want the photographer to breathe down their neck and demand all kinds of poses.” Exactly the discretion Sulekha appreciated in Diptish. “He was different from the usual lot of photographers. He did not ask me to smile, stand up or tell me where to look.” Candid wedding photography gives you not just better pictures, but also a better wedding, where you can concentrate on the wedding and not on the photographer’s requests, says Nidhin. Indeed, the idea of enjoying your own wedding is new in India, feels Sanjay Gupta.
No wonder there is a fast growing fan club of candid photography in wedding circles, with couples ready to shell out anything between Rs 15,000 and several lakhs for a top-notch shutterbug. Candid wedding pictures are also quickly becoming another way to stand out in the crowd, to be freely shared on social networks, poised even as ‘art pieces’. Even pre-wedding photos, like couples sharing a light moment on the beach, make a buzz. “It has become a sort of competition. The more unusual your photos, the more attention you get on Facebook,” comments Ritika Singh.
And as the rules of wedding photography change, the wedding album sees a transformation as well, often resembling a storybook, or a glossy coffee-table production, all customised to reflect the couple’s personality. “I have selected an 8 x 8 inch soft-cover square book. It will be like a small magazine that I can conveniently carry in my handbag, so that I can share it with all my near and dear ones when I travel,” says Anuradha. Indeed, the way we store our fondest memories has changed, certainly for the better, and perhaps for good.