It has been a while since I took my camera out and so I started looking for places around Hyderabad to shoot some landscapes. As I couldn’t find any interesting spots for landscapes, I went to Meetup to see if I could go on a photo walk or something similar. That’s when I found Hyderabad Fashion Photography Workshop for beginners organized by Rakesh Kurra.

Although I am not into fashion photography, I thought I’ll give it a try as it could help for when I shoot portraits of friends or family. The cost of the workshop was Rs. 3000 for the day so it felt like it was worth it, and it wasn’t too far from where I lived. Also, I was beginning to get desperate to go out and shoot some pictures without having to travel hundreds of kilometers.

Getting there
 A map was included on the Meetup group page from Google Maps and I just followed till the destination. Or so it seemed. The workshop was to be held at Prakash Farm House. The location given on the map was about 5.5 kms away.
Strike 1.

You can see from the map that the actual location was 5.5 kms away from the location we were shared. The red pin being the location shared and the other end of the route being the correct location. The workshop was due to start at 9:30 AM and I was at the location of the red pin at 9 AM. I have the habit of arriving early as I do not like to be late.

As soon as I realized what happened, I started asking around for the venue and nobody seemed to have a clue. After 5 or 6 phone calls and driving back and forth, I finally managed to find the place. It was nearly 10 AM. I rushed in, expecting the workshop to have started. But it looked like there were a few more people who were going through the treasure hunt.

 At about 10:30 AM or so, the workshop finally started off with a bit of theory. This involved about 10 slides printed out on A3 sized cards and Rakesh explaining what was already there. There were a bunch of images showing different shots like close-up, extreme close-up and the like. A few slides (that is what I like to call them) contained images showing the Rule of Thirds, leading lines, positive and negative space. A couple of them showed the difference in the background when you shoot at f/2.8 and at f/8. He went through each slide going over each photo and telling us what the slide obviously was screaming out in ALL CAPS. Most of the images on those slides, I assume, were shot by Rakesh himself. But some of them were clearly lifted off someone’s portfolio or blog. Or even worse, from a free stock photography website!
 Strike 2.

The Models and the photographers
 There were eight photographers that day and two models who were going to be working with us, Katerina Krivenko and Prathyusha Madan. Both Katerina and Prathyusha are beautiful women, very patient and understanding.

The Practicals
 After we got the theory out of the way, it was time to head out to the field (literally!) to shoot some pictures. I will not go into a minute-by-minute review here as this will be one really long post. We were shooting till 6:30 PM or so, with an hour break for lunch. Rakesh was directing (at times it felt more like ordering) the models from pose to pose and from location to location. As there were 8 photographers, it was agreed at the start that there will be 2 groups of 4 photographers each. Each group would take turns shooting pictures of the model in each setting.

Each round (there was another term for it which I cannot recall now) had the model in a different costume, with a different styling and in a different spot on the location. Each round started with Rakesh ‘finding’ the best composition to work with and everyone else just crowded around him and started shooting. Nobody – the organizer or the photographers – seemed to care about the ‘4 in each group, one group at a time’ agreement we had at the start of the shoot.
Strike 3.

Within the first 2 hours, I lost half the will to shoot any more pictures. I just wanted to pack up and leave. There was actually a point when all of them were crowded around the model, and I just stood back and waited. Rakesh noticed it and asked why I wasn’t shooting any, to which I informed him that it was too crowded for anyone to shoot without pushing or being pushed by someone. I reminded him of the ‘4 in a group…’ thing and he conveyed the same to all the photographers. He wasn’t quite happy that I was pointing him out.

What annoyed me even more than the other photographers was that the organizer himself was behaving very unprofessionally. Others who were there might disagree with this, but this is my opinion. It was very clear that Rakesh was more interested in building his own portfolio than teaching us the art and science of fashion photography. This didn’t happen just once. It happened with both the models at every location, with every costume/make-up. Rakesh was always at the front, in the center taking his pictures – with the models looking into his camera. I failed to understand how anyone else could get a decent picture with him doing that. Eye contact is very important for fashion and portrait photography and he clearly was the only one who was getting it most of the time.
Strike 4.

Lunch was included in the fee and was served at around 3 PM. A little too late but I don’t mind skipping a meal if I’m getting some good pictures. I was shocked to find out that the models had got their breakfast along in the morning but weren’t allowed to eat as it was getting late. When the rest of us had lunch at 3 PM, the models had their cold breakfast from the morning. They also had a little of the fresh food that was provided, but keeping them hungry all day was totally unprofessional.
Strike 5.

Post-lunch sessions weren’t any different except that the last session was at sunset and the light absolutely fantastic! I got my best pictures of the day during this period – understandably so.

 On the whole, it wasn’t as great as I expected. On the other hand, I am not totally unhappy as I got a few great shots from the day which I am very happy with. Would I recommend this workshop to anyone? Well, that depends on who’s asking! If you are a total beginner, I would recommend you go. If you find it difficult to arrange for a model/subject to practice with, this is a great way to start building a portfolio. If you do not fall into these two groups, I wouldn’t recommend this workshop.

Prithvi Mandava

Prithvi Mandava

Prithvi is an experienced cyber security professional with global experience across 3 continents. He has proven skills and experience on Cisco, Check Point, Fortinet, Juniper and other vendors' products and technologies. He also has a passion for nature and landscape photography and can be seen lugging his camera gear in and around some pretty locations.

A few of the industry credentials he currently holds include CISSP, CISM, CISA, CCNP R&S, CCNA Security, CCNA.

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