Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got into photography?
I’m Nisha Ravji, I’m a wedding photographer originally from Pukekohe, I first picked up a camera about ten years ago just as a hobby, I was super into shooting animals and landscapes and a couple of portraits here and there but nothing serious. A good friend asked me to shoot her wedding in 2011 and that was the first wedding I ever did, I didn’t really consider it as a full time career option for quite a while though - I was studying for a computer graphic design degree and that was very much the industry I wanted to go into. I shot a couple more weddings in 2012 and by the end of 2013 I was pretty sure that photography was something I never wanted to stop doing.
Early on I was drawn to more posed work - like Annie leibovitz portraits and I was really fascinated about how she could get so much emotion within so much stillness. I also love Sally Mann’s work, again the emotion and drama she can get across to you through a portrait is incredible. I still love looking at portrait photographers work, but now I also look to more and more street photographers for influence. My thinking has changed a lot when it comes to a wedding day - originally I thought it was just about getting a pretty picture of a pretty girl. But now I think a lot about layering in my images - how many stories can I tell with just the one frame. I love looking at street photographers because they are masters of a single moment and filling it with emotion and drama. Richard sandler is a great photographer who’s work I follow too. In terms of wedding influence I would say Fer Juriasti, Nirav Patel, James Moes, The kitcheners - to be honest there is such a huge sea of talent out there that my biggest source of inspiration is my peers.
How many weddings have you shot, and what's your favourite time of the year to shoot in?
I’ve shot about 170 weddings now? Which seems like a lot in a short amount of years, I live seasonally - so for the past three years I’ve spent 6 months a year in New Zealand 6 months in London and berlin. This allows me to have summer all year around! I love shooting April weddings in New Zealand though I’d have to say, the weather is not crazy hot - there’s usually some nice dramatic cloud and the light is really lovely all day long.
Importance of planning ahead for a couple shoot and how challenging is it to direct the people (couple) involved at the shoot?
I like to consider myself super prepared but also not at all when it comes to a couple shoot, when I think of my preparation it isn’t really anything to do with my gear or scouting or checking light. It’s actually more to do with having my couple comfortable enough with me that they’re going to feel relaxed in front of me and my camera. my method for couple shoots isn’t rocket science - find good light and some love. I encourage my couples to be themselves and I actually have them play little games between themselves to relax them and get them laughing and enjoying the experience.
What gear do you shoot with?
I am a Nikon shooter -on a wedding day I use two D750’s, my two favourite lenses are the Nikon 50mm 1.4 and the 24mm 1.4 but I also take along and 85mm 1.4 and a 35 1.4mm.
Your biggest challenges that you face as a wedding photographer?
This probably sounds a little cheesy - but for me it’s shooting personal work, I love shooting weddings and running my business and it’s easy to get so absorbed in that. But it’s really important to shoot personal work and focus on preserving my life and my stories and it’s something I need to dedicate more time to.
What would be your favourite lens to shoot?
Definitely the Nikon 50mm 1.4, this lens basically never leaves one of my cameras. It forces me to get closer physically and challenge myself to not shoot one form of framing constantly. But I can also capture emotion from a distance in moments that need a little more space.
Could you take us through your typical day?
For a wedding day I usually start pretty early, I’ll have a huge breakfast because I’m likely to forget to eat for the rest of the day haha. I head out before I get to the brides and I shoot anything on the way that helps to set the scene of the day - so street photography, maybe sunrise if there was a beautiful one, landscapes. I start wide - I think of the beginning of a favourite film, you wouldn’t just see the lead camera straight off the bat, the director has set the scene for you. Then I head to the brides home first, generally I will go between the brides and groom on a wedding morning, I shoot 90% of my weddings alone and I always visit both where possible. I’m extremely documentary in the way I’m working right up until after the ceremony, I’m trying to capture the personalities of people they love and the joy and chaos that’s going on. After the ceremony I wait for what I call the “hug zone” to end organically, the time where everyone is congratulating the newlyweds - before I’ll get into formal portraits with the immediate family. Those for me are the pictures you can never repeat - the genuine elation that everyone is feeling. Family portraits are important too though of course so this time of the day is essential -same formula, great light and a plain background - the people are the feature here.
I’m not a big fan of hours and hours of posed portraits so generally I only take the bridal party and couple off for shots for a max of an hour including travel. As soon as we’re back I’m back to a documentary approach for the remaining of the evening.
Your biggest accomplishment as a photographer thus far?
Honestly I think for me it’s being able to make a living doing something I love - there are just a ton of incredibly talented photographers out there, but to make it work you have to be so many other roles when you’re the only one in your business. Accountant, marketer, social media expert, hostel, tech support. So I think for most photographers the biggest accomplishment is having couples want to book you for their day again and again.
Could you describe your dream client/job?
I would love to shoot a tribal wedding, from a culture which isn’t my own - maybe a aboriginal wedding ceremony in the outback, or a peruvian native ceremony. We have such a set idea about weddings in the western world but there are whole cultures where it happens completely differently - I would love the challenge of telling a story for a culture where maybe there is no venue - it just happens in your village and it’s spur of the moment.