Indian Wedding Photography: Mehndi Celebration


Thursday night’s mehndi ceremony, an Indian pre-wedding celebration, transformed Portslade Town Hall from utilitarian British public hall into a riotous Indian rainbow, and I was lucky enough to be there to capture the event for the Patel family.  Having been raised in a relatively staid German (Roman) Catholic tradition in the Midwestern US, the colourfulness of the traditional Indian dress, the reedy-ness of the music, the spiciness of the food and the intricacy of the henna designs were a treat for me, to experience.  Apparently, the darker the colour of the henna, the stronger the love between the couple and the better it bodes for the longevity of the marriage.

Not only was Mickey, the groom-to-be, treated to a surprise dance by his sister and brother – sister, brother and the rest of the assembled family were treated to a “Thriller” of a dance by Mickey and his two best friends (admittedly this part was rather less traditional).

By the end of the evening, I found myself holding my camera over a whirling crowd and dancing on a chair to infectious Bollywood beats.  And as I was leaving around 11:15pm, after drinks, dinner, speeches, performances, singing and dancing, an announcement was made:  “Everyone, the food is ready” – sustenance for guests to keep on dancing through the night.

Every time I shoot an event or a portrait session, I’d like to think that I learn something, whether it’s about the craft and/or profession of photography or it’s about people; last night gave me the gift of two lessons.  First, a purchasing opportunity, of which photography does seem to provide endlessly; after faffing around with my camera bag a lot, it’s clear that what I really need for photographing an event is one of those double camera harnesses or vests so that I can have both camera bodies conveniently attached to me and accessible at all times.

If any other photographer has any recommendations on the experiences of working with different kinds/brands of harnesses or vests, I’m all ears.  I’ve gotten a couple of recommendations for the Black Rapid system but wonder if I would be better off with a vest as it would have more places to store extra batteries, triggers and such things.  Plus, being a woman, I’m unsure how the harness/belt combo would work out if I were wearing a dress underneath. Lady photogs, how do you gear up for events?

Secondly, I was so caught up in practicing my newly learned trick of “dragging the shutter” with my shutter speed all slow at 1/60, I forgot how valuable it is to also shoot flash with shutter speed set much faster, near or at my camera’s flash sync speed of 1/250, in order to isolate subjects from a cluttered or otherwise unbeautiful background – sometimes “the cave” can be good!

Anyway, I had a blast and enjoyed not only meeting the guests but meeting and working with the videographer, Ioannis from ReelEmotion, who was a huge help to me when I had a “girly” moment with a stuck tripod. Thanks, Ioannis!

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