CAREER GUIDE Friday, October 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India

Fashion photography — a lucrative option
Pervin Malhotra
WITH people becoming increasingly fashion conscious and willing to experiment with new fabrics and designer wear, the market is flooded with debutante designers and new labels. Consequently, fashion shows and pageants have virtually become de rigueur and just about every newspaper and TV channel has its own fashion column or slot.




Fashion photography — a lucrative option
Pervin Malhotra

WITH people becoming increasingly fashion conscious and willing to experiment with new fabrics and designer wear, the market is flooded with debutante designers and new labels. Consequently, fashion shows and pageants have virtually become de rigueur and just about every newspaper and TV channel has its own fashion column or slot. Fashion photography has played a big role in bringing about this revolution on the fashion scene by bringing us up to date on new styles and trends in clothing and accessories.

In recent times India has reaped a rich harvest of fashion photographers, highly respected for their individual styles and commendable work. While Prabhudda Das Gupta remains the seniormost among them, others like Sumiko Murgai Nanda, Suvo Das, Tarun Khiwal, Hemant Khandelwal, and Akhil Bakshi have done the fashion industry proud.

Fashion montages have become virtually indispensable for any glossy magazine today. With a whole bevy of sleek fashion glossies vying with each other to grab the attention of boutiques and the fashion conscious, aspiring shutterbugs can train their guns on fashion photography.

If you will notice closely, you will find that there are two distinct styles in fashion photography. One narrows down on the texture, style, form and shape of the garment so that the consumer knows what he is buying while the other focuses on the ambience and the overall mood.

Fashion editors and their editorial staff keep a close watch on the market and report trends to the editorial board. Months before the photography session, they decide on the garments to be featured. Sometimes the decision could be theme-based. For example, it could be a festive Divali collection or chic campus-wear for girls or a celebrity designer’s winter preview. The fashion editor chooses the actual clothes to be featured along with matching accessories to complete the ensemble. The art director assigns a photographer, decides on a locale and engages suitable models.

The good news is that higher academic education is not essential to become a photographer. Anybody with good colour vision, visual imagination, observation power, an eye for detail, a sense of composition, creativity, alertness, will-power and self-confidence can venture into this field. Photography basically requires training of the eye and as most professionals would tell you, no amount of professional grooming can be a substitute for intrinsic inner ability. Nevertheless, formal training equips you with the necessary technical know-how and knowledge of photographic techniques, cameras, lights, films, filters and props.

What it takes

As a successful fashion photographer you must necessarily have sound technical know-how and savvy to adapt to new fashion and styles. Your pictures should give expression to the designer’s creativity and bring the apparel to life. You must be equally at home in the studio, on the ramp as well as on location. You will also have to work closely with fashion designers, choreographers and art directors in ad agencies.

A background in fashion design is always helpful as it will help you focus on the intricate design and lines of the outfit and the designer’s vision in finer detail.

The money you’ll make

Fashion photography can be pretty lucrative. While a beginner may earn a couple of thousands per day on an assignment, the established ones on the other hand, can make upwards of Rs 60,000 for the same (film & processing extra)! But be warned - those in the latter category are few and far between.

Where to begin

It would be a good idea to first do a basic course which gives you a thorough grounding in the principles and techniques of photography, angles, lighting, etc. Having done this, you can become an apprentice/understudy to an established photographer under whose guidance you can practise and perfect your skills. Besides being an invaluable experience, it is also the most recommended and popular option.

Formal training and a guide will only take you so far. For the rest you have to rely on hard work, patience, drive, and commitment. And as with every skill, photography too requires practice, practice, and more practice to develop your skill base.

Where to learn

Formal training in photography equips you with the necessary technical know-how and knowledge of the various methods and techniques, cameras, lights, film and props. It is also invaluable for receiving constructive feedback and developing a sense of style and technique so that you can find your own niche.

The basic skill sets and principles of fashion photography, or for that matter of any form of photography, remain the same. Therefore, a course covering all aspects of photography is a good starting point. You may then go on to specialise in fashion photography - be it still or video.

Career prospects

Most fashion photography is done by specialist studios or by photographers who are commissioned by fashion houses or advertising agencies. As a fashion photographer you will usually work under the direction of a fashion expert or in conjunction with the designer or choreographer. You can also opt to work for export houses, fashion magazines, calendar-makers, big clothing stores and fashion and accessory designers.

The second option is to work as a freelancer. Freelancing appeals to most photographers as this gives them the freedom to choose their assignments and shoot at their own convenience. After you have learnt the ropes you can even set up your own studio.

One more thing, top fashion photographers are mainly based in Mumbai and Delhi (Bangalore and Calcutta to a lesser extent), as these are the most happening places as far as fashion is concerned. So be prepared to relocate to these cities if you want to make it big in this line.

Keen competition is expected for both salaried jobs and freelance work because the glamorous and exciting image of this field attracts many talented people.

The best and worst bits

The best bit is the variety of work you get to do, the endless creativity this field offers, the learning that happens and all talented designers and glitzy models you get to meet. But it is not all glamour and cakewalk. Be prepared to lug heavy equipment and crouch and contort your body in impossible angles just to get that one perfect shot. Also when covering live events, you have to be super quick in your reflexes to capture that pirouette or the swirl of the flowing gown. You’d better get it right the first time as you may not get another chance. Photography is as much about technique as about creativity.

Also freelance work may be hard to come by, especially at first, and many freelancers earn very little until they acquire experience and establish a good reputation. But hang on there. And do not give up. Gradually work will begin to come your way.

Remember that there is no shortcut to success in this field. At the end of the day, what you get out of photography is directly proportional to what you put into it. So do put in your best. And do not be too easily satisfied with your own output.


Where to study

Although education and training in photography is still at a very nascent stage in India, some universities and institutes do offer diploma and certificate-level courses.

Only two universities offer a regular (full-time) Bachelor’s-level course in photography:

  • Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Masab Tank, Mahaveer Marg, Hyderabad — 500028. Course: Bachelor’s in Fine Arts (BFA) (Photography). Duration: 4 years. Eligibility: Intermediate.

  • University of Mysore — Crawford Hall, Mysore — 570005, Karnataka. Course: BFA (Visual Arts). Subject: Photography & Photo Journalism. Duration: 5 years (Foundation - 2 years; Degree - 3 years). Eligibility: Secondary School Certificate.

Diploma-level courses are offered at the following institutions:

  • Barkatullah Vishwavidyalaya, Hoshangabad Road, Bhopal — 462026, M.P. Duration: 1-year.

  • Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, K.G. Marg, New Delhi — 110001.

  • College of Art, New Delhi.

  • Deendayal Upadhyaya Gorakhpur University, Gorakhpur — 273009, U.P. Duration: 1-year. Eligibility: Regular students of the university and its affiliated colleges.

  • Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Mahaveer Marg, Masab Tank, Hyderabad — 500028, A.P.

  • Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith, Varanasi — 221002, U.P. Duration: 1-year.

  • Mass Communication Research Centre (MCRC), Jamia Millia Islamia, Mohammad Ali Jauhar Marg, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi — 110025.

  • National Institute of Design, Paldi, Ahmedabad — 380007. .

  • ITM International, Eastern Avenue, Maharani Bagh, New Delhi (in collab with International College of Professional Photography, Melbourne, Australia).

  • Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati — 517502, Chittoor, A.P.

  • SNDT Women’s University, 1, Nathibai Thackersey Rd, Mumbai — 400020.

  • University of Allahabad, Allahabad — 211002, U.P. Duration: 1-year. Eligibility: Certificate in Photography; also offers 1-year Certificate course after Inter.

You can also learn photography from the following institutes:

  • Aurobindo Institute of Mass Communication, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi — 110016. Duration: 1-year, Part-time

  • Camera Art Institute, Triveni Kala Sangam, 205 Tansen Marg, New Delhi — 110001. Duration: 5 months.

  • J.D. Institute of Fashion Technology with its centres in New Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Pune and Hyderabad offers a 15-week training programme in Fashion Photography.

  • JJ Institute of Applied Art, Mumbai.

  • St. Xavier’s Institute of Communication, Mumbai

In addition, all fine arts colleges offer photography as an optional subject for the Bachelor’s degree (BFA) courses. Some of the Master’s degree courses in journalism & mass communication also offer photography as a subject.



Q Like American universities, is there any provision for enrolling for PhD directly after a Bachelor’s in engineering?

Sukhwant Singh

A Yes, students who have scored above 75 per cent in BE/BTech are considered for direct admission to PhD in exceptional cases at some of the IITs like IIT-K for instance.

Similarly, students enrolled in the M.Tech programme at IIT are also allowed to change their registration to that of PhD programme in engineering in the beginning of the second/third semester. However, students enrolled in part-time M.Tech programmes are not permitted to change over to a part-time PhD programme.


Q There has been a lot of talk about BPO lately. What exactly is it and is it really as hot as it is made out to be or will it go the dotcom way?

Mukesh Mittal

A Good question. Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is an important segment of the ITES industry. It includes customer service interaction, including call centre operations; back office operations (banking, revenue, accounting, data conversion, HR). Banks and the aviation industry require large-scale data processing and data-based decision making capabilities.

Transcription services (transcribing medical/legal records from audio format into hard/electronic format), data research, market research, content development and animation are the other constituents of this sector.

The BPO, globally a $250 billion industry that employs over a quarter of a million people, may well turn out to be the magic bullet that will help India’s IT industry conquer the West. In India, the BPO is projected to grow into a $ 17 billion industry, generating over 1.1 million jobs by 2008.

However, partly due to the slowdown and the Indo-Pak tension, US firms are not offering outsourcing contracts to India on a platter despite the cost advantage.

Apprehensions regarding quality of service and yet-to-mature business relationships have delayed the translation of interest into actual backending their operations in India. Despite several client visits (from biggies like Chase, Bear & Sterns, ABN Amro, Fleet Boston Finances, among others) from sectors as diverse as manufacturing, banking, insurance, retail and healthcare, the companies take a while to feel comfortable with the idea of substituting local service providers with Indian partners. The biggest (unfounded) fear holding them back is the lack of quality and to a lesser extent, security.

Trust-building is a gradual process. On an average, a business contract takes at least eight months to mature. Companies start out with outsourcing the non-critical components first. Hence, this client interest will begin to translate into volume growth only in Q3 of 2003.

The other front runner, China, has a shortage of English literate people, while the Philippines has a low graduate turnout (only 4 lakh p.a.).

On the other hand, India’s brand equity being already established through its software capabilities, is now poised to emerge as the world leader in the BPO and call centres — thanks to its abundant pool of computer-savvy, English-speaking manpower.

Already, Spectramind, one of the largest third-party BPO companies hires about 3000 agents, GE Capital, India’s largest ITES provider (call centre, transaction processing, accounting, e-learning) plans to add 4,000 more jobs this year, to increase its strength to 14,000. Daksh eServices has emerged as another mega player.

Infosys Technologies is going full-steam with its plans to enter the BPO sector. It will act as a technical help-desk for customer support services.

MBA (Finance)

Q I have an MBA in finance, but my experience has been in the administration side. I am interested in taking up HR, admin, as a mid-level executive but jobs are only available in marketing in which I am not very interested. What should I do? I have a total experience of four years in admin and HR.

Anita Bhagat Sehgal

A It seems that you have lost focus. MBA Finance to admin and HR? Applying for jobs in marketing? Suggest you focus on Finance. To do this, apply for finance-based openings. Do this through newspapers and jobsites. Change the focus of your resume to reflect your interest in this area. Plan and prepare for interviews to show finance as your key skill area.


Q I have been working as a Hindi journalist for the past five years. With the proliferation of the Internet, will people like me face obsolescence in the years to come? Should I change over? Is writing for the web very different?

Beant Kaur

A The global dotcom bust has shown that all these e-zines, etc are yet to pose any significant threat - at least in the near future in our part of the world where computer density and Internet penetration are so low. Another reason why they won’t replace traditional media is the lack of commercial viability. Few of them have any revenue model to speak of. No wonder not one site has managed to make profits as yet. An online paper for instance, is a fine supplement to a regular newspaper or news channel, but it would have a hard time standing on its own.

So I wouldn’t worry if I were you. Who has the time or patience to read a whole newspaper or magazine for that matter on the net sitting at a desk when you can fold it and browse through it at your leisure - on the bed or in the loo!

Print journalism is here to stay. And so is television. Internet is a great medium but no imminent competition to either. Not for a long while.

Writing for the web requires a very different kind of skill — quite like copywriting in advertising.

Please send in your query preferably on a postcard along with your name, complete address and academic qualifications to:

Editor, Career Hotline,
The Tribune, Sector 29,Chandigarh-160020, or at



1. Which tiny southeast Asian nation recently gained a seat in the United Nations, taking the world body’s membership to 191?

2. In which year was Adi Granth, viewed as the spiritual embodiment of the 10 Sikh Gurus, compiled ?

3. Who was recently stripped off the Miss Universe title in the pageant’s 52-year history?

4. Name the chief priest of the Swaminarayan sect whose name figures in the Guinness Book of World Records for building largest number of temples across the world.

5. Which town in Himachal Pradesh has been accorded the second capital status by the state government?

6. Name Bombay-born writer Rohinton Mistry’s book which has been shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize.

7. In which year was the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR) established?

8. In which country is Mangla Dam situated?

9. Where are the headquarters of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC)?

10. What is the capital of Ivory Coast?

11. Which country hosted the first Asian games?

12. What is the name of the mascot of the 14th Asian Games being held in Busan?

13. Which ancient niche sport of Thailand — in which the country won five golds at the last Asian games — involves teams of players keeping a small wicker ball off the ground?

14. Who won the ICC Champions Trophy in Colombo recently?

15. Who has won the snooker doubles gold in the ongoing Busan Asiad?


School address..........................

Winners of quiz 166. The first prize by draw of lots goes to Shakti Singh, XI( commerce), Himalayan International School, Chharabara, Shimla-171012.

Second: Shweta Kakkar, Class XI, Govt Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 16, Chandigarh..

Third: Harmandeep Singh Niwadha, 8th-D, New Senior Secondary School, Faridkot-151203.

Answers to quiz 166: METSAT; Prof Satish Dhawan; Delhi; Tareq Aziz; Thailand ; Bill Gates; Indian Institute of Advanced Studies; N.R. Narayana Murthy; Tananarive; Cheops; September 16; Busan; Dilip Tirkey; Five; Shoaib Malik.

Cash awards of Rs 400, 300 and 200 are given to the first, second and third prize winners, respectively. These are sent at the school address.

Tarun Sharma