Portrait Photography in India: How I fell in love with portraits!

amritsar men portrait punjab
The old man came after the holy dip at Golden temple and demanded that I click him :)

My Journey to become a peoples' photographer...

I wasn't always a fan of people photography, apart from clicking my sister with the Canon SLR that my dad had. We used to do all sorts of random stuff - I would make her climb a chair so that she would on the level of the vine hanging from the window, or I would put a light bulb right behind her head to get that godly glow or cover her in layers to sarees to get that model look (anyone remembers the Garden saree ads?).

With time I lost interest in clicking people till M forced me to look beyond buildings and get more into developing my own personal style of photography. I was a novice then and took it up rather half-heartedly. My transition from buildings & trees to people wasn't all that smooth, as often I would be a confused soul. I absolutely hated posed peoples' shots and was too afraid to approach street photography boldly, fearing the reaction from people.

Ahmedabad allowed me to the flexibility to do this. I was extremely comfortable with the people and the places, and so slowly started using my camera everywhere. First I clicked people only candidly, but soon moved on to capturing the life around much more openly. I can't even remember one incident when someone got offended and asked me not to shoot. Of course, I always used my discretion and never used the camera unless I was sure, or really wanted a particular shot...

I also reluctantly developed the approach of having a conversation first and then clicking my subjects. Initially I was afraid of losing the candidness of the moment (which is actually true), but then I also realised that its absolutely alright to capture moments when people know they are being clicked and they give their best (and genuine) smiles. Its the easiest with kids though as you can never go wrong with your camera with them around. They are absolutely natural and have no hangups on doing random, weird stuff - like jumping, mock-fights or screaming! I have said this often before that I am not exactly fond of kids, but they have often given me some of my best shots :)

Just as I got comfortable with street photography, I moved to Stanford and it was even more challenging as I was quite conscious to click people just randomly. I restarted my people's project on a sunny Sunday when I was out for a brunch with a few friends and called it 'My Experiments with New People'. The feedback to that was so positive that I jumped into it wholeheartedly! This was also the time I took up Instagram and in a very short span of time it became the first choice for sharing images, especially portraits. The blog lived on with other stories :)

Someday I will write a long post on more detailed post on street portrait photography with tips and suggestions, and also examples. I have not been able to share as much knowledge as I would like with my awesome readers, but I need to do that soon! 


Men of Amritsar...

Sharing a few shots from my recent trip to Amritsar. The entire focus of the trip was on food, so I actually clicked only a few portraits, except a few during the Heritage Walk and some more during the morning at the Golden Temple. As I often do, the images have been edited on my mobile phone (I rarely use photoshop, unless absolutely necessary) using Snapseed. Though its just an application and they do not pay me anything for saying this, I wholeheartedly recommend it for everyone to edit their images on phone. Please remember, most of the images on my blog are actually edited there - its often just minor corrections like contrast and saturation. Its easy and quick, and does not degrade the images much. 

The images shared here are all of men, and all of them are of different ages. I have done this consciously, just to show that portraits are always beautiful, no matter what the age. There is also often a debate (in my mind) about whether to present a colour or a black and white portrait, and I think this debate will live on always. There is no 'right' answer to this, I think its best to simply follow your instincts. There is only candid shot, and for the rest the guys very happily posed for me. In most of these cases I also talked a bit to them before clicking as I wanted to capture their subtle smiles as well :)

Do let me know which one do you like, and why? Any tips and suggestions are also most welcome. I have self learnt all my photography skills, and I am extremely open to learn more. My training in design, user research and field work has helped me immensely, but I know there is still far to go....

amritsar men portrait punjab
I saw and loved his shop so asked him to pose with it...
amritsar men portrait punjab
Interesting eyebrows :)
amritsar men portrait punjab
I called him Afghan due to his brown hair, good looks and those Pathan-like head cover :)


I was in Amritsar on an invitation of Punjab Tourism and Nokia/ Microsoft devices - explore Punjab using Lumia devices. This is first in the series of posts. Most pictures I clicked were using the Lumia 1020, while the rest were from my Nikon 3200 with 18-200 Sigma lens.