New campaign shot for Signature Whiskey India

Posted in Uncategorized on June 30, 2010 by martinprihoda

Photographer: Martin Prihoda
Agency: Y&R Bangalore
Client: Signature Whiskey
Producer: Bhushan Pednekar
Model: Manasvi Mamgai, Piyush
H/M: Shikha Goel

Here’s some new work I shot in Bombay with the Y&R team from Bangalore. It features the current Miss India, Manasvi Mamgai. We finished this in a day and spent about 2 in post. Each ‘character’ was lit separately with a main light Para and side lit by two heads with softbox about 45 degrees behind.

I haven’t been writing as much as usual mostly because my wife was in the last stages of her pregnancy and I’ve been shooting like crazy. Anyway, now that we have a beautiful new baby boy named Jai, I’ve taken a few days off.

stayed tuned for more new work to be posted in the next few weeks!

a simple man

Posted in Uncategorized on May 22, 2010 by martinprihoda

Verve May 2010 shoot and some Behind the Scenes

Posted in Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 by martinprihoda

Here are some published photos from this May’s issue of Verve. The concept was to dress the model and put her behind the store front as a mannequin. These were all shot at Palladium, a new upscale mall in Bombay; the interior of the mall itself was too dark to shoot natural light so we used a strobe head and beauty dish to give the top light effect and also to isolate the model.

The problem was the reflection of the light. To counter this I simply lit the model how I wanted her, with my assistants in the shot, then removed everything and shot a plate. In post we merged the two to together a voila.

see the very last photo for a behind the scenes comparison.

Behind the scenes




Interview with Vogue India Photo Editor: Iona Fergusson

Posted in Uncategorized on May 2, 2010 by martinprihoda

Woah…okay.

I made a resolution to update my blog more frequently but seriously…where’s the time. In the last three weeks I’ve shot a 16 page fashion editorial for Verve, 10 pages for Elle, 2 ad jobs for Lowe Lintas, a publicity shoot for Sunidhi Chauhan (well known Bollywood playback singer), several model portfolios and an interiors shoot for the new Bang Bang Films office in Bandra. Not to mention looking after my seven and a half month pregnant wife and editing all the above jobs.

but enough excuses…

here’s the second part in my interview series. This time its with the wonderful Iona Ferguson, Photo Editor of Vogue India. Iona and I worked together for the first time almost a year ago and since then have become good friends. She’s a fantastic resource on photography and a lot of what she has to say will be pertinent for the aspiring fashion/editorial photographer.

So here goes:

Martin: Give me a little bit of your background as the photo editor for Conde Nast
Iona: Well prior to Vogue’s launch in October 2007 I was living in Delhi and working as Fashion Editor for Maxim magazine. I heard on the grapevine about Vogue’s proposed launch and thought that this was an opportunity too great to be missed. I had no prior Photo Editor experience per se but had been working with a lot of Indian photographers and I love images. So I put my name forward for the position.  And here I am.
M: What exactly does a photo editor do?
I: The way that I like to think of my job is that I’m conceiving the visuals for a story. Every month we (editor, writer, art director and myself) have an art meeting in which we discuss how we want to treat all the stories for that issue. It could be through research, press, illustration, commissioned shoots whatever. The photo department will go away and find these images.  
You kind of need to have a pretty good network for finding the best way to visually bring life to the story. When we research we are constantly referring back to the text so that we choose relevant material. We also need to make sure we identify a good selection to help the art department create beautiful lay-outs. Always at the forefront of the photo editor’s mind is choosing an image that best fits the DNA of the magazine. So if you’re thinking of Vogue, Vogue is fashion, glamour, celebrity and it’s really beautiful. So the pictures have to be 100% within that realm. Thank God I have a great researcher on my team, as there is a lot to do.
I do spend a lot of time commissioning photographers to shoot for us. As we have a broad range of styles we need a broad range of photographers. So if you’re doing something that has a very high glamour quotient, then you’re going to choose a photographer who can depict that in a very effective way. It may be through his use of lighting or how he works with his models. Maybe if you’re shooting an artist you’re going to select a photographer who shoots lovely black & whites or brings a different more creative mood, or you want to give the story a reportage feel then you want a photographer skilled in that field.  Building your network amongst the photographer fraternity is crucial.
These are the fun aspects of being a photo editor and I guess in any job will also have the boring admin tasks like managing budgets and making sure our production team get the right res of image.  Photo Eds are no exception.
M: How many photography portfolios do you see in a week?
I: To be frank, India is an emerging market and there aren’t 50 million photographers. The younger generation of Indian photographers is definitely coming up but I would say I see a new portfolio every fortnight to three weeks. However we do spend a lot of time on the Internet looking at international photographers’ portfolios, especially if we are commissioning a shoot abroad.
M: What are the things you look for in a photographer’s portfolio?
Iona:  That is a very good question and I have to say that it’s quite unusual to see a good portfolio in India, as it is quite a new concept. Equally the position of photo editor in magazine publishing is very new so many photographers have never had to present their work in a formal setting. I think if you have a photographer coming from abroad they have traditionally spent time putting their books together and there’s a lot of thought that goes into what is being shown to the photo editor. It’s just part of the system over there. The book usually seems to be well edited and thought through. I understand that it may cost money to get your book done but in my opinion it is money well spent.
 When I’m looking at a photographer’s work I want to see a nicely presented book, well edited with a consistency of style. I like to get a sense of how a photographer shoots, how he sees things. In terms of his work I want to see how he puts his pictures together, his sense of composition, use of light, depth of field, his creativity, that kind of thing.  If he shoots fashion how the clothes and model are coming across or how he brings out someone’s personality in his portrait shoots. So to summarize: I look for excellent quality of work, creativity, fresh perspective, beautifully composed images and the photographer’s style.
M: What turns you off in a photographer’s portfolio?
I: for one when somebody hasn’t done his or her homework. It is really great when a photographer knows and loves the magazine they are coming to see. And understands its style! Looking at back issues and familiarizing yourself with the content will really help in determining what pictures make it in the book and what don’t. They must look though their work and if there’s nothing that they feel is appropriate then don’t even bother making the call. Don’t get me wrong I am not talking here about only wanting to see similar work to what we have published. We do want to evolve and challenge our style but if a photographer only shoots very grungy, gritty, avant-garde work then Vogue is probably not the right fit. However, if they feel that there are some things in their work that would be good for us to see then it’s worth the call.
Next is sloppy editing – be brutal about what makes the cut and only put in the best work. I know it’s an incredibly hard thing to do but too many pictures are a pain in the neck.  Ideally I like to see work that is a maximum of 2 years old.  Again when putting the portfolio together they need to think about the person that will be viewing it. Make it as easy to follow as possible with a nice flow and good segmentation – fashion, beauty, portraits etc.  And really think about the kind of work they would like to shoot for the magazine.  If they don’t want to do still lifes or landscapes then don’t bother putting them in no matter how beautiful. If it’s fashion work then only put in fashion and beauty.  Otherwise it doesn’t make sense. The last thing the photo editor wants is to be insecure about the photographer’s abilities. They don’t want to come away from the meeting thinking ‘oh god I’m not quite sure if they going to be able to deliver.’ What I want is a very clear idea of what the photographer can deliver. There is a lot riding on the shoot in terms of money and time and no one wants it to fall short.
M: How many images would you say are enough?
I: I mean I’m biased because the moment I see a beautiful body of work than I’m happy to spend half an hour going through the images.  But I think again from a book’s perspective 30-40 images is really great.  Basically what the photo editor wants to see is what the photographer is capable of delivering and you can definitely do that amount of images. 
M: How important is the photographer’s attitude?
I:  (laughs) good question! What I have learned more than anything else working on a magazine like Vogue is that fashion and portrait photography is a 100% team effort. With other types of photography the photographer may get away with behaving badly because he’s not relying on others to do the job. But with us there will be a stylist, hair and makeup, the producer, personality. It is really important for him to be professional.  However, photographers are creative people and they have their quirks and fancies and so a certain amount of leeway maybe given under certain circumstances.  My own personal perspective is that I like people to be professional but I don’t mind that people demand great things of their team and under moments of stress nerves can get frayed. That can all be understood under the context of the shoot.  But ego tantrums and unprofessional behaviour is out.
M: Do you work with photographers that work with film?
I: we do but it happens increasingly rarely. It does somewhat depend on the shoot. If it is a large story and we can build in the extra time needed for processing then I’m more than happy to accommodate somebody who shoots film. We recently did a shoot of Indian designers in New York and it was a beautiful black and white story and the photographer asked if he could shoot on film and I was absolutely delighted that he did. So we do try and accommodate people but I really think it depends on the story.  Most people however are shooting on digital.
M: How often do you guys work with international photographers?
I: For the shoots that I commission I tend to work mainly with Indian photographers or international photographers living or visiting in India. So yes we do and are very keen to continue doing so. The fashion team also works a lot with international photographers for their large shoots. We are always looking at ways to evolve an aesthetic in India and working with people from outside can introduce a fresh perspective. The mandate was to raise the benchmark of fashion photography in India and one of the ways of doing that is to bring outside talent in. We spend a lot of time selecting people whose style will work for our market and I believe we’ve been extremely successful. So yes we’re very keen.
M: Why is it a good time to be a photographer in India?
I: I think it’s a good time because there is a lot of scope for western talent here. The market is evolving with a good number of magazines launching. You just need to read the papers and realize that India’s market is growing at a good % rate over maybe more competitive and saturated markets out West. I think foreign photographers can bring a different aesthetic and professionalism to the market, a quality that is definitely appreciated by the magazine world. It helps challenge certain visual stereotypes. I’m not saying that creativity is lacking here but I think India can just gain from outside expertise. 
M: What advice would you give to a young photographer who has dreams of shooting for Vogue one day?
I: My advice to them would be to develop a nice body of work across the same segments as Vogue. The work should give a good indication as to his/her style of shooting and be nicely individual. Once they have done that then the next is to pick up for phone and call. Don’t be shy but be clear about the kind of work they want to shoot.
M: Do you have any thoughts on Post Production?
Iona: This is a debate I’ve had with many people, the difference between a photographer and a digital artist. As a magazine we would prefer to receive an image that is 90% perfect, which needs minimal retouching. In today’s age because of digital photography you can obviously alter your images as much as you want. From my perspective I would rather have a near perfect image than I would one that needed a lot of post. There may be an aesthetic you are looking for that demands a certain type of post production in which case if its in the context of the shoot brief then that’s absolutely fine but skin for example, should look alive, porous, healthy.
M: Thanks for your time Iona; I know there are a lot of photographers out there that will benefit from this information.

Iona: My pleasure!
Martin and Iona at the Conde Naste India offices in south Bombay

Behind the Scenes – Rishikesh shoot

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 by martinprihoda

Many people have been asking about the lighting in the Rishikesh/Kumbh Mela shoot i recently did. Here’s a behind the scenes lighting setup of a few of the shots. My assistant Vijay and I lugged around almost 40 kgs worth of equipment through the foothills of the Himalyas but it was most definitely worth the effort.

Equipment was: Canon 5d 2, 24-70 2.8, Profoto 7b pack, extra battery (ugh), 4′ x 3′ softbox, lightstand, profoto 1200 w/s head, misc filters and odds and ends, pocket wizards…water.

Scroll down and you feel see the lighting setups. As well, I posted a before and after post process image. Amazingly little was done in post, basically increased exposure and added some vignetting…most of dramatic power of these images was created in camera!


Interview #1: Shoot for Vogue. Brendan Allthorpe; Art Director-Vogue India

Posted in Bollywood, Fashion, Gq, India, Magazines, Martin Prihoda, Photographers, Photography, Vogue on March 18, 2010 by martinprihoda


This is the first in a series of interviews I will be posting on my blog. Interview subjects will consist of top Art directors, Photo editors, Fashion editors and Ad agency creatives. The Interviews are conducted with an audience of pro-am photographers in mind and questions will relate almost exclusively to Photography and Photographers.


***
Interviewee: Brendan Allthorpe, Art Director-Vogue India


Brendan and I have collaborated on a few projects together, namely last September’s cover of GQ with Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan and the infamous Golden Golf Card shoot at the 2009 GQ Men of the Year Awards. He is currently the Art Director of Vogue India and a brand new dad.


In this interview he shares what it takes to become a Vogue/GQ contributing photographer.


Martin Prihoda: Good to have you on board Brendan, lets start of by ways of introduction. Can you give us a bit of your background in the publishing world?

Brendan: Sure, I’m Australian by birth and started with FHM in Australia before moving to Russia. I had originally moved to Russia as part of the FHM team and wound up working for GQ there. After a few years with GQ Russia, I moved to Mumbai to launch GQ India and am currently the Art Director of Vogue India.

M: I take it you like to travel, how have the transitions been?

B: Well, I guess you could call India my second ’emerging market.’ As an art director, its been really interesting learning the local aesthetic and expectations, that’s one of the reasons I love to travel. In fact I had never been to either India or Russia before being posted there.

M: For folks out there that might not know, what exactly does an ‘Art Director’ do?

B: Basically I’m responsible for the visual layout of the magazine; from fonts, to photos used to the general layout of the magazine. Art directors can influence content somewhat but its generally the visual ‘look and feel’ of the magazine that we direct.

M: How many photography portfolios do you see in a week?

B: In India we probably average 3 a week but a lot of agencies abroad send through electronic PDF’s and that sort of thing. As far as seeing people in the office, physically bringing in books its not very often, but like I said I get a lot of enquiries over email. Actually its becoming more so, photographers in India are beginning to realize that they have to start pitching against foreign photographers, that the work doesn’t fall into place as easily as it used to.

M: And would you say that’s different in India than say the UK?

B: I think its different because the market isn’t as developed yet. There aren’t, relatively speaking, as many photographers around. A larger, more established base of photographers exists in the UK and even in Russia. That being said, there’s a wide range of talent that does contact us here, from people with almost no fashion experience wanting to shoot a fashion story to photographers who are very experienced and established in this market.

M: Let’s shift gears here a bit and talk specifics. What are some of the things you really look for when viewing a photographers portfolio?

B: One of the first things I look for is consistency, particularly if its a photographer I haven’t seen or worked with before. There’s nothing worse than hiring a photographer based on a few shots in their portfolio and then the shoot becomes a disaster  because they start shooting something completely different. An ‘eye for detail’ is key as is creativity, of course. One of the big things is use of light and lighting skill. India has some amazing light so I want to know that the photographer can capture and maximize that light. Its important to understand that the photographer is going to have a lot of input into how the shoot turns out so its not only portfolio but what are they like as a person.

M: What are some of the things that turn you off when looking at a portfolio?

B: (laughs) I don’t like seeing too much work. You know, everyone has to edit down to their absolute best shots. If its 2010 now, I don’t want to see shots from 2000. Also, I don’t think its particularly effective to present a book that has a wide range of images; I think its best if photographers stick to a niche when presenting their work. Find out what you do well and stick to that, don’t try to be everything to everyone. I think that’s a big turn off actually, someone showing me fashion shots, then still life and then some book cover they shot.

M: So if you’re looking at a fashion photographer’s work, how many images are enough?

B: I don’t know that you can put an exact number on it, whether its 16 images or 30 images…you have to keep someone intrigued in your work. I think its best to show your portfolio to a range of people, just to get some opinions before you submit, then edit them down. If there’s something there that’s a bit doubtful then take it out.

M: Do you prefer when the photographer comes in or do you just not have the time to see that many people and prefer that they would email?

B: I don’t mind either, it often works that we get an email pdf and then call the person in, just to understand their personality. What I can’t stand is people coming in with data stick/pan cards and asking to use your computer to show you their work. If you come in there needs to be a physical portfolio.
M: My laptop crashed a few months back and I actually showed an editor my portfolio on my iTouch…she actually didn’t mind it.
B: (laughs) yeah, that’s fine, its when they come in with a laptop and the battery dies half way through or something doesn’t open properly and they’re fumbling around for ten minutes trying to get it to work…and believe me it happens.
M: You’d think if you were going into Vogue or GQ to show your portfolio, you’d have your batteries charged…(laughter)…okay next question: when you’re on set, how involved do you like to be with the actual shoot?
B: I guess I’m kind of an art director that hangs back a bit. I’ve hired the photographer based on my belief that they’re competent to do the job I’m after. Things that I’m looking for are more technical; if we’re doing a cover shoot than making sure there’s room for the masthead or knowing where the gutters (centerfold in a double page spread) are, that sort of thing. Of course we look at the shots and I may say something if its too dark or too light but I don’t like to get under the photographers feet too much; I mean if there’s something going on that I definitely don’t like then I’ll say something but I’m also wary until I actually get the shots back to the office and have a proper look at them. I’m not concerned about the nitty gritty small lighting details, that’s the photographers job and I trust the photographer with that. Generally you’ve hired the right person for the job so there’s no need for the art director to get too heavily involved.
M: How important is the photographers attitude?
B: Very Important. It comes down to making sure you’ve hired the right person for a particular job. Sometimes someone might give you attitude if they’re uncomfortable shooting what you’re wanting them to shoot, but that again that comes down to making sure you’re hiring the right person. The atmosphere on set has to be cordial, there’s a lot that depends on that especially if it’s a star, or a cover shoot…a lot hinges on it turning out right and you might have only two hours with someone and that’s two hours you’ll never get back again so everything has to work and work as smoothly as possible.
M: Do some of your photographers still use film?
B: God, I can’t remember the last time someone used film, maybe a few years ago there was a photographer that was still using medium format transparency.
M: But you’d say that’s a rarity now?
B: Totally rare.
M: Are you finding that a lot of photographers are using DSLR’s on shoots or are they shooting Medium format digital.
B: It’s a mixture of both. Probably 30% medium format 70% dSLR. For sure people are using dSLR’s more than say a digital back.
M: Do find any major quality difference between the two?
B: Not a great deal. I prefer medium format for sure, there is a quality difference there but its not down to the point where I would hire someone because of the equipment they were using.  Its pretty close these days but there is something special about medium format.
M: What are the major difference you see between the Indian and Western markets in relation to photography?
B: That’s a tricky question, I think its more about the maturity of the market; you have to be more straight forward here in India, we can’t experiment as much…yet. Particularly because the magazines I’ve worked on are quite mainstream magazines; there’s not as much room for experimentation. That might be more of the nature of the magazine perhaps.
M: So you think there’s more room for experimentation with different editions of Vogue abroad?
B: For sure, look at the Italian Vogue, its much more experimental. The magazine reflects the culture of the country in which its published. What’s really interesting is for example, when I was in Russia you would see these amazing locations, you know an amazing staircase in an old apartment or something like that and when I would suggest those as locations to shoot, the idea would be shot down in flames because it was like ‘oh, everyone’s apartment looks like that, no one wants to see that, etc…’ where as you tend to find the opposite in India where everyone is happy to shoot at old forts or  in Chor Bazaar (the Thieves Market in Mumbai) or in an auto rickshaw. Maybe it’s a source of national pride or imagery that most reflects the country, I don’t know. I found that really interesting though, that in India you could make it look like India where in Russia the audience didn’t necessarily want to see ‘Russia’
M: So would you say the Indian culture is more of a conservative culture in that sense, re: experimentation?
B: I wouldn’t necessarily say ‘conservative’ but while India Vogue hires international photographers, I think there’s still a certain level of education going on with the readers about certain ‘foreign’ styles of photography. For so long the style of photography in India has been quite similar and while the readership is getting there, I don’t think its quite where it is in the west, yet. While the market is maturing quite quickly there hasn’t been the same exposure to international fashion photographers of the caliber that Vogue hires in the west.
M: How often do you shoot with International photographers?
B: Vogue commissions an international photographer at least once a month. Sometimes they’ll shoot abroad in Thailand or Dubai, it depends. There’s a fashion team in London as well who do shoots there, probably every couple of months.
M: What advice do you have for a young/beginning photographer who would like to start shooting for an international fashion magazine like Vogue India?
B: Put together a strong portfolio, obviously. I think to shoot for Vogue you need to be able to show a great depth of experience, to be honest. But we have all kinds of stories, some are cover stories and some are smaller stories and we’re always keen to try new people for smaller stories and they’re usually chosen from a combination of enthusiasm and quality of work. We don’t have any strict prerequisites, if someone comes to me at the right time and I like their work you never know, there may be a project that’s ready for them at that moment; they needn’t have shot for 16 years and assisted this or that photographer, if their book suits the job then great.
M:  So someone could potentially walk in the door at the right time and be handed a job?
B: Exactly. I mean the publishing market here is quite saturated. There’s a lot of titles with a relatively small talent pool of photographers, so we’re always happy to see new people. You know as I said it may not be for a cover story but it could something.
M: Why do you think it’s a good time to be a photographer in India, right now?
B: Purely because there’s more and more magazines launching and as I mentioned there’s really a relatively small talent pool of photographers and everyone’s shooting for everyone. Magazines are constantly on the lookout for someone new.
M: Thanks for your time Brendan, it was great to hear your insights. 
B: Cheers and thanks for having me!


Brendan and Martin at the 2009 GQ India Men of the Year Awards, Mumbai.

Rishikesh and the Kumbh Mela

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2010 by martinprihoda

These portraits were taken in and around Rishikesh and Haridwar, North India at the time of the Kumbh Mela festival. Shot over a period of five days the series features a few of the many charismatic and eccentric characters we ran into along the way. It was a honor for me to be able to photograph yoga and yogis, a subject that is close to me…here, where alot of it began.

Together with my assistant, Vijay and friend Ali we carted our equipment up the foothills of the Himalayas, along the banks of the Ganges and into the darkened woods to capture what I believe is some of my best portraiture work to date.

While we sat by the holiest river in India, Vijay summed up the feeling perfectly in his broken english:

“When the Baba is no more…India is no more.”

Enjoy and pass along.

In order of Appearance:

1. Naga Baba, one of the naked Saddhus that wander the banks of the Ganges during Kumbh Mela
2. This man lives along the Ganges and takes care of puppies. He is Dog Baba.
3. Dog Baba
4. A little one hides in one of the fields that run along side the Home for Destitute Children, Rishikesh
5. Swami Yogananda. Age: 101, energetic, spritely and opinionated.
6. Swami Yogananda. The bad ass behind him is Siva; the Destroyer.
7. A woman carries firewood for Pooja. It took 2 men to lift that load on her head.
8. Hobbit Baba. Deep in the the woods of the Himalayan foothills…
9. We met this Saddhu on our way to Parnath Niketan Ashram; he invited us in for chai.
10. Yogi Vishva-ji, loves to laugh and presides over the Anand Prakash Ashram in Rishikesh.
11. A village girl with beautiful eyes and spirit.
12. Baba-ji strikes a pose on the ghats near Laxman Jula
13. Yogi Raj; Pranayam master and Ayurvedic doctor
14. A beggar looks over mother Ganga
15. Basanti works as a gardener at the Home for Destitute Children in Tapovan, Rishikesh.
16. Rajendra is a cripple from birth; he is shifting from begging to learning english and taking computer classes.