Pro Photographers On How To Capture The Perfect Moment

Pro Photographers On How To Capture The Perfect Moment
Sachin Rai captures wildlife on his photo tour, Photo Credit: Sachin Rai

Ever wondered how the experts manage those breathtaking frames?

OT Staff
August 19 , 2021
15 Min Read

Have you ever wondered how to capture the perfect shot? In the wild, in the streets, while eating...it can definitely be a struggle. But fear not, we bring you tips from photographers who are the bomb in their genres. Try their tricks and you too shall be able to capture 'THE' shot! All the best!

STREET  

Ganesh Vanare

On his photography style

I got into photography in 2013 when I first opened an Instagram account. I love finding contrasts and capturing real-world moments—that is, street photography. For me, personally, it is all about capturing people’s happiness.

On taking candid shots

Most of my shots are candid, they are never planned. You observe and you click as you go; and to do that you need to develop a vision and that takes work. You need to understand life, what people are doing and what situation they are in. There are times when I see the perfect shot but I am not able to click it. In that case, I talk to the subject, see if I can make the situation comfortable and then try to take the shot again.

On becoming a street photographer

Street photography is all about observation so that must be curated first. You need to remember to build your own style and then keep adding to it; copying others just won’t do. Most importantly, every photo should tell a story, so always look at the storyline. Without it, a photo is just an empty frame.

On the challenges

I think the biggest challenge is people. See, humans are inherently self-conscious. Bring a camera in front of them and they clam up. They stop what they are doing or start acting differently. To bring them out of that shell, you need to make them comfortable.

Ganesh Vanare captures the rains of Mumbai

Gear Recommendation: GoPro

A GoPro is a small and compact device. It is less intimidating as compared to a DSLR or a phone and makes the subject a lot more comfortable.

A Tip Or Two

1. Always look for natural light and contrast, and never use flash.

2. Be honest to the environment, the subject and their situation, and you will never go wrong.

MONOCHROME 

Jayanta Roy

On getting into photography

I’m not a professional photographer, but I presently work professionally. I’ve been doing it since childhood, but that was mainly photographing family gatherings using old film cameras. I started monochrome photography 10 years ago. It has taken me a while to develop a signature style. Also, I use all kinds of mediums. That isn’t important to me—it is the subject and what I wish to convey.

On monochromes

It’s just a language that I find easy to use. It helps me express my vision through photography. Call it mother tongue. It is also a type of photography that looks timeless. Colour is glamorous, but monochrome is something more personal to the photographer. Also, for me, unlike most people, monochrome is easier.

On breaking the monotony

One word: practice. These days, everyone’s a photographer; it is very difficult to get unique shots. But to do so, I feel, you must focus on the happenings around you. Our surroundings are full of strange things that can make for very good subjects. 

The key to good monochromes

Understand the greys. We see the world in colour, but in monochrome, we need to understand each colour’s equivalent in the grey scale. And this comes with experience. As for framing, you can use techniques like placing a darker subject on a brighter background to create a good contrast.

Jayanta Roy captures a beautiful scenery in monochrome

Gear Recommendation: Film Cameras

Shoot monochromes on a film camera for a while. It’ll give you in-depth understanding of photography. In film, you don’t see your result instantly, so you’ll really be careful with each shot.

A Tip Or Two

1. View as many photographs from the best monochrome photographers and try to analyse them. Ansel Adams and Michael Kenna are my biggest influences.

2. Shoot for monochrome. Don’t click hundreds and then select five to convert. You need to go with the mindset that this will be a monochrome. 

PEOPLE 

Ajay Jain

On his photography

I am a travel writer and photographer, and I have authored several books on my travels across India. My genre of photography is people; I love capturing living forms.

On making subjects comfortable

I have found that a smile and a bit of chat go a long way. If you respect the person before you, they will feel safer around you. I always make sure to ask permission and chat with my subjects before photographing them. When they are comfortable in the presence of my camera, I start shooting. If someone says no, I back off.

On people photography

Diversity is what defines India; it is completely unmatched. Every few miles, there will be a surprise waiting for you. The Sufis from Maroli would be completely different from, say, the Gonds in Madhya Pradesh. This variety gives people photography a lot of scope in India.

On photographs being travelogues

When you are shooting people, it is not in isolation. You are also taking into account their story, their culture and traditions. These people are representatives of their history, and so they are a travelogue in themselves. For instance, look at the labourers from Rajasthan working in extreme heat and yet wearing such bright and colourful outfits—that is their culture.

A photography by Ajay Jain

Gear Recommendation: Cannon Speedlight with external remote

Usually, I prefer shooting with natural light, but sometimes that is just not possible. Carrying a speedlight with an external remote always comes in handy.

A Tip Or Two

1. Always carry two DSLR camers with different lenses. It saves time and gives you the room to experiment.

2. Shoot in burst mode or continuous mode. It allows you to take a lot of pictures and helps you pick out the perfect shot.

FOOD 

Naina Gahlaut

On her photography style

When I started out, I was fascinated by how I could see light everywhere, whether from my window or outside. I’d notice ordinary things that would look just a little bit special. Perhaps highlighting something that is ordinary is my style. I like to shoot props or food— they make for patient subjects. Instagram has helped me a lot—it has made me consistent and accountable, and introduced me to the work of exceptional photographers. 

On taking flat-lay photographs

To begin with, pay attention to your everyday routine. From a particular activity, take the main objects and put  them together for a flat-lay photograph. For example, if I’m eating breakfast and checking my mail, I’ll shift things around for the camera and make it photo-friendly. You should try it—it gets addictive, and then your coffee gets cold.

On making interactive photos 

For that, you need a fine balance between the plate looking untouched and in-the-middle-of-eating. It’s easy to do that with finger foods. Another important and underrated element is hands. Show someone pouring, slicing or picking up something. Also, make the food directly touch the base.

On the importance of editing

Editing is the biggest difference between a good picture and what could have been a good picture. I would go with only the lighting available in a location. A picture taken at a beach should look sunny, so one shouldn’t manipulate it too much, and inside a building, for instance, it will be darker, so only a little exposure is required.

A photograph by Naina Gahlaut

Gear Recommendation: Cannon EOS 5D Mark IV

Great resolution and ISO capabilities, and, when coupled with my Sigma lenses, it does everything I need it to and then some. I just wish Canon would come out with full-frame mirror-less cameras soon.

A Tip Or Two

1. The key lies in good lighting. Make sure to shoot close to a large window.

2. Start with a blank frame and fill it rather than remove things from it. It’s important to take out clutter and have the negativespace speak. I like negative space; it emphasises your main subjects too.

WILDLIFE

Nisha Purushothaman 

On her style

I like to explore things and see the unseen. But other than that, I don’t really know what it is. Really, you should tell me what you think! I just click what I like, the way I like it.

On photography for conservation

Share your images as much as possible, let them reach people. This can inspire individuals all over the world. Conservation photography is nothing but you continuing to do what you’re already doing—for instance, you photograph an injured tiger and show it to the authorities, who then take action.

On Instagram

Photographers look to publish their work, but reputed publications are tough to crack. If you put things up on social media, you’ll get good visibility and even great feedback. Eventually, you’ll have a circle of photographer friends who’ll help you learn stuff—it’s one area where people are quite helpful.

On telling a story through a photo

Sometimes it’s just a beautiful image. Sure, I would love to get a story, but that isn’t always the case. Documentation is an important storytelling element—that’s how most animals became famous and got their names. But definitely, if you can portray an incident, moment or story, it has a greater impact. 

A cub is caught on camera by Nisha Purushothaman

Gear Recommendation: Photography beanbag

Or you could even make do with a bag filled with rice. The idea is to place your gear on something, so you do not have to carry the weight. Plus, it keeps the frame stable. Great for longer exposures.

A Tip Or Two

1. Whatever species you photograph, there’s an invisible circle around it. Take care not  to breach it. If it’s a rat, it could scare you; a bird could fly away; a lion could eat you. You need to understand your limit.

2. Shoot every frame in different ways. Try at least four or five different angles.

 

NOMADIC TRIBES

Sankar Sridhar

On his style of photography 

I shoot nomadic tribes, mainly across the Himalaya and its foothills. With nomadic photography, I want to show what the lives of these tribes are all about. 

On being a nomadic photographer

I don’t take a lot of photographs. I wait for the right moment, light and storyline before clicking. Patience is the key. You cannot walk up to them and ask them to pose. They don’t exist for you to photograph. So, if you wish to, then you must be respectful and give them a clear idea of what to expect from you. 

On building a narrative

I do a lot of reading, my main source being works of anthropologists. Then I spend weeks travelling with nomads, trying to understand their way of life. See, most people are lavish with information. So, if you ask about a certain practice, they will tell you where you can witness it. Then it is a waiting game. And it is a work in progress because their lifestyles are changing, so you have keep revisiting them to see what is new. But if you keep observing, the shots just fall into place. 

On documenting nomads

I think it is important to document nomadic life mainly because we are just so far removed from it. If you observe them, you can learn so much about life and sustainability. I dread the day the last of the nomads settle, because then people would think of it as an urban legend. But, maybe, having pictorial evidence could counter that.

Sankar Sridhar captures the nomadic tribes of Rajasthan

Gear Recommendation: Cotton Carrier CCS G3

A camera harness such as this one is a saviour because it allows you to climb hands-free and you will never have to waste time accessing your camera when you need it.  

A Tip Or Two

1. Keep fit because you have to trek a lot and also have the energy to click photographs.

2. Pack light because nomadic photography requires you to be with them for weeks on end 

PHOTO TOURS

Sachin Rai

On his photography and Toehold

I’ve always been interested in natural history, animal behaviour and rare animals. In fact, I have photographed 120 frog species. This may not be very appealing to a lot of people, but did you know half of these are endemic to India?

I was a web developer before I shifted to photography in 2007. That year, I won Sanctuary Asia’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year award, which was a big deal. People now wished to join me on tours. In 2010, we started Toehold, which does 100-odd tours a year. 

On knowing about your subject

This is extremely important. For instance, if a tiger yawns more than three times, there is a 90 per cent chance it will get up and walk. Birds like kingfishers and rollers always come back to the same spot, but if it is a hawk eagle, it’s not coming back. Knowledge like that will help you improve a picture.

On photo tours

You are surrounded by a bunch of people, and everyone is breathing and talking photography. Everyone is on their toes and wants to shoot different kinds of pictures. In a group, you learn a lot from each other.

Photo tour recommendations

Kabini—it is close to Mysore, slightly expensive, but easily accessible and one of the best places to see leopards in our country. For beginners, there’s a place called Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary. Between December and February, it is filled with birds and a lot of activity. For non-wildlife, Ladakh is one of the best places to go. Varanasi and Pushkar also give plenty of opportunities.

Sachin Rai captures a couple of female lions in their natural habitat

Gear Recommendation: 24-70mm lens

For that habitat shot that will set you apart, get a 24–70mm lens. It is wide enough for good landscape shots, but it lets you zoom to shoot the animal intimately even from a distance.

A Tip Or Two

1. Most people go for animal portraits or action shots; few understand the value of wide-angle shots that showcase the habitat.

2. A backlit shot is like a silhouette, but has a bit of light on the subject. The background becomes a beautiful orange. To achieve it, the subject has to be against a sun moments away from setting.


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