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Shamanth Patil on studying the architectural photography field

“I’ve never followed other photographers. Looking at various photographs in the market used to help you understand picture quality. Now, with everyone taking architecture photos without understanding the space and using digital programmes that make everything instant, there’s no visual process.”

Shamanth on how social media has shaped the industry

“Much commercial images can be taken on iPhones and edited later. This however limits the image to that screen’s dimensions and you lose details. Many times clients ask photographers to recreate filtered social media images which require editing. An unprocessed camera photo and a processed phone photo are very different.”

Kunal Kampani’s thoughts on moving away from architecture photography

“Initially I wanted to be an automobile and architecture photographer. Automobile photography is extremely expensive and clients usually don’t gamble money on newcomers. I started getting more “people” work. It was unplanned but I moved on to fashion and advertising.”

Ishita explains how studying architecture informs here work

“An education in architecture builds aptitude for compositions and basic design. These studies have formed a deep understanding of a good piece of art and hence a good photograph. I did not practice architecture much but my education has influenced my work and research.”

Ishita’s thoughts on the Instagram aesthetic

“Instagram has a huge influence on my understanding of aesthetics, but it’s mostly in terms of design and not architecture photography. The compositions developed because of Instagram styles might have affected how I see things through the camera. I am apprehensive of much it should control my work. Not everything you do needs to be trendy.”

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Lab 30 Oct 2018

Alternatives: In conversation with photographers on the growing business that is architectural photography

CQ speaks to photographers Ishita Sitwala, Shamanth Patil and Kunal Kampani about architectural photography. While Ishita and Shamanth practice architectural photography, Kunal who specialised in architectural, automobile and industrial photography has moved away from architecture to advertising and fashion photography. They walk us through the experiences and challenges that have shaped their careers and impart their thoughts on the field.

Main Image: (From Left to Right) Ishita Sitwala, Shamanth Patil, Kunal Kampani.

The path leading to and away from photography

Shamanth Patil: I’ve been practicing photography for 15 years. I studied journalism and mass communication and have a Diploma in commercial photography. I started with photojournalism and documentary oriented images. I used to work with the late photojournalist, Mr. T.S. Satyan and started helping with his ideas. He taught me to look at subjects through a photojournalistic lens.

Shamanth Patil on studying the architectural photography field

“I’ve never followed other photographers. Looking at various photographs in the market used to help you understand picture quality. Now, with everyone taking architecture photos without understanding the space and using digital programmes that make everything instant, there’s no visual process.”

Ishita Sitwala: I’ve been practicing for 13 years. I developed the skill during my Bachelors in architecture as well my Masters. I studied architecture from Sarvajanik college of Technology (SCET), Surat and my Masters in architecture and theory from Cornell University, New York. One of my casually-shot photographs from a trip to Moscow was even printed full-page in the Cornell’s newsletter. My architecture photos were later used by the professors for a presentation of the trips.

Kunal Kampani: I’ve been photographing for 9 years. I studied photography and specialised in large production photography – automobile, architecture and industrial photography. Initially I wanted to be an automobile and architecture photographer. In my first year working, I did a small hotel project in Bombay.

But architectural projects soon became document-ish and repetitive. It wasn’t interesting and was quite technical. Hotels or designers want to show-off some aspect or amenities of their structure. It isn’t art photography, it’s a commercial thing where you’re showing the space and functionality. Alongside, I got work for portraits or small ads that had single layouts and that's how I ventured into lifestyle.

“There are two ways of understanding the subject – how you see it and how the client wants you to see it. Balancing between the two is important.” – Shamanth Patil

Skills required for professional photography

Shamanth Patil: Understanding the architecture and space is important. There are two ways of understanding the subject – how you see it and how the client wants you to see it. Balancing between the two is important. Apart from this, understanding lighting is important. Visualising new angles and new ways of showing a space is challenging.

Shamanth on how social media has shaped the industry

“Much commercial images can be taken on iPhones and edited later. This however limits the image to that screen’s dimensions and you lose details. Many times clients ask photographers to recreate filtered social media images which require editing. An unprocessed camera photo and a processed phone photo are very different.”

Ishita Sitwala: Understanding light and how to manipulate it is key. Next would be compositions and how best to frame the space to emphasize the design elements and forms.

Kunal Kampani: Since media budgets are usually low, the availability of light in mind becomes crucial. In terms of equipment, there are lenses and things, but much work is done post-production.

“Often you’re shooting at the wrong time of the day...Photography is also investment- heavy and it becomes a lot to take on when budgets are low.” – Kumal Kampani.

Challenges of architectural photography

Shamanth Patil: Sometimes you’ll have to shoot the same space for two different clients and you’ll want to find different angles for both. So you have to visualise how to present the space in one way for the first client and then a completely different way for the second client.

Ishita Sitwala: Having to use equipment when shooting in tight spaces is restrictive. Also shooting outdoors when the weather isn’t supportive and there isn’t enough light available.

Ishita explains how studying architecture informs here work

“An education in architecture builds aptitude for compositions and basic design. These studies have formed a deep understanding of a good piece of art and hence a good photograph. I did not practice architecture much but my education has influenced my work and research.”

Kunal Kampani: Often you’re shooting at the wrong time of the day, and things that would usually take three or four days to execute need to be done in one or two days. Photography is also investment-heavy and it becomes a lot to take on when budgets are low.

Kunal Kampani’s thoughts on moving away from architecture photography

“Initially I wanted to be an automobile and architecture photographer. Automobile photography is extremely expensive and clients usually don’t gamble money on newcomers. I started getting more “people” work. It was unplanned but I moved on to fashion and advertising.”

“A lot of things are learnt on the field by experience. Observe the work of good photographers. Look for inspiration from things outside of architecture.” – Ishita Sitwala.

Advice for architecture photography

Shamanth Patil: Commitment is important; commitment to quality, timely submissions, punctuality and professionalism. Secondly, don’t limit yourself to just architectural photography. Work on being a well-rounded photographer. Doing a bit of everything will help you survive.

Ishita Sitwala: A lot of things are learnt by experience while on the field. Observe the work of good photographers. Look for inspiration from things outside of architecture.

Ishita’s thoughts on the Instagram aesthetic

“Instagram has a huge influence on my understanding of aesthetics, but it’s mostly in terms of design and not architecture photography. The compositions developed because of Instagram styles might have affected how I see things through the camera. I am apprehensive of much it should control my work. Not everything you do needs to be trendy.”

Kunal Kampani: Find a way to feel inspired because often, you’re executing someone else’s vision. Be aware that these days, the last thing a photographer does is photography. They’re a businessperson, negotiator, salesman – everything else before a photographer. So you’ll need to develop skills outside of simply photography. Be patient and just keep working.

For more information on the featured photographers, click on the following links: Shamanth Patil, Ishita Sitwala, Kunal Kampani.