Learn from the Masters: Suresh Natarajan
On the occasion of our 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 Suresh Natarajan shares his tips for better photography.
Learn from your Bad Pictures
For a hobbyist, the best teacher is himself. If you shoot a nice photograph, you should figure out what you did right, and why the photograph works. A bad picture you have shot teaches you even more. Ask yourself why it does not work and what led you to shoot it that way.
Just Keep Shooting
Since you get the best learning from your own photographs, it is important to keep shooting as much as you can. The more pictures you shoot, the more classes you attend.
Pursue a Series
Pursue a series of images with content and thought driving it. For instance, in portraiture, a series is like an extended portrait. You are not capturing the personality in a single image, but building it up, bit by bit. You can do this by meeting the person several times or by living with him.
Choose a Theme
Wisely It is important to choose an appropriate theme that is not too broad or too narrow. For example, you may choose a theme like ‘My city at 5am’. It is generic enough, and allows you to experiment with different kinds of photography as the city wakes up.
Explore Contrasts and Contradictions
While shooting portraiture, a great moment is often about capturing the real personality behind the garb. For example, you can shoot a fierce boxer in a very vulnerable mood. Alternatively, you can shoot a somber photo of a comedian who is actually a serious person in real life.
Of course, these are just examples. A moment needs drama, which can be created by using conventional thinking too. An intense picture of the boxer and a funny picture of a comedian also work well.
Moments often breeze away faster than you can click. You need to be prepared all the time, and shoot when your subject lets his guard down. It is bound to happen some time.
Establish a Connect
Converse with your subject, crack a joke, even punch him sportingly. Intruding into his personal space can actually help you connect with him, and may help you bring out his hidden persona. As a photographer, you step into his space, click the image and step out. Most often, he will love you for being there and cherish that frozen moment of his.
Look for Great Subjects
Certain subjects like babies, flowers and sunsets may be cliché, but if you are stuck for ideas, they can help you capture spectacular images easily.
Uncertainty can be Good too
Uncertainty and nervous energy can help you make a great image too. I rarely meet my subject before the shoot as I do not believe in breaking the ice. I meet them in front of the camera, under the lights. That moment of uncertainty can work to your advantage. Not knowing what to do, being lost and just experiencing the moment can actually help you shoot stunning photographs.
My Interpretation of the Moment
The idea of the perfect moment depends on the kind of photography you are doing. However, one common factor will be that you will know when you freeze the perfect moment. It will hit you, surprise you and give you great joy.
Suresh Natarajan is a leading fashion and advertising photographer. His stunning images reflect his belief that creative thinking should be visual. His timeless images have also adorned innumerable editorial covers.