An Indian Wedding – one body, one lens, no flash pictures By Arindam Pal

An Indian Wedding – one body, one lens, no flash pictures

By Arindam Pal

Hi Brandon and Steve,

How have you been doing? I have been quite busy settling down in a city in my home country for a while. Fortunately, I found some respite from the humdrum when I attended one of my brother-in-law’s wedding in New Delhi. Then I thought, why not take this golden opportunity and challenge myself to a strict rule – shoot the wedding with one body, one lens and no flash. Wedding photography without artificial light – was it even possible? Wedding photography in India is yet to take off for the masses – barring a few, most of the photographers are underpaid for the amount of effort they put in and the shots are mostly about the thousand or so people who attend, the various religious ceremonies and so on. No emphasis on smaller stories and the quintessential mood of a vibrant Indian wedding. But they do carry strobes and monos that I could leverage if I position myself correctly. Instead of trying to shoot what they would capture, I chose to pursue a different PoV. So, out came the trusty Fuji X-E2 and the outstanding 35 mm f/1.4. Many folks complain about missed focus on the X bodies. Even when shooting at night at higher than average ISOs, I never had a problem. I left the OM-D E-M1 back home because I knew I needed the Fuji’s insane sensor to allow for 99% night shots. The E-M1 is great but I wanted to minimize noise as much as possible. Ever since I heard about the Sony A7S, I have been waiting for your detailed review to come out. Maybe, that has the prowess to fill every gap that I find lacking. Here are some of the stories that I wanted to highlight:

1. The groom was sweating profusely in the intense Delhi summer. The photographer wanted a picture of the two brothers without the sweat showing up – so, the groom’s brother (my other brother-in-law) quickly takes out his own kerchief and wipes the sweat off his brother’s face. I thought this would be the best position for me to show the real camaraderie between two brothers. It was a challenging shot because I was looking straight at the bright light on the left. But the ISO 2500 DR from the X-E2 was good enough to retain some details even in harsh lighting conditions. EXIF: f/1.8 1/500 @ISO 2500


2. Leading lines and symmetric split? And I knew no one was going to shoot the decor, the thousands of dollars’ worth of real flowers. I could have shot at a smaller aperture but the idea of one rose bouquet fading into another was just appealing. EXIF: f/2.8 1/420 @ISO 2000


3. The bride and groom’s first dance together. I would normally focus on the couple as they venture into a new life together. However, the story here is not about the couple alone but on all the others around, showering blessings and cheering for them. So, I chose it be out of focus – critics will surely disagree. EXIF: f/1.4 1/420 @ISO 800


4. An archetypal wedding portrait. My sister in law was all decked up and I wanted to see how well the 35 mm would hold up in the ambient magenta cast light. I opened up the door just a wee little bit to let the natural outdoor light seep through. At ISO 1600, there was hardly any noise creep. EXIF: f/2 1/70 @ISO 1600 EV -0.7


5. And what Indian wedding is complete without showing some application of Henna tattoo? I got a small one made for meJ. This one shows one of my sisters-in-law waiting patiently as the Henna dries out and becomes permanent for a week or so. In the intense heat, 30 minutes was enough. EXIF: f/2 1/45 @ISO 2500


6. The final one tells the story of the bride leaving her parents’ home to be with her partner for life. While everyone was focused on her, I was thinking of how my bro-in-law was feeling. He surely did not know how to react to his newly wed wife all in tears in her mother’s arms. A pinkish magenta light distorts the WB but according to me, the vivid color shows nothing but the confusion in his eyes! EXIF: f/1.8 1/70 @ISO 800


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  1. Is it just me? The unsharp areas (or bokeh) dont look very nice. I spot this first on a fuji x100 camera. Maybe it’s the chip? For example Picture 5: It nearly hurts in my Eyes when i look on the face of the woman.

  2. Have to agree with Dave, the comments with each photo seem an afterthought rather than a “previsualisation”.

    Some critiques that might be worth considering, if everyone says the photos are all fantastic then you have no feedback to help your work improve so please don’t take these comments the wrong way.

    Photo 1. No emotion or eye contact, everyone looks bored, harsh lighting, the structure in the roof seems a distraction as is the half head on the left and the boy on the right.
    Photo 2. The Roses being in black and white don’t seem like a correct decision to me and the central composition of the bunch of roses doesn’t do it for me. I also would have shot this with a bit more depth of field. At a guess I’d guess the shot was a bit overexposed so changed to B&W.
    3. Any shots with guests reactions should at least include some guests expressions, or if just showing hands, there should be more than two hands to show the energy of the moment. The hand on the left is also cropped very tightly to the top of the photo. There seems to be a bag or something on the bottom left that is distracting from the shot. Maybe a tighter crop to take this out?
    4. The pose is very masculine, not helped by the hand on the hip being in a spread out manner. Lighting is harsh on the brides face giving a shiny face, her nose is breaking the line of the face on the far side and she is very close to the background so no separation of the subject from the unbalanced background. Your flickr stream shows the same pose with a different subject so it wasn’t just a grab shot, and your flickr natural light set show (IMHO) you need to study posing/ composition to improve these shots.
    5. The photo looks to me to be crying out for symmetry and balance, everything is just a bit off center (eg the knees at different heights, the cropping leaving more space on one side and a tight crop above the girls head) or lopsided and the fingers are out of focus and could have been be tilted down more to show the detail of the henna tattoos. Eye contact with the camera would have added a lot to the shot and the two gents in the background don’t add anything for me.
    6. We are looking into the groom’s ear as he waits for the bride. I don’t see emotion in the shot I’m afraid, and I would have cropped the right hand side of the shot a bit tighter (to get rid of everything to the right of the grooms back). Your comments talk about the confusion in the grooms eyes but we don’t see anyone’s eyes in almost all of the shots including this one.

    I hope you don’t take these comments the wrong way, I just see mostly gushing complements for everything posted on this site and if it was me I would prefer some feedback. I realise you weren’t the main photographer here but that frees you up to become more creative. You can’t beat good composition and lighting and it’s not the best set of shots from an Indian wedding that I’ve seen. Just my two cents. My overriding feeling is that the photos got to be posted here just because a. they were from an Indian wedding and b. shot with just one lens…

    • Thank you so much. I get inspired by many a photographers on Steve’s blog every day. Probably the best 30 minutes of my web surfing activities 🙂

  3. Indeed these are beautiful photos, particularly the henna hands. Sharply focused hands with a nicely defocused background. Thank you for not overprocessing such a nice photograph.

    • Thanks Ivan – just colored lights around the meadows where the wedding took place. This was around 4 in the morning, bright magenta, red and blue lights were all around

    • Thanks Lex – so is yours. Your work on boudoir is great, but so is your street. If you can do this with a D3100 and a kit zoom, then you can work wonders with a pro body

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