These days.

It's been a while since I posted anything up on my blog and earlier on today I realized I really miss sharing my thoughts within this space. I have lots to share but I'm busy shooting, retouching and building the new studio. 

My goal is to start writing posts next week and just having a reserve of quality posts that I can share on a frequent basis.

Wish me luck!

 

My photography business and yours.

I have a considerable amount of connections who are not associated with photography or film in any way whatsoever. I often get asked, “How does it work?” and I understand that.

I was in a taxi in Accra, Ghana not too long ago and the taxi driver looked at me and said, “That’s all you do? Take pictures?” and when I confirmed, he still didn’t take me seriously. You should have seen the look on his face.

Over the past year, I’ve learnt that some folks consider photography as a serious profession and then you have some that don’t. Wether you’re a photographer or not, I’m sure you agree and speaking of photographers, this post is dedicated to all of you starting out.

I started out not too long ago and I wish I knew the things I know now eight months ago.

Model: Margarita Giliadov Make-up & hair: Aniko Tar Assistant: Sam Eclair: www.nugateau.com

Don’t be a jerk.

Nobody wants to work with someone who thinks their shit doesn’t stink. It doesn’t matter if you’re as good as Annie Lebovitz because if you don’t have basic manners or can’t be courteous, nobody will ever work with you. If by chance they do, don’t expect a decent review/referral.

I have lost count of how many gigs I’ve gotten just because clients told me that “they’ve heard” I’m a nice guy.

I’m actually proud to say that I’m not an asshole and when someone books you without even looking at your site, your character can be the best marketing tool you’ll ever own.

It doesn’t matter if you’re working with an actor who’s paying you for a headshot session or a model who you’re paying for a commercial gig, be respectful. Being in front of a camera isn’t easy for most so being considerate, patient and approachable at all times is very important.

You feel me?

Don’t (ever) work for free.

If you value your work, believe in yourself, care about the images you take and know what you’re doing, there is no reason for you to be working for free.

I don’t care if you think there are a million photographers out there who can do it better than you. The day you don’t charge for your services, is a sad day my friend because that means you don’t think you’re worth it and if that’s the case, get rid of your gear because in my opinion, you’re not worthy.

By making sure you get paid, you know your work holds value and that you’re not some Micky Mouse photographer who takes pictures for their 500px account.

My equipment, education and experiences didn’t come easy. Just like yours, they didn’t come cheap either so why should your work? 

Just treat your business like any other business and if you don’t know how, learn.

I’m going to dig deeper.

When you work for free and sell your soul for change, you’re screwing yourself over and other photographers out there. Hint hint! Wink wink!

Make sure people know you’re a photographer.

Unless you’re wearing a t-shirt that reads, “I am a photographer” people won’t know unless you tell them. Many folks don’t realize this but each and everyone out there needs to know a photographer.

Don’t ever leave your house without your business cards and if you don’t know how to tell people just pretend that you’re curious to know what they do. Eventually, they’ll ask you too!

Be shameless and on top of your game at all times because like any other business, it’s all about the hustle.

Learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, keep learning and never stop.

As I write this post, I’m taking breaks, eating, drinking coffee and revisiting tutorials I’ve already watched 6 months ago. There is so much information out there and you’ll never know it all but image if you did? 

The more you learn, the better you’ll become.

Test, test, test, test and keep testing.

When I started out, I underestimated the importance of tests. Before going into a shoot, I’d make sure that my gear is in ace condition but I never really conducted tests at first. It may sound crazy to some but shoot before you shoot.

Surprises suck and the only way to avoid them is to conduct tests.

If you can’t afford to pay people at first, try to compensate them for their transportation and feed them well. It makes a big difference.

Just so you know, I met up with random people and shot when I started out and I developed a body that simply consisted of four images. I (tried) to shot everybody and anyone I knew at first. 

When testing, rent out all the gear you possibly can and try to develop your own style.

Good night.

I will probably update this post from time to time but I think we’re off to a good start. There are so many resources out there and encourage you all to explore as much as you can.

I hope the tips that I shared with you help in you and your photography business.

Good luck!

Gear guide - Pt. 1

I have read 101 guides which summarize all of the astonishing equipment that’s becoming more accessible than ever. If you’re reading this, I am assuming you have some sort of relationship with photography.

Al Jivraj is a phenomenal actor, flawless teacher and an amazing human being. I absolutely loved shooting him.

When it comes to gear, a part of me wanted to write my take on what’s necessary and what isn’t but I think there’s enough information to confuse all of us so I wanted to approach this a little differently.

I guess I should just dive into it. Let’s do this!

It’s never enough.

It doesn’t matter how you put it, there will always be something better and don’t ever say, “Once I buy this, that’s it. I’m done.” because you’ll never be “done”.

Starting out, I bought my first camera (Canon 5D III) and I told myself that I’ll use this for a good three years before even considering anything else. Less than a year later, I’m saving up for medium format.

When you’re truly in love with the craft, you’ll find yourself walking down a rabbit hole when it comes to gear and you’ll never know how far you’ve gone until you realize you’re there. It’s not a scary hole though. It’s actually a wonderful experience.

It’s never enough because you want your next shot to be better than the last.

Your gear gives you an idea of where you are and sometimes you’ll find that you’re out growing a specific component because you want/expect more from your equipment. 

A lot of people say that equipment doesn’t matter and I know where they’re coming from. You could give an XF 100 to someone who doesn’t know the basics of photography and they won’t know what to do with that kind of hardware.

My connection with gear is pretty deep because it didn’t come easy and I have a profound amount of respect for the gear that I own. It may sound funny but your relationship with gear is somewhat similar to your relationship with a partner.

No matter how good your gear is, it won’t always function the way you expect it to and the way you treat your gear is no different than the way it’ll treat you.

“Really good” gear cannot be determined by what a manufacturer tells you or by what you read on someones blog. Understanding what type of hardware (and software) works for you is something that you’ll have to learn on your own. It will take months or possibly years for you to figure it out but googling away can certainly give you information but until you don’t hold that camera in your own hands, you won’t know what’s right for you.

I’ve taken shots using a lighting kit that that costs no more than a thousand dollars that are far superior than a ten thousand dollar lighting kit. 

I’ve taken shots with an eight thousand dollar lens that was supposed to be far superior than my three thousand dollar lens but the results weren’t close to the sharpness and colour rendition that I’m used to.

If you can’t afford something, don’t cry about it. just rent it and step up your game. People will appreciate your images and you will eventually be able to get paid assignments that allow you to own the gear you love.

I wish I knew how to summarize this post but I really don’t. I can actually go on for another few pages but I think I’ll stop here.

I’m actually just feeling lazy right now (it’s the wine) but remember, with great gear comes great responsibility so tread with caution and love.

Seven weeks later.

I’m back home (Toronto).

I took twelve flights within a span of seven weeks and now that this adventure is over, I’m starting to realize that this trip was unlike any journey I’ve ever been on.

Usually when you come back home, you know your routine and your surroundings are familiar. After all, you’re home right? Not for me.

I feel like these past seven weeks was like some sort of a dream. It almost feels like it didn’t even happen. I didn't really have some sort of a concrete plan when I left Toronto but I was so fortunate to get some amazing assignments during my trip.

In India, I line produced a feature starring Sean Bean, I shot an amazing project for Global Affairs Canada in West Africa and during my visit to the upper east region of Ghana, I booked a commercial project showcasing all of the goodness The Baba Tree Basket Company has to offer.

I loved shooting at the Baba Tree Basket Company in Bolgatanga, Ghana. It was a rare experience. 100%.

I am trying to describe what I am exactly feeling and I think the body of work I produced during my trip was so unreal that it’s somewhat challenging to embrace the normalcy of my life in Toronto.

Don’t get me wrong. The food tastes great here (Toronto), I missed the studio and it’s summer! I’m loving and soaking it all in. I usually take advantage of my surroundings and considering I’ve been back in Toronto for a good week, I’d say I’ve done a good job.

Spending sometime away from home is definitely a good thing and I think it’s normal to feel out of place when you’ve been away from home for seven weeks.

I’m very excited to see what’s in store for me here in Toronto. I may have said this before and I’ll say it again! As a photographer, I’ve realized that you’ll never know what to expect. You just go with it and by it, I mean:

Some days are like: “Wow, what a week! What just happened?!?! Why does my phone have such a shitty battery!”

And then some days are like: “What’s going on? Why isn’t anything happening!?!?!”

Now I may sound like I’m complaining but I’m not. I love that about my job and like the breathing space which gives me that freedom to travel and work on my personal projects. It’s a luxury and in my opinion, I’d rather be in this space than do a 9-5. I’m really bad at that.

I think I spoilt myself during this trip though. I have this itch to go out there again. I want to know what else is out there and that doesn’t happen by spending time in front of your browser googling. You know?

You need to be in the mix and in the thick of it to understand what you want to shoot and what truly matters to you.

I’m on it. I’m excited. I’m curious. I’m feeling the way I need to feel. I like it. Every bit of it.

We have it good.

I get a lot of questions like these:

“Why did you decide to move back to Canada?”

Or

“What part of the world is your favourite place to live?”

Or

“Do you miss Mumbai or Accra?”

Behind the scenes - March 19, 2016

Behind the scenes - March 19, 2016

I don’t feel that my thoughts need to be private so I guess you can say that I use this space as a journal that I can share with you. It’s a place for me to write and understand where I am in my life and what brought me to this moment. Not literally this very moment but you get the point.

Around 9 years ago, I started travelling a fair bit because of work related opportunities. I never had the intention of leaving Canada but the idea of living in India sounded very exotic to me. 

Was it the best decision of my life? No.

Did I gain a lot from all of the experiences I shared with some amazing people? Absolutely.

If you haven’t been to India, you should know that there is no place in the world like it. It’s not a place you can see in pictures. You can’t understand it by viewing it on a screen. It’s a Country that requires you to taste, touch and interact with people who call it home.

Do I miss living in India or Ghana? I have my moments but far more significant than those moments, was the realization that I had when I moved back to Canada. This was about 18 months ago.

When I came back, I didn’t understand how I allowed myself to forget how good we have it here.

I forgot how convenient public transit is here in Toronto. People complain about the TTC but I’d like to see those who complain fighting for their lives while they hang off a local train in Bombay. That’s a moment that I will never forget.

I forgot how accessible quality produce is. Today, I can walk into a Metro, Sobey’s or Loblaws and eat whatever I want for dinner. I don’t have to think twice because a pint of strawberry’s doesn’t cost $16.00 or a small pack of smoked salmon isn’t $30.00. I’m being modest with the comparisons here.

Like I said before, I do miss it from time to time but for valid reasons.

I miss my friends in Bombay. There are certain friends you can not replace. 

I miss Accra because my sister lives there. It’s hard being away from the people you love most.

I think after a certain point in your life, we learn to desensitize ourselves from feeling certain feelings. 

Toronto has been really good to me.

I can’t remember the last time I was this busy with freelance assignments. If you’re willing to work your ass off, you can make it here. Not every place is like that. Trust me. I’m not saying I’ve “made it” but you get the point.

I reconnected with a cousin who I consider to be my best friend here and a partner for my meditation sessions. It’s a big aspect of my life.

I love my life here and I am fortunate to have met someone very special to me. She isn’t just my partner in life but my partner at work as well. She makes the impossible possible and motivates me everyday.

There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t appreciate this city, all it has done for me and all that’s in store for me.

We have it good here.

On retouching

My friends often ask me a lot of questions regarding retouching. The one that I love the most:

"Is that photoshopped?"

or

"Show me the before!"

So this post is about how far I normally go with regards to retouching.

First off, I don't believe in making people look thinner or changing their natural features. It's not worth it. When you make someone look thinner or modify certain imperfections, it can offend the client so that's something that I don't do.

I don't ever want to lose those imperfections because those little imperfections matter. Besides, the purpose of retouching isn't to perfect every imperfection. It's to enhance detail, even out skin tones and correct lighting issues.

When I shoot using strobes/flash, the blood flow beneath my subjects skin is constantly changing. This alters the colours of the skin tones and creates inconsistencies that are important to rectify when retouching.

To give you a clear idea, I wanted to use an image of local hip hop artist, Oshaun. I love his look because of the details in his face.

Here is an untouched image we shot a few weeks back:

Untouched Image - Canon 5D MARK III - Canon 85mm 1.2 L-Series

Now, I do believe in removing blemishes and evening out skin tones. If you want an image to stand out, you can not avoid retouching an image but once again, how far is too far?

Have a look at this image here:

Retouched Image using a non-destructive workflow

If you compare the previous untouched image with the retouched image, you will notice minor changes in his skin tone and lighting. If you look closely, I've retained some of the blemishes as well. It's all about retaining those imperfections!

I don't ever want to modify the texture of my subjects skin. If I start doing that, the image is ruined. It's tempting to blur out certain patches and create a flat look because I'd save 2 hours of my time but I'd never do that.

I wanted to go overboard and show you an example of what I can't stand so here it is:

This is what happens when you go too far

In this last image, I've lost all of the masculine characteristics of my subject and in some ways, he almost looks unreal. 

Basically, retouching is like driving on a highway. You need to know when to slow down when you're going to fast because you can easily lose control. 

Retouching is very important because it gives an image that edge. That 1% difference is what makes an image pop and stay with you.

I typically spend anywhere from 1 - 2 hours depending on the image when I retouch. It sounds like a lot of time but that time really flies when you're listening to a podcast in the background. 

Is it worth it? Absolutely.
 

Shooting Talent

I have a rule and it’s quite simple. I always keep my posts as positive as possible because I don’t like negativity. There is enough of that out there but I may bend that rule for this post.

Although my life revolves around photography, I go for auditions because I have a certain love for acting.

Headshot by Avinash Gowarikar (http://avinashg.com/)

Headshot by Avinash Gowarikar (http://avinashg.com/)

For those of you who don’t know, as actors, we have to update our headshots every now and then. They’re either outdated or our look has simply changed. The experience is a monetary investment and an emotional investment as well.

When I shoot actors, I know what it’s like to be in their shoes because there are certain things that bother me when it comes to certain photographers.

First and foremost, I don’t believe that you can get quality images when you overbook. Yes, money is important and we all have our responsibilities to fulfill but as a photographer, I can’t justify overbooking. It’s the worst thing I could do.

If a photographer wants to shoot eight people in a single day, it’s clear that his/her priority is not producing quality work. He/she is going to be exhausted after the 6th client and the same goes for their the make-up artist/team.

You need to give a decent amount of time to each actor to settle in and to get a sense of the nature of projects their interested in booking.

I’ve been in a situation where I felt that I was in a headshot factory of some sort and trust me, it’s not a good feeling. Any shoot that lasts less than an hour, isn’t a good session.

Also, I have noticed that a lot of photographers have this huge ego and tend to forget that the shoot is not about them. It’s about their client and if they don’t feel comfortable, it’s going to show on camera. There are certain things that you can retouch in post but you can’t retouch emotions/feelings.

We’ve all seen images that lack what I call the “soul” factor.

So if you’re an actor, remember these tips:

  • Don’t let any photographer rush you. If he/she does, be polite and ask them if they are in a hurry! Your photographer will get the point.
  • Always ask your photographer about what their thoughts are on wardrobe.
  • Be comfortable!

Last but not least, rest well and have a positive attitude!

 

 

Working with family.

My weekend was awesome.

I did a shoot for my cousins’ business yesterday. It was a unique blend of film and video for a commercial spot. I look forward to sharing with you guys once I’m through with post.

When I do a gig for friends or family, I’ve learnt to keep my expectations neutral because you never know what to expect. Are they going to be enthusiastic, professional or as committed as I am? You’ll never know until the day of the shoot.

Recently, I was in a scenario where I had to reschedule a shoot the moment I saw my clients because to them, going out the night before was more important than producing quality shots. No matter how much make up you apply, when you look tired, it shows. I love her but she was so tired, she made me tired and I just had a grande americano.

That child like enthusiasm before a shoot is something that I can never let go of but again, I keep my expectations neutral and I have my reasons.

Back to the shoot. I was impressed because they were on the ball. I wasn’t going to get into the details but why not.

When I got to the location, they were there before me. All four of them looked well groomed and well rested. There were no shooting restrictions at the location because everything was organized well in advance. Basically, I was able to do my job without worrying about a single thing.

Want to hear the craziest part? When the shoot was over, they paid me and I didn’t have to ask for it. I offer quality imagery and exceptional service to all of my clients so compensation is standard but did they have to? No. They send me referrals all the time.

Despite being family, they demonstrated a degree of professionalism that any photographer would appreciate. They did a great job. 

Thank you guys!

Shooting at Dum Pukht

Capturing South Asian food isn't easy. You deal with lighting issues due to the ghee/butter/oils that are typically found in South Asian dishes. Our food tastes great but it doesn't always look good.

Being Indian, I wanted to shoot some Indian cuisine and include a few shots in my Lifetstyle & Food book. It felt like the right thing to do.

In search of the ideal Indian restaurant, I knew that I could ask my cousin. When it comes to food, he has some serious standards. After giving it some thought, he recommended a restaurant in Markham, Ontario so thank you Ajaz Bhai.

Dum Pukht is a restaurant that opened a little over two months ago. They certainly put in a lot of work into the interiors but it didn't stop there. It was one of those restaurants where the service was as good as the ambiance and here is the best part, so was the food!

Everyone at the restaurant was extremely helpful in helping me set up for the shoot itself and the owner, Mr. Karla asked the head chef to bring out a few dishes as soon as I was done setting up. I asked for two and they brought out six.

Here is an image of their Roasted Lamb Chops. 

Roasted Lamb Chops at Dum Pukht

Was I starving while I was shooting their Roasted Lamb Chops? Absolutely.

Editorial grade food photography requires patience because you have to ask yourself the right questions. What kind of wine should be placed in the image? Can I place a few extra plates in order to give it a sense of community/family? If so, how many plates? Also, how can I showcase the restaurant while doing all of the above?

When you walk out of a shoot knowing that you've gotten some quality images, it's a feeling that compares to no other.

All thanks to the wonderful team at Dum Pukht!


For those of you who are curious to know more about Dum Pukht:

Dum Pukht
319 Denison St, Markham, ON L3R 1B7
(905) 604-6401

https://www.facebook.com/Dum-Pukht-1693345057556453/timeline

 

Why I quit my job.

In order to pursue photography as a full-time business, I recently quit my job last year. I didn’t know how much of a challenge this transition was going to be but quitting wasn’t the hard part. It was the moments that led up to realizing that I had to quit.

I had to quit in order to give my business and myself the time I needed without the distractions of a 9-5.

When you have a 9-5, whatever energy you have is spent. When you consider the time that you invest in commuting to work and the time that you put in at work, you can end up spending more than 60+ a week. I was and I knew that I could not give my all in my business if I was spending all that time working for an organizations’ goals rather than my own.

I thought that if I spent all that time working on my business, would I succeed?

During the holiday season that just passed, I gave it a shot. It wasn’t much of a holiday as I spent most of my time marketing my business, conducting test shoots and working with lighting set-ups that I wasn’t completely familiar with.

There are many good photographers out there but there are few who get recognized and labelled as great photographers or as masters of light.

You can’t expect to master a craft if you’re life revolves around a job. It isn’t something that you can do “on the side” or whenever you have the time.

If you ask the avid photographers of our time what it is that sets them a class above everyone else, they all have the same answer. They never stop learning.

Clients are great. They’re important. They pay the bills but their standards and expectations aren’t as high as mine. There isn’t a day that goes by where a client says, “Hey Kabir, that’s fine. It doesn’t bother me.” and they don’t need to know what bothers me. That’s not their job or my responsibility.

I’m still getting used to being self-employed. Like I said before, it’s a challenging transition but I am loving it. It’s a rollercoaster. It’s exciting. Tomorrow is always better than the day that just passed and I never felt that way going in to work.

Basically, quitting my job is one of the scariest things I have done in my life but there isn’t a second that doesn’t go by where I am grateful that I took that step.

Do I consider myself to be a good photographer?

Sure.

Do I consider myself to be one of the best?

That’s something that I am working on.

That's why I quit.

Shooting Food

People often ask me why I enjoy shooting food so much. Depending on how I feel, I have different answers but this sums it up:

I never knew I would share such a close relationship with food.

In 2013, I couldn’t scramble an egg if you asked me to. It wasn’t a part of my lifestyle. I relied on my cooks in India to prepare my meals and as some of you may know, it’s standard practice to have someone to cook for you in India or Africa. Back in Vancouver, I’d just eat out.

When I moved to Toronto around a year ago, I wanted to live better and that also meant I needed to eat better. There is only way to do that. I had to cook my own food and add some diversity to the food that I ate whenever I was out.

If you’re learning to cook, eating out can be a very informative experience.

So I played with my restaurant choices and after 43 unique restaurant visits, there is one thing I brought back to my own kitchen.

02 - COFFEE - INNER - CLEAN.jpg

It could have been a conversation with a chef towards his/her approach or paying more attention to the ingredients/description of a particular meal but what I love most about eating out is the presentation. It’s that last step that truly summarizes the effort that has been placed into the food that has been presented in front of you.

I feel that the attention to the way food is plated and presented is often overlooked. For some reason, most people don’t pay much attention to the way they plate their food at home but a part of me wants to bring that experience home. So I tried.

It’s not easy to plate something the way restaurants do but occasionally, I’d get pretty close. I wanted to learn how to do this so I took a course in food photography and styling.

I didn’t do it because of the photography at first. I had no interest in shooting food but as I become more comfortable with the styling of food, I couldn’t resist grabbing my camera.

It was around this time I booked my first food client, Nugateau Patisserie Inc. They produce the finest éclairs in Toronto and Chef Atul Thomas invests a lot of attention into each éclair they produce. They're challenging to shoot but I love them.

My experience with food has been unique and if you’re reading this, I hope you can share a similar experience.

I want to shoot the things that matter the most in life and for me, those things are the people in my life and the food that gives us life.

Be Comfortable

My mother had a dream. She wanted her son to be an actor. It didn't take me long to realize that I was happier behind a camera but I was a Mama's boy so I gave it a shot. I trained extensively to become a bollywood superstar.

In addition to the acting classes, personal training sessions, there were numerous photoshoots and out of all of them, I can recall one photoshoot that I had with Zakia Shakir. She is considered to be one of the finest photographers based photographers in India and rarely shoots anything that's not editorial. 

It wasn't easy getting her to shoot a session but after a few meetings, she agreed to do so.

This shoot took place 7 years ago.

Photograph by Zakia Shakir Studio

Photograph by Zakia Shakir Studio

The images came out great. I thanked her for shooting my pictures but I never told her the real reason why I was so grateful.

She made me so comfortable during the course of my shoot. I didn't feel intimidated, rushed or overwhelmed by an experience that was somewhat difficult for me. She knew when I needed a moment or if my energy was simply low.

Unknowingly, she taught me how one should work with talent.

Years have passed since that season in my life. Today, I make it a point to make everyone in my atmosphere as relaxed as possible. 

As an actor, I believe if you want to give a good performance, you need to be comfortable in order to deliver your emotions with conviction. In that moment, you need to feel okay in your own skin even if you're truly not.

Now as a photographer, I am not just assessing how my light falls on my subject and how he/she is conveying his/her emotions. I am constantly keeping tabs on how my talent feels.

After a few wardrobe changes, it can be exhausting for an actor. It doesn't matter if an actor has never shot before or shoots frequently because energy is always invested into good work.

So if you're an actor who is going to visit our studio for a session, rest, relax, don't drink too much caffeine and be who you truly are. That's who everyone loves.

Thank you Zakia.