Before they tie the knot, couples today want to face the camera in exotic locales. Vipasha Sinha on the growing demand for pre-wedding shoots

When Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan cavorted around the pyramids of Egypt for a film song 13 years ago, they would not have realised they were defining the idea of romance for a pre-teen, thousands of miles away in Chennai.

Aarti Suresh, 12 then, was gripped by the desire to romance Shah Rukh Khan in the sultry desert. She outgrew the infatuation for the Bollywood star, but the idea of romance in the desert stayed.

Years later, when she found a man after her own heart, she took him to the desert for a pre-wedding shoot, which was punctuated with moves from the song etched in Aarti’s mind.

Life is indeed imitating art, with an increasing number of couples, on the threshold of marriage, choosing picturesque locales for shoots.

Most of these lovey-dovey couples are prepared to spend as much, if not more, as film production companies are for their overseas shoots. There are couples who screen plenty of photographers to choose the one for the assignment. And it is no surprise that a slew of advertisements and articles in wedding magazines are targeted at the growing need for pre-wedding shoots.

Beyond the glitz and the seeming extravagance, lies sound logic. Many of these couples, especially the ones whose marriages have been arranged, find pre-wedding shoots a prop to connect with each other and spend quality time together.

When the fiancé of 27-year-old Khush Bafna, a businessman from Chennai, asked him to come down to Indore for a pre-wedding shoot at Rajwada Palace, she was looking forward to spending some quiet moments with him. He had not met her since their engagement two months ago.

“We dressed up in our best and landed at the venue at four in the morning. It was romantic indeed. Except of course for the photographer, we were the only people. Though we spoke every day on the phone after the engagement, there were so many other little things I got to learn about her in the couple of hours I spent with her,” says Khush.

“Pre-wedding shoots also give a great opportunity for photographers to know their clients before the wedding,” says Amar Ramesh, a city-based wedding photographer who has done numerous pre-wedding shoots.

The setting plays a role in fanning the flames of romance and there is symbolism attached to the choice of places. “Forts and palaces are a popular choice as they go with the pre-wedding promise a man makes to his wife that he will treat her like a princess,” says Amar.

Emotion also plays a part in the choice of location. Wedding photographer Rakesh Prakash from Chennai says many of his clients shoot in places where they first met or in locations that hold an important place in their love stories. “I believe in telling a story, and the best way to tell it is to start from the beginning. I talk to the couple and get to know how and where they met. After listening to their story, we zero in on a place. For instance, I got a shoot done in a stationary train because the couple had met during a train journey,” says Rakesh, who is in talks with a travel company to work on deals for pre-wedding shoots. Rakesh is taking this step because he is among the photographers who believe pre-wedding photography is here to stay, despite criticism from traditionalists.

These photographers say the possibility of candid photos is higher in pre-wedding shoots and therefore they add considerably to the charm of wedding albums.

Before you take the plunge

- Decide on what story you’d like to tell through the photographs. It could be revisiting the place you first met or narrating your journey as a couple. * After planning the details, look out for a photograph that matches your style. Every photographer has his or her own way of seeing things. Go through their Facebook pages and zero-in on the one that you think is perfect.

- Wedding photographers are busy people, especially the popular ones. Hire them in advance so that they have their dates free.

- Discuss the idea with the photographer and decide on the location. If its outdoors make reservations.

- Consult a stylist for the look and the clothes that complement your story and the location. Also, talk to the photographer, as he may give you some inputs.

- Pre wedding shoots can cost anywhere between Rs. 30,000 and Rs. 1,00,000 depending on the location.