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So you have an enquiry for a photography assignment and not sure how to go about it, this post is about my experience as a professional photographer for almost 18 years. This post also tries to answer the calls and messages I receive regularly seeking guidance in respect of professional practices.
The photo shoot enquiries are generally generated by either the client directly or through the agency representing the client which could be an advertising agency, a PR firm or an event management entity.
Dealing with or through agencies is much more simpler as compared to the direct client. The various agencies are already aware of the existing deliverables, the prevailing commercial terms and timelines for an assignment whereas the direct client may not be aware of all these which many a times means educating.
Whether dealing with client directly or through agency first and very important step is to understand the assignment and deliverables. The agency most probably will have the artwork or a clear outline of the proposed photo shoot with number of days allocated for the assignment.
For the direct client, especially the one who is getting a shoot done for the first time, it is essential to be on the same wavelength and frequency. I always insist on reference images which can bring out the concept on client’s mind, this ensures that there is no confusion at the time or after the shoot. It is absolutely essential to inform the client about issues or difficulties which may arise during the actual shoot like some products may require extra time or the desired result will only be possible after intensive post processing. Some assignment will require hiring an extra hand like a stylist, it is always better to let experts in the field to take charge. The logistics also need to be worked out at this time- in studio or at location etc. This clarity will help in avoiding any conflicts and help in long term association.
The payment has two components – the amount and terms.
Amount of assignment charges vary from photographer to photographer but the reason for variation is the experience. An experienced photographer will definitely be able to get more assignment charges as compared to a newer one. Here I am trying to avoid quantifying any amount as some photographers are ready to work at really low figure, almost free, because of competition, opportunity of getting exposure etc. The experienced photographer does not charge for pressing the shutter release button but for the vision. The experience helps in getting better photographs in optimum time due to coordinating better with the team consisting of client, agency, stylist, lighting assistants and other members.
The amount charged can either be on the basis of ‘per day’ or ‘per product’.
If working on ‘per day ‘ basis, numbers of hours in a day need to be explicitly mentioned, generally 8 hrs for full day & 4 hrs for half a day. This means reaching on or before the scheduled time and not making anyone wait. Also it is important to inform about the number of shots possible in a day.
While working on ‘per product’ basis, minimum quantity of products to be shot during the day has to be fixed before the shoot, something similar to ‘cover charges’, the client will have to pay a minimum amount even if the quantity of product is less than what was committed. ‘Per Product’ rate is more applicable for e-commerce based clients which is volume based having similar products being shot under similar setups. The assignments, where compositions are involved like food,interiors etc, working on ‘per day ‘ basis is advisable.
Digital Processing Charges also need to be discussed while negotiating with the client. These can either be built in the photography assignment charges or mentioned separately. During the film days, the clients always paid for the cost of film rolls, processing, printing etc over and above the assignment charges. With digital photography, the photographer need to do extra work which earlier was outsourced. Also if the assignment requires intensive post processing which may mean outsourcing to an editing expert, the charges need to be mentioned clearly.
Terms of delivery and payment are equally important, with new clients I do not block a day without receiving an advance which is generally 25% of the total assignment charges and balance 75% on sharing the high resolution photographs. If the client cancels or postpone without giving adequate notice, the advance is not refundable(emergencies are excluded). A set of low resolution images is shared before actually handing over the final set. With existing clients the terms of payment have evolved over a period of time and are more flexible on account of the comfort level.
A typical estimate/ Proforma Invoice on Photographer’s letterhead ( now-a-days computer generated ) will have the following:
Photography assignment charges
Number of days/Number of products
Digital processing charges
Actual expenses (equipment/studio rental, travel etc if agreed upon)
Terms of delivery and payment
PAN ( Permanent Account Number)
Bank Account Details ( if online payment is being made)
GST(Goods & Services Tax): In case the annual income from profession is less than ₹20 lacs, Registration is not mandatory. An undertaking to this may have to be given to the client.
TDS (Tax Deduction at Source) will be applicable which is currently 10% which can be adjusted while filling the Income Tax Return.
All the discussions, reference images, estimates must be put in writing, preferably through email. There has to be a proper record of everything discussed so that there is no confusion at a later date, verbal commitments can’t be relied upon.
A few things which must be always kept in mind.
Never over-commit, if it not possible to give finished images before a particular time, do not give an early deadline. Same applies for agreeing to click more photographs in a day than possible just because client is insisting. Handing over before time or shooting more than expected will build client’s confidence.
Punctuality and timely delivery hold the key, reaching before the shoot and keeping things ready before the arrival of client create a good impression. And since the hours are pre-defined, the discipline from client’s side will also be there. Also avoid taking frequent breaks, could be as simple as avoiding taking phone calls in between.
Once the assignment charges have been fixed( even lower than what you had in mind), give your best, never compromise on the quality just because the client has not agreed to your quote. You are a party to the agreement and there are no afterthoughts. After the scope of work and terms are decided, re-negotiations are strict no.
It is always better that either the client or representative of agency is present during the shoot, if due to certain reasons it is not possible, work out an arrangement with the client for showing the first shot through mail or message and getting the same approved. At times, the smallest of detail matter, which the client or agency can point out, this will help in setting the flow for rest of the shoot.
Be nice to people working with you. Loosing temper, not speaking politely to team members are not signs of professionalism. A good team will make things easier and shooting floor more lively and happy. Have a control over the situation and an ability to troubleshoot with a smile.
In case, there is a dispute at a later date due to any reason, try to reconcile with the client amicably. A fight may result in forfeiting payment and loosing future business prospects. Offer a re-shoot if there is shortcoming at your end, keep the customer satisfied.
Happy Clicking !
© Ravi Dhingra
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‘Keep the horizon straight’ is one of the important composition rules in photography where the horizon has to be kept parallel to the horizontal side of the frame. Similarly keeping the vertical lines parallel to vertical side of frame creates a balance in the image, there are perspective control (PC) lenses also known as Tilt & Shift lenses which help in overcoming the problem of converging verticals.
A slight tilt is considered as a mistake but an intentional tilt, a deliberate slant where degree of tilt is quite high is the Dutch Tilt or Dutch Angle. Not to be confused with the country Holland or Netherlands, the term ‘Dutch’ originates from ‘Deutsch’ meaning German. So basically Dutch Tilt, Dutch Angle and German Angle are same and used very often in cinematography.
In this technique the camera is set at an angle similar to tilted head where horizon is not parallel to the bottom of the frame. By using the line dynamics, a drama is created in the scene and causes an uneasiness or tension. The eyes, used to seeing the symmetry and balance, notice the drastic change in perspective of the subject.
Using diagonals while composing changes the scene from one point perspective to two point perspective, the subject looks three dimensional. Here either the subject is turned around or camera is moved to see the depth in the subject. In Dutch Tilt, the camera is set at an angle on its roll axis making the lines appear diagonal instead of parallel to the sides of the frame. The angle is quite unique and make a tremendous impact on the viewer and can also lead to abstraction from a definite form or shape. Besides catching the attention, the angle can make the viewer think about the subject and interpret in own way.
Happy Clicking !
© All Rights Reserved Ravi Dhingra
A few months back I posted about a food photography proposal I received from a Food App. The proposal, it seems was designed by a Management Graduate ( no offence to MBAs, there are exceptions, some are really creative), the whole photography model was volume based , on the quantity of restaurants a photographer can cover in a day. The assignment which was described to me was to visit around 200 restaurants in around 2 months and take photographs of 10 dishes in each restaurant. The assignment charges per restaurant were too low to be even discussed but when it comes to volume of business and generation of revenue, it seemed like a decent amount for a photographer. I didn’t think in terms of volume of business, number of restaurants to be covered because as per my experience in food photography ( almost 18 years now) , it takes almost a day to click 10 dishes where each food item is nicely stylised and every detail is taken care of. Visiting three restaurants in a day where travel time also needs to be considered, means spending around an hour maximum per restaurant to take photographs of 10 dishes.
In such a scenario, quality of photographs can be an issue. Food photography is not about the taste, it is all about the looks. Most of the Chefs have taste in mind, presentation of food may not be suitable for the photograph. A food stylist plays an important role here who ensures that food looks fresh, appetising and inviting in the visual.
I posted about the offer from Food App on the wall of my Facebook, majority of photographers questioned the offer and agreed that food photography is different from photography for e-commerce but one photographer took offence and justified the business model which is purely volume based and evaded answers on the quality of photographs. He even accused me of misleading young photographers who are getting an opportunity to make some decent earnings.
The discussion was inconclusive but a food photograph which I came across today brought back the memories of the offer & not-so-healthy exchange of words.
Food photography is all about detailing in presentation besides the other technical aspects of photography and lighting. To me and majority of other photographers, it is the quality which matters, not the quantity. The famous quote by Ansel Adams sums up the importance of quality in photography :
“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”
In the photograph above, as far as my interpretation goes, the oil leaking from the dispenser is an omission, an oversight, a hurriedly taken photograph where the photographer has not spent time on observing the elements in the frame. Simple mistakes can ruin a photograph, here not only the photographer but the designer ( Art Director ) of pamphlet where this image is used is equally responsible. This is not the only food photograph where the quality is questionable, there are so many such other images where restaurants have spent huge money on setting up the place and advertising/PR but have not spent enough to hire an experienced photographer and/or a food stylist.
PS: Anyone who feel that oil spill is intentional and is a part of composition is requested to ignore this post.
Oil spills are not only bad for environment but also for food photography 😊.
Disclaimer: The photograph used in this post is only for the purpose of reference. Copyright of the image is owned by the respective brand.
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For a photographer, designer, advertising agency, publisher or printer, ‘300dpi’ is not an alien term, it is a kind of prerequisite for submission of photographs. From entering a photography contest to submitting images after a professional photo shoot, one comes across this term very often. For most of the people in the industry, 300dpi means high resolution but is it the right equation to describe the resolution of a photograph ?
In the current scenario 300dpi is the most misused term, it is rather incorrect, outdated and incomplete.
DPI is abbreviation for Dots Per Inch, a term which is related to printer dots per inch.
The resolution of a photograph is ascertained by pixels. Pixels are the square, solid colored smallest element of an image file. Camera manufacturers highlight MP-MegaPixels to describe the quality of sensor in the camera.
Megapixels mean million pixels, a 10mp sensor has 10 million pixels which is calculated by multiplying the horizontal pixel dimension with the vertical pixel dimension.
A 10 megapixel photo is 3872 pixels wide by 2592 pixels high
(3872 x 2592 = 10,036,224 pixels = 10 megapixels)
An 18 megapixel photo is 5184 pixels wide by 3456 pixels high
(5184 x 3456 = 17,915,904 pixels = 18 megapixels)
A camera does not give output in dots, only pixels are relevant in a digital image. When the term DPI is used, it really mean Pixels Per Inch or PPI.
When it comes to printing a photograph, even 300ppi is not the complete term, it does not mean anything unless accompanied by the size of the print.
A 6 inches by 4 inches at 300ppi will have 1800 by 1200 pixels ( 6×300 by 4×300) or 2.16mp (1800×1200). A same print at 100ppi will be 600 by 400 pixels and at 200ppi will be 1200 by 800 pixels.
A 12×8 inches print at 300 dpi will be 3600×2400 pixels or 8.64mp
A camera with a resolution of 24.2MP is able to record an image which contains a total of 24160256 pixels. Shot in an image ratio of 3:2 a 24.2MP image would have a resolution of 6016 x 4016 pixels. With this resolution, a print size of 20.05×13.38 inches is possible at 300ppi. At 200ppi the print size will be 30×20 inches and 60×40 inches at 100ppi. At 72ppi the maximum print size without any quality loss can be printed which will be 83.55×55.77 inches with this sensor. Below 72ppi, the print quality will start deteriorating but again it depends on viewing distance, sometimes the big hoardings which are placed at a distance are printed at lower than 72ppi.
So next time if you come across 300dpi ask for print size and do not forget to point out the difference between dpi and ppi.
© Ravi Dhingra
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Photography is witnessing a total overhaul, evolution or transformation are mild words to describe this phenomenon. Twenty first century brought digital technology in the lives of photographers but the acceptance was gradual, it almost took 6-7 years for traditional photographers to move from film to digital. Post processing became an integral part of image creation and has resulted in over dependence on editing softwares. What was possible with extensive lighting setups can easily be replicated with a few clicks on computer.
Shifting from film to digital faced a lot of resistance, the initial technology was not fully developed, there were image quality issues and most importantly photographers had invested heavily in the equipment and early digital cameras were expensive. By the time digital technology became stable, sensors started producing excellent images and camera prices came down, another technology revolution was in pipeline.
Camera in phone brought a whole new perspective in the field of photography, every one with phone could click pictures. Number of photographs clicked everyday now exceed the number of photographs clicked in first hundred years of introduction of photography. A good camera in a phone is a major selling point for the phone manufacturers, self portraits or selfies helped the cause of democratisation of photography.
At present, photography has become totally technology driven, lot of innovations are taking place both in hardware and software. Advanced sensors which are smaller in size combined with fast processors driven by intelligent software are able to produce brilliant results which are comparable to high end cameras. Mirrorless cameras have brought down the size of the camera and allowed shooting at higher fps (frames per second).
Few years back Lytro brought a whole new technology introducing a new way of focusing, it allows choosing a point of focus at the time of editing. It was supposed to be a game changer but didn’t really catch the fancy of photographers. Not considering the sales figures of the camera, the innovation is commendable. Changing focus points can alter the story in a photograph and bring out better imagination and creativity.
Dual lenses (not front & rear cameras) in phone were introduced in the recent past but to introduce 16 lenses in a compact phone, the Light L16, is surely a stroke of genius. This opens up a lot of new possibilities as far as imaging is concerned, it is revolutionary. Over a period of time, considering the speed in which technology is changing, multiple lenses in a phone camera can become an essential feature in the future.
Besides the hardware improvements, photography is becoming more dependent on softwares, the algorithms. Manipulation of images in the camera itself before or after clicking is another area where immense progress is happening. Uploading the photographs on computer and sharing will be a thing of past soon. The smart devices with extra smart cameras will do the job perfectly from clicking, advanced editing to sharing and storing in the cloud.
For a traditional photographer this could be a scary situation where technology is fast taking over the human skills but at the end of the day, no technology can ever replace the eye behind the camera. The art of visual story telling will never change in spite of all the technological advancements after all photography is more about sensitivity and aesthetics than the camera. As Ansel Adams had quoted ‘ You don’t take a photograph, you make it’ .
© Ravi Dhingra 2017
Before, After and Afterwards. Dreams VS Reality
– Photography is cool and photographers are most sought after people
– Want to be in a creative field, enough of my boring job in engineering or finance.
– Want to express my thoughts, my feelings through my images
– Education is fine but photography will help in getting a cool job in a lifestyle magazine operating out of a plush office headed by a super cool boss, like Ranbir Kapoor landed one in ‘Wake Up Sid ‘
– Want to follow my passion like Farhan in the movie ‘3 Idiots’
– A 9-5 job is not my cup of tea
– Want to travel, see the world, something similar to Ranbir Kapoor in ‘Yeh Jawaani hai Deewani’
– Don’t want to be a part of the rat race
– Fashion photography is so glamorous, will be surrounded by beautiful models. John Abraham looks amazing on the beach with his camera in the company of good looking girls in bikinis
– Photography is an art
After making photography as profession
– do I have to upgrade my equipment? Will this lens not work, the new one will cost a bomb
– Why should I buy the editing software, the pirated one is working perfectly on my computer
– Don’t tell me that my existing computer can’t handle the latest software to edit the files created by my new equipment, need to upgrade
– Now that I have the latest equipment, latest software and brand new computer, getting assignments will not be difficult
– What? Lifestyle magazines work mostly with freelancers, no one told me this
– The experienced and senior photographers charge quite a lot, they also use the same equipment, I can also quote almost the same figure.
– Six months now and no assignment, must reduce my assignment charges to land some work
– No work still, can offer free services for a limited period or work on barter system, free lunch in lieu of food photography. Also it will give me experience and most importantly exposure.
– Shooting for online shopping portals, 300 products in a day, 5 angles each. Money is good but no creativity
– Candid wedding photography seems like a happening thing, must give it a try. Have heard there is a lot of money in this. So what if involves working at odd hours and to be always on toes. And there are so many options here : pre-wedding, post-wedding like maternity, new born etc
– Even wedding photography has a lot of competition, don’t mind working with a team of photographers, doesn’t matter if it is not candid, at least getting a hang of it. Birthday parties & even other events photography will do.
– 10000 photos, shortlisting and editing, this will be minimum 4 days in front of computer without any break
– You don’t like the photographs? I worked so hard to get them, spent a lot of time on editing and you will not pay. This is not done, pay at least 50% to recover my costs.
Now that I am in this profession for a year now, know everything related to it, time to get into teaching photography, let me start with a workshop or maybe a photo tour.
This is a reality which many photographers are dealing with today, there is no intention to discourage people to chose photography as profession. Photography like any other field is highly competitive, require investment of money and time and has a gestation period to get returns. There is nothing like instant results, every day is a learning experience and persistence is the key to success.
Jaane bhi do yaaron
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Rashmi:Waise sooraj ke saath maine aapki bhi tasveerein le lee hain, bura to nahin maana
Rashmi: With the Sun, I have taken your photographs also. Hope you don’t mind.
Raj: nahi, agar tasveerein achhi aa gayi to bura nahin maanenge.
Raj: no, won’t mind if photographs turn out to be good.
Rashmi: Photography ke baare main hum zyaada to nahin jante, bus kismet aazmaate rahte hain.
Rashmi: don’t know much about photography, but keep trying my luck.
Raj: haan, har nayi cheez ke liye kismet ko aazmaana bahut zaroori hota hai.
Raj: Yes, for every new thing, trying luck is very essential.
Raj: waise aapne ek cheez bahut sahi ki, sahi waqt par sahi jagah par pahunch gayi
Raj: by the way you did one thing right, reached right place at the right time.
Rashmi: aah ha..lagta hai aap photography ke baare main bahut jaante hain. issi jagah par meri ek tasveer leejiye, dekhte hain kaisi aati hai.
Rashmi : aah ha. seems you know quite a lot about photography, how about taking my photograph at the same place. Let’s see how it turns out.
Raj: haan, zaroor. Aaj light kam ho gayi hai, kal milte hain, issi waqt issi jagah.
Raj: Yes, sure. Light is less now, let’s meet tomorrow at the same time, same place.
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