Monday, September 28, 2009
How to treat other photographers

2nd official photographer is probably an unheard term but when you’ve done it twice it ain’t so new. I began shooting weddings because of the first couple who hired me, they actually asked me to cover their wedding when I was still using a PNS camera. Even though I was touched, I declined as it wouldn’t be right. A year later armed with a DSLR I announced my intention to shoot and the couple insisted I become their 2nd official photographer.

The same thing happened recently when I was hired to shoot 1 week of wedding celebrations and to shoot the wedding as well eventhough they had hired another photographer team for the wedding earlier.

Back to the first wedding, when the other team met me at the wedding, the guy was cordially polite however the wife wasn’t that pleased with me being there. While the guy and I respected each others space, she made sure she would stand where ever I was. Weird but it was quite funny.

Having worked side by side with other race photographers, I was pretty surprised with her attitude. It came to a point where at the wedding dinner, insisting on standing right in front of me, I backed up to give her space only to get my hair caught in fire. For a moment I was a blaze and if it hadn’t been for a guest it would have been a serious incident.

Now I had met that particular guest in the morning ceremony while trying to shoot the décor. They naturally wanted a keepsake of the wedding and needed someone to shoot them and naturally I offered them my assistance. Favours sometimes get returned super fast. Now the good thing about that incident, every guest at the wedding warmed up to me, laughing away and gamely sent their children to be posed around the hall. And will always have this story to tell people ;p

Every other time that I have shot a friends or relatives wedding as a gift for them, I have been stared, glared and snickered off by the official Indian photographer. Funny though, I don’t see that at Chinese or Malay weddings. Sometimes I even get recognized ;)

Now I met the second wedding’s official photogs at the engagement. The moment I took out my camera, I got glared at, pretty scary I tell ya. So I sat at one spot and shot some photos without a flash and with the photographer team and videographer getting in the way. Like I always say if you get blocked use them as props.

So when I was asked to cover the wedding week, I mentioned the photographers reaction that day and my lovely clients made sure they informed the other team. When the wedding day arrived, they were pretty nice to my surprise even asking if I would give a lift for the videographer (nice Chinese guy by the way). End of the day we all want the best for the couple, so I had no problem doing it.

But it was a different story at the wedding, everytime I stood at a spot, someone would be hovering behind me and there were definitely some snide remarks. Anyway the most important moment arrives and one side of the family ends up standing on the little diaz, the videographer had to move I lost my spot and so I find another spot only to find one photog sitting right in front of the couple.

So now do I go complain they were getting in my way? Or do I find a way out?
Of course I found a way out. There I was kneeling and crouching and peeking through a little hole between the décor. Someone actually uploaded a shot of that on Facebook, pretty funny given I was in a silk saree doing a yoga pose.

Did I get my shots ? Of course. Was it an inconvenience? I believe inconveniences make you creative.

Now I got sent a link from a photographer’s blog complaining about wannabe photographers with their pns and handphone cameras disrupting their work. I don’t really get this.

Have these people seen how photo journalists work and how they cover high profile events? These photos should give you a hint. Do you have any idea how long these people wait to get that one photo opportunity?

Reuters photographer Abang Zainal who is a Malaysian, once narrated his experience shooting Benazir’s return to Pakistan. He waited 10 hours in the airport to get this amazing shot of her giving praise to god, that was the most viewed photograph for an hour, only to be replaced by a badly taken photo of her murder. These photographers should really read up on how photojournalists work in horrible conditions all over the world, most times in competition with about 20 30 photographers all looking for the same winning shot. You wanna hear the best thing about it, they usually end up as friends , looking at the guy sitting next to them as a friend and not a foe.

One of the best sports photo I’ve seen was done with every single photographer there in the frame, and that was a brilliant shot.

Weddings are about sharing a memory with your family and friends. The people on stage have probably known the couple since birth and were specifically asked to be on stage with them. Heck who gets to see a wedding live nowadays, most times the photographer and videographer are blocking the view. And trust me most guests won’t complaint because they understand you are doing your job.

So you’ve got some 10 enthusiastic photographers on stage with ya. You really don’t have a choice, it’s the age of digital revolution. The same technology that is a boon to so many photographers will of course have its side effects.

Why are you urging people to add you on Facebook, Twitter and read your blog? Simply because it connects people. Instant news and pictures are the core of today’s generation. These people want to share their joy immediately with everyone, gone are the days where cameras were a luxury, most families have more than one camera each now without counting the in built camera’s in their phones.

If they really get too much in your way, politely ask them to give you space, I’m sure they will oblige, sheepishly of course. Instead, writing a blog post criticizing them and rudely replying to them isn’t gonna win you any friends nor is it professional. No matter how good your photos are, its your people skills that win people over. Deleting all comments against you also doesn't mean everyone is in agreement with you.

No one is spending money having a wedding if all they want is you on stage. They might as well do a mock setting in a private studio of your choice.

Sadly I rarely hear this complains or such attitude to fellow photographers from other races. I watch top photogs like Ted Adnan, Louis Pang, Syahrin and Jenny Sun constantly encouraging other photogs and giving them tips on how to improve and politely replying to every single enquiry that comes their way.

Take a leaf from their books. Wedding Photography is about people, not you.

ps : as i will be travelling as of wednesday comments will be answered in due time.

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Dear Visithra,
My congrats for sharing ur experience, tips & thoughts, just could not stop till I completely read it.

Looking forward for more writeup,


Anonymous rgsilan said...
Halor! enna maa kannu saokiyammaa?

p/s : were u the wannabe oppps !!!sorry...photojournalist shooting the wedding at Putrajaya recently?

if yes.... love the way u were shooting yr self on the mirror :-)

:-) I do some research before I shoot !

neway, nice meeting you :-)


Blogger visithra said...
thanks lawrance ;)

rgsilan : aww a post for me

you really enjoy name calling people don't ya? well im sure my photos can speak for itself ;)

what to do women - we're vain creatures who love reflective surfaces, the idea by the way worked out awesome using my computer screen - when i get the time when i get back ill post that photo ;)

Anonymous rg said...
hello... orang bagi salam... jawab laa salam dulu.

M a guest at yr hse u know ... :-(


Blogger sriram said...
Thq very much for sharing ur wonderful experiences

Blogger RP Olie said...
dear visithra,

what got me interested in u was all the crap that was going on in a certain blog not worth mentioning here.i tot that u handled the whole situation & collected,witty too.

an internet search brought me to this site.what can i say that's not been said already?i have become a fan of your work & your wonderful personality(which is reflected in your writings & your outlook in life).the photos of children were simply magnificient.

i will certainly be visiting this site often.wish u nothing but all the best that life has to offer.take care.

Blogger visithra said...
sorry for the late reply everyone - just got back from my holiday and found time ;)

rg : salam is only returned based on the way you respond ;)

sriram : thanks ;)

rp : thanks - there's this tamil saying that literally means - just because someone is cursing or saying stuff about you - doesn't mean you have to go down to their level and communicate

glad you like my work - and my writings - will be writing more in the weeks to come now that im back ;) stay in touch ;)