Sri Lankan wedding photography etiquette


Its Sri Lanka’s end of year wedding season — a dangerous time for the family photo person (the official photographer to family and friends). Polite requests of “you’ll bring your camera, no?” are invitations to enter a social minefield. However a grasp of Sri Lankan wedding photo etiquette will save you from stepping on something nasty.

This post offers some tips on handling typical wedding photo hazards such as professional wedding photographers, creating virtual couples, photographing women, and boob tops.

Professional wedding photographers

The basic rule is don’t get in their way. Irrespective of what you think of them, professional wedding photographers are a lot of money to be there — usually by one of the couple’s families. Let the families get their money’s worth.

Some (not all) Sri Lankan professional wedding photographers tend to think that the entire wedding should be choreographed for their convenience. This type takes over the wedding by rudely ordering people around and aiming flood lights into everyone’s retinas. It can add to layering of tension that can regrettably combust. Particularly if there are very very drunk people involved. There are two general rules to avoid worsening the tension.

  1. Don’t jump in-front of their cameras.
  2. Avoid using your flash if you are going to photograph a key moment like the registration or the poruwa ceremony. There’s a high chance you’ll over expose the official photos — and your own when everyone’s flashes go off.

Focus you’re snapping on the guests who have taken a lot of trouble to glam up for the event. Your unspectacular photos could be very meaningful to the people in them. Particularly if you capture rare gatherings of globally scattered friends and family.

Think of yourself as graphically documenting Sri Lankan social networks. Such activity automatically elevates your status within your immediate local network while making links with new nodes.

Your photos will be used as proposal photos for marriageable aged women. It is irrelevant whether you (or your subject) likes it or not. Women who are kited up in bridesmaid uniforms are particularly vulnerable to this fate. So be mindful about deleting pictures that make people look bad.

Avoid creating virtual couples

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A virtual couple is a terrifying monster created by a toxic mating of our gossipy culture with social networking sites (essentially facebook). The virtual couple is created by photo of a similar aged man and woman who are not a couple. They may even be total strangers who end up snapped side by side at that moment. They become a virtual couple if the photo would make a total stranger think that they are a couple. Its worse if the pair looks “hot”. Seemingly harmless photos of virtual couples can become catalysts for cesspit gossip on facebook.

At the extreme, the image may be read as “evidence” of some sort of ongoing , clandestine relationship.

Photographing women

There are many dangers in photographing women. The deadliest is making them “look” unflattering or worse fat. Your gender; camera skills or intentions won’t protect you. In the eyes of many women, unflattering photographs are a form of aggression. At best an underhanded insult. At the worst a declaration of war.

The best method to avoid triggering a war is to avoid taking photos that don’t invite unkind comparisons of the people in them. This is tough call in the heat of the moment when you are bombarded with “please take our photo” requests. Here two basic tips that will help.

Avoid unfortunate size comparisons

It’s a bad idea to photograph a petite woman with a largish one. Best to have three or more people in each photo. The group photo effect hopefully dissipates the potential for negative one to one comparisons.

Isolate fashion disasters

Wedding fashions are a complicated stressful business for women. Despite (and because of) lengthy consultations of HI! Magazines and relatives there’s always a tragic percentage who get their outfit “wrong”. I won’t try to define what “getting the outfit wrong” is. You’ll know it when you see it. Obviously try not to photograph these victims with those who have got it “right”. The worse thing you can do is photographing these poor souls next to the ultra fashionable. You’ll earn the wrath of both sides. If you must photograph fashion disasters on their own.

Have a boob tops policy

It’s a term coined by Mrs C to describe upper garments that reveal/emphasis/draw attention to a woman’s cleavage.

You are rolling the dice of fate with this kind of shot. It is the easiest way of getting branded as a perv, and your subject labelled a slut when the picture leaks into social media. I try to avoid taking such pictures or delete them if there’s a boob top in the picture.

If you got further tip please do post them on your blog or in the comment box below.

Yes yes, this one reads a quite jerkily as it was written mostly on a mobile phone where editing anything is a challenge. My apologies for the discomfort but I had to get this one out of my head.

14 comments

  1. Getting the correct lighting is a tricky thing in an artificially lit wedding hall.

    Recently I learnt that flashing towards the ceiling of the hall (rather than towards the person you are photographing) is a very good method to get natural lighting in your photos. So you are using reflected light.

    Anyway i’m still experimenting .. you also can try that and see.🙂

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    • 😀 I wrote about bounding the flash off the ceiling in the first draft then deleted it thinking I might have not remembered properly if it worked. Thank you for bring that up. I’ve managed to bounce the flash upwards by holding a piece of whitish card (the insides of the wedding invitation). Never been good at the reflected light thing myself…

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  2. Finding women who think they look good in pics is a challenge. Even when the pics are fine. I’ve evolved the response into “I’m a professional. This looks great. Stop fussing”🙂
    And “I look fat” is something I have heard more times than I can count. Sometimes I point out that I know what fat looks like, coz its like me. Bugs the heck outta me when women who would make broomsticks look thickish go “I look faaat”. Thats when one is forced to be rude.
    I recently came across one where a friend had used one of my pics as her profile pic, and there was one of her friends in the background, and the friend was saying to pls delete the pic. To which I responded that I was highly offended about the comments on my work. Honestly, the nerve! :o)

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  3. Awesome post Cerno. I think you’ve nailed the subject very well!🙂

    The first thing that happens when you upload any (not just wedding) pictures on social media is the constant cries of “ewwww! take this off” (usually restricted to the fairer sex, but I’ve seen exceptions). And most of the time the subject looks splendid in the picture (maybe it’s their way of getting our confirmation that they look great and there’s nothing to worry about). What a lot of people are too lazy to do is to pick out the pictures that they want to upload and discard the rest. And a bit of cropping and rotation can go a long way in making a good photo ‘great’.😀

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  4. Pericles:😆 that’s a great way to handle the “fat picture” situation. I wish I could get away with the “I’m a professional” route. I think that the politics of bitching also has a influence on whose posing with whom in Facebook pictures. Clearly needs more research to come up with a theory…🙂

    Chavie: Glad you liked the post😀 Sorry your comment got in the spam filter but I managed to clear it. I think most people think that cropping rotating pics is still a dark art wielded by people who have used photoshop for the last 100 years. But I think (or rather hope) that people will wise up.

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  5. Me-shak:🙂 Happy you found it helpful! Feel free to add any more tips.

    Aamina: Let me know how your first wedding shoot went. Is a professional gig?

    kc: That sounds about right – bet there will be more in the next 2-3 weeks🙂

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  6. You’re quite right about some of those Professional Wedding Photographers – the wedding being something for them to choreograph. Unfortunately there were two involved at mine – one from each side and they were fighting between themselves. I didn’t even get to eat my wedding lunch as I was carted off by one of them to shake hands with someone I didn’t know & for him to capture the momentous occassion. When I got back the plates were cleared. And, someone stole 400 pieces of wedding cake. My worst wedding ever, won’t be having another one again!

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    • That’s quite rough! Sorry you had to be dragged though all that. Unobtrusive wedding photography was the one thing I insisted on. Thankfully spousal unit backed me up 100% 😀

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