Wedding Photogs Route!
An hour-long interview, questions being fired to and fro, from each and every corner of the boardroom, I was almost there, finalizing my first job after my MBA in the US. I was beginning to like the company as they were challenging me and I was able to answer their subtle questions with the wittiest responses I had prepared, while sitting on the job search hotseat. And then came the type cast one, “What drives you to performance?” It is my favourite question and I like it when someone feels driven enough to ask me the question. I replied with my broken grin, “Standing out!” and to everyone’s surprise, here’s a guy showing an intention of going solo, in an interview for a position of team lead. Is he blowing out his chances or is he self-centered?
Well as always I clarify my version of “standing out”, it doesn’t mean being an outlier from the word “go”. I’m always on the verge of doing regular things differently. And that’s what marks my success, be it ever so small. I wanted people to know me as I am, rather than what inspired me to take the steps I have. The interview didn’t turn out a bad experience as I had nailed it. But somewhere down the line I began asking myself the question as a retrospection activity.
To this day, I start my day looking at the mirror and ask myself what drives me to do the thing I’m about to do? I am sure by now you must be wondering what a Wedding Photographer has to do with thinking so much about “What Drives Him?”. As most people imagine, it’s the money and regular income along with great food and other perks that tag in. I’ll agree with that for most of the wedding photographers. Not me for one, I’m here to “Stand Out” and it is one of the biggest multifaceted goals here in India. First Photography as a profession is widely divided in the truly talented and truly desperate kinds. Second, majority of Indian communities think it’s an occupation of the lower and illiterate society. Third, India is one of most difficult markets in terms of competition.
With 3 major challenges standing in front of me, I took a safe approach to make content as per my liking. Thanks to my jobless days and internships with local photographers in the US, I had mastered the skill set before even thinking about taking it professionally. I confess that I’m a self learned photographer but, I do advocate spending some quality time developing the skills, if that demands schooling it should certainly be a part. With each wedding during my part time (freelancing) days I grew in confidence about creating something new and unique for the couple I had worked with and that gave me the courage to think about creating a venture “Indian Wedding Katha”.
I was surely falling in love with the art of making visual stories and adding my touch to the traditional wedding photography genre. What I hated was everybody tagging me and my venture as a candid photography venture, and that made me feel that I was doing what everyone else is doing. Somewhere, I felt I have to make it “Stand Out” and the only way I could do it was making more content. So I started learning more on observation. I have been a regular reader of blogs on the Internet and Fashion magazines at the Barbers. I began to experiment with the poses, colours and compositions in each and every possible opportunity I got as a freelancer. The way I saw, it was to follow “Observe, Obsess and Evolve” and made a promise to compete with myself, my earlier works and failed approaches.
Going full time into a profession that I hadn’t been a part of for 2/3rd of my professional life was the boldest decision I faced for 18 months. I was sitting on it like a hen warming her eggs in anticipation that it will give nourishment to the chicks, which will make her peck more. Time had it destined, when I finally had the courage to step outside of my comfort zone and take the industry head-on. Not that it turned out to be a gold mine with the first full-time assignment yet a healthy pipeline of works was assuring enough to go solo. The first 3 months sailed with the lined work and I was placed well to pay my bills and invest for the future business. But, then suddenly I realized my third challenge, “Competition”. With the advent of social media, every other DSLR owner was a professional photographer and everyone did weddings.
My first thought was I shouldn’t be worried because I was making an effort to stay out and be different. Then, I realized the quality standards suddenly dropped and it was turning out to be a price war between the amateurs and the pro’s, the clientele thinking that, they were the ones to gain out of this! Yes! They did save the money but what they got in return was way below the quality. It’s hard to grasp the fact “you get what you pay for”! I then decided to be obsessed with creation, something that hasn’t been done so far. With every new wedding, my focus turned towards extracting the couple’s story of their relationship and then portraying images that told their story. I started evolving as the couple’s best friend and changed their attitude about the photography vendor part. Most of my couples have given me their best portraits which I am proud to call as mine and there I was standing out against “competition”
Now, I usually work with couples and their parents who are my biggest challenges to overcome in the assignment. As the older generation considers photogs (for the matter of fact all wedding vendors) to be from the backwaters of society I have to take on the role of talking BOT. I respect my profession and I make every possible attempt to make others do too. At times, I sound a little arrogant about being an educated professional (sometimes more than clients) because the fact remains that every profession is equal on a social scale. I spend more time educating the clients and their families what makes us different and we deliver what we promise, being a business grad, customer service comes as an inherited skill-set and I like to flaunt my skills living up to the client’s expectations. There have been occasions where families have called me a true professional in terms of service, while other people think I’m just acting-up to be one. I truly believe that for work to turn out to a life-long memory it has to be a mutually beneficial deal. Although, it has been a huge change in the attitude over the past two years, it’s still too early to feel confident about this challenge.
I did mention the divide, I sometimes wonder am I on track? It is good to be a self critic, I have made it a point to chart my progress, compare my work and evaluate if I have leaned towards the talented lot or the desperate ones. I still read blogs and stream through video tutorials to improve my skill-set as an artist. For every assignment I do, I have my own competition and pick my best shot. I and my team do a critical review of each of our assignments and we pick our selections to display it to the world. I aim to be responsible to raise the standards of imagery not only for the client but also for the industry and I’ll continue my efforts to do so. Peer reviews and constructive criticisms are today’s tools to evolve and I’m blessed with an able commitment from my partners.
If you feel, that I have made a clear picture of what it takes to be a wedding photographer do share my story and I’ll ensure to write more about how to choose a wedding photographer and how to go about being a wedding photographer.