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Architectural & Interiors Photography

Today, let’s welcome Ravi Dhingra, , who is also the Brand Ambassador for Canon India. He shares an insight from his exciting journey of Photography career and his thought process, work flow and important tips for beginners pursuing Photography as a career, specially in Architectural and Interiors Photography.

LAA: How did you get into Photography and what made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting passion as a  Career? Has Photography been your family business or Profession?

Ravi: Photography was always a hobby since school days. Though I had my own camera much later in my life, I was always interested in looking at photographs in books and magazines. Started my career in Finance after finishing my education in Commerce and specialization in Cost Accountancy (ICWA). Spent around 13 years in this profession and bought my first SLR camera during this time. Got more involved with the camera, bought a few books for learning but the books were not much of help. Joined a photography course at Triveni Kala Sangam under guidance of Mr. O. P. Sharma. Nobody in my family was involved in photography as profession, my father & my brother both were in Army.

Finance as profession was getting very monotonous and the urge to express through a creative medium was always there. Some friends who knew that I have a good camera and have learnt photography offered photography assignments and the first ever assignment I did was shooting the interiors of an office. Space designing is another area which fascinated me and the chance of shooting spaces really got me into the profession.

LAA: This question you might find it as the toughest of the lot, why architectural & interiors Photography? If you ever have to shoot something other than Architecture & interiors , what would it be?

Ravi: As mentioned above,space designing fascinated me. Have some architect friends and they are always sharing details of the projects they complete . Got the opportunity of seeing them work and visiting the sites which gave me insights of the profession. So when I started shooting the architecture and interiors I had a fair idea of the design elements in the project, areas which the architect or the interior designer would like to highlight.
Other than shooting architecture and interiors I do a lot of food photography. Though the two require totally different approach but I found some kind of synergy between the two. Food photography is also about design,Chef or the stylist are the designers and the design elements(presentation) in the food needs to be highlighted.
Besides the two genres mentioned above,taking photographs of people(portraiture) is one area where I want to work more both commercially as well as a personal project.

LAA: Any Photography assignment that you will always cherish? Why?

Ravi: One of my favorite assignments has been taking photographs of some UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India which included Hampi, Konark Temple, Khajuraho, Kanheri Caves and Warangal Fort.

It was quite challenging considering the short time which was given to cover these places and that too during monsoon. This assignment allowed me to pursue my travel photography on client’s expense.

LAA: How often do you have to Travel for your photography projects? Dream location that you would like to travel to take pictures?

Ravi: Travelling is quite frequent for my photography assignments. There is no dream location as such considering the wide variety of destinations which I have not covered. For every photographer,the dream destination is one which has not been explored by any other photographer. To go to a location where no photographer has gone before is like a dream coming true.

LAA: Are you a self-taught Photographer? Who has been your favorite mentor? Tell us about the difficulties you faced in establishing a name in Photography Industry? Is there any pre-requisite to be an Architectural Photographer?

Ravi: When I was learning photography, Internet was non-existent. Main source of information were books and magazines. Here also the options were limited, so self teaching was not easy. I learnt photography from Mr. O. P. Sharma, at Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi for 1 year, did both the modules – Basic and Advanced. He is an excellent mentor and all the credit goes to him for making me understand the camera and photography techniques. After a certain time when I got familiar with basic techniques, for areas of specialization like Architecture, Interiors, Food & Portraiture, self teaching came into picture. At this time, I was not buying photography learning books but I started buying books with lot of excellent visual content related to my interests & areas of specialization. With these books I learnt about the ‘Look of a photograph’ which meant lighting, composition, etc. Since, I was a late entrant in photography, no established photographer took me as an assistant. This is one thing I sometimes miss, not working with an experienced photographer.

After some time when I started looking for assignments beyond my friends, they were difficult to get. Not many clients wanted to take chances with a fresh photographer. One option I tried was approaching some publications who gave me the opportunity to work. There was not much of money but I gained a lot of experience and got to photograph a variety of subjects. This helped me in building my portfolio and establishing contacts in the industry. At this time, Digital cameras were not there so there was not much of competition in the areas which I chose to pursue. The assignments started coming in and over a period of time, have been able to establish myself in the photography industry.
Architectural & Interiors Photography is all about design. Understanding elements of design and aesthetics are pre-requisite to be a successful photographer in this field.

LAA: How does it feel to be a Photo Mentor for Canon India? Tell us about the roles and responsibilities of being a Photo Mentor.

Ravi: Sharing knowledge on photography is one aspect which is very close to my heart. I am teaching photography for almost 12 years now. The students are from all fields from school going children to high profile corporate executives.
It is always a great feeling to be associated with a leader in the the Industry and Canon has given me the opportunity to be part of their Photo Mentor team. Being a photo mentor means sharing all the knowledge in totality, not in bits and parts. Teach all as long as the student is willing to learn in my way of looking at whole concept of sharing knowledge and information.
LAA: What gears do you carry when you are working on a Project? How important it is to have a right gear for the shoot? Tell us about your one favorite Picture that has been the game changer for you?

Ravi: For my architectural & interiors assignment, my photography kit besides a Canon 5D2 body includes a wide angle zoom 17-40, a sturdy tripod,few LED lights,a remote cable release. Right gear can make or break a photograph. A professional photographer will never compromise on the quality of equipment. Choosing a favourite photograph is a difficult thing to do. There are so many of them which are my favourites but I am still waiting for the game to change,something like the Afghan Girl photograph which was a game changer for Steve McCurry.

LAA: How do you plan your shoot and how important it is to plan the shoot in advance?

Ravi: For architectural shoots planning is must, all depends on the direction of light. Early morning,late evening or twilight,the time of shoot is decided in advance after doing a survey of the site. Even in interiors photography where outdoor ambience has to be included along with the space inside,planning in advance is very important. Most of the time,a checklist is shared with clients citing the requirements for photographing the project so that at the time of shoot things are in place and no time is wasted.

LAA: According to you, how important it is to Post Process an image? What software do you use for it?

Ravi: Post processing is not something new,it was there in film days also. I try to photograph in the best possible manner so that time spent on post processing is not much,but it is essential to post process. Also I shoot only in RAW file format,so the question of not post processing does not arise. I use Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop for most of my post processing .

LAA: Who is your favorite Photographer? What’s your, all time, favorite picture by him and why?

Ravi: There are many.Raghu Rai has always been my inspiration,have grown looking at the photographs clicked by him in newspaper & magazines. His Bhopal gas tragedy photographs are very touching and intriguing . Yousuf Karsh is another photographer whose portraits are always on my mind when I do studio portraiture. Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Steve McCurry … The list is endless.

LAA: Thanks to the Digital Photography, now many can afford a decent camera. What advice would you give to our readers?

Ravi: Go out and shoot as much as possible. Start seeing and observing things around you even when you are without your camera. Take critical feedback from experienced photographers from time to time and the most important advice, do not ever stop learning.