Independent visual storyteller, Nishant Ratnakar, talks to Annapurna College of Film and Media about his journey from photojournalist to embedded wedding photographer, and what it takes to capture life’s important moments.
What is the concept of ‘embedded wedding photography’? How does it work?
There are two kinds of photography – traditional and contemporary, which is also known by the highly-abused term, ‘candid’. Right now we are in an era where photography is democratic where everyone has a camera and everyone can take pictures. Earlier, photography had several barriers that a photographer needed to overcome.
I see photographs as stories. Every picture clicked, has a story to tell. Since I was into embedded journalism, that’s where the term ‘embedded photography’ came from. I interact with the couples well in advance, sometimes even six months. I meet them prior to the wedding and also mingle with their families so that they are comfortable with me and ensure I work like an insider during the wedding.
How comfortable are the couples you shoot with this concept?
I make sure I invest a lot of time in understanding the couple. When I get a query, I spend time with them and if we are in different geographies, then we use mediums like Google Hangouts, Skype, etc, and only after the initial interaction with the couple and getting comfortable with them, do I commit. If they do not like my style of working and if we do not gel well, I move on from the assignment.
How far do you see the concept of embedded wedding photography going?
Embedded Wedding Photography right now is huge! A lot of people enjoy the concept and most people want it. The concept of traditional photography is slowly fading out. It was all staged and you were asked to pose a hundred times over for the same shot. Right now, there are several additions being made to the whole concept too like wedding cinematography, post- and pre-wedding shoots more than the wedding itself.
In the West right now, there are new concepts emerging every day like photo shoots for ‘trash the gown’ and ‘morning after’. Though India is far from reaching there yet, I do notice a lot of couples here wanting to experiment.
How different is news photography from wedding photography?
The two are different only in terms of the area of operation. Earlier as a news photographer, the areas could include crime scene, war, etc. but in wedding photography it is marriage halls, beaches and the like.
Why did you move to wedding photography from news photography?
When I was in college, I didn’t even think of getting into photography. I was into writing back then. I realized my inclination towards photography only when working on travelogues. The amount you could show with a picture when compared to words was outstanding. That was when I decided to make the shift to photojournalism after my brief stint in the IT industry.
As a photojournalist, I realized that the photography industry is enormous and that I needn’t have to be working for a publication per se. And with the newspaper industry dying, with the supply of workers exceeding the demand in the industry, I didn’t see a point in continuing in the industry. There were assignments that were given and you would shoot it and come back. It wasn’t satisfying.
I figured if I moved to wedding photography, I could pick my assignments and have creative freedom.
What according to you are the three things an aspiring embedded wedding photographer needs to know?
Firstly, they need to love the craft.
Secondly, they need to be people-oriented because in a trade like wedding photography, you deal with people in large numbers and you need to be good with them.
Lastly and most importantly, they need to make sure they have entrepreneurial ability.
When you get into something like this, you are your own CEO, Editor and Chaiwala. You need to know how to run a business – what projects to take, what projects to refuse, time- management and a whole gamut of things that will enable you to run your business smoothly.