Hello everyone and welcome back to Photosynthesis, where we discuss the art and business of photography and videography in India with some of the best experts that we’ve worked with, found. There’s a lot of echo coming from somewhere. Can you hear any echo?
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Hello everyone and welcome back to Photosynthesis where we discuss the business and art of photography, videography, filmmaking in India and we talk to some of the best experts that we have come across in the field. Today we have with us Mr Ranjit Chetur who is the founder of He’s been working for a couple of decades or even more actually. He says he started with photography at the age of the ripe old age of 12.
And he’s worked in industrial photography, he’s worked in film making and a lot more. Ranjit, hi.
Hi, good evening, viewers. Thanks for having me on your podcast.
I’m going to start off with, like you’ve got a very wide wealth of experience in the industry. I guess some of that just comes with spending so much time over the years in the industry like more than a couple of decades. What part of you enjoyed the most and what do you love doing the most?
Well, to start with, the most exciting part for me was, like I mentioned earlier, I started with very basic, you know, I had to learn the rudiments, the basics of the technology, the technical aspects of it. I just made mistakes and learned. And I started off by basically being, you know, just documenting stuff around me, life around me. I started
shooting on the street when I was very small, mostly in black and white. And so I had to learn basics like my camera did not have a light meter. So I had to learn things like how to judge exposure. By just looking at a scene, there was a point in time where I could say, okay, this is one by six p.m. at F8 or whatever. And then yeah, we also had extremely slow.
emulsions to work with. Now for people who don’t know what, when I say emulsion, it’s like very slow film speeds. The sensitivity of films is extremely limiting. And it was only towards the latter part of my professional career that we started getting really usable high speed films. Now that would be equal to, it would be the equivalent of setting your
the ISO speed on your digital camera. I mean, now you have digital cameras which shoot perfectly usable pictures at I think 6000, 12,000 ASA or whatever. So, yeah. And so it went up, went on to a point where I was at this institute trying to study filmmaking.
And by then I’d built this portfolio work which was mostly portraits and people I knew. And I had this pretty irritating habit of just going up and asking people if I could take pictures of them, just random strangers. And I was lucky that most people kind of I think took a liking to me and they said, yeah, let’s take a picture. And so I had a bit of work and so it was when I
you know, FDII graduates and very experienced people in the industry who kind of encouraged me and they said, listen, why don’t you turn professional and you know, film is like a long shot, you’ve got to have some rich daddy backing you to, you know, get a break. Well, I didn’t really pay any heed to that because there are some physical limitations that I have, which I knew that.
If I went out and wanted to shoot, you know, under very exacting deadlines, excuse me, I have these mobility issues which would really not make it a very viable career choice. So but then yeah, well, one thing led to another and then at some point in time, I had to take it on as you know, a professional career. And so there I was.
So then came a very intense period of discovery where I knew nothing about shooting with artificial light, with flash, studio flash, using mixed light sources. I had no experience with all of that. And so I started doing some very simple projects for Hindustan Lever and
I think, Brooke Bond and so on and so forth and I learnt as I went along because with film if you make one mistake or if there is a problem with the lab where you have contaminated chemicals, the temperature is not right or whatever, you’ve lost it and you’ve got to reshoot and if you’re going to reshoot, very often the client has a deadline, your reputation takes a beating. So it was like living on the edge.
And you’re learning, right? Every day you’re learning. Sometimes you get unlucky and things don’t really work out sometimes. But I learned quickly because I had a rough idea of at least the basics. I knew a lot about contrast ratio, I knew how to balance light, things like that. And I knew how to compose. So that period was very interesting because I learned to, most of my work besides factories and big machinery.
was working with products and products are very interesting mainly because it’s a huge technical learning area because every product, the surface shapes, they all react to light in a different way, you know, like black wood, silver, white fabric.
These are all surfaces and shapes, you know bottles, tins, watches, jewelry, all these products taught me a lot about how to light different surfaces and different shapes. Now why that is important is you got to put all that together to make the product dramatic. Okay, it’s got a hit.
when the product is going to jump off a page and grab the viewer’s attention. So that really was a very interesting period of discovery for me, which I mean, I think even today, every assignment I’m learning something.
It’s very specific for everything, right? Like it’s… Like how to photograph glass, how to photograph silver as we were discussing earlier, it’s like a very complex thing to shoot. I mean, you would have to learn along the way, like you would have to keep… How do you learn this? How… And especially without YouTube, how do you actually learn this?
VOICE BREAKING-CORRECT THIS
Yeah, yeah, because I mean…
Well, since I’m not formally trained, I had no prior experience to go back to. But what we did have at that point in time was like, especially with professional medium format equipment, was that you had a Polaroid back. So this Polaroid, I don’t know if the viewers are aware of Polaroid. Polaroid is an instant film.
Okay, so it’s essentially like how on a digital camera, you take a shot and then you look at it on the screen or on your laptop or your monitor, studio monitor, and you see what you’ve got. And then you make your adjustments in terms of your composition, your light, the positioning of different objects in the frame and so on and so forth. So we had these Polaroid sheet films where you…
that up the shot and then you’ve got your exposure, whatever and then you shoot once and then you pull this film out and it gives you a print. So it is not what you would get on the film that you’re using but it’s very close. So things like if you’ve got something, if a light is bouncing off and there’s a glare on a product, on a surface or…
the shapes not looking quite right or the lighting balance is not very optimal. You could see that on a Polaroid. So, you just went ahead and Polaroid was not very expensive and I don’t know if Polaroid still makes film. Yeah, yeah, well, yeah. So in fact, a lot of photographers use these Insta films.
And we have Fuji film in the stats these days. That’s the equivalent.
as a medium by itself because these Instaprints have a very, they all have very distinctive characteristics like Fugii would have its own characteristics, personality if you will, Polaroid had its own and each batch had its own. So over a period of time through trial and error you learn to relate.
what you got on that Polaroid to how it would translate onto the film in your camera. And most of our work was on something called a positive film, that is, in the sense there was no negative. I think, I don’t know if people would know it, we used to call it Chrome film, it was called Transparency film and that’s what the professionals used because that would be sent directly to the printer and the printer would scan it and you would get a far wider
range of colors, etc. The reproduction range on those films were phenomenal. Whereas on a negative, you had to first of all shoot the negative and then you had to go to a master printer or you had to be a great printer to be able to produce a print like that, which would go into mass print. But the results on transparency were far superior, for instance, national geographic, for instance.
used all their photographers for decades used a film called Kodachrome. Because for them that’s what worked for their process and the paper they were using and the ink they were using etc. So yeah, so that’s how I went along and for instance there are some subjects that I never really had the chance to experiment enough to crack it entirely.
I was able to solve like silver. Silver still puzzles me. If I had silver around me, I would experiment for as long as possible to see how to crack that. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It reflects everything that is at 180 degree axis. Say, if you take a circular silver object.
Why though? Is it because it’s shiny or anything to do with the colour?
it will reflect everything at 180, vertically 180, horizontal. And so yeah, there are techniques to block off most of that. But it’s not very difficult for an experienced photographer to do that. But where you have a problem is once, okay, assuming you’ve cut off everything and so even to light it, you have to figure out how to light it because any light
I have lost your audio.
Yeah, that was a prachanth.
Where is Prashant? What a phone call! I can’t even say put your phone in airplane mode if Prashant is calling.
Yeah, can we carry on?
No, no, because there’s some work that we needed to discuss. So I didn’t tell him that after five, we’re going to be on this. But can we carry on from, I can go back to talking.
Yeah, I’ll just start again from like basically lighting for this video.
Yeah, okay. Silver, yeah, okay. So now the, okay, like I said, you know, silver, you have this 180 degree axis on which it reflects everything. And okay, you can block off everything around you, you know, in your studio, in your room, whatever. But then you need to light it. Now you bring a light anywhere into that 180 degree axis.
it’s going to reflect off the surface. Alright, so there are ways to do that aesthetically. I mean you can avoid some element of reflection. So what we do is we graduate that reflection so that there is a sense of curvature. But what happens is if you add too much of that diffusion, it tends to look a little like aluminum. And if you eliminate that.
you know the superficial sort of reflection. It tends to look like high quality stainless steel. Okay. Yeah.
I have never thought about these things ever in my life.
I did a dial, but I shot for a very famous company. It started by the Brits when they were in India. So that was my first and only assignment. So I had all this silver to photograph and I couldn’t make out. And neither could anybody around me because we thought we’d cracked it.
I mean, I can, I know this is, you know, it’s not silver. So, I actually had a conversation with them and he said, I don’t know, but we’ve, you know, we came to you because a lot of people have tried to shoot this and with the budget we have, we thought you’d be able to pull it off. So, yeah, so it’s very difficult. And then, say, if you have black, oh yeah, the other thing that I still like to speak of my prowess.
with that is very difficult product was watches, photographing watches. Because to start with, you’re working in a very small area and the camera is very close to the surface of the watch because you’ve got a macro lens or a macro ring on your camera and you’re like a couple of inches away from the watch.
And now what happens is the watch, number one, it’s wired from the inside, okay, with like either a hard wire or like a metal bangle or whatever and the strap is tightened around that and then with blue tack or double sided tape or whatever it is placed against the background. That’s how you shoot catalogs, okay, where the watch is like standing up and you see the face, okay. It’s like in your, it’s right there.
The other way of doing it is you lay down and then you have flowers or whatever, you know, a regular still life composition from a potty patty angle. But either which way or whatever perspective you’re looking at, the problem with watches in those days was if you took off the glass, it would amount to, I think legally there were some issues. It was like misrepresenting a product and young.
So like silver and other glass products, you are a reflective product. The light bounces off that surface and once it bounces off the surface, you don’t see what the watch really looks like because the glass is going to have this highlight like what, you know, with me wearing glasses, for instance, you can’t see my eyes. So and that was a time where there was a lot of business that we got,
because that was the time that Titan watches was, they opened in Bangalore. I mean the company was founded in Bangalore with their factory near Bangalore and they were, you know, they were introducing watches and none of us had, there were a couple of our seniors who had, there was a company called HMT which used to make watches and they, you know, and they knew, they had done quite a bit of work and all that.
Photographers don’t really like to share secrets and whatever.
You’re on a call, of course you can, say it all, say it all.
No, no, I am someone who has taught people. So I have got nothing to… Come on, the thing is there is no point in hiding it because everybody is smart here, you are going to pick it up. If you want to pick it up, you will pick it up. No big deal. So anyway, so yeah, well Titan Watch has happened and I think there were just two or three of us in the whole of Bangalore who could turn out stuff like…
we would do 10, 15 watches. It’s horrible on your back because you’re bending over this little tabletop with this background and you can’t even move too freely because the camera is here. So, you’ve got to sneak your hand through it and your neck takes a beating because the entire day and because of this macro work, the focus is critical. So, your eyes take a
they take a beating because you’re eight hours or nine hours of, you know, photographing this continuously. But it was fun and there was a lot of work because Titan was, you know, just setting up it. They were rolling out their range of watches and then went on for years. But now and yeah, and the other thing is now like you would have. So, okay, now you can’t take out the glass and you now imagine a watch with reflective needle.
Now if you don’t have a reflective surface facing those needles, it’s not going to read as gold or whatever. It’s going to look blank.
black is grey or whatever. So it was a nightmare.
Meanwhile, here I am looking at my own like, you know, I set up lighting for this podcast and I’m like half my face is white right now because of the window around. So I don’t even know the complexities that go into photographing a watch.
Yeah, and the main thing was like, you know, especially with the catalogs, because they had to be, you know, propped up like that. It was very, it was even more difficult because suddenly in the middle of it, like that, whatever the adhesive holding that thing upright would start to melt in the heat. Okay. Many of our studios were not air conditioned. So what would happen is that slowly this damn thing would just slide off. So you had to put it up all over again and all that. So that was a very interesting thing. And then I think my first…
of regular gig I had was like shooting for Prestige, which was pressure cookers. So that’s where I learnt the ropes, you know, how to shoot a reflective subject. And then went on, learnt how to shoot food. Portraits is something that came very naturally to me. I photographed babies, which is another challenge.
Babies are far more temperamental than Naomi Campbell or the most eccentric model that the baby will do exactly what he feels like doing. In fact, my first campaign, which was an unfortunate thing that happened, there was a client in Hyderabad who launched this product called Rompies. They were diapers. And there was this big time photographer, a very sweet guy who came down from Mumbai.
and the agency, they were regular clients of mine and so they asked me if they could rent my studio out. I said yeah sure and for me it was a chance to learn from you know somebody who’s an expert in the business but then the guy, very nice guy and great photographer but he got, he ran into some bad luck and we had to reshoot the whole thing and the client had run out of money. So me being a newcomer they kind of twisted my arm and said, brother you know, do it for this and all that and so I reshot that.
and we had this little baby, he was quite a character. He would just slip out at a moment’s notice. Something would… and we were shooting with… babies are very difficult to shoot with flash, studio flash. And those days because we had to have speed. Today you have LED lights which are very powerful and it’s very easy on the eye, it’s easy to shoot. But in those days we used flash, studio flash.
And the babies would start to get psyched with that flash going off continuously and you shoot very quickly because every second the baby is giving you a different expression, it’s doing something cute whatever. So you shoot like crazy and this flash is going off and this guy would go berserk okay. And he had his mother there and very enterprising lady, young lady. So she kind of went around my house and in the kitchen.
She discovered my hoard of empty rum bottles. So she said, okay, I know how to deal with this guy. And she came back with an empty rum bottle. And this guy. Yeah. So I said…
What lessons are we sharing in the future of this country? What lessons are we sharing?
So every time he would look like he’s going to throw a tantrum, she would like dangle this rum bottle over his head outside the camera and he would beam from ear to ear and reach out for it. So well, yeah.
So I actually want to ask you, now you’ve got all these years of experience across different lines. How do you, how does a photographer begin to see the world from the lens of photography and videography? What changes happen? Like because you mentioned earlier that you know suddenly you’re thinking in terms of focal length, aperture, right so it’s like a matrix, like you know you’re seeing the world from different lengths altogether.
Right. Yeah, I think especially if you really want to pursue photography very seriously, either as an art form, as an artist, or even and more importantly, as a professional photographer or a cinematographer, you need to develop a way of seeing things.
like to call it learning to see because you spend lifetime learning. Nobody can teach you how to see. You have to pick up certain things. Now how that to me it works because I had no formal education. I think even if you go to a photography school or a college or whatever, once you’ve learned the basics, the technical aspect of photography,
It’s, I think what you really need to do is, what one needs to do is consciously cult, number one is practice. I think practice is very essential experiment and while you’re practicing, constantly practice, constantly experiment. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. I mean, you can’t make a mistake on a professional assignment, but what one, what, at least what we need to do and I think what a lot of photographers who…
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in other parts of the world do is like say even in a very structured thing like advertising where a client gives you a layout and you have to execute the visual as per that layout. But so what many photographers do is you have the product or you have a subject or if it’s a model they will pay the model for their time from their own pocket and they will experiment, they will do the same assignment their way, the way they see it.
there have been cases where the client or the agency has accepted the alternative version that the photographer has got. So developing this, I think what happens is once the basic technical education is done with, I think it’s about developing this process of observation.
You know, you have to be constantly observing and if possible recording what light is doing. Okay, because light is constantly shifting and light for instance has very deep significance in how a picture turns out. Now if you look at something like you photograph a beautiful woman. Now if you’re using high-key lighting.
that woman is going to look in a certain way. If you’re using low key lighting, the vibe given out by the picture is totally different. So these are things you absorb as you go along. There’s a level up to which you can be taught these things. But how do you decide at a moment that this is how I want the picture to be? This is what I want the picture to look at, especially if you’re doing journalism and documentary photography and all that.
You just have an instant. Okay, like what Mr. Cartier-Bresson said, the decisive moment. It’s an instinct developed after years and years and years of, you know, it just comes, you know, when I mean, even today, like for instance, when I’m not doing any professional work, I use my cell phone and the cell phone is very, I mean, I have not used an iPhone but
all the other cell phone cameras, they are very limited in what they can do. But having used a cell phone camera, now I know exactly what I am going to get in a frame. And I don’t shoot otherwise, if I can’t get it the way I want to because I don’t have time to go around adjusting things. If I can, I can do that but sometimes you don’t. So now these are things like light is a very important thing. You have to observe light. Then I think you should.
Coming along, one should also look at other art forms. Say like you have this concept called chiaroscuro. Now chiaroscuro, for instance, if you look at painters like Rembrandt, who are masters of using…
how different artists from different even photographers, the great photographers, how they’ve used color, how they’ve used light and shadow. These are things that you internalize those things. You make them your own and through the filter of your own. Why do you want to do something? It’s because it’s your own subjective interpretation of what you are seeing.
So, it was.
Don’t mind the cat.
Yeah, yeah, cats want to be part of the action anyway.
So it’s shadow and light basically. So that is one. So lighting of course. How does it interact with color?
Color works in, color again, it’s again, it’s cultural, it’s psychological. All colors have certain psychological impacts on our sensibilities. Like some people react to red in a certain way, some people react to blue in a certain way. It’s mood, it’s emotion. So,
Yeah, so you react the way, so I think it’s the filter of your own perception that kind of reflects in how you work with color. The other, why do certain photographers use a certain palette, a color palette? Because after having experimented with numerous
possibilities. This is what works for them. It’s their language, visual language. The second thing is now for people who don’t have the choice of really putting different elements of a picture in place, like in a studio, in advertising, in art, photography, especially when you’re working out in the field where almost every other situation is constantly moving.
you are moving, the situation around you is constantly changing. It’s a very dynamic situation. But then it’s also about reacting to what you see and it’s about what you choose in that moment to include in your frame. Okay. And the other aspect is also culturally. Now when you’re working in Europe, if you look at a lot of European photography, it’s just the way that society works with, uses colour.
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There is a very subtle palette of colors that they work with. There is a certain harmony.
I’ve worked for a Scandinavian company for seven years. It’s all very elegant, but whites and greys and whites and greys and whites and greys. And for variety, they might even go in some black.
Well, yes, yes.
Yeah, yeah, pastels and stuff. And it’s especially noticeable when you’re looking at their advertising photography. Whereas the Americans, for instance, it’s all like Starbucks and there’s Chrome and, you know, it’s like in your face.
lens flares, 5 lens flares even when you are selling like a croissant equivalent
Absolutely. So it’s like hard sell, you know, they are hard selling even that color, like if you should look at the work of a guy called Pete Turner. He was like one of the seminal, what I think they call it hyper color students, people who are studying going learning the medium, it would be nice to see what and he had no computers to work with. He had his own particular process with which he did this, with which he worked on his pictures.
So, yeah, so it’s also a very cultural thing. Now, for instance, in India, in India, you have a riot of colors. You will have magenta, you will have pink, you will have sometimes a mix of everything. So that’s a challenge, especially when you have very limited control, when you decide how you’re going to work with that palette. Now all those choices, these are eventually choices you make. You make split second choices.
And so it comes through this filter of one of learning, observing, learning, internalizing it. So that knowledge, then it just like making this little kichri in your brain, right? And you know, and then subconsciously you make those choices.
Any other references? So this shadow, light and colour. Any other references you can give me, write them all in the show notes. What should, because like I said, you can’t maybe want to learn to see, but you can guide them. Like, you know, they can observe. What should they observe in terms of film, in terms of photographers, what would you recommend?
Yeah, see, because I think where it’s now lighting, where it comes in very, becomes very important is that, is when you’re trying to both with documentary, with editorial documentary work in the field and when you’re doing, creating marketing messages, visual messages or whatever.
is to look at, to study how light works in different spaces, in different geographies. Like in the Northern Hemisphere, light has a certain color temperature, light has a certain quality. Whereas, if you go up to the higher altitudes, light tends to be a lot more diffused because of the haze in the air.
Whereas somewhere else you will find hard shadows under the eyes and all of that. So it all depends on where you are and again back to, okay, there are limitations in today with digital technology of course, your image grabbing space has a lot of latitude where you can work with extreme levels of highs and lows.
And then you also have software with which you can intervene and smoothen out things. What happens is now if the contrast is too high, you will have say black areas and especially if you don’t have access to a supplementary light source in terms of a reflector or even another light or a wall where light is bouncing off, those areas start to get pixelated.
I’m not too sure if there’s software to deal with that, but normally you will, most often you will have images, especially if you’re using higher ISO speeds, you will have pixelated images in these black shadows. Now, the only way you can overcome it is either use a reflector or use another supplementary light or an on-camera flash bounced off a wall or whatever. So yeah, it’s…
So one is what is light doing in terms of emotional depth, the technical aspects of the light in use and eventually it’s about what are you trying to communicate.
You have hard light, you have soft light, you have reflected light. When I said soft light, I mean diffused light, you have reflected light. And then the other very important aspect of light is the size of the light. Now when you’re working in nature, obviously the sun is the largest light source known to man. And there are ways of manipulating.
modifying the light of the sun to suit your what you want to communicate. So when you’re using artificial lights that’s another aspect that’s important the size of the light because that also defines the quality of the light and then the area around which it’s going to be spreading.
I’m going to come back and ask the same question. References. What can someone see? What can someone read? What photographers or filmmakers can one follow? If they want to get better at using light, shadow, colour in their work.
I would say look at the work of other photographers and try and understand what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. I mean there are no absolutes. Nobody is right in this whole thing. Everybody is doing their own thing.
But there are certain things that work for you and now then ask yourself why and once you start trying to find those answers, I feel that again you are internalizing that knowledge. So the next time you are up there and you have a similar, you say hey this work for that guy and it works for me because this was the end result on the image. So again it’s a…
It’s trial-error internalizing it and practice makes it instinctive. I mean you don’t spend too much time thinking. I mean for instance landscape photographers, they spend hours, minimum two or three hours waiting for that perfect light because there is a window where you can see it happen. I mean I have not shot too many landscapes.
few times I tried to write it out. It’s a spiritual thing because number one, you’re not on the phone, you’re not talking to anybody, it’s just you and that scene in front of you, right? And you watch the sun and you’re probably sweating, there are flies buzzing around your head or whatever but suddenly the magic happens, okay. I think they call it the golden hour where the entire landscape comes alive as the sun kind of say dips to the west or in the case of a sunrise.
you know, when it’s rising, it’s fabulous. I mean, I remember once, we were shooting a film. I was with my cameraman on a recce. And so we were high up in the mountains and down below you could see the horizon, you could see the curve of the horizon. I mean, a bit of the curve, the curvature and actually the first light of the rising sun.
And it was electric blue and there’s this crescent shape and just lasted a few seconds. Okay. I said, man, we’ve got to go and try and get this. Okay. And so the opening shot and that particular film, what we visualized was like you have this drone right up above and you have a, the drone has this very wide, extreme wide angle lens. And what we wanted was like the drone is in place.
And the mountains are dark, right? And as the sun is coming up, you can see this crescent color, crescent of color forming on the horizon. And then slowly the mountains come alive. There’s what you call a brush light. It comes in from the side, and it’s turning warm. But we couldn’t get it because the day the guys went to shoot, I think they don’t even take the camera out till about 8.39 because of fog and rain and whatever.
So sometimes that happens as well. You work with, you try and come back with images in a very bad situation, in a very hostile situation.
And there’s a lot of happenstance also, looking in the right direction versus looking in the other way when it happens.
Totally and the thing is not to not to let it get you down. It’s difficult, especially when there’s a lot of money riding on it. You know, and but yeah, that’s what’s kept a lot of people going. For instance, is very famous. It’s a classic. One of the first early films made called Nanook of the North. And Nanook, actually, the first time they shot in those days, they would.
they would shoot and they would have these barrels filled with chemicals and they would process at the end of the day. And when he came back to the US, they found that I think about 70 or 80% of the footage couldn’t be used. Yeah, and he obviously ran out of the money that he put together for that expedition to the North Pole.
It’s basically about a community of Eskimos living near the North Pole. And the spirit of the man, I suppose pioneers of the world like that, he begged, borrowed, crowned, put another expedition together and the film we, the world knows today as Nanook of the North Pole is actually re-shot. So yeah, sometimes yeah. So that’s the challenge for professionals.
was the issue.
that your experience eventually teaches you how to, yeah, you know, you’re in a bad space, you learn to improvise, you know, all that again, I again come back to the point that I wanted to make was this learning to see is not all about the art aspect. It’s also about internalizing these practical experiences that you have, which teach you.
No situation is without a solution. I mean, unless you’re dead or incapacitated or whatever. And for young people wanting to be professionals, I think what happens with digital cameras is, with digital technologies, it’s made it so easy to take an image, okay? Because it doesn’t cost anything, right?
On the other hand, it has its pluses as well. But yeah, we couldn’t afford to waste film. Every frame was, you know, it cost a lot of money. So yeah.
learning to see is yeah, in my opinion, it’s about absorbing as much from any from day to day life, from the work of other artists, other photographers. I, like I mentioned earlier, I think, even good writers, because writers write about, you know, they discuss, there are so many writers who write so evocatively about the atmosphere in a room.
you know, the how those characters, the characters or the protagonists look in a particular situation, expressions you know, their faces and stuff. So when you’re reading, I think or you’re listening to an audio play or whatever, it forces you to think visually, you know, and I think that’s very important because you’re visualizing things.
And a lot of images, even in the field, you say in an editorial or a documentary or shoot, when you’re there, you know exactly when something’s going to happen. It’s an instinct developed over years and years of practice and you go into what experienced photographers call the zone. You switch everything off.
You’re taking a long shot, you’re going in closer, you’re using a longer focal length or you’re going in for a wider wide angle, you know, shorter optic. So, and if you’ve got the ability, if you’re designing a frame in a studio, that’s of course, you have the liberty of taking time and you trial and error and all that. But still, it’s what your mind’s eye is.
Seeing that’s what should come out and that’s what makes that image uniquely yours. Because no other person can see it the way you can. They can copy you but they can’t, no way they can. Yeah, they can’t make it their own which is why I still have this thing with AI for instance.
They can’t make it better.
A lot of people are very afraid that AI, yes, in the short run, yes, a lot of work will go away and people are going to, this is a very easy way to, so people are going to lose a lot of business and work. But I don’t know if AI, can it replicate what is in my eyes?
Yes, I had a picture, right?
I don’t think so. My thinking now, I think over the last few months has actually solidified as far as the AI stands right now. Because there are a lot of these tools experimented a lot and they’re using AI as a business. Like they’re using chat GPT, they’re experimenting with mid-learning. It absolutely cannot replace a creative expert. Or it can do. It can make the creative expert so much more efficient. He can do so much more.
Absolutely, absolutely, exactly.
your sheep and so much more like even when I’m writing I am now so much of the grunt work that comes with being a creative person can be taken away thanks to AI so and like the world needs more art the world always needs more art the world needs more video the world needs more photos right still if I think are there enough photos of a particular monument in my house
So I would say no, absolutely, but otherwise maybe not. So if creative people can become much more efficient at what they’re doing, and which we’ve baked into what we’re doing as a company, as a startup, then that’s great. I don’t think it can replace creative people at all. That as I got into the future, so far no.
Because what we are able to express what our minds eye sees, it’s basically an expression of our soul. The soul is an abstraction, but it’s part of who we are.
You know, work that is right up there. I mean, cutting edge work, legendary, you know, iconic work. Uh, yeah, those people have just kept pushing.
boundaries, not stopping at, yeah you make your first million and then you say, yeah I’ve got this formula, it’s all done. Which is okay, fine. I’m not complaining about the one million but when it becomes a formula and you’re repeating the same old thing, it’s like what Bollywood is doing, right? Now of course, I think young people are… So yeah, even with photography I feel that’s it. You’ve got to develop your own…
your own unique responses to different challenges that image making throws up and that is what is going to set you apart from your colleagues or your competitors or whatever you want to call them.
I think it’s also what focal length does to an image. You need to really internalize that before you make the choice of lens that you’re going to deploy. Sometimes you don’t have a choice because you don’t get another chance and you can’t even switch a lens. So you do what you shoot. But if you can, you need to develop a…
a very intuitive understanding of what your lenses can do. And that’s part of expressing yourself as well. There are photographers who use wide angle lenses to shoot portraits and that’s a trademark of their work or they shoot animals in studio or on location.
And that becomes a trademark of their images because you look at it, you know, okay, this is one of those guys, you know, if you’ve been watching, viewing a lot of other work because yeah, you have that distortion that wide angles bring to, you know, the lines in an image and all that.
Last question I’m going to ask you has been fascinating, completely different topic. How do you, you’ve done a lot of brand work over the years. I want to ask you how does this visualization help you when working with a client? How do you work out the message from the perspective of, okay, you know, this is the brand message. Now the client himself might not be a creative expert, probably won’t be. They know, look, this is my product. This is the messaging I want to convey to the
It is up to you to convey it through the visual medium. How do you actually go about thinking through such a project?
There are two aspects to this, especially in India because the photographer unless you’re really up there, high up the value chain, the photographer gets called in pretty late in this whole decision making process. There are a couple of things that come to one is of course ability, second is the equipment that one has and then of course the budgets.
comfort levels of working and so on. So there’s very little that this guy will do this because he has this unique way of seeing and all that. Very few people are called to do that because for most part, a lot of commercial work is very sterile. But when it
When it does work, when people are pushing the boundaries, it’s like, say for instance, you start with asking yourself, what is the environment that the customer, what is the space that the customer occupies? Let’s say we’re talking about a home product, a home appliance or a lifestyle product or whatever.
Now say somebody in a lower middle class house or a lower middle class environment would live in a space that has a certain combination of colors, the accessories, props, the objects around him. There would be certain stereotypical images.
household would have a certain kind of television whereas a high income home would have a state of the art home theater system for instance. The colors would be different. So and most
GREY PART IS FOR REEL
radically different. So what’s the difference? Yeah, for instance, if you’ve got a luxury apartment with massive bay windows, right? You’re going to have a, so if you’re going to either work with that light or you’re going to simulate that on a set, you have to know. So you have to have experienced that, right? And it’s there in your subconscious.
Give me an example.
So when the client says, you know, I want whirling sea face kind of, you know, vibe in this shot. So if you looked at either been there or you studied the study those spaces, yeah, you can replicate that. You can create that environment.
Now, I think in the morning we were talking about kitchen appliances for instance. Now if you got to give a kitchen an interesting ambience, most artificial lighting in kitchens are very, you know, there’s no spark in it. It’s either it’s an F.
LED lamp overhead lamp with a very flat. There is no punch in it. Punch means you know contrast. There’s no color. It’s bland. Now when does it become very interesting? Either early in the morning that is between I think it’s between 8 to about 9.30-10.
There’s this and most kitchens in urban environments, you probably have two medium size windows. Now either you open it, in which case you will have this hard slanting light, very nice beautiful light coming through the window, the beam and say you have a product, you lay it out with you know all the props around and all that. Yeah, you have a magic kitchen out there to photograph your product in, right?
Or it happens towards the afternoon if you’re west facing those windows. You have the similar kind of light I think between 4 to 3, 34 whatever. You have a similar plant. So yeah, so it’s an understanding of the space, the demographics, the social, the demographics of the customer that you’re targeting and the social space, the ambience that he is
the he or the family, the group would stereotypically archetypally occupy.
So put the customer in a very familiar space. So he feels that, okay, yeah, this is me. I am being projected here, they’re talking about me.
Absolutely. Yeah. Now the flip side is you can now say you are selling whatever agarbatti or whatever to somebody who say I don’t know how many people would in a very you know the upper end of the income bracket would use agarbattis but just say it’s like aspirational advertising. Okay.
Which is what all the so then you’re creating this big glamour so it is In the image you’re using this really gorgeous woman and everything is cool and you know, it’s all coordinated so this guy is saying like okay, life’s not that great right now, but The message is going to be that the image is going to be accessible to him for him to be able to dream Key, you know
One day, I will also have one.
depends on the product I guess like are you showcasing something aspirational or are you showcasing something… yeah you would say this is very relevant to you right now so then you show more realistic scenario or for a fancy car you show something very aspirational like all the Dubai ads
Yeah, yeah. Even you know, all the celebrity endorsements and all that. It’s working on the psyche. There’s no real, there’s no creativity. It’s hardcore psychology that does that work. But where, yeah, where the creative angle comes in, like you can’t make, I mean, you can’t make someone like Taru Khan look like, you know, a chocolate box.
you know like a baby faced 18 year old. He is this macho guy with you. So then the lighting, the accessorizing, all that just falls into place. I mean you don’t shoot him. I mean I don’t know. I wouldn’t shoot him. I would look at Shah Rukh Khan as the dawn or you know as grippy. That’s what for me Shah Rukh Khan is. Maybe for another guy he’s the romantic
Yeah, or the campaign is his own brand for D-Decor, which is him being the very family man and Gauri’s running family. He’s just… Yeah.
Yeah, yeah. But it’s all, yeah again, so that’s where the psychology comes in by lighting, the colors that are in use. They come together, the way the shots are composed. Now you want to make Taru Khan, even though he may not be a very tall man, you can make him look formidable for instance. If you photograph him from a very low…
a perspective that’s lower than his waist. So automatically his height get and you use a shorter optic. And automatically you’re going to find him looking quite ominous in the frame. So these are like I said you study what your lens can do, what perspective can do to the image and which you learn if you’re perceptive practice, learn, internalize it.
And so then when it comes to, yeah, on demand, you have to make an image, it comes out. Most often it comes out. See, some people, I think in my opinion, like in all aspects of life, some people have certain inborn talent. It could be genetics, it could be whatever, the environment in which they grow up.
So there are certain things that some people are born very good writers. They start writing some very profound stuff at a very young age. There are other people who go through the grind and they reach an audience pretty much later in life. So there are some people who have that advantage, but that’s not to say that that’s the…
That’s not a benchmark. To an extent, through application, through discipline, to consistently keep at it. And, you know, even if you’re not maintaining a journal, internally, file it away for reference. The verse comes to us, just hide a folder somewhere where all the stuff that you used to learn, you keep it there.
The world doesn’t have to see it or your clients don’t have to see it. You go back to remind yourself about the lesson you learned from that making that image.
So perfect, this has been quite fantastic. I’ve learned a lot. And I think it’s so much to like, I think you should write something on the history of film actually. Sounds very interesting. Kodak from the old days, then and now it’s like the company doesn’t exist anymore. Kodak died, right? Or am I confused? Kodak died.
I hope useful for the…
Yeah, it was.
They are making a cinema film because there is a whole revivalist kind of thing that there are people who believe that actual film is celluloid, the organic thing.
I just know that when I take my camera out, yesterday I shot one dog and I took some 600 photos because at 10 FPS I can, it’s free I can’t replicate that with film ever
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Yeah, no and I feel that is not the right way to do it also because you will never learn. Okay, because no mistake is hitting you staring at you in the face. Whatever doesn’t work for you, you will delete it and say crap and you can keep on shooting till you know you get tired of it and not but you have not learned anything from it. Have you actually
That’s true and I know, I do honestly feel sometimes that yes, if I had only 50 shots, I would be much more deliberate, I would become a much better photographer. I am lazy.
In fact, in some photo schools, they even tell you bring so many pictures in so many frames. You can’t shoot more than that. Now that discipline you could impose when you had film. You only had 36 exposures on a 35 millimeter camera. So yeah.
I mean, I think the mistakes should be kept to learn from. And yeah, and that’s the part that’s part of the course study or whatever. And also never I feel never, never think that you know it all, you’ve learned everything. Because I find that in my experience, I find maybe in my generation was also like that where if you know you had.
access to expensive equipment, you thought that, you know, that was it. I mean, I’ve had clients who, you know, in the Canon, what is it? What is that? The EOS 1 first came on that was like a, it was like a breakthrough in the digital photography space.
Yeah, and very few people could afford it. So I saw these very senior clients, corporate guys who would travel quite often and all that. So I know there was this guy once told me, he said, yeah, you know, I paid so many lakhs for this camera and my pictures stink. So I don’t know, I think I was in a bad mood. Anyway, I never got any business from the guy after that. So I said, yeah, well, that’s the difference between a photo. I don’t know how to take pictures.
and someone who’s just got expensive equipment. Yeah, you’ve not spent time and effort in learning to see a picture, right? And all the lags you’ve spent on the equipment is not going to get you a… It can give you a high quality image because you’re using very top-class lenses, great image sensor, you know, all of that. But there’s no picture because a good picture…
is an evocative picture, it has to communicate something. Whether it is a lifeless object, you are still bringing it to life.
and also communicate something.
And we end on that note. We’re going to leave some references in the show notes, both on Spotify and on YouTube. We’ve written some articles on light and color and golden hour. We’ll add those too. So thank you so much Ranjit. This has been fantastic.
Thank you Vinit, thank you for inviting me and I hope whatever I had to say is useful for your audience.
it absolutely was for me at least and now looking at the camera thanks everyone for tuning in stay tuned followers on Spotify on YouTube like share subscribe all that stuff it helps us and yeah see you next week bye
They are more left-wing.