Photographer Career Information
What a Photographer does
If you wish to make a career in photography, all you need is a discerning eye and a technical bent of mind. Join the likes of Ashok Salian, Rakesh Shresta and Gautam Rajadaksha in the hall of fame. Ready to shoot?
Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye. If you are serious about making a career in photography, you need to know that a photographer reveals what the naked eye may have missed. Photographers capture history for posterity. As a photographer, you'll take pictures of people, places, objects, and events and try to artistically capture and evoke a mood, feeling, or drama.
In a way, photography is an artistic job as you'll use your camera much the way an artist uses his brush, as a tool to capture your unique perspective of the world around you.
Photography calls for a great deal of practise in order to master the technical knowledge of light, camera settings, lenses, film, and filters and apply this knowledge creatively. Photographers use a wide variety of lenses and filters designed for close-up, mid-range or long distance photography.
As a photographer you have the option of developing and printing your pictures (most photographers prefer to do that), but you can even hand your film over to the company you work for or to a commercial lab for processing.
The work hours are long and irregular. Sometimes you even have to make yourself available on short notice. Photography is a high-pressure job with tight deadlines. But if you are a self-employed photographer, your work hours will be more flexible.
There are various categories of photographers:
Press photographer: You'll work for newspapers and shoot pictures of the day's events, that will accompany the article in the newspaper the next day. The photographs you shoot are also stored in archives. You could be working for magazines, newspapers and sometimes book publishers (for covers). This kind of photography is a dare devil job where you often have to risk your life in attempting to take pictures of newsworthy events, people and places.
Photojournalist: This is slightly different from press photography as your photographs itself have to tell the whole story. This means that they have to be more precise.
Technical/Industrial Photographer: For such kind of photography, you'll use specialised photographic instruments to photograph industrial equipments to be used in company brochures and other publication.
Scientific photographers: In this type of photography, you'll specialise in areas like astronomic photography, astrophysics photography, photography of chemical and biological materials, specimen, etc. You will photograph laboratory experiments, etc.
Commercial Photographers: This type pf photography involves taking pictures of merchandise, buildings, machinery, fashion, livestock, and groups of people to be used in advertisements, marketing reports, brochures, catalogues and postcards. You will also be photographing events, marketing promotion operations, etc.
Fashion Photographer: You'll take attractive images of fashion products like designer clothes, accessories, etc.
Personal Photographer: This is the best part of photography. Here, you'll hobnob with the best faces in the fashion industry like models and film stars. You'll specialise in capturing images of people. You will also work in fashion photography.
Nature And Wildlife Photographer: If you are green at heart, this is it. Here, you'll capture animals in their natural habitat. Sub marine or under water photography is another branch of this stream.
Film Photographers: You will shoot feature films, advertising films, documentaries, etc.
Video Photographers: You will shoot moving films with a video camera. Your subjects can be anything from a marriage ceremony to a 16 mm film.
Forensic Photographers: Here you'll travel with the police to crime scenes to photograph evidence. Adventurous, isn't it?
Some photographers specialize in special events such as wedding, awards ceremonies, etc.
• You could work for an advertising agency, newspaper houses, magazine or a photo studio
• You can work for television channels, television software (what you call television serials) producers, film producers, web site
• There is immense scope for freelancing. There are agencies where your photographs can be syndicated and you can earn royalty in the process
• Other avenues for employment include scientific laboratories, research institutions and industries
You can even operate as a full-time outdoor photographer and send your transparencies to stock picture agencies like Dinodia Picture Agency (DPA) in Mumbai.
Bombay is India's advertising capital and the other metros source photographers and filmmakers from Bombay. Your prospects depend more on your quality of work more than anything else.
There is a demand for photographers but more often than not it is the good ones that capture a large share of this market. So try to develop your reputation real fast in this field. Dotcoms are a new industry, which is in need of photographers.
Abilities & Traits Required
For pursuing photography as a career you need:
• A keen visual sense
• A good understanding of shapes, colours, patterns and hues
• A perfect eye for observing everything around– life and nature
• An interest and ability to express life and nature in a visual art form An excellent spatial perception - the ability to capture and understand objects from different dimensions and locations
• A love for details - you will know what is missing in a given scene
A successful career in photography doesn't call for a degree or diploma in the subject. All you need is a strong sense of aesthetics and creativity. And loads of focus. You should go the extra nine yards to make your work a satisfying experience for your clients.
You will do better with a basic course in photography. Certain skills have to be learnt, and you will have to know the instruments and equipment. A formal training course will give you confidence and make you aware of the latest technologies. For film and video, you must have a formal training.
Though the initial investment (in terms of a sophisticated camera with all state-of-the-art accessories) is quite high, the returns may go through the roof.
Beginners get Rs 10000-17000 a month. Experienced photographers charge Rs 20000-35000 or more a month. In fact, once you have established yourself you can command up to Rs 7000 or more for a day of shooting and earn more than a lakh in a month.
Fashion photographers charge Rs 7000 a day at the minimum. The best in this field can command up to Rs 75000 per shoot and more than Rs 500000 for one campaign.
Specialist photographers like wildlife photographers, under water photographers are paid on a project-to-project basis. These may go up to Rs 200000-1000000 or more per project.
Photojournalists and press photographers get Rs 20000-25000 a month or more.
Assistant film photographers get Rs 50000-100000 a film. But when you are reputed, it's better not disclosing the figure, as the taxmen will come chasing!
However, those salaried in a company/newspaper house should not expect these astronomical figures. You will get about Rs. 20000-40000 a month as your salary.
Interview with a Photographer
Daboo Ratnani, Photographer
One of the renowned names in photography, Dabboo Ratnani started as an apprentice to Sumeet Verma. Today he is the last name in Fashion photography. His trademark however, is outdoor photography and his favourite model? You guessed it right - Pooja Bhatt.
Tell us, did you always want to be a photographer?
Not at all. Actually, it all happened by accident. I used to help my dad in his business. After my HSC I told my mom that I wasn't interested in studying anymore and that I wanted to be a photographer. I said I'll give it a shot. If it works, great. Or else I have my dad's business to fall back on.
But why a photographer?
I had a flair for photography and I liked it as a subject. Even in school picnics and family holidays, I was the one with the camera. I am basically a gadget freak. Everything from computers to music systems excite me.
My bother's friend was an amateur photographer. Maybe even that influenced me. Also, when I first walked into Sumeet Chopra's studio I was overwhelmed by the huge prints on the soft board and all the numerous pictures there. I thought to myself I would never be able to do this.
So how did you start off professionally?
I first bought myself a camera and did some amateur photography. After seeing the photographs I decided to give it a shot. I assisted Sumeet Chopra for 4 years, before I finally ventured out on my own.
Do you remember your first shoot?
Of course, I do. It was in March 1993 when I was still assisting Sumeet. I did the film publicity for Aatish. We were in Mauritius for 40 days. It was a major assignment. I shot some pictures of Sanjay Dutt while we went fishing and those pictures appeared in Stardust. Then, there was no looking back.
Even during the four years that I was with Sumeet I used to do my own shoots and portfolio on weekends. I would show them to Sumeet and take his inputs on them. This helped me a lot.
You did a major chunk of your work with Pooja Bhatt? Tell us about that?
Well, I had just started out then and I was thrilled to have Pooja Bhatt the actress pose for a beginner like me. She has been my favourite face. In terms of attitude in front of the camera and also in terms of her inputs in the picture, she is just fabulous. She enjoys photo sessions with a vengence. In fact she enjoys it much more than her film shootings. And that comes across in her pictures.
Of course, Aishwayra is the prettiest face to shoot. You can't go wrong with her. But Pooja is the most versatile.
You deal with stars all the time. Is it difficult to manage all the egos?
Not at all. My approach is very straight. If the person vibes well with me and I am comfortable, only then we decide to go ahead with the shoot. But, if a person makes me uncomfortable or throws attitude at me, I would not like to work with that person. However, till date that hasn't happened to me.
I am not a pushy person at all. I let the star wear whatever he or she wants to wear. I don't force my opinion on anyone.
In fact, a lot of photographers have an attitude. More than the stars themselves. But I have had no problems with anyone so far.
How important is professional training for a photographer?
To be frank, I have never had any professional training in photography. But you do need to assist a photographer to learn the tricks of the trade. That is very important.
A course can only give you technical knowledge - the theory part of it. Finally, it all boils down to your eye - how you look at things, your approach. The course cannot teach you how to visualise. That is your input as a photographer.
What differentiates the work of one photographer from the other is basically his eye. His way of looking at things. Technically everybody learns. Finally, it is your style, approach or composition that will set you apart from the rest.
I believe to be a commercial photographer you don't need to know how your roll is processed or even the history of photography. You should know what you want as the end result and you should be able to explain that to your printer. I didn't need to know when the first camera was invented. Although I did want to do a course in photography from Santa Barbara, it was too expensive for me at that time.
How do you improvise on your art?
A photographer tells a model what to wear, how to do the hair and the makeup. For that I attend fashion shows to see what clothes are in. I also surf the net a lot. You have to keep up with the latest both in terms of technique and the gadgets. I also watch a lot of foreign film to see camera angles and techniques.
You need inspiration to drive you. The day you feel you are stagnating you might as well give it up. When I am bored I go and buy myself a new camera or lens. So that there is some excitement in my life. Then I am all charged to use my new gadget and see the results.
What are the personal attributes needed to excel in this field?
You have to be technically sound. Apart from that you have to have a good aesthetic sense. A sense of style is imperative for a good photographer. It is the photographer who dresses up the model. So unless you have style the models you dress up are going to look bad.
My style is more casual and candid. A photographer who dresses up snazzy and gaudy will make his models look snazzy and gaudy. You also have to be down to earth and not high-headed.
Has the photography scene changed much from the time you started and now?
I started off as an ad photographer. In fact, I never intended to be a film photographer. Those days all advertising photographers looked down on film photographers. They didn't think it was cool at all. But today all the very same people who told me that are here with me doing what I am doing.
Moreover, stars were used to studio shots where they were made to look overly glamourous and very staged. I introduced the outdoor pictures. I shot the stars on road dividers and bars.
Of course, I took a lot of flak for it. Film magazines said it's a phase. ""The stars will cooperate with you for 2-3-6 months. What will you do after that? This outdoor thing is not going to work."" But on the contrary, there has been no problems so far. I also did a lot of black and white pictures.""
Do you have any tips on how should an aspirant go about being a professional photographer?
First and foremost you need to buy an SLR camera. The first step is to try and get the technique right - understand basics like film speed, etc. You can even learn through books or surf the net. I shot a lot of films during my training phase.
Get a personal portfolio of your pictures ready and show it to ad agencies and magazines. You have to convince them to give you work. Otherwise why would they take a chance with a newcomer? For that you have to create your own personal style.
Anyone who assists me for some years and branches out on his own should not do work that is identical to mine. Then why would anyone go to him? They'd rather come to me. You have to have your own style. Initially it's going to be difficult but you have to keep the spirit.
What about the future?
I plan to put up a lab and do my own printing. Then I also have plans to set up a graphics studio. I would even like to get into ad film direction. I have been in this profession only for the past six years and I feel it's too early to drop this and start something new. But yes, I am definitely going to do something related to photography in the near future.
What camera does Daboo use?
I use a Nikon F5 and Hassleblad - a medium format camera. I have more than 50 lenses.
What are your hobbies?
I like music a lot. I have more than a thousand music CDs. I use that to ease the models. Great music always pays off. I am also a gadget freak.
- Nivedita Jayaram Pawar