Weddings are not magical affairs for just the bride and the groom, but also the guests. Much time and energy is invested in planning, personalising and executing weddings so it is only fair to have the day documented in order to be able to relive the precious moments.
Wedding photography is an important element of modern Indian weddings with families taking great interest in documenting the event. We spoke to two well-known Marwari wedding photographers—Akash Agarwal and Malvika Periwal—to find out what’s new in their business.
Mumbai-based Akash Agarwal describes weddings as an emotional-yet-fun experience with a lot of creative freedom. “At weddings, you get to showcase the story with authentic emotions,” he says.
Akash Agarwal and wife Ankita, who also is an experienced wedding photographer, founded WeddingNama in 2013 after the former quit his job in the finance sector. However, with no professional training, all of Akash Agarwal’s learnings came on the job.
Kolkata-based Malvika Periwal, known for her excellent photography skills, is a popular name in the Marwari community. She has studied in the United Kingdom and has trained under celebrity photographers Dabboo Ratnani and Rohan Shrestha in Mumbai before moving to Kolkata, where she set up her studio, Malvika Periwal Photography, in 2013. This was after realising that as a woman and an artist, she had a very different aesthetic, and time has proven her true. “We are a team of 15-20 people now, and we’ve done about 150 weddings all over the world since we started,” she says.
Photography came to Periwal as a medium of expressing herself despite her handicap (she is hearing impaired). Ever since, she has continued her education by doing specialised courses in wedding photography, lighting and studio photography. Just 20, when she had started, Periwal’s biggest challenge was to get families to trust her. They doubted her abilities not only as someone who is handicapped but also whether she would be able to compete in a male-dominated industry. “It took years of good work to win over my harshest sceptics, and I’m most grateful to those who at the beginning of my career had faith in my abilities,” she says looking back.
Love for weddings
For Agarwal, it is a pleasure to capture the grandeur of weddings, especially the stolen moments which make great memories. “We love how each wedding is unique. Even if the traditions and locations are the same, the photos are different, because people react differently,” he says. Calling his work ‘contemporary photojournalism’ and ‘creative portraiture’ he adds, “We highlight the tiny moments and strive for quality with ample time for post-production.”
Periwal’s team, on the other hand, comprises candid and traditional photographers and videographers, the core principles of the team being promptness, approachability and unobtrusiveness. The team also provides fun services, such as lip dub videos, slow motion photo booths and same-day edits. They love elaborate set-ups. “It’s not about what the families spend on but the passion with which they do it all,” Periwal says. Also, the couples’ involvement in every little detail from custom hashtags to personalised vows makes for great stories, she feels. The team thus loves Marwari wedding rituals that have special roles for every member of the two families, and all the modern-day inclusions that ensure a fun time for the couple and their friends.
The year 2020, however, has seen a lot of intimate weddings, highlighting the couples’ chemistry and both Agarwal and Periwal enjoyed working on them.
Malvika Periwal of Malvika Periwal Photography
Coming to trends, new-age photography and shorter takes seem to be gaining ground. “Instead of long videos, the films are short and crisp and more importance is given to the quality of photos,” explains Agarwal.
According to Periwal, people today are involved in all aspects of their wedding, not only photography. “They want to weave a story out of the special moments which is why teams like ours are now in demand,” she says.
Pre-wedding shoots, drone photography and slow-motion edits are some of the other things that people demand these days. Wedding teasers with pre-selected songs have also become the norm. Keeping all this in mind, it is safe to say that the candid photography market has grown immensely.
Given the ongoing lockdown, weddings have shrunk in size leading to people choosing luxurious experiences for their guests. The demand for photographers, however, remains intact.
“Photographers have assumed more importance now because photographs and videos are the only way of preserving your memories and sharing them with people who could not be physically present,” states Agarwal.
People’s spending patterns have changed too, resulting in weddings becoming lowkey, both in terms of the number of events and guests. This has led to photographers shooting with smaller teams to minimise risks. Thus, Periwal now works with smaller teams of local photographers to make their packages more attractive. But the basic need for photographers’ to document the wedding celebrations remains unchanged. “People still want the best teams and all the paraphernalia we offer,” says Periwal.
Akash Agarwal of WeddingNama
Future of wedding photography
With clients being open to experimenting, Periwal is optimistic about the future of wedding photography. “Clients are willing to invest in good photographers which helps us push the envelope, take bigger risks and create better work,” she shares.
People are also becoming more aware of the effort and skills involved; and Periwal has learnt that good photography has become non-negotiable, which she feels is very heartening for the industry.
For Agarwal and WeddingNama, their calendar is already blocked with upcoming weddings in Umaid Bhavan Palace in Jodhpur, The Leela in Udaipur and The Taj Lands’ End in Mumbai. And, even though the celebrations have been limited to just two days, instead of three, by the second half of 2021 the big fat Indian weddings should be back at being its true self, feels Agarwal.