Weddings have become events and wedding albums have morphed into slick, stylish magazine look alikes

All set for her wedding, Malini V. didn’t want the conventional wedding photographs or album. She wanted the photography to be ‘candid’. She shopped around and found the photographer for the wedding. The bride’s anxiety, the expression of bitter-sweet joy on parents’ faces as they bid their little girl adieu, a look exchanged between the newly married couple...these are some candid moments which are not found in a conventional wedding album. She got these and some more in a slick wedding album. The best part is that her album is unique.

When weddings became ‘events’, wedding photography became specialised. The idea is not to miss a single ‘event’ associated with a wedding. Dedicated crews of photographers end up creating a snazzy magazine-like wedding album. The beauty of candid photography is that each album will be different and unique. The wedding photographer is a much-in-demand entity. Gone, by the way, is the few kilos heavy tome that used to be the wedding album of yore, which had a charm of its own.

In Sanoj Kumar K.R’s (of 123 Wedding Album) studio, graphic designers are busy at work. He gets a frantic call from Kothamangalam asking if a wedding album is ready. “The groom is leaving for Australia today. He wants to take it with him,” Sanoj says. The specialist wedding photographer is waiting for the printed album to arrive. He has shot some high profile weddings in Kerala and West Asia.

Exposure to social media and travelling abroad are the two factors that have led to this kind of interest and investment in wedding photography. “Money is not an issue,” he says, which is why he gets invited to shoot weddings abroad. A wedding album is, after all, forever.

Wedding photography got ‘candid’ around three to four years back. Posed is passé and natural is in. Nias Marikar, a fashion photographer who ‘also’ shoots weddings, says that the photographs ought to capture the feel of what is going on.

Of the candid brand of wedding photography, he says, “it shouldn’t be obtrusive and the photographer should be a part of the show but never control the event. Both have to be invisible.” Candid photography captures people unawares and that naturalness lends a charm to the photos. Some of the moments captured are priceless. The photographs depend on the photographer’s eye and that is a chance prospective brides or grooms are willing to take. Hari Menon of YNot Frames, for instance, is choosy about what he shoots. But his clients trust him. And trust is crucial, the photographers aver. For the wedding photographer, it is all in the telling.

Nias goes with a ‘minimum crew’ of three photographers and “depending on the size of the wedding” it can go up to eight (assistants included). Depending on the number of cameras used, weddings are classified as two-cam, three-cam etc. Anu Oommen, another specialist wedding photographer, works with a crew of 12 to 18 people (“depending on the size of the wedding”). We are not even talking about videography. Anu’s clients are primarily NRIs.

The photographer starts early. Anu, for instance, starts very early. Even before the bridal make-up starts. The effort is to capture images of the transformation. The main photographers shoot the ‘main’ events and family and other photographers in the team capture the sidelights. A wedding shoot is finalised after a series of discussions and meetings between clients and the photographers. It is either word of mouth publicity or the Net (social media ) that leads to a photographer being chosen.

Since the photography has become competitive, the equipment too is important. Nias shoots with the Hassleblad camera and Anu uses 14 mm wide lens. None of the photographers commits to a rate. Going by what they say, the bill can be anything upwards of Rs. 50,000 to a couple of lakhs. Some photographers charge page wise (Rs. 600-1,000 per page) and others charge by the day which goes up to Rs. 45,000 to a lakh (exclusive of the album).

Once the shoots are done, the photographs are shown to the families. The selection done, the wait begins. The wait can go up to three months. Nias says if it is not too busy a time he gives the album in 10-15 days, same goes for Sanoj while for Anu it goes up to “at least two months.” Until then CDs containing some pictures are given to the family. Some photographers do the layout of the album in-house while others outsource the work.

In the albums everybody, especially the bride and groom look perfect. Are these the wonders of ‘photoshopping’? Sanoj says, “Everybody wants to look perfect on the most important day of their lives. And an album is for keeps… Years later, they should feel happy when they see it. Isn’t it?” True. Don’t we all love picture perfect happily ever afters?

It is not just a wedding that is covered. In the old days, the newly married couple would be spirited away to various ‘photogenic’ corners of the venue for after-ceremony photographs. These days it is to different destinations. In Kochi it could be Bolgatty Palace or Marine Drive or Cherai. Then there are the destinations like Munnar and Wagamon. Sometimes a day is kept aside for these.

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