A career in Photography is a long shot whichever way you look at it ! But its all about bringing out your creativity to set yourself apart from the rest !
Kirti Lokhande, our next pathbreaker, Commercial Photographer, does Advertising and Industrial shoots and also runs a photography equipment rentals company, Lensowl Creative Ventures Pvt Ltd.
Kirti talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about being introduced to photography while studying design and taking the plunge within three years of her design career.
For students, If you are not enjoying what you are doing, it’s not meant for you. Explore your interests, dare to fail and be ready to Innovate. This is what it takes to get to where you want to be !
Kirti, tell us what were your growing up years like?
I was born in Mumbai and raised in a small town called Palghar about 120 Km away. My dad was a businessman and mum a homemaker. I was raised alongside my twin and my elder sister.
I studied in a convent school. Though I was good at academics, I loved arts and crafts, especially theater.
Our house was next to my dad’s factory, so we spent our days running around the shop floor, playing badminton with the workers. At home, we used to help our mum with her gardening and go to our farm after school.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
After my schooling, we shifted to Mumbai for further studies. I finished my 12th in science from Sathaye college, Ville Parle. After that, I did a 3.5 year diploma course in Interior Design from SNDT Polytechnic and worked with two firms. However, my long abiding love for photography was present since the day I had done a short course while studying design. So great was my love, that I took the plunge within three years of my design career.
I also did a 2 year course, Master craftsmen in Photography from Shari Academy.
Tell us, what made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
I was greatly influenced by all Indian as well as international magazines as well as various books on architecture and design.
Architect Sanjay Badve – I used to work as a designer with him. He used to shoot fine art images. I had done a small course in photography till then. Design, like Photography, is all art and not too different!
I got interviewed for a book on different careers when I was working as a designer and the interviewer asked me, “what next after design?“ and I quickly said “photography”! He immediately took me to an education fair and introduced me to the Dean of Shari Academy.
I figured out that I can get an educational loan and that’s how I signed up for a 2 -year course in photography.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path.
I was 24/25 years old when I got into photography. I had also taken up a loan for the college course. Both my sisters were earning by then. I too wanted to be on my own, and so I started taking up assignments right from my second year of the course.
I got my first scholarship for participating in adventure photography – I was hanging down from 50 ft to cover Janmashtami event at Dadar, Mumbai.
I was awarded my second scholarship for being the first one from my academy to win the B.D. Bandur Endowement Award. It was an interest free loan of INR 1L for being excellent at portrait photography.
I was bestowed the “Women Entrepreneur of the year” award three times in a row by Great Companies. For 2020, 2021, 2022.
I joined Ali Rangoonwala for an internship as he was well known for interior architecture photography. It was a short stint of 3 months and I got to learn editing.
I then started off on my own.
I did not have anyone in my immediate family and friend circle who was into photography as much as I was, so I had to develop my own contact list.
My two mentors Rohinton Irani and Pesi Dubash guided me and made me what I am today. I still go to Rohinton Sir to discuss various challenges on site when I shoot industrial projects. Pesi has been very kind to introduce me to many people, also he took me along as an assistant to a few projects.
How did you get your first break?
It was my last day at my institute; we had our exhibit going on. I got a call from one agency whom I had worked with when I was into designing. He knew that I was studying photography. He asked me to go and meet a garment manufacturer. The office was right next to my institute. I met the decision makers, showed them my work and next I know I shot my first campaign shoot! There were hoardings (60’x40’, 60’x80’) all over Maharashtra and Gujarat.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
Challenge 1: In my first campaign shoot, coming up with a concept and getting the production right within the budget was a little challenging. I thoroughly studied the garments that were to be showcased and also kept the purpose in mind. The client wanted to sell the brand and was looking to position their brand accordingly. Siyaram bought the brand out by the end of the campaign!
Challenge 2: Getting the best output within the budget is always a challenge as creative people have lots of ideas, but those ideas most often run into the harsh realities of limited resources. The execution of an idea within restricted numbers is like cutting your wings off! Best is to break everything down to the T and then figure out alternatives.
Tell us about your work as a photographer?
I have my own brand called Kirti Lokhande Photography for my commercial work and Lensowl Creative Ventures Pvt Ltd for photography equipment rentals.
I make images with a purpose – Photography is not about clicking images of people, products or places. It is about capturing deeper meanings, creating perceptions, building aspirations in the minds of the consumers. So I solve my clients’ problem of building an image about their brand in their audiences mind.
I take up Advertising and Industrial shoots. The work that I generate is in the form of stills and videos. The images that I make are used on various advertising mediums like print, digital and outdoor. Any product (be it garment, food, jewelry, furniture etc) which needs to be advertised in the retail space needs to be photographed based on the concept by the ad agency. It could be a tabletop shot with props or with models in studio or sets.
In Industrial shoots, it’s a combination of Architecture, Drone, Interior, process shots, product shots and corporate headshots.
My other venture, Lensowl deals with photography equipment rentals. Every photographer be it from any genre always needs the latest camera, lenses and lights to shoot with. Considering the technology upgrades and new launches and depreciation of these preowned equipment, rental is always a good option for most of them. We cater to lots of wedding photographers, wildlife photographers, portrait photographers and also production houses. Lensowl is present in Bangalore and Kabini and we have clientele across India.
What are the skills needed for photography? How did you acquire the skills?
Technical as well as Creative skills are required for which I enrolled in a two-year full-time course. But when I started taking up larger projects, I realized that people management skills are equally important…I learnt that over the years and after working on various projects.
What’s a typical day like?
It all depends on what I am working on. When I am not shooting, I am meeting a lot of people, trying to understand their business and how my work can make a difference to their brand. Sometimes I just spend time with myself.
What is it you love about this job?
Everything. Right from pitching, convincing the client and executing the project. Each project is different and a new learning always!
How does your work benefit society?
Photography is the art of storytelling. It is endless creativity. I was always creatively inclined and enrolling for the course taught me how to marry creativity with technicality. I have made a niche in Industrial and Advertising Photography. I was also the Lens Ambassador to Zeiss, the world’s most renowned brand in optics.
Honestly, it just happened. I had to shift my base from Mumbai to Bangalore after I got married. I started meeting lot of people for work. One of them really liked my work and referred my work to India head of Zeiss. I got a call from Zeiss and they got to know that I already was using Zeiss lenses, and next I know is I get to represent them in India! Basically, I had to conduct workshops in various cities to explain photographers about the achievable quality/ results. I also had to train the trainers who would be at the stores and were expected to talk about the lenses to the customers. Zeiss would use my work for their shows in India and other online promotions.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
Every project that way is close to my heart!
But I can give an example of an industrial project of mine. It’s B&B Tripplewall containers. They make carton boxes. They had got a shoot done from someone else and were very unhappy. I came on board and I understood the client’s requirement and created stunning images and videos for them. They are so happy with the work, that It’s been 5 years and they still refer me to many other brands.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
There is no shortcut to education and hard work. If you are not enjoying what you are doing, it’s not meant for you.
Also, dare to fail. Be ready to Innovate. This is what sets me apart from the rest.
What I have enjoyed the most is the opportunity to interact with people from so many different backgrounds & industries, understanding their business, getting to know new perspectives. A learner attitude has made my journey interesting and as a creator, I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go.