Neha Jiwarajka-Basu, owner-founder of Neha Brackstone Photography, has been a Mumbai-based entrepreneur specializing in everything from family portraits to destination weddings, from intimate gatherings to live events and from maternity shoots and baby showers to newborn baby shoots. Neha covers them all with equal finesse. She is also a keen adventure junkie and a travel bug and has been on many photography expeditions that have taken her to Antarctica, Greenland, Africa and Japan, to name just a few. We spoke to her about modern photography trends. Excerpts…
The Optimist: From manual reel cameras to digital ones, how has photography evolved in India?
Neha Jiwarajka-Basu: Technology is everywhere today. It’s one of the most dynamic tools, especially when it comes to photography. Nano technology and digital media have made almost anything possible in the world of photography, which has evolved more in the past 20 years than it did in the hundred years before that. It is faster and more efficient and the results we get are simply out of this world. Equipment that was once deemed too expensive in India and was available to only a privileged few with large budgets is now much more accessible to beginner- and intermediate-level photographers at relatively low prices.
Photography is a competitive market and the number of players in the market creating a huge competition gives the end consumer such a bouquet of equipment and technology to choose from that he or she is spoilt for choice. The labour involved in the B2B supply chain has decreased drastically and we can now delete unwanted images, transfer images straight from the camera to the computer, or phone and edit on the fly right then and there — a process not dreamed of in the non-digital age.
The Optimist: For photographers, theme-based work has opened up different avenues. Has it at all helped the bigger issue of commercial nature and sustainability?
Neha Jiwarajka-Basu: Photography’s one of the most open and accepting industries, like art. Photographers who manage to create something different and new based on a concept or theme receive a lot of appreciation and encouragement and their work is inspirational at many levels. This has definitely opened up many avenues for the visionaries who address current social issues through their photographic series, photo stories and photo journalism. Through the medium of this visual art and their own vision, they’re able to bring the spotlight onto unique people, places, concepts and so on. As the mind is limitless, there’ll never be a saturation of themes and concepts, making this kind of work very sustainable for photographers who want to break the mould and create something unique.
The Optimist: High-end smartphones are providing excellent photography with all the vital stats. Are phones replacing traditional cameras in the bigger picture?
Neha Jiwarajka-Basu: To a certain extent, yes. Phones not only capture great images, but the various apps and filters we can install on our phones are also making editing much easier, thus resulting in ‘professional looking photos’. This, however, is true only to a certain point. The phone has limitations of dealing with low light, very fast shutter speeds, or long exposure speeds. There’s also a limit of how much you can zoom in with a phone compared to a telephoto lens. For instance, I’ve used my smartphone only for street photography, but I’ve used my DSLR to capture everything from wildlife to the Northern Lights in Greenland. It’s important to note that, while smartphones are getting smarter, so also are DSLRs.
The Optimist: Do you think ’editing a picture’ is also a necessary quality for photographers today in the digital era?
Neha Jiwarajka-Basu: Yes, of course! Post-production is just as important a part of image- or design-based work as capturing the image is in the first place. Photography is as much about capturing things as they are, as it’s about stretching the realms of imagination to create art. Editing is the only way of bringing an artist’s vision to life for others to enjoy and appreciate. With fashion and newborn photography for instance, photos need to be edited and touched up to make the subjects aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I think editing means enhancing an object, or a person and bringing out its best aspects. It doesn’t mean morphing the subject into something which it’s not. Moreover, an entire spectrum of colours and frequencies is captured by a DSLR in RAW. To bring out the vibrance, contrast, depth and exposure that the eye can see, a certain amount of editing, where we suppress certain aspects of the photo while highlighting others, is absolutely necessary for the best results.
The Optimist: Apart from photography exhibitions and B2B, B2C works, what are the main earning avenues for a modern-day photographer?
Neha Jiwarajka-Basu: Endorsements are a huge part of modern-day photography and, through social media channels, companies that deal with lighting, backdrops and accessories are all lining up to sign up top photographers these days as their brand ambassadors. Organising paid workshops once a photographer is established, master classes, guest appearances at events and panel talks and discussions are all ways in which a successful photographer can rake in a good auxiliary income.
Photographers these days are being approached by various subscriptions, both online and print, to review and give their valuable feedback on new products that enter the market, which is a potential income route for many photographers.
The Optimist: Nowadays, social media has become a benchmark for photographers, especially such platforms as Instagram and Flickr. Is the competition healthy, or does quality get compromised?
Neha Jiwarajka-Basu: Photographers will always find a way to share their work with their followers, whether it’s on Instagram, or Flickr, or some other new platform. Rumours are that competition for the number of ‘like’s on Instagram has spiralled out of control and they plan to remove the feature of number of likes altogether. Having said that, there’s some amazing work out there that barely has any likes or followers, but that hasn’t deterred the photographers and the lack of likes doesn’t make them any less amazing.
I think everything in moderation with the right intention is good. If being active on social media and following others is keeping you motivated and inspiring you to evolve, the competition is healthy. If you’re getting bogged down with spending hours on social media and getting intimidated by others and just posting anything just for the heck of it, it’ll show in your work. It’s a choice we make every day. The way I look at it is — the work of people who inspire me only stops me from getting laidback in my comfort zone. As far as competition is concerned, I just want to be better than I was at my last shoot 🙂
The Optimist: What’s your personal perception of ‘aesthetics’ in photography? Is the whole idea of aesthetics changing with time?
Neha Jiwarajka-Basu: I think this is very subjective. What may be aesthetically pleasing to me mayn’t be the same for someone else. The change I’ve noticed is that, even if something is visually amazing, unless it tells a story, people move past it quite quickly onto the next image. Today, things are progressing at the speed of light. The amount of work out there that’s being done is increasing exponentially, so the time we have to explore each thing is decreasing. Anything that can make you ‘stop and stare’ more often than not tells a story you can relate to, provoking an emotion within you, or stretching your imagination. It’s as much about the narrative behind the picture as it’s about the picture itself.