December 10, 2019

Vahik: Capturing the true essence of Iranian Jewish weddings on film

Some of Southern California’s Iranian American couples are increasingly turning to professionals in their own community to help with their wedding party arrangements. Perhaps one of the most popular photographers and videographers the community has turned to is Vahik Rostamian— the Iranian-Armenian owner of “Vahik Photography” in Glendale. Known to his clientele as “Vahik”, the soft-spoken, humble and easy going photographer shared with me some insights into his work with Iranian Jewish weddings for my recent article.

A professional through and through, Vahik’s studio is filled with photographs and photo albums of countless satisfied married couples— including 60 percent of whom hail from the local Iranian Jewish community. The modest artist, Vahik will not boast about his success, but one can see why he has been so popular by looking at his samples of work and the long list of very pleased clients that have been referring business to him regularly for the last 20 years. Here is a portion of my conversation with Vahik…

So can you tell us about how you first got involved with photography?

I have a little more than 20 years experience and first started with printing in Iran. I liked photography first as a hobby for many years and eventually got into it as a profession. I worked for myself in Iran and then when I worked here in the U.S. for others before starting my own studio. I really don’t look at my work as a business per say because I really enjoy what I do for a living. This work is really my passion. My field of education was in engineering in the oil and gas industry, which really has nothing to do with photography. But since I enjoyed photography so much as a hobby, I pursued it for work and thank god I’ve been very successful.

From what I understanding photographing people at weddings or high end events can be stressful with different personalities that can difficult. How do you handle the stress?

When I’m going to shoot an event, I prepare myself for that event or wedding so as to be in the right mindset. Therefore I don’t really have any difficulties shooting that day. I always get to the venue on-time or ahead of schedule to make sure I don’t have any stress before shooting. At the same time, I try to make an effort to reduce the stress level for the couple getting married that day or for the family members so together we can accomplish something great with the photos. I don’t claim to be some sort of amazing photographer but I make every effort when I can to bring others being photographed at ease so. When the couple is not relaxed they are only upsetting themselves. When they are more relaxed, the photos end up coming out great. I tell them to be at ease and not think about anything while they we are shooting. This is a day that you want to be memorable, so that you can share great memories with your kids and grandkids about that day.

What do you advise couples to look at when they are choosing a photographer for their wedding?

I show couples samples of my work and have them call a number of my satisfied customers, so they can get first hand knowledge of how I work and the caliber of my work. I recommend that couples meet with three or four different photographers to see who they like and if they like their photographer’s personality. You must like your photographer and the photographer must like the customers that he is shooting, otherwise the photos will not come out right.

What kind of things do couples need to be aware of in the quality of photos or albums that they are shown by a photographer?

Couples should realize that there isn’t just one type or one quality of printing for their photos. A photographer should show you different qualities of paper, bindings for the albums or types of printing for the photos. For example, there is inkjet printing that may be cheaper but often does not retain colors of the photos for a long period of time. While on the other hand there is photo-printer printing that this is a higher quality and has the colors lasting longer. Another photographer may not share what type of printing is used for the photos, but I like to share those details with couples so they have an idea of what quality work they will be receiving in their albums. I like to shoot natural photos and don’t like to photo-shop or digitally modify photos after I have shot them. You should also look into the type of lighting, angles for shooting photos as well as audio and high resolution film the videographer is using.

I understand many couples have additional lighting brought in for their weddings. What kind of impact does this lighting offer for the final quality of the photos or video?

Lighting offers you different backgrounds for your video. I do recommend additional lighting to my clients to obtain because the lighting at their venue may not be sufficient to provide a nice clear looking video. A good videographer should set his cameras to their lighting of the room. I prefer lighting that is bright, clear and crisp because it helps your video look nicer and cleaner. Different colors of lighting on the walls may look romantic or nice for that night, but depending on the photographer the different color lighting may not come out as well in the photos or the video. Those videographers or photographers who are professional know how to set lighting properly before shooting. I also advise my clients not to change the lighting in the room too much during their wedding because it affects the quality of video.

What advice do you have for young couples as far as preparing for their photographs to be shot before and during the wedding?

For the engagement photo secession before the wedding, I tell my couples to come relaxed and at ease, to smile and to laugh so the photos come out natural. This photo shoot beforehand also helps you before the day of the wedding because when you have already been in front of the camera it makes you more at ease. I also remind my couples that for their wedding day, ‘this is your day and from the second the day starts until it ends, just enjoy it because you’ve spent a lot of money and you want to make it memorable’.