(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) She leans forward and whispers something into his ear; there is a sense of slight hesitation before the amusement on his face wears off with a thin smile and he whispers back.
Seconds later, the couple bursts into fits of laughter, giggling and unfazed by the ceremonial vibe and the continual blinking of the flashlights that threaten to disturb that moment after their private joke.
This moment may have been lost to those sitting in the comforts of the celebratory gathering, but not to the lens, which seizes it with perfection. Not today, but someday soon, this picture will bring a wave of fond memories to the couple: Of a laugh shared, but later forgotten in the hubbub of their wedding.
As for the joke, it will stay on, thanks to the photographer, who chose to weave this frame into the reel that was spun to make this day a memorable one. It comes as no surprise then, why these new breed of lensmen are grabbing eyeballs in the sultanate. Breaking away from the traditional norms of wedding photography, which expects the typical pose and poise of its subjects, these photographers are now exploring with unconventional narratives to tell the wedding stories of today.
Staged photography is pass
Award-winning French photographer Christophe Viseux, who has shot many a wedding in Oman, says that the current crop of professional photographers prefers a more honest approach - which he describes as ''candid, documentary and photojournalistic'' - when dealing with their subjects. The key is to keep it natural.
While documentary and photojournalism assumes that you show whatever is happening around you, be it the ugly or beautiful, candid involves capturing the in-between moments “ the silent conversations, stolen glances, laughter, tears, stress and craziness that make weddings unforgettable.
''These days, people are looking for something more real and emotive...something that would represent the true essence of their personalities,'' Viseux explains.
Angel al Araimi, general manager of ProShots, a digital media and art studio in Muscat that specialises in wedding photography, concurs. ''Staged photography has now become stagnant. The new and refreshing trend is of taking offbeat wedding photos.''
The camera, though, hasn't always been the most favoured prop at Omani weddings. ''There was a time when brides and the female guests just refused to be photographed. However, in the last decade or so, weddings here have really evolved. Exposure to the outside world and the social media has made people free-spirited and adventurous; most importantly, they are no longer camera shy. They really enjoy being clicked,'' says Angel.
With couples and their relatives leaving no stone unturned to trace that one good photographer who would best capture the wedding day, one cannot really deny the growing fondness for the camera.
Polish photographer Ania James, who freelances in Muscat, jokingly describes the entire process of shortlisting photographers as ''casting''.
''People have become a lot choosier. They meet and interview around three to four photographers before narrowing down on one,'' says Ania. These days though, many end up booking at least two photographers for the wedding,''one to just focus on some great candid shots of the married couple, especially the bride, and the other to take those staged pictures to keep relatives and the extended family happy''.
However, Ania believes that when choosing photographers what Omani couples most often seek is comfort level and some common ground, because even emoting a certain closeness on camera involves breaking a lot of ice. Viseux doesn't agree more. ''The photographer and the couple, in particular, need to develop a great rapport in order to achieve great results.''
Also, if most photographers are to be believed, the Omani groom is usually very calm on his wedding day, making him an easy subject.
''But I find brides very stressed. More because it is the first time that they actually pose in their white gowns, so one can imagine how conscious and shy they would be. I have to keep cracking jokes to keep them from losing their nerves,'' says Khulood al Sulaimi, who runs Lolita Studio in Al Khuwayr, along with her sisters Ghada and Khowla.
Ania agrees. ''I personally feel that weddings are mostly about the brides. It is the only day that she gets to dress so beautifully. You need to constantly flatter them, remind them how gorgeous they look...It is only then that they will lend themselves well to the camera.''
A typical wedding photography package entails a pre-wedding shoot at a location the couple prefers, candid shots of them getting ready, followed by coverage of the various ceremonies, including the reception. But since Omani brides do not step outside for pre-wedding shoots, studio photography is still the most preferred.
''When shooting in a studio, capturing candid poses can be tough. This would mean reinventing oneself. To get the best shots, I constantly speak to the couple, make them laugh or tell them to share a secret in Arabic, a language I don't understand, so that they are at ease. I shoot when they stop being aware that I am around. That is how I get my candid pictures,'' Ania says.
Viseux uses a similar trick when taking pictures during the ceremonies. ''When people get used to your presence, you become invisible while shooting. The trick is to remain alert and look for that rare moment... that's when the magic happens!''
Nothing comes cheap, especially if it is high-quality wedding photography. Most flamboyant photography packages today start from around RO800 and can hit the roof, going up to as much as RO10,000.
Surprisingly, the wedding party doesn't mind shelling a few extra bucks for splendid shots.
Maisa, who traced Viseux on the Internet for her sister's wedding in Muscat, says, ''His pictures move...they tell stories of relationships, places and occasions. Looking back at the album brings so much joy to the bride and the groom that it all seems worthwhile. Such good photographs are definitely worth that price.''
Angel of ProShots too claims that her clients rarely bother about the expense. ''It is usually the quality of the pictures that concerns them. We use really expensive cameras, and have a large and professional crew that works on the wedding. Also, the post-production process is a long one where we iron out every minute flaw. All this comes at a cost. Having said that, we do have very basic photography for clients who cannot afford to spend so much.''
Christophe, Ania and Khulood also claim to be flexible with their rates, but believe that packages should only be customised to the point where one does not have to compromise on quality.
''I have packages that are as low as RO200. For me though quality is of great importance. You can never put a price on good work,'' says Khulood.
Viseux feels the same. ''The clients booking my services are looking for something different and more unique. Most couples see it as an investment for the future. It's a common thing to say, but photos are the only physical memories one h