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.
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!
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.