Jose Villa Dishes on Photographing Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra’s Highly Publicized Nuptials

February 4, 2019

By Jacqueline Tobin

All Photos © Jose Villa

While shooting the Jonas-Chopra wedding that took place December 1 and 2 last year at Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur in Rajasthan, India, Villa used his own customized DVLOP presets to mimic the look and feel of film, as well as his signature look that’s helped build his brand over time.

Jose Villa, an instantly identifiable leader in the wedding photography industry, has always had an affinity for shooting film. “The mood, the grain, the nostalgia of it, the classicness of black and white, and all that good stuff, has always stayed with me and it actually made my brand stronger throughout the years,” he explains. “When people switched to digital as digital became a thing, it actually helped my business soar because I was no longer competing with hundreds of photographers in California. Shooting digitally wasn’t what I wanted, and it was scary because brides wanted it, but I stayed on my own path and then was only competing [at the time] with two or three other film photographers.”

In addition to the famed film shooter covering A-list celebs Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra’s wedding digitally, Villa says he also had to tackle back-to-back American and Indian ceremonies and events that took place over a couple of days.

Fast forward to today, when Villa got the call that singer and songwriter Nick Jonas wanted him to cover his upcoming nuptials to actress Priyanka Chopra. Oh, and it had to be shot digitally so that People and Hello magazines—as well as other news outlets all over the world—could publish selected images the very next day. What then? “You take the gig,” Villa exclaims.

The pressure was on for Villa and his team of six, who were in India in December covering the big wedding (actually, two ceremonies on back to back days) and there was no way, Villa realized, that they were going to be able to get film developed, scan it and then deliver the images to Jonas and Chopra, as well as the media, in 24 hours. So going digital, he conceded, (which he already used sometimes during receptions) was really the only option within those time constraints.

The newlyweds dazzle in Ralph Lauren for their American wedding.

“What made me feel OK with it,” Villa admits, “is that I had just come out with film-emulating presets, which gave me peace of mind, knowing I could shoot digital, then use the presets and deliver the images while still maintaining the look I am known for, and the look I spent a whole year customizing through preset company DVLOP with owner and fellow wedding photographer Jeff Newsom.”

Villa says his tech assistant Patrick (who has worked for him for the past three years) applied the presets in Lightroom for selected images (after going through them late at night with the couple) and that he was blown away by how consistent it looked with the images he usually shoots with film. “It was amazing,” Villa says, “so now my perspective has slightly changed because of the presets. Of course, I am still gung-ho about film and the brand I have created, but now I’m able to maintain my specific look no matter what I’m shooting at a wedding.”

Villa promises not to stop shooting film; this is just another tool to help hone his signature look (he has six presets that include color and black and white).

Classic Jose Villa for a wedding that took place in France last year at the Hotel DuCap.

“Every year, I’ve noticed the types of clients I am getting are changing. I am being hired more and more to shoot more difficult weddings—difficult because they are typically three-, four-, five- and even seven-day events, and a lot of them are shot at night, or at sunset. So sometimes, and let’s be real, film can be difficult, especially in really low light. So I have been able to embrace the idea of shooting digital and using digital when the light is challenging and when I am working with tungsten or artificial lighting. I adapt to the conditions, and I adapt to what the client wants and what I need to get the best shots.”

A scene from the Italy wedding on Lake Como that Villa shot over an 11-day extravaganza.

Last September, for example, Villa shot a seven-day wedding in Italy, on Lake Como, and it really helped prepare him, he says, for the Jonas-Chopra wedding to come three months later in India. For the first three days of the Italy wedding, it was just the bride and groom with 11 guests and a welcome dinner, then the next day a rehearsal dinner and then the wedding. Villa shot all of it. Two days later, the couple transported everyone to Tuscany, where an additional 80 guests met them. There were 91 guests and another four days of coverage comprising a welcome dinner, rehearsal, ceremony and brunch. From start to finish, the whole event covered an 11-day span, in every lighting scenario imaginable, including one dinner that took place in a wine cave illuminated only by candlelight. “We shot film but also digital, and the digital with the presets looked so beautiful,” Villa recalls. “I am just so proud of that. I feel much more confident shooting at night now more than ever before, even though that might sound silly coming from someone who has been shooting consistently for the past 16 years!”

Typically, Villa’s film would get scanned by Richard Photo Lab and then he would do a little bit of post, but not much. ”We have to adjust things ourselves on each photo to some degree, but that’s just part of the process of being a film photographer,” he explains. “My job is to give the client what they love and saw in my work from the start, and in the case of the Jonas-Chopra wedding, I still shot some film. I just hadn’t shot so much digital at one time before these two weddings.”

He had also never done a double celebrity wedding before this one. “As everyone knows, the bride is from India and one of the biggest Bollywood actresses in the country,” says Villa. “She wanted to hire a local Indian photographer, too, because they are so familiar with all the rituals and ceremonies and know what’s coming next.” And that was just fine with Villa, especially since his images would be represented in People.

In this situation, he wasn’t just dealing with the bride and groom; he was also dealing with People magazine, which ran the exclusive images first. “A week before the wedding, I was given a list of images—bride walking down aisle alone, bride and groom recessing back, looking at each other, bride’s dress, details of dress, etc.—so I made sure I had someone specifically from my team making sure we got that list down and that I was happy with what I was shooting but then also satisfying the multiple clients.”

Despite that, Villa says he kept telling himself to “just shoot how I shoot and stay within the look I am known for: refined, polished and elegant. As long as I didn’t direct too much, everything was good.”

In the end, the photographer says, the hardest part of whole week was getting the images out on time. “Patrick downloaded every image I took daily, and then my editor, Lacie, and I would go over them and choose 20 a day that I loved,” Villa explains. “Then Patrick would retouch them and add the presets.” After that, Villa recalls, two people from Jonas and Chopra’s team would come and review the images. On the last day, after the Indian ceremony, the bride and groom were brought in to review the images themselves.

“I remember being a little nervous,” Villa says, ”but also proud and excited. There were these two mega-celebrities side by side, newly married and holding hands while pouring through the images I had just taken. It was satisfying as they looked on approvingly and glanced at each other and snuggled up to each other. It was very cool.”

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