It can be a challenge to capture the romance, luxury and majesty present at weddings, where an eye for detail and adaptability is key. Sanjay Jogia is experienced within this, creating cinematic shots of couples on their big day. Using light to shape images, we had the opportunity to speak to Sanjay about his journey through photography and how to get 'the shot'.
Sanjay, you're one of the world's most renowned wedding photographers. How did your love for image creation start?
It began when I was 8 years old growing up in a house that was dominated by Kodak because my father worked at the local Kodak factory for 35 years (as did I during my summers at university). The influence was huge, and I was one of those kids who wanted to know how everything worked (I still am I suppose... a big kid too). So, I took his camera and started to play with photography.
How would you describe your photographic style?
I like to think of myself as a creative geek! I love technology and knowing how to make things work... and work for me! But at the same time, I thrive on creative and practical challenges at the lavish high-pressured Indian weddings that I photograph. My photographic style is a balance of a documentary approach and fashion and movie inspired portraits for my wedding clients.
As well as being a renowned photographer, you're a qualified architect. How does this affect the shoots that you do?
I spent 9 years training to be an architect and practised for many years before turning my hobby into a full-time profession. It's an interesting question and one that many of my clients ask me too; I believe that both architecture and photography share many traits. For example, both are concerned with light, composition, space, surface, aesthetics, concept, colour psychology and evoking mood and emotions.
I use my understanding of all of these to augment my approach and my images. An extra bonus for me is that my architectural education included lighting engineering, which has obvious benefits. So as an approach, I deal with the technical aspects first so that I can explore creativity freely.
With creativity comes an end concept. What do you aim to capture within an image?
I always aim to create a balance of emotion, a strong and unique concept and a faultless technical approach. For me, these things make up the essential elements of an image in the same way that aperture, shutter speed and ISO make up the exposure triangle. The synergy of all these things is unquantifiable, but it's visible.
Planning is key to wedding shooting. How do you form creative concepts with the clients that you work with?
Many of my images are inspired by my clients, mainly through observation of their behaviour and their personalities, but they are also inspired by art, architecture, movies and fashion. For example, I'm always picking apart scenes from movies to see how they're lit. I guess that's why many of my images have a cinematic feel to them.
What are the most important things to take into consideration when forming a creative concept?
It's important not to forget the other 2 of the 3 elements that make up a great image; emotion and technical approach. The emotion connects people to the image through feeling, whereas the technical approach not only makes the believable but contributes to the visual and emotional impact of the image.
It's also important to not allow the concept to control you. You should allow the concept to evolve into other ideas because quite often, the first idea leads to better ones.
You're a passionate light shaper and creator. How do lighting setups help you achieve the final image?
Quite often my concepts involve the shape of light by drawing the viewers eyes to a part of an image or away from another. Lighting allows me to create a dynamic contrast in the image that contributes to a large part of the impact and narrative of the image.
I also love challenges and quite often they centre around lighting a large scene in a seemingly effortless and seamless way that looks natural without the viewer knowing how difficult it actually was.
How did you achieve this stylish shot of a newly engaged couple?
This image was from the couple's engagement shoot in London's Hyde Park. They wanted an image that embodied their love, their cool demeanour, their style and their lifestyle which was achieved through the way I posed them alongside his car in an area of London in which they lived. The emotion is embodied in their pose and expressions, enhanced with lighting.
I had moments to set this image up because of the extremely tight security in London. I used 3 lights to create this image: 1 gridded flash to the left of the camera in front of the car set low down to light the groom's Aston Martin and provide a rim light for the bride, one bare bulb flash to the right of the camera at a high angle to light the rear of the car and provide a rim light to the groom, and finally, a quarter CTO gelled light on the couple to give them a warm, comforting tone. I had to slightly underexpose for the failing light of the sky by stopping down and also having the camera at its sync speed with the lowest possible ISO. The small aperture had the added effect of creating starbursts from the light reflecting off the car.
Could you talk us through an example of the techniques you use in wedding shoots?
This portrait of a couple on their wedding day at their wedding venue was created within a very short window of opportunity, which is very common with Indian weddings.
I helped them up onto the ledge, which was 1.5m off the ground and posed them in a way that embodied their bond and showcased their beautiful attire. I used 2 Profoto B1 heads, both to camera right. One of them was on a very tall stand, modified by a shoot-through umbrella to fill the scene with soft light to create a base for the exposure. The second light was modified by a gridded Profoto Zoom Reflector (zoomed in) to accentuate the couple and draw focus to them. I shot this handheld from approximately 12m away through a 70-200 lens to correct the perspective and parallax as much as possible.
What is crucial to photographing a wedding and capturing those special moments?
There are many factors. Creativity, patience, vision and an understanding of storytelling are the 4 fundamental requirements, and it goes without saying that knowing the ceremony is utterly essential. Assuming these are a given, a solid technical understanding of your equipment is vital. Knowing what settings to use and how to customise your equipment for light to your advantage in difficult situations will give you an advantage.
What are your top tips for wedding photography?
1. To find and develop your own style by using your own experiences, your own personality and understanding your own tastes.
2. Be original - being definitive is a far more sustainable and noble approach to any business than being derivative and replicating work done by others. Afterall, we are meant to be creative, and replication is the antithesis of this.
3. Value yourself, your work, your business and your industry. Understand your worth and the value of what you do for people because it affects their lives and the lives of their friends and family. Do whatever you can to protect our incredible industry.