As a photographer do you recall that moment when you got your bucket shot just like you had imagined before your shoot?
If your answer is yes, then I’m quite sure that you would have entangled yourself in a situation where you expected something but you got something else. That something else may not be of great importance, but at times it turns out to be better than what you expected. And at times it’s just plain disappointing. I say disappointing because your image is not what you envisioned. Your expectations are crushed. Maybe, you were limited in your shooting gear, maybe you were going through a creative block or maybe you were forced into a situation where you had to shoot what was available at the moment.
You are disappointed, because your image doesn’t have the celebrity wedding photography element to it. It doesn’t have the wow factor. You are also disappointed because you are nowhere near the “pro quality” images that are always created by the leading wedding photographers of the country. You are even more disappointed by the fact that photographers here in villages use flash in broad daylight.
There are way more problems to solve than images to make in a village wedding. My fellow photographers, I understand the problems that you undergo. Therefore, let me share a story with you. Let me take you through a journey of my cousin sister’s wedding that happened on the special occasion of Valentine’s Day. A journey that was disappointing, and yet, a journey worth remembering, too.
Mitali, my cousin called me from Bhubaneswar, and said that she’s going to get married on February 14. She said this two months prior to her wedding so that I could prepare myself for the shoot. And since the shoot was to be a paid one, she explained me what exactly she wanted me to deliver her. She shared two images for reference, asking me to provide something of a similar nature at the wedding. Her demand was that I have to create something like Anushka Sharma and Viral Kohli’s wedding.
My phone dropped from my hand as she uttered those words, “No matter what, you have to create something like this.” To which I said, “Well, I’ll try my best, but I cannot guarantee.” She added, “It’s happening in our village itself.” I was silent. Said nothing at all. I smiled in pain. I murmured ,”God bless my dear cousin and her expectations.”
The day before her engagement, I finally gathered the courage of explaining to her that those shots are not possible because there is a lot of things that are missing here in the village. I said, “I cannot give what you want but I can give something that is worth remembering.” She said, “What is missing ?” I said, “Many things, most of which you don’t have any idea about. So, put that thought aside and let’s see what can be done.”
I wished I could shoot the wedding at a nicer location; a nice interior designer is required for aesthetic photographs, instead of a randomly decorated mandap. Most importantly, you need a peaceful environment for worthwhile pictures. On the day of her engagement, I expected to get some good shots of the bride and the groom but it turned out that there were no good images of the couple except for a select few of the bride. The photographer that the groom hired was constantly using the flash, having no idea about the lighting conditions inside the banquet where the engagement ceremony took place. I’m one of those guys who prefers to shoot alone until and unless there’s a compulsion. And boy the attitude of that photographer, I bet you would have left the place as soon as possible!
The groom shared the images the next day with my cousin. All of them were overexposed. The shocking fact is that the groom was happy with the shots. I was disgusted when I saw them. I was also disappointed with myself cause I couldn’t get a single good image of the couple.
My cousin had a lot of expectations, not only from me, but also from people who were planning her wedding. No, the planner wasn’t a wedding planner as such. They were her family. They failed her. Her mandap wasn’t designed the way she wanted it to be, her mehendi ceremony wasn’t that well organised. Nontheless, I used my creative skills to bring things to life. Similarly, on her Haldi ceremony, nothing had been planned. I explained to her what are the props that I require at her Haldi. She conveyed it to the respected people, but they didn’t gave any sort of importance to it. As a result of which I couldn’t get the shots that I envisioned, but I got something that made the bride happy all the same.
While I was going through the images that I made during the Haldi and mehendi ceremonies , I discovered that there are two to three shots that are worth remembering. I went to my cousin’s room to talk to her that night after the shoot was over. She apologised, saying, “Sorry. I should have realised that whatever I demanded is not possible over here. Things might have been different if I had planned my wedding myself instead of relying upon others. But here in villages the elders take up the responsibility. I feel sad that I had no say at my wedding. People don’t understand.”
I said, “Well, forget that. You can’t do anything about that. Nor can I. Even I thought of something but I got something else altogether. But I have something for you.” I showed her the best images that I had captured in all these days. She was stunned by the images taken during the mehendi and Haldi. It seemed to me that she was happy with what I gave her.
But the sad thing about this wedding is that there is no single good image of the couple. And that was disappointing. I simply didn’t get a chance to make that image of the couple happen- that Viruskha shot that my cousin was expecting from me. I wish villages looked like Italy and I wish the mandaps here looked bigger and more beautiful. So, dear fellow photographers, here are some suggestions that you could make use of whenever you are asked to shoot a wedding at a village. Firstly, keep in mind that those shots that you envisioned (celebrity wedding images) are not possible in a village until and unless you have an experienced interior designer with you. Villagers are the interior designers in villages.
So, try to plan it yourself if there is no interior designer. Sounds funny but it’s true. Secondly, the wedding images that you see on Instagram are not shot in some random village. They are high class royal weddings shot at the best locations throughout the world. 10-12 award winning photographers shoot one wedding. And you are the only one shooting one wedding at a time. They not only have the best gears with them, but the best ideas to execute on the field. They give priority to team work. So, when best of gears and best of ideas come together, the best images are inevitably made. Don’t let these things demotivate you. Rather, make them your inspiration and keep shooting with whatever gears you have. Trust me you will create something even they couldn’t do during their initial stage. Finally, stop expecting and start creating. You will reach beyond your expectations this way.
Subham Behera is a freelance photographer who is currently pursuing his MA in Media Studies from Christ University, Bangalore.