Clicked in style: Capital catches up with trend of pre-wedding shoots

Her dupatta soars in the gust of wind as she rests her back on a tree. Delighted, she lets it float and looks at her man walking down the alley amidst the seasonal bloom. He rushes as she closes in and then scoops her up in her arms. And there it is - a perfect shot.

The fan shuts down. Her dupatta drops down calmly. The couple blushes and the cameraman adds to his repertoire another shot of real life captured in a fairytale moment. The location this time was Lodi Garden and it wasn't a film shoot. It was rather a Delhi girl and a Bangalore boy going through their 'pre-wedding' shoot a week before their matrimony.

The trend of pre-wedding shoots has become a must-do ritual in any upscale wedding. And with marriage season resuming this month, couples are lining up for these fancy shoots, at least half a lakh fee notwithstanding.

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Many couples are hiring specialists to click them in styles ranging from Bollywood to Retro so that they have an album documenting their love in the most fascinating way. "Such couple shoots, in my opinion, make you fall in love all over again and reaffirm why you are marrying your better half," said Shilpi Rajan, one of the many who had opted for a pre-wedding shoot in the city before her wedding to Ashish Rajan in February this year.

Based in Melbourne as a risk manager with an insurance firm, 27-year-old Shilpi was born in the capital, just like her husband. The couple wanted both cities to be captured in their pre-wedding shoot. "We were both born and partly brought up in New Delhi. We decided to have a couple shoot in both cities because we call both these places home and they connect Ashish and me. We shot at Humayun's Tomb and Lodi Garden," said Shilpi, who had booked her photographer two years in advance.

With monuments, gardens, farmhouses and museums, the capital gives a variety of exciting backdrops for a pre-wedding shoot. Hence, the number of pre-wedding photographers has been increasing by the day, with even conventional photo studios offering packages for special couple portraits along with the wedding coverage.

Candid photographers charge anything between Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 1 lakh. But those new in the field usually settle for around Rs. 25,000.

"I had to do a lot of research to zero in on a good photographer. I found so many photographers who were charging exorbitantly. Such pictures are important and stay with you for life. One forgets the d├ęcor and food. But photographs are cherished forever," said 27-year-old Apeksha Sehgal from Noida.

Soumen Nath, who has been professionally doing wedding shoots since 2009, explains that the trend of pre-wedding shoots came from Europe where couples traditionally go for 'engagement shoots' before the wedding. These pictures are then used for wedding announcements or 'save the date'. "Such a trend started here around four-five years ago. But it has caught on rapidly over the last couple of years. In fact, not many photographers knew about it before that. But today most couples want to do it and they love to experiment with themes," said Nath.

Couples dressing up in Bollywood style with props like bicycle, bullock carts, vintage scooters, funky eye shades have started becoming common, with most shoots having separate make-up artistes and stylists in the crew. "I have had couples who save up outside their budget for such shoots. Then there are those who get pictures clicked while kissing but that's only for their private display," Nath said.

There's creativity galore in this fledgling industry but the capital poses a great challenge too, complain the photographers.

With no rule laid down for such shoots, photographers and couples are often removed from places of historical interest and even gardens and markets. Vinayak Das, who runs Photo Tantra, says the capital isn't an easy place to shoot even though the trend is growing.

"Places like Jamali Kamali, Rajaji ki Baoli, Lodi Garden early in the morning, the lights at Mahipalpur are perfect to shoot. But no authority in Delhi can define a pre-wedding shoot. So they club it with a commercial shoot for which the fee can be as high as Rs. 50,000," Das said. Photographers complain their shoots are disrupted while there have been cases in the past where some officials have demanded on-the-spot fee. "I was once shooting at Hauz Khas Village when a senior police officer sat me down and tried talking me out of it," Das said. "I have tried talking to officials in NDMC and Police Headquarters but nothing has changed," Nath added.

As a result, most couples are warned beforehand by their photographers. Often they have to be real quick with their shots to avoid getting noticed.

"It's something we haven't really taken up for discussion. Each agency gives permission for film shoots at their places. But if these are personal shoots, we can think about preparing a guideline for them. It can be also be a source of revenue for agencies," said a tourism official.

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