Learn from the Masters: Ashok Salian

Simple shapes and colours can make effective compositions. Photograph/Ashok Salian

Simple shapes and colours can make effective compositions. Photograph/Ashok Salian

Ashok Salian

Ashok Salian

On the occasion of Better Photography magazine’s thirteenth anniversary in 2010, 13 great masters drew from a lifetime of experience to give you over 150 carefully selected tips on photography and ways of seeing. They debated the idea of ‘the perfect moment’ and share their personal practices. In this edition, Great Master Ashok Salian shares his tips for better photography.

Carry Less
A number of people carry all their cameras and lenses with them on trips and holidays. After buying a point-and-shoot camera for the first time on a recent trip, I have realised that a compact camera is an ideal travel camera.

The Camera Does Not Matter
I have always believed and professed that it is the photographer who makes the picture. This belief of mine was reaffirmed on my recent trip to Italy. The images I managed to shoot with a tiny compact camera are testament to this fact.

Do not Point and Shoot
Just because you are using a point-and- shoot camera, do not simply point and shoot. You should know what you’re trying to get.

Understand Your Camera
The best way to get great results from any equipment is to understand its strengths and limitations. While using the compact camera, I got great shots of static objects like walls and graffiti, and managed to shoot some lovely portraits too. However, due to problems like shutter lag and high ISO noise, I avoided shooting any fast-moving subjects when the light levels were really low.

Get Back to the Basics
Since automation makes everything so simple, most people do not even know the basics of photography. I wish people would try and understand what their camera is doing, and why it is functioning in a particular way. Read books and do some research on the basic techniques of the craft.

Have Fun, but Learn
Compact cameras are nifty things because they give most people a chance to try their luck at photography. They have introduced people to the pleasures of photography. However, I think that these days it is more about pleasure and less about learning.

Ask Why You Like an Image
While studying the works of the masters, ask yourself why you like the photographs. Why does a particular photograph compel you to stop and look at it? Does the composition attract you? Is it a unique point of view? Or is it merely a beautiful subject? Understanding these points will help you understand and appreciate the medium.

Understand Light
Most amateurs end up getting blurry images because they shoot in terribly low light without taking any precautions like using flash or putting the camera on a flat surface. Consider whether the light is soft or harsh, and whether its intensity is good enough for you to get a sharp handheld photograph.

Have a Point of View
Your photographs should communicate your thoughts and beliefs. Every photographer should have a point of view that is expressed through his images.

My Interpretation of the Moment
The moment is a flash that whizzes past and you do not even notice it. Everything that you see in that flash gets translated onto the camera spontaneously. The perfect moment need not have a human subject. I can get excited by a wall or absolutely anything else I see.

Ashok Salian is known for his work in the fashion world and outside of it. A selftaught photographer, Salian has learnt the art through experimentation. However, he considers himself an artist and not just a photographer.

Tags: Great Master, Composition, Ashok Salian, tips, june 2010, abstract, compact camera photography