Indian Wedding Photography: Understanding The Art & The Market
Indian wedding photography can feel like stepping into uncharted territory for many wedding photographers – especially if this is your first time photographing one. There is no doubt that they are different from what you may be used to, and the coverage goes way past the usual 9-hours duration (as in the US). We understand how it may come as a challenge and surely takes some getting used to. But all in all, it is a booming industry with a lot of weddings based around grand venues, mega budgets, and an endless scope for creativity. In this blog, we will take you through the process of capturing the essence of Indian weddings and how to photograph them. So let’s begin!

Why Shoot Indian Weddings?

Bride and groom dressed in traditional Indian wedding clothes posing on top of a cliff
Image Credit of ShootDotEdit Customer @hummelphoto

Before you decide on learning more about Indian weddings, pause for a moment and ask yourself, “Why do I want to shoot Indian weddings?” What is your purpose? Is it because of the market, or the grandiose and beauty, or both? Some photographers might consider stepping into this market because they see the package price is usually very high, but you need to understand that that makes the production cost high too. Here’s one reason we can give you: As of 2020, “Indian Americans make up 1.2% of the US population.” Making approximately 3.1 million people, and a huge market for your wedding photography business. 

Suggested Read: Going Against The Grain In Wedding Photography

What You Need To Know About Indian Weddings 

1. Types of Indian Weddings

Never assume that all kinds of Indian weddings will be the same. They have different traditions as per different religions. Hindu weddings, Punjabi/Sikh weddings, Muslim weddings, Buddhist weddings – they are all different, and they can all come under the umbrella of Indian weddings. Ask your clients about what type of wedding they are having and if you are not familiar with it, request that they explain the cultural nuances to you. In this case, the more you know, the better. Their explanation could also help you identify key moments that you can’t afford to miss.

2. Pre-Wedding Events are Key

Indian couples posing in a pre-wedding event while holding wine
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @davidnsachs

Indian wedding photography is not just about taking photos on the wedding day. It often includes covering a lot of pre-wedding events. While there are several types of pre-wedding events, the most common ones are:

  • Mehndi (approx. 3-4 hours): Mehndi is a fun pre-wedding event that often takes place at home. In this event, the bride and guests sit down together while getting beautiful henna designs on their hands and feet. 
  • Sangeet (approx. 4-5 hours): Sangeet is like a mini reception that takes place a night before the wedding. It can be held at home or at a separate venue. Just as an American reception – it includes singing, dancing and might even have special performances by the bride and groom and their families.
  • Haldi (approx. 2-3 hours): Haldi takes place at both bride and groom’s homes – separately. In this event, family members and guests apply a turmeric paste on the couple’s faces and hands. And soon enough, you will find that everybody’s covered in yellow turmeric paste. 
  • Puja (approx. 2-3 hours): This is another pre-wedding event that takes place at home, where family members and guests get together to pray for the prosperity of the couple.

Suggested Read: How To Market & Sell Your Pre-wedding Photo Shoot Packages

3. Different Timelines & Key Differences

Mid angle shot of an Indian bride getting ready and wearing earrings in front of a window
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @iqphoto

When it comes to Indian wedding photography, the timeline varies vastly. Average coverage of an Indian wedding can be anywhere from 15 to 24 hours. The reason being that there are so many things taking place, and they all take time. Here’s a sample breakdown of the wedding day timeline:

  • Getting Ready (approx. 3 hours): This is when you can capture some beautiful detail shots of the bride getting ready, putting on jewelry, and getting her hair and makeup done. It is all a pretty process but could also stretch beyond the given time.
  • Barrat (approx. 1 hour): Barrat is the groom making an entrance at the wedding venue – sometimes via a car, or elephants, or horses. It is usually a crowded scenario where the groom’s family is dancing as the bride’s family welcomes them.
  • Mandap (approx. 1-2 hours): Mandap is a part of the Hindu ceremony where the bride and groom usually sit at a mandap with a priest that performs all the holy rites and rituals. Note that when you are shooting at the mandap, take off your shoes as you cannot wear shoes inside.

Tips To Keep In Mind For Indian Wedding Photography

1. Make Use of Artificial Lighting

Portrait of an Indian couple seating with bokeh effect on the side
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @jorgesantiagophoto

It’s possible that while documenting an Indian wedding, you could find yourself shooting in the bright midday sun for long hours. And under that harsh lighting, artificial lighting setups could be your savior. Work both with off- and on-camera flash – whatever suits you best at the time. 

2. Family & Guest Photos Are A Must 

Yes, weddings are all about the bride and groom, but photographing the guests at an Indian wedding is equally important. Family and guest photos are given a lot of importance at Indian weddings. They are also something that makes the parents happy. At most Indian weddings, each guest expects to get a photograph with the couple.

Also, ask your couples for any specific big group shots to add to the shot list. If yes, then ask them how many people the picture would include and build your timeline accordingly because it may look like a five-minute job, but in reality, it could take a lot of time to arrange and wait for 50-70 people to pose.

3. Remember: The Parents Are Your Clients Too

In most Indian weddings, parents are very closely involved in the wedding planning process. In fact, most of the time, they play a huge role in paying for the wedding. So keep in mind that you don’t only have to live up to the couple’s expectations but also the parents’ expectations.

4. Get Your Team Onboard

Indian weddings go on for days and could get exhausting, and they are rarely a one-person job. Depending on the number of guests, it is better to bring in some extra helping hands. Sometimes, the guest list goes up to 900 people. However, it usually circles around 200 – 600 guests, which is still a lot of guests. So carefully assess how many team members you are going to need. You can opt to hire an assistant, second shooters, third shooters – the more extensive the guest list, the bigger team you will need.

5. Manage Client Expectations

Talk about the timeline, the services, the payment process upfront, and manage your client’s expectations accordingly. If they want to know more about your pricing policy, let them know that you are charging by the hour. Most of the time, the coverage extends, so include an overtime clause in your contract. Moreover, clearly state your deliverables to avoid any confusion later.

Suggested Read: How To Handle Unrealistic Wedding Photography Clients

Customize Your Package as Per Client Expectations

Close up portrait of an Indian couple smiling and cheering after getting married
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @davidnsachs

Before telling your clients about a fixed package – get to know more about them and their wedding. Mainly because – as mentioned earlier – every Indian wedding can be different. So ask them essential questions like what type of ceremony they are having, where it is taking place, and what the guest count is. Moreover, it is also important to discuss the number of events happening and how many hours of coverage they are expecting. Try to get these client expectations straight from the very start. Then, customize your package around those expectations. Mostly giving an all-inclusive package works well in the Indian wedding market. When in doubt, do not hesitate to ask questions. 

If you are wondering what all an Indian wedding photography package should cover, here’s a sample breakdown for you:

  • Engagement Session: More often than not, engagement sessions are included in the package and usually take 3-4 hours of coverage and can involve multiple locations.
  • Pre-Wedding Events Coverage: Pre-wedding events can differ from wedding to wedding. The most common ones include Mehndi, Sangeet, Haldi, and Puja. 
  • Wedding Coverage: This includes all the coverage of all the wedding day events such as Barat, Ceremony, Reception, etc., and its coverage might extend from anywhere between 15-24 hours.
  • Large Album & Parent Albums: The albums usually go beyond the normal album size and might go beyond 150 images. Additionally, most of the time, parent albums are also included in the package.
  • 2000 – 4000 Images: The production is huge and often includes A LOT of images.
  • Additional Elements: You can add in other optional elements such as prints, thank you cards, etc. as well.

Bonus Tip: Photograph Every Moment

Bride and groom dressed in traditional Indian wedding clothing posing for the camera as they hug and kiss each other
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @jorgesantiagophoto

Now that you have a better understanding of Indian wedding photography, you might be wondering whether it’s actually your cup of tea or not. And if you are asking yourself how to go about it in the simplest way possible? The answer is to photograph everything and every moment. Whether or not you know enough about it, if something is happening, photograph it. If there are new faces, photograph them. If there are unique decor elements and a beautiful setup, photograph it. And little by little, weddings after weddings, you will find your way around Indian weddings and become a pro.

At ShootDotEdit, we love bringing you resourceful tips that help you stand out as a wedding photographer and make your wedding photography business grow. Another way we can help you is by reducing your post-production workflow with our photo editing services. You can learn more here.

1 comment

  • Vikrant Thakur

    Brilliant article, thanks for sharing the photography tips for capturing the incredible moments.

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