Cinematographer Rajesh Gupta’s journey is an impressive narrative about how wedding photography has become a lucrative profession in India
There was a time when Indian weddings were an intimate and traditional affair between families and well-wishers. Now, it has metamorphosed into a spectacular event where couples want grandeur and glitz, warmth and cuteness, all packaged into a digital format that they could always relive. They want memories of every aspect of the special day to be captured in a unique fashion, and showcased on social media platforms for the aww-factor.
And no one seems to be complaining, especially not the cinematographers who are enlisted especially for these services. In fact, over the past few years, a new segment of cinematographers have started concentrating on high-profile wedding portfolios.
One of them is Kolkata-based Rajesh Gupta, who started as a photographer before shifting to cinematography and now works exclusively on high-profile wedding shoots. We ask him about this burgeoning industry and also share his advice on how budding wedding cinematographers can get into this frame of growing action.
As a cinematographer, what value do you bring to a wedding shoot?
I can present the tacit emotions of all the people involved in the wedding on cinema. I started shooting for coffee table books, then slowly did videos and realised that if I can tell a story in 10 photos, why not do it in 10 or 30 frames. That’s how I started making 3- and 4-minute snack-bite films that can be watched repeatedly. Later, I moved to wedding shoots.
What kind of investment is needed to start out as a wedding cinematographer?
My suggestion to people starting out in this business is not to invest too much in the equipment initially, because technology keeps changing quickly. You can start with a Canon Cinema EOS camera, Cine Prime lens and Cine Zoom lens. Later, as you build up your body of work, add to your equipment, either by upgrading it or by buying it.
Even if you start with basic equipment, ensure that your work, your techniques and style should be good. And as you invest in equipment, also invest in understanding how to use it better. I can take great photos with my iPhone as I can with a DSLR and a layperson might not know the difference – especially if I were to post that photo on a social media platform.
I strongly recommend that people learn the process of using the dark room and the editing software in parallel. When I started out, we learnt the process of using film, which most youngsters don’t know, but it helps to learn.
What kind of equipment would you recommend for a beginner?
I would suggest that they invest in a good camera like Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. You can buy it or rent it out and then build your kit gradually with a good quality DSLR and a prime lens like a 50 mm or 50 mm 1.4 lens.
If you have a 50 mm and one 24/70 lens, you can cover most imagery in a wedding. Of course, you will also need a nice flash and speed lights. However, if you use good quality lenses, you would not need much light and can start shooting in low light too.
Besides equipment, what else do they need to do?
They should attend workshops and study the work of other people in this field. I am a big fan of Rob Adams, and find his work very inspiring, and always find something new to learn.
Also, one should understand that as a cinematographer, you have to grasp every aspect of the business – you have to understand sound, select the right songs, background scores, select photo montages and learn editing. Most importantly, you have to remember that you are a storyteller. So while you focus on the technological aspects, don’t forget that you are projecting human emotions.
Over the years, what are some important things that you learnt in the wedding cinematography business?
Firstly, I have realised that there are all types of clients – some who will go the extra mile to make your team and you comfortable, and then there are others who will try to extract more from you because they have paid you a certain amount. The best way to deal with the latter is have an ironclad contract where the deliverables are mentioned clearly.
Also, most people start clearing vendor payments a couple of months after the wedding, and the caterers and photographers are amongst the last to be paid. It is best, therefore, to take part of the payment in advance and outline the payment schedule in the contract to avoid any disappointment.
With so much buzz around pre-wedding and nuptials imagery, how do you manage to create an interesting storyline every time?
You have to remember that you are creating an experience rather than just documenting an occasion. You can’t have a template, therefore, for every wedding and just fill it with the images and video. Instead, you have to spend time to understand each of the people who will be part of the story and see how you can use their emotions to craft a memorable story.