Wednesday, 25 December 2013

It's like living on your own: What it's like being a freelance photographer

Faizan Patel, freelance photographer
Faizan Patel tells me he's busy this weekend. Then again, he's busy most weekends, which might explain why the answers he's sent me are so short.

But words are not his forte, pictures are. Faizan is a freelance photographer who specialises in weddings.

"Photography started off as a hobby and later became a passion which needed to be fed with a dose of creativity on a regular basis," explains Faizan.

He added to his skills behind the lens with a Masters degree from Manipal Institute of Communication in 2011 and has been freelancing since then.

Weddings aside, Faizan has also done food photography for restaurants and bakeries and also dabbles in portfolios for models.

Wedding season

The wedding season in India is all year round. If you live in Mumbai in the west of the country where it's warm and humid, July is the time people choose to tie the knot. Up north, with the advent of cooler climes replacing the hot summer months, September to December is wedding season.

Most weddings though take place during either February and March, where the weather is relatively mild before summer's arrival, or immediately after, between September and November before winter comes around.

Man, that looks good: Faizan is regularly contracted for product photography.
This photo was taken for Puma Club Bangalore
Faizan still remembers the first wedding he covered. "It was the biggest wedding I have ever covered and also the bestest couples of them all," he recalls. "I am still in touch with them and wish them every year on their anniversary."

He now covers about one or two events a week and while that might not seem like a lot of work on the surface, traditional Indian weddings last about two to three days

There are weeks where he works about six days. "I don't have a life. My personal life has gone for a toss ever since I took up photography," he says.

The personal reasoning behind Faizan choosing to specialise in weddings however was simple: he loves food.

Indian weddings are known for lavish expenditure and the same extends to the variety of rich food that people are treated to.

At a wedding, it is not uncommon to see individual stalls catering to different cuisines, ranging from traditional Indian spicy chaats and crispy dosas to more conventional Western fare such as pizza and pasta.

And Faizan gets all that for free.
Would you like to wash that down with this? A sample of of Faizan's work while working on a photo op with the Taj Group of Hotels

Loving his job

Those who wish to get in touch with him normally do so via either Facebook or email. He has his own website where people can take a look at his work, get in touch with him and look at his rates, which can be pretty pricey, but worth it if you take a look at what he has to offer.

Although Faizan now earns a steady income, he says that freelances should always be paid for their work. Working for free normally leads to exploitation of these professionals and can get demoralising.

 "It's unfair on their part," Faizan says of these companies. "Pay less but do pay is what I wish to tell them."

Faizan however has always been paid on time. "By God's grace that has never happened to me so far," he says.

Freelancing, says Faizan is just like an extension of life. "It's just like living on your own and managing your expenses," he explains. "You are your own boss, [but] your future is unpredictable."
Can I tempt you with some desert? This shot of miniature blueberry cheesecakes was taken for the Kettle Drum bakery in New Delhi

In addition, freelancing doesn't get affected by inflation or deflation, he says.

Another reason he loves his work is because he enjoys the travelling element of his job. "I have travelled to eight different states this year," he says. "The travel and accommodation expenses are taken care by the client."

"Travelling to different parts of the country and witnessing different cultures has been the best adventure this profession offers me." 

Faizan says he enjoys freelancing a lot, but advises people who want to branch out into freelance photography to develop a few skills which will take them a long way.

Public relations, networking [and] bargaining are some of the skills you need to have, he says, in addition to obviously specialising in whatever field you choose.

Because Faizan's profession sets him apart from the rest of his friends, it is often a subject of conversations. "They (people) get excited when I tell them I do photography and request me to cover their wedding for free!," he says.

Faizan is one who is doing what he loves. However, he says that it wasn't this way when he first moved to Delhi to take up freelancing. He says that his concern regarding freelancers not getting a steady income is a very real one. "I struggled in the initial phase of my life when I was in Delhi," he admits.

But despite this rocky start, Faizan says he never considered taking up a full-time job involving photography. "I wouldn't do that (take up a full-time job). I have had several offers in the recent times and I have declined them all."

Please note that all pictures have been used for academic purposes only and have have been reproduced with permission from Faizan Patel.

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