What makes your style of photography unique among wedding photographers?
Better Photography: Photographer of the Year, 2010
Firstly, my style of working is to keep things as natural as possible. I tried black and white photography, but I realized shooting in colour works for me best. This is because Indian weddings are so colourful, that you do not any extra editing to make the pictures look vibrant. Secondly, I am more focused on capturing the reality of a moment as opposed to its grandeur. My pitch to clients, in fact, is, “you get exactly what you see.”
My background in street photography and fashion photography taught me very different styles of photography. I like to combine both of them in my wedding photography so that I can get natural pictures, but also well-shot images. I believe that presentation of images is as important as the process of taking them. One can be either be an arrogant artist and believe that their style of working is the best and then refuse to adapt. My approach, on the other hand, is to use my own style but in a way that a vast number of people can understand.
Keeping the human element alive is crucial for me. This is why I make sure I personally meet each client before bringing them on board. It is their wedding, after all, and they have to be in sync with my vision. I certainly cater to my client’s needs, but I am not somebody who can be told to imitate. I have spent hours of my time and hordes of my money on developing my skills as a photographer. This is why there has to be an understanding between me and the client so that both of us feel respected in the equation. My meetings with clients always go on for an hour or two. I tell them to pick any wedding from my portfolio, and then they have to go through all 700 to 1000 images from that wedding. If I wanted, I could show them the typical wedding canopy shots, the romantic couple shots, and be done with it. Everybody puts up their best work on Instagram, but the human elements are what stay in the album. The image of an uncle crying in the corner, or a bride laughing with her friends, are the moments I want to capture for my client.
Over the years, your spouse joined you in this business and your team has grown substantially. Please take us through how your working style and business evolved. What have been the lessons, learnings and challenges along the way?
When I started doing wedding photography, I was not charging as much as I should have been. I was barely doing 4-5 weddings in a year as opposed to now when I do nearly 25-30. I am not only a self-taught photographer; I am also a self-taught businessman. When I started to turn my photography into a business, I was utterly lost. This is why my business model has always been honesty.
“I found that going to bed with a clear conscience is the ultimate driver of productivity.”
When I started off, I used to take my dad with me to weddings. He would take care of the equipment, while I shot the wedding. Slowly my team grew. Rishika, my spouse, came on board when I met her at an institute where I was giving a lecture. Up until this point, I did not consider myself to be a businessman. If anybody asked me about the “photography business,” I retorted by claiming that photography is an art, not a business.
One day, I met a gentleman from the business who told Rishika and me that we are greatly skilled photographers but bad at business. He also added that he was an average photographer, but a great businessman. Then he went on to ask me, “Who do you think will survive?” I was furious at his statement and I remember ranting to Rishika about it. However, within a year or two, I realized the relevance of his statement.
At this point, I thought to myself, “Why can’t I be a good photographer AND a good businessman?” After this, I changed my entire business model.
The first thing I did was outsource a lot of work. I hired an editing team and slowly started developing a back-office team as well. This may seem fairly run-of-the-mill; however, it was a big deal for me since I have grown up around the mentality of hoarding wealth for one’s own needs. However, I realized that in my case, outsourcing my work and bringing more people on board will actually help me expand my business. It is impossible to do everything on your own. Having a team helps you achieve a lot more work in a lot less time.
Another thing that has become a crucial part of my business over the years is to not overstep on anyone’s work. I have a separate team of editors, cinematographers, videographers, etc. and I never ask one team to do the work of another team. It is important to keep people in their own space because if you ask people to do multiple things they will mess up. My business model is basically sharing profit to increase profit. By helping each other grow, we help ourselves grow.