Let’s set a play date!

I have spoken a lot about my parents in general and my father on this blog, but my mother is a key figure in my life. Growing up, we fought like any other mother and “teenage-angst-riddled” daughter duo, but as I got into my twenties and older, she has been more of a friend and confidante. She retired as the Head of the Department of Psychology and had been a teacher all her life – so is it any wonder that a lot of life lessons come from her? Her greatest motto and life’s principle is to constantly learn and get better at whatever she does. I love the principle and I have done my best to imbibe this into daily life. Photography is obviously not exempt from this. In my “About” page on this blog, I spoke of this blog being a reflection of the journey I am on and I had the opportunity, recently, to revisit this blog’s memory lane. Sometimes its good to look back and see how far you have come, its a morale booster and you  never forget your roots. I wouldn’t have dreamed those years ago that I would open a portrait studio and take pictures the way that I do. I didn’t even think that I would get into people photography of any kind. I am glad that evolution has brought me where it has.

I had a client recently who was willing to experiment and let me indulge in some whimsical ideas. I wanted to put her in something flowy like a tulle skirt and have her dance and be flirty. I also wanted to do something dreamy and wispy, with a touch of fantasy. So I started a mood board of images that I felt were close to what I envisioned. Something that felt like a disney princess but not quite so corny or run of the mill, something ethereal and evocative and oozing femininity. So I chanced upon on some work by Elizabeth Messina and it got me thinking about placing flowers and using a mild pastel color tone. I didn’t want to do exactly what she had done and I knew I wanted my pictures to convey a sense of peace and stillness. Off I went, hunting for silk flowers to match the color of my tulle skirt, got my client to bring a matching camisole top to wear and I suddenly realized my entire studio floor is carpet – which doesn’t quite translate into a beautiful background! My immediate response to that problem was to put her on my very sturdy and long, dark dining table , but the height was a problem causing some issues with limited angles to shoot at – so she had to be on the floor on something dark so that all these pastel colors can contrast beautifully.  I found a dark brown table cloth that I had and covered it with tulle, with the brown peaking through in a very filtered manner. Now that I had an initial idea of what was going into the shoot, I had to come up with some poses and combinations of placement of person and flowers – am not a great sketch artist, so I drew stick figures to depict each of those “poses”! Here’s a look at a couple of pictures that we did on this theme…..

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In order to contrast the stillness of the pictures above I wanted something with movement. My client was thankfully, also a tango dancer – yay!!! I have to mention that she was an enthusiastic client and absolutely willing to try ideas, to the point that we bounced a lot of ideas back and forth and she was part of the development process. I wanted black and white shots for this set, so I set her up against a black backdrop a.k.a my black V-Flats, switched on some sinatra and 40’s music with some pep to it and let her do her thing. I gave her some basic direction in terms of keeping her torso and face still, whilst she moved about the skirt and danced. I wanted motion blur but I still wanted to be able to see her. Just a subtle hint of movement. This was a portrait shoot after all, and not being able to see the face in a shot may actually be detrimental to the purpose. We set up a rhythm count within which she would move, land at a pose where her face and body were still and there would be just the slightest movement of her hand and skirt.Take a look and tell me what you think…


So if you are looking for a playful photo session, check me out at http://www.photopportunist.com and message me or call me. Let’s set a play date!

All pictures are copyright of Photopportunist. DO NOT use,download or print in any form without our explicit written permission to do so.

Let’s set a play date!

It’s Official!

The year began several months ago and the last anyone heard of me, was when I announced that I will be moving Texas…and I did. San Antonio, Texas is now home and there are mixed feelings about being here. It’s honestly just a case of fear of the unknown as I explained in the previous post but to overcome  that, takes a while and some effort.  Adjustment is a befuddling concept for me and this constant need to evolve is tiring albeit necessary.

I began writing this post in the end of March, when I was looking to set up shop in Texas and have my studio up and running by mid April. I had just filed my DBA in Texas and was waiting for the stipulated time to get my certificate; but right at the beginning of April, my dad had a heart attack and I had to travel to India. When I was a young child, my dad came home one day and announced he had resigned his job and was going to start his own practice, which he has successfully run for 28 years. But on the day he announced that he had resigned, I remember feeling a tingle of apprehension. He never said he was afraid, he never showed his anxiety or fear for the future, he just worked hard and made his and our lives happen. In the beginning of this year, he made an announcement that he was going to retire by april, which he did. Four days after closing shop, he had his heart attack. On the day of his heart attack, I had a shoot at my home studio and I had scheduled several more for the next couple of days. As we scuttled as a family to get to India, I cancelled some of them. The ones that were too close to cancel I shot in the time I had before I left for India. As I prepped and shot those sessions, one day before leaving for India – I remembered him working through unsure times to provide for a young family with two kids. He is back home now from the hospital and thankfully doing better than we could hope for. I stand on a similar precipice as he did several years ago, looking at uncertainty and the possibility of failure, but the only reassurance I have is in my own abilities and a certain sense of confidence in my skill set. All that is left for me to do at this point is to take that slight leap of faith and push the business in the right direction.

I have played the game of comparing myself to other photographers, sometimes feeling superior and sometimes feeling extremely inferior – but as Sue Bryce so aptly put it in a recent Creativelive session, I have to let my insecurities go, embrace what I have and carve a niche out for myself and eschew the philosophy of ‘Show don’t tell’! So off I have been in hibernation, getting my business in order. First step was to cut the fluff out and cull out the genre which will be the thrust of the studio – that naturally fell in the portrait arena. The next part was weeding things I didn’t want to do within that genre – I don’t do newborns ( I honestly have no idea how to handle a session like that and call me crazy, but I always feel like I might “break” their baby!!), head shots etc. I love shooting women and I love it more when they like adding a touch of whimsy and fantasy to their shoots – sorry men, but when we dress you up it becomes more of a costume! Once I knew the thrust going forward, all that was left to do was build the business around it. I sat down to figure out my target audience, what I can offer them, how I can offer them what I have, and last but definitely not the least – how do I bridge expectations with what is on offer. As much as the customer is right, often they are unaware of the full nature of what they are buying, leading to dissatisfaction with the buying experience. Educating people of the experience vis-a-vis just selling several digital files of people against a backdrop is key. Educating them about what goes into a shoot that can produce those treasured portraits is my responsibility, not theirs. So, the website has to give them an idea about what to expect, what products are on offer and what goes into a photo shoot experience with me, but it has to be just enough to make them want to call me. No deal for a portrait session is just made by visiting a website, the website is the clincher that makes them pick up the phone.  The next logical step was to revamp the website and give it a complete overhaul, which included a rebranding exercise where a logo was designed, photos were taken out and only the best work was put up for display. There is information on what to expect, and answers to questions that might come up. There is information about me and what I have achieved, links to this blog so they can learn more about the person who will be helping them every step of the way. I set up a small shooting space that is movable to any room of the apartment that I choose to shoot in, bought and painted V-Flats, bought and setup seamless paper rolls and stands – if you are wondering why am not talking about lights , that’s because I shoot with natural light for the most part.

Photoshop adjustments

The shoots I completed in the days leading up to my India trip, was rife with trouble. One client cancelled due to a personal emergency, another one did not bring one of her key wardrobe choices and another had several restrictions about what she would wear. For a minute there, I almost wanted to scream, but that is the nature of the beast – no two clients are the same and they come in all shapes, sizes and with their own list of inhibitions, restrictions and so on. It is my duty to work around those obstacles, if at all they can be called that. When a client didn’t bring a dress we had agreed on, I pulled out a top of mine, which was extremely large on her and if you look at the picture above you will see that we clipped it with fridge magnets! It’s like they say – human ingenuity at times, knows no bounds! One of the major issues of a portrait shoot is trying to get the model/client to pose the way you want them to. The ingredients to achieving that perfect pose  are direction and loss of inhibition. Direction is far easier, simply because one can ask your client to mirror what you do, the loss of inhibition however, can be confounding – merely because it requires a connection between photographer and client, which may take some time and investigation. Patience is crucial, positivity and reassurance at regular intervals are a necessity and the words -“this is not working” – can NEVER be uttered in front of a client. To understand what a client goes through when we put them in front of a camera and direct them, I shot a series of self portraits (one of which is below) by directing myself – I found myself having insecurities about my body and clamming up in front of the camera. In fact, this was shot without any make up on.


A typical fear that every client faces. Not all poses are equally created for every type of woman, it has to be tailor made to body shapes and those crippling inhibitions. So I researched and practiced poses in front of a mirror just to see what it did to my body shape, though am still a novice at this – I have an idea of what I can and cannot do on certain body types. I am also acutely aware of the tiny details like stray hair near the eye, that I need to look out for before I click the shutter. I think of things that I cannot fix in post-processing and for which I lack skills and I make sure that I cover my bases even before taking the picture. The devil is in the details – and a truer adage hasn’t been invented!

With the move to Texas this was the perfect opportunity to rebrand and relaunch, and with the approved ‘Doing Business As’ certificate in hand, I am thrilled to announce the opening of “Photopportunist” portrait studio in San Antonio, Texas! Although, I will happily photograph you in any part of the world. The landscape and food arm of the business will continue, as they are sold through galleries and stock agencies, but the impetus is for the Portrait Studio. The website remains the same –  http://www.photopportunist.com. The blog remains the same, twitter remains the same and if you want to follow me on instagram then click here. Looking forward to creating some beautiful memories for years to come….and your continued support and encouragement!

Here’s a small teaser of what we do at the Portrait Studio….Your friendly neighborhood Photopportunist!

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All pictures and writing on this blog are copyright of Photopportunist/Shruthi Venkatasubramanian. Do NOT print, download or use, in any form without our explicit written permission to do so.

It’s Official!