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Want to be a professional photographer?

July 07, 2013 10:09 IST

Want to be a professional photographer?

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Shiphony Pavithran Suri, Careers360

If you have a sensitive vision and capture situations realistically, then photography is the career for you!

Ashish’s education went beyond textbooks in school.

If you peek inside his mini home library, you will find an archive of about 2000 comics!

Visuals of Tintin and Phantom always intrigued him.

“I used to learn faster by seeing visuals, which became my language in school,” shares Ashish Chawla, 36, a fashion photographer, during a shoot in his studio in Gurgaon.

For him, pictures became the medium to record everything.

After Class 12, he dropped a year, to follow his heart.

He opted for a BFA and specialised in photography – where he discovered how the eye and the lens perceive the colour spectrum of an image.

“I get instant gratification when a picture is ready within split seconds. Once you capture a moment, your work is done. The job also allows flexible working hours,” shares Ashish.

Photography is a large canvas, used much beyond random photos posted on Facebook, casual pictures pasted in your albums.

“Good photography is like having a good vision, being sensitive to what’s really going around, and being able to capture it realistically,” says Nitin Rai, Director of Rai Centre for Photography (RCP).

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Image: A good photographer is one who is able to capture images that tell a story
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons

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Getting started: Courses, skills and more

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Fast facts

Programme: BFA (Photography) Certificate/Diploma in Photography
Eligibility: After Class 12
Best colleges: College of art, Raghu Rai Centre for Photography, Sri Aurobindo Center for Arts and Communication, Jamia Millia Islamia
Job profiles: Portrait photographer, product photographer, industrial photographer, documentary photographer, photo journalist

Pick the right course

“The one-year diploma photography is for those who want to take it up as serious profession, advanced diploma for genre specific photography and weekend courses for those who take it up
merely as hobby,” informs Nitin.

One can learn photography through threeyear BFA/One-year Diploma/Certificate Course.

Some students pursue photography as an add-on course along with main course degree or do part-time programmes.

The fee structure varies across institutes. At private colleges, the fee for one year diploma costs between Rs 1 lakh and 2 lakhs.

Learning photography

“I teach students the basics of photography, how to handle different kinds of cameras, lens, studio lighting and different fields of photography like advertising, fashion, documentary and 
travel,” shares Prof. Shwet Goel, Photography Dept., IIS University, Jaipur.

In addition, his students go through a mandatory internship at newspapers and magazines, and cover major activities in Jaipur.

Prachi Seksaria, a diploma photography student at Sri Aurobindo Center for Arts & Communication, is currently shooting at a home for senior citizens, as part of a long-term project.

This college practical has enhanced her confidence to pursue the right photography field, that is, documentary photography.

“I want to devote my photographic profession to long-term, narrative-based projects,” she says.

Typically, students explore different areas and do freelance work in the beginning. Some students with an interest in journalism, intern at media and publication houses.

Hone your skills

Ashish feels you must see life around you.

“You can learn techniques later. First understand the world, buy DSLR camera and start clicking randomly.”

Market your talent

Online networking is the best platform to showcase your work today - it is both economical and a dynamic medium.

One can host pictures on photography social sites, Facebook and other platforms.

“Since printing cost has come down, you can edit pictures, produce a good narrative book and deliver it to the client,” shares Nitin.


Image: A course in photography will educate you about cameras, shooting basics and techniques
Photographs: Nicolas Garcia/Wikimedia Commons

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Professionals can earn up to Rs 50,000 a month

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You can be self-employed and run your own studio or take up freelance projects.

You can start assisting a professional photographer, work with creative people like art directors, depending on your field of photography, or assist a news reporter.

A photographer interacts with a wide range of individuals on a daily basis.

High quality art photograph is taken for various purposes – business, magazines, newspapers, advertising, website portals and wedding.

A phenomenal growth in e-commerce has led to the demand of product photographers who capture photos of exact objects. 

They can expect a starting salary of Rs 20,000 per month.

Piyush Srivastava, product photographer at brandsvillage.com shoots consumer products like accessories, clothes, bags, shoes, watches.

On the other hand, editorial photography is meant to tell a story – newspapers or magazines can fetch you Rs 12,000 to 15,000 per month.

If assisting a senior, expect a salary between Rs 5000 and 10,000 a month.

Fashion and wedding photographer are lucrative options, once established.

If you are self-employed then you can earn between Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000 per day depending on the assignment.

Salary scale varies according to your experience, skills and clients.


Image: Photographers are employed at weddings, newspapers and magazines; seen in the picture above is ace lensman Atul Kasbekar during a Kingfisher calender shoot
Photographs: Courtesy Kingfisher Swimsuit Calendar

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Stay updated and benefit from technology to succeed in your career

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Here, Prof Dheeraj Paul who is a photographer and faculty at Jamia Millia Islamia university tells us how staying updated with technology is a crucial part of the profession and what young aspirants can do to make the most of this career.

What are the challenges in photography today?

In the past, we had just 36 frames in our roll, so we judiciously used it by applying our mind.

Today, with the opening of digital photography, every Tom, Dick and Harry is shooting images with mobiles or cameras.

Having plenty of memory cards enables them to click random images but they don’t know what is relevant for the situation.

A meticulous photography course will teach them to be disciplined.

One should know all features hidden inside a camera. Even after being in photography for 20 years, I update my knowledge every day.

How do you teach students?

Students today are very impulsive. They think that they know everything about photography.

Ironically, during first session when I pose basic questions most students end up being clueless.

Most of the working photographers just know 40 per cent of the camera and are unaware of the rest hidden inside it. So when they join, I expect them to know “nothing”.

I teach students how to handle the camera, see images and compose them.

Does one really need a degree?

Honestly, a degree is a very small part of a photographer.

At the end of the day, your work speaks. When photographers go in search of work, they have to produce impressive portfolios to editors and creative directors.

Your portfolio must change as per your varying clients.

Social media helps photographers greatly. Many people shoot, instantly put it up on Instragram, Facebook and automatically it gets circulated around.

Knock on every editor’s door with your portfolio!


Image: Mobile photography could be an interesting way to start
Photographs: Reuters

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