Samira’s Wedding

Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Samira, a photographer friend of mine, got married a while back. As weddings go, it was as fun as it gets—even though I did remember everything the day after, something that indicates that I did not party to the maximum of my abilities.

Apart from the invitees, there was also a wedding photographer mixing with everyone celebrating. The skills necessary for being a wedding photographer are much described in books and photo articles. There it is possible to read all about the need for fast lenses, flashes, extra batteries, contractual matters, and avoiding formatting memory cards with wedding photos on them. The one thing these books and articles rarely talk about is what really happens at weddings. Given that I was in a relatively proper state all through Samira’s wedding, I was able to observe what a wedding photographer really goes through.

Moving around at a wedding trying to capture its atmosphere through the lens is not necessarily a piece of (wedding) cake. The photographer will most likely be approached by the photography nerd among the invitees. This is the guy who instead of partying keeps bugging the wedding photographer with questions about his or her equipment. All these questions are then followed up with why this equipment is used. And would it not it be better to switch to another brand? Once these questions have been discussed, there are questions about the photographic techniques used, followed by suggestions on alternative techniques. Here, it is important for the wedding photographer to show self-restraint and stay focused. Do not acquiesce to the nerd’s suggestions of alternative techniques, e.g. by inventing a different flash technique whereby the flash is set to maximum and then fired off at a close distance to the nerd’s face, in order to blind him for the rest of the evening. Be nice.

Once the nerd has been dealt with, there are the happy guests who keep dancing. They will bounce into anything with a happy smile, not caring whether they knock down a flower pot or grandma. They care even less if they accidentally knock down the photographer in their partying. As a photographer,just pretend that you are in the middle of a political riot minus the tear gas and remain alert. And if tear gas actually does get shot through the windows by riot police, then the party has really gone overboard, which is a sign that people are really, really partying. Just keep photographing.

If there is no tear gas and the guests all remain at one and the same location, the wedding photographer shall also have to deal with the happy amateur photographers among the guests. These people have all brought their own cameras and they are mostly in the way, taking their own pictures of the bride and groom, the wild dancing, and themselves.Amateur photographers can be just as difficult to deal with as the nerd. Try telling them that the riot police are waiting outside and hope they will go and check that out.

Worse than these people are often the ones who paid the wedding photographer. They will keep an eye on the photographer, making sure he or she is doing the job instead of getting refreshments at the bar. This is why these people hang out at the bar so much during the wedding.

At Samira’s wedding, there was, of course, the added pressure of photographing the wedding of a photographer. I can only imagine the stress Samira must have put on the photographer already long before the wedding itself. What photographer wants to negotiate and work for another photographer? It takes one to know one, and this is often enough.The worst people are however not at the wedding. These are the serious photographic artists who spend their time using the camera for artistic use and whose results are shown at art galleries. To them, wedding photographers are nothing but fat rats on the backyard of the art of photography.

But these ‘artists’ are just jealous that wedding photographers make money just by shooting what they and everyone actually sees.

Was observing the wedding photographer the only thing I did at Samira’s wedding? Of course not (even though I was clearly the nerd mentioned above). I also ate, danced, and did my best to cause a gentle riot. The wedding party was actually so great that I suggested to Samira that she does this more often.

Tags: better photography, Gabriel Fuchs, Samira Pillai, December 2011