My first guinea pig

I’ve been incognito for a while and I have had good reason to be. I got my first client – can I call her that , considering she is a really close friend of mine? She wanted some good portraits of herself for her website and asked me to help her. I jumped at the opportunity hoping to get a thorough learning experience. Let me assure you, that I bit off more than I could chew. Firstly because, I am not truly pro yet -which when translated means that I do not hold studio equipment such as softboxes, reflectors and so on. I was meaning to shoot this using entirely what god has given us – natural light, shadows, sunsets, twilight and all those beautiful little elements that nature offers on her own. Two, I don’t even own a fill flash and work with my kit lens! Three, I am absolutely inexperienced and shooting someone who is posing for me is completely new to me – considering my philosophy and comfort zone has been of people in their natural state.

Having complained about the lack of so many things, I felt it was a challenge to come up with some of the best shots I could. I admit that I’m only halfway through my assignment and still have one more day of shoot left. The good parts are that I was shooting a friend – our comfort level and rapport were a huge, huge, huge bonus. We were shooting at her house – so she was much more comfortable in her own setting. Finally, she is a pretty woman ! I am reminded here of something photographer Kalyan Verma said recently at a talk – “Beautiful things are easy to photograph – they will always be beautiful no matter who shoots them” – that is very loosely paraphrased.

From the moment I fixed a date to shoot her, I started preparing. I frantically started reading up everything I could find on shooting portraits. As the date approached, I slipped into a panic stricken comatose, worrying that I would just be wasting my friends time and effort. I have , what I think to be a very unique problem – I never think my work is good enough no matter how many people appreciate it. I brush them off as bias – bias because they know me and don’t want to hurt me, or worse still diplomacy. On the day of, I decided I had freaked myself out enough and figured if I ruined this I will just get a good portrait photographer to shoot her on a later date and just take this as it comes. All through I had tried to picture in my mind different scenarios and shots I could shoot her in.

Like I said earlier – it was a fun shoot. It started a bit wonky, considering there was the initial “camera in my face” fear in her and the “oh my god , what the hell am I doing” fear in me. But put two women in a room and camera or no camera, once the gossip starts, things just relaxed into a beautiful rhythm. It helps to have conversations while shooting, because the smiles and laughs are far more genuine. Oh and did I mention, that by the time we started shooting , we were all out of natural light and I had to contend with artificial recessed lighting in her living room!

There are things I have learnt from the shoot :

  • Having a conversation about the general direction required out of the photographs is absolutely essential.
  • Working with your client on what they want to wear, how they want to pose, what makes them uncomfortable is critical.
  • As the photographer – IT IS YOUR job to relax the atmosphere and make it light, easy and breezy for your client/model.
  • Experiment – shoot from above, below, side, through a thin veil or any other way you choose – because sometimes they make the best shots and one can’t always know which works best , right off the bat.
  • Wardrobe choices matter – color of clothes vis-a-vis light source – makes or breaks shots . So take time to think about background, colors, wardrobes, props – THEY MATTER!
  • Go with your gut – if you don’t want your model to pose and want to capture them whilst they are in conversation , then so be it!

At the end of it all , it was a “funtastic” experience for me. Would I do things differently now that I know? Hell, yes! Would I not have taken up this shoot at all, knowing what I know now? Nope, I would still do it. My biggest takeaway is not written in any book – if you don’t actually physically get your hands dirty, no matter how many times you have read it in a book, you will never learn what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. I learnt a lot of things I could have done better and I learnt a lot of things about my own capacity and knowledge. Practical knowledge is in my opinion, the most important aspect of learning.

My biggest thank you to my fearless friend Divya – for giving me the opportunity to shoot her and for spoiling me for future models( I am going to expect the same ease out of them!). Like I said, you are my ‘pillayar suzhi’!

As usual, all photographs and written material belong to the author – so please DO NOT reproduce without prior permission. It might be of use to you to know, that some of my uncles, cousins and friends are lawyers!!! :))


My first guinea pig

2 thoughts on “My first guinea pig

  1. Niru says:

    Wow Shruti ! These are some truly spectacular pics …. and of course it does help that you have pretty subject :))

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