Note: This podcast will be extremely helpful for aspiring photographers & Cinematographers.
Find the transcript of the podcast with Aditya Desai who is an established Cinematographer.
Akshay: Finally! We get a chance to do this.
Considering we know each other for so many years, yet we haven’t spent time talking about our work.
I know you have work with different brands & OTT Platforms like TVF.
I would like to know when did you start taking photography/cinematography into consideration.
Introduction to Photography
Aditya: So, I had an interest in photography since my undergraduate days.
After my second year at mass media, the summer break was the time when my Mom introduced me to a photography workshop as I was clueless about what I need to.
I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do photography.
I thought I will figure out what I want to do in the third year.
This is when my Mom asked me to give photography a try, she was open to me doing something else post this.
This is when I took my first step towards understanding the functions of camera.
After the 7 day workshop, I felt I can give photography a real try. I didn’t learn much about photography then.
Luckily I had a Digicam then, so I could go around and click pictures. I carried it wherever I roamed during those days. From college to streets to Industrial visits & more.
I think that was the breaking point in photography.
Akshay: Considering there are so many aspiring photographers who choose online courses, buy types of equipment, and then quit. Did you go through that phase? How did you evolve?
To Quit or To Continue Photography
Aditya: 3-4 years down the line. I had been to countries because of work.
But, I had questions that will I be doing the same thing.
I was never satisfied. This is when I had some interesting work coming in. It was a travel story.
It was based in Gujurat. The whole shoot was for a TV show.
After a few months when the show was aired. That is when I saw my name on T.V., that’s when I was sure I want to do this.
Because, I felt I belonged here, and this gives me happiness.
It definitely took me time, and we might not get short appreciations for the things that we love and belong to. The idea is to stick around.
Akshay: The industry that you work in needs a lot of expensive equipment, did you feel that you were not well equipped, or what were the alternatives that you choose?
Does Costly Photography Equipment Matter?
Aditya: Frankly speaking at the start I felt it is equipment oriented but now I don’t feel so after spending some time working on projects.
Because of Instagram, I could see a lot of people doing some really good stuff without the equipment.
It is drive that you need, equipment can be sourced.
You just can’t go blind shopping the photographic equipment.
It is common to see people are loaded with types of equipment but then get lazy to work.
Akshay: How did you evolve yourself in the journey, any project that was the game-changer?
Lack of Work while Freelancing for Photographers!
Aditya: I had a belief that after one good work, It would be raining projects.
But, that was not the case. There were long dry runs.
That is when I planned to save money. This when I also started investing money for my personal development. I purchased a camera for myself.
I tried making my own stuff.
This was the time I realized I can’t just wait for commercial projects. I started working for myself.
Akshay: Any project that is close to your heart? I liked the one you recently shot with your dad in the lockdown.
Project Close to Your Heart
Aditya: I remember this project I did in the north. It was about meditation.
The best thing was I use to wake up at 5:30 am and sleep at 10:00 pm.
The shoot was very simple. I had to simply shoot the yoga gurus and their practices.
Hrishikesh being a wonderful place, I had a great time.
The best thing about the project was, I was the director, I was the DOP.
This allowed me to be wrong, and there was nothing right.
I made mistakes. That is where I learned.
After the edit, I could learn from all the mistakes that I did.
That helped me.
Akshay: From there your journey of “Digicam to RED” became interesting isn’t it? Tell me about your experience using RED. How excited were you?
Using RED Camera Experience
Aditya: I had been longing to use REDs and the Arris’ of the world.
It was like a dream.
I was shooting a web series. We were asked which cameras do we want to use. We had finalized an Arri.
Last moment there was a change due to the requirements of the OTT platform. That is when one day prior to the shoot we had to change to RED.
It was an amazing experience.
The first day on the RED was a feeling out of this world.
I could literally see my journey from a digicam to RED.
The reason it was special because I was not fortunate enough to use it early in my career.
Akshay: How do you manage your mental health when you don’t have work. It is easy to have no work in your industry as a freelancer.
Managing Mental Health for Cinematographer / Photographer
Aditya: I use to work 15-20 days a month at the start of my career. Then I had a break of 10 days. At that time I was keen to get more work.
But, then there came a time when I started saying No to work.
Because it was not helping me nor is it giving me the growth that I am looking for.
This is when I started staying idle for months.
Two months was the max, I was without a shoot. That is when I was scared that my name is disappearing from the industry.
During this phase, I looked back at my projects. I realized I was saying “no” because I was growing.
It was self-realization, that saying No is growth.
That made me feel better. I didn’t choose projects for money. I still am selective about the work that I do.
Soul Satisfaction is one of the priorities. Good story, writer, director, the team are the other crucial elements of the project.
I watch a lot of movies to motivate my self. Not only it helps me to learn. But it is relaxing.
There are definitely good Bollywood movies, shows and so much to see and learn.
I prefer watching tutorials and spend time being invested in my work.
Having my own camera allowed me to collaborate and work with people on Instagram.
Akshay: I have seen you working with Influencers on Instagram. How do you approach?
Leveraging Instagram for Photographers
Aditya: I spend a lot of time on Instagram. I approach artist and show them my work.
Most of the time it works.
There is a degree of freedom to work with models. Though they might take time to respond if they like your work they will definitely share time with you.
Every year I try to work with 10-15 models.
I am not into Fashion. But, there is great learning when I am working with models. The challenges of lights and beautifying a setup gives you good insights.
When I am back in doing ads or shoot, it gives me better understanding to light them appropriately. It definitely, helps build the quality of my work.
Akshay: Thanks Aditya for so much of time. Really, great insights.
Aditya: Thanks Akshay.
Akshay: Hope to do something similar where we talk much more technical. It will definitely help freelancers and aspiring photographers.
Aditya: Sure. Patience will help everyone survive.
Akshay: It is like being Rahul Dravid.
Aditya: We have no option but to be one.