Richa Kashelkar on her journey as a wedding photographer – a free hearted talk.
We caught up with one of the best wedding photographers in India to get insights about what it takes to survive in the highly competitive industry and we were blown away by the straight and honest answers by Richa Kashelkar. Here are the incerpts of the chit-chat.
Gaurav : Tell us when were you bitten by the photography bug ? How did you start ? was getting into photography a conscious decision ?
Richa : Growing up, all we had were Kodak film cameras and kids weren’t really allowed to use them, so by and large, photography never entered my life until cellphones started having cameras. I was experimenting with my phone one dull afternoon in college, when I realised what a joy it is to compose images! I think I never stopped taking photos after that day. It’s quite remarkable how I remember the exact moment so well.
Getting into photography wasn’t a conscious decision initially, because I had studied to be an architect and that was something I loved doing too. I worked at a firm for about 8 months, before I realised I would probably have more fun doing photography full time. This was 6 years ago. I was just 23, living with my parents, and could afford to take a risky decision. If it hadn’t worked out, I would’ve gone back to being an architect. But it did happen to work out thanks to social media.
Gaurav : You are a very successful wedding photographer, what was it like shooting your first wedding ? How many wedding have you shot until now ?
Richa : I got to shoot my first wedding because a friend’s friend saw some photos I had uploaded on Facebook (standard novice photographer stuff- cats, dogs, wrinkly old people), and she thought I could be a good photographer for her wedding. By this time I had already quit my job and was quite clueless about what kind of photography I would want to do.
I initially turned down her request, but our mutual friend then convinced me to take up this offer and I did, with tremendous hesitation. I remember being a nervous wreck on my flight to the first wedding. All I could think was “What if I screw this up? They’re not getting married again!” But she ended up liking the pictures and it kind of snowballed from there with the help of Facebook and word of mouth. I’ve shot around 200 weddings till date.
Gaurav : Do you work with a team or do you work on your own ?
Richa : I work on my own, mainly because I intentionally wanted to keep the scale of my work small. I enjoy it best that way. Also because I don’t think I’d be able to work with so many people. So more of shooting, less of managing for me.
My husband quit his job a couple of years ago and joined me and it was probably the best thing that happened to the both of us! Now we can work, travel and vacation together.
Gaurav : Your photos have a very distinctive look, how would you describe your style ?
Richa : Thank you for saying so. I’ve never been asked this before, so it’s the first time I’m hunting for a word to use, but I would like to say ‘real’. A style is not something you can intentionally form, to the best of my knowledge. It’s a result of who you are as a person, that reflects in whatever work you produce. I have always shied away from gimmicks of any kind, and that automatically makes the photos look the way they do. As honest and real as I can make them, has been my sincere attempt.
Gaurav : How do you prepare yourself to shoot for a wedding ? do you visit the venue in prior, do you have prior discussions with your clients ? what is that one thing you look for when you walk into that wedding event ?
Richa : Sorry to disappoint you but I do none of these! Haha. The way I look at it is, that I am there to document what is happening, not to stage a shoot. So it honestly doesn’t make much of a difference to know beforehand what is happening. Of course we do reach some time prior to the shoot to make sure the lighting is proper (which is almost never the case, sadly!).
Gaurav : Many aspiring wedding photographers try very hard to develop and retain client, What would be your advice to them ?
Richa : Well, I’ve never really thought about this until now. Isn’t it a given that you will retain a client if your work and experience has been good? (And anyway, how does one retain a wedding client anyway ? It’s a one time affair, mostly! Haha)
Gaurav : Tell us about one project that you really loved shooting for and why ?
Richa : That’s an unfair question, because there are a couple of weddings which I could mention here. But since that will be too much, the most recent one would be a wedding from last December which was one of the most fun shoots we’ve had – Opal & Ollie
It consisted of 16 people, including the bride and groom, a villa in Goa, and absolutely, unbelievably fun people. The bride made cocktails for us at one point in the celebration, and by the end of the shoot, I was playing drunk twister with the family. You can figure the rest!
Gaurav : Our readers would like to know what gear you use ? and what would be your favorite lens to swear by ?
Richa : I currently use a Nikon D750, a Sigma 85 f/1.8 (the 1.4 was too heavy and not sharp enough at 1.4), Nikkor 50 f/1.8, Sigma 35 f/1.4, Sigma 24 f/1.4. I would like to mention here that there’s no specific reason for me choosing Nikon over other brands. I just happened to be recommended to buy Nikon by a friend when I was starting out, and since I’ve never had any reason to change, I’ve stuck to it.
My favourite lens would be the 35mm by far, though I’m also starting to love the 24mm nowadays.
Gaurav : What is the scenario in the wedding photography industry, It has been flooded with many upcoming photographers. How do you think this has affected the industry in terms of pricing and negotiating, was it easy earlier ?
Richa : To be very honest, I really do not have a clue about the market situation, either now or earlier. Yes, there are a lot more photographers now, but that it to be expected as cameras are becoming household devices instead of fancy items. But along with the change in market, there has been a change in me as a photographer as well, so I would not be able to say correctly if it has affected the pricing/negotiation or not.
Gaurav : Photography has become a good avenue for a part time income generation but there still has to be a sound business plan to make things happen. Did you also have a business plan when you started ? what tips would you give to contribute to the growing ecosystem ?
Richa : Like I mentioned earlier, I was 23 when I started out, and living with my parents, with no expenses of my own. It was very easy for me to make the jump without thinking about the ‘what if’s’. I am not a person to make business plans ahead of time and execute them, though that’s not a good thing really.
Gaurav : What would be the top 3 elements new photographers breaking into wedding photography should prioritize ?
Richa : 2 things- Taking good photos and understanding why you are taking the photos you are taking.
That was Richa Kashelkar giving the best of inputs on wedding photography. Visit Richa’s website for more wonderful pictures. Stay tuned for more compelling interviews of worldwide photographers and subscribe with us for the best in the photography world.