The dream that everyone dreams:
We all know or probably are people who live two lives – one at their desk job hating what they do and wishing they were somewhere else and the second in the weekend – running, writing, climbing, travelling, taking pictures and hoping that the weekend never ends. Many have a hobby that they would love to pursue professionally; some of them are even extremely good at their craft. But 99% of these people continue to live this dual life until they retire or die, preferring the certainty of a paycheck over the perks of the unknown and unpredictable.
The rare 1%:
Karthik Rajagopal belongs to that rare 1% who decided to take action to end this duality and live his dream. Karthik worked as an Engineer in a well-known infrastructure company. He is not one of those thousands of engineers who do engineering and then wonder why they did it. He is an engineer at heart and infact loved his job.
“I love Mechanical Engineering … Even today somewhere engineering flows in my blood. I will never forget Engineering. Even in my sleep I can give the values of tensile strength of the materials I have used for design.”
First Client as Wedding Photographer:
An intensely passionate and emotional person at heart, it was not the work but the office politics and the lack of meeting of ideologies with the senior management that Karthik could not stand any longer. During one of those days a friend called Karthik for suggesting a good wedding photographer for his brother’s wedding. Karthik expressed his interest in taking up the project himself and provided a quote for the same on the following day. Karthik accepted one more wedding photography assignment when he was still working and started building his portfolio for wedding photography.
Getting ready for the plunge:
Encouraged by his wife, Karthik bid adieu to his corporate job and turned to his first love, his camera. I asked him about his Finances when he took the big decision.
“I never had much of a saving habit. I always spent my money for things and experiences I liked. Photography being my hobby, I spend a good amount of money on gears and trips.”
So how did you manage, I ask.
“I had money to buy the gears with 3 Lakhs left in my account” Karthik said candidly “The settlement amount from work was deposited to handle any emergency. My wife works… so I guess the risk was handled.”
Karthik was supported by his wife, mother and his best friend. He did not escape the ridicule and pessimism of the social circle but it did not matter to him.
Getting the Word Around:
Karthik Rajagopal was a well-known photographer in Chennai circles, he had conducted numerous photography workshops for amateurs and professionals which even I had attended once. I was amazed when he said in the workshop how some of his best photographs were taken with basic equipment like point and shoot camera. He believes in letting nature and light define the subject, rather than delve with heaps of technicality, maximizing artistic eye and minimizing photo shop experiments. Even the amateur in me came away with loads of actionable tips about taking better pictures.
Being a skilled photographer although helpful is only a small part of taking up the profession. Marketing yourself with just two weddings shot before was tough.
“It was a mad move”, Karthik acknowledges” trying to market myself with just two weddings I had shot professionally before I quit my day job. But artists are mad people”
The pains of an entrepreneurial journey did not escape Karthik. There were months with no work and the dropping bank balance was a source of agony. But Karthik also felt a sense of exhilaration at the possibilities ahead.
“Wonderful things are realized when you hit the rock bottom. I expected it to be difficult… I guess it was easier than how I expected it to be. This is not the first time in my life I had seen the bottom. So I was not afraid of the abyss I was about to fall into.”
Karthik’s enthusiasm enabled him to see the difficulties as his learning. He learned more about marketing himself through social media and network and the growth was gradual.
The one thing Karthik believes he would differently if he starts all over again is to learn and do the social marketing the right way from the start. But he also believes in customer coming to him for his work, rather than spend heavily on advertising to put your name all over Google or Facebook.
“Today, with the social media tools available you can make yourself visible in better ways. Of course, you need a budget for everything.” Karthik explains and adds” I never respond to job listing in such Facebook pages. The max I do is to silently put a like when someone recommends me as a mark of gratitude and respect towards that person.”
Standing out among Competition:
With camera’s being more affordable, there has been an advent of wedding photographers in the market. Money is good, the wedding itself is only for a few day(s) in a month and most to be married people do not know much to evaluate the skills of a photographer. So the industry went through a natural evolution with so many emerging photographers. I have seen the frustration of many professionals about this and asked Karthik what he thought about the situation.
“Any art is always differentiating by passion the artist has towards the art and the final result. Beyond everything, you will have your customers if you give good work. Good work will never lose demand.”
Karthik believes the wedding photography market is in the process of correction. He believes only photographers with true passion and good service will survive. While the competition in wedding photography and commercial photography is intense, there is very little completion for good work in filmmaking. Karthik is hence slowly getting into assignments to make documentaries and brand promotion films and is loving the journey.
Specialization and Diversification of genre:
I asked Karthik about his attempts in other genres and if it is hindering or helping his work, for which he said “As a photographer it does help you to do various other genres to keep yourself fresh. Sometime doing a single style again and again could lead to creative paralysis. It’s always good to do a mix. But one should carefully handle this in branding. ”
Advice for an Aspirant:
I ask Karthik what his advice would be for someone who chooses to follow his path
“If photography is the job that can give your happiness, go for it. My answer will be the same for choosing any career. It’s the passion that leads… Money follows… If you run towards money there is no guarantee for happiness “
he concludes philosophically.
Living one’s dream is neither simple nor easy. But nothing worthwhile in life ever is. So if you are not happy in your job, it’s time to make a choice between the right and the easy. Choose Wisely.
You can get some more expert advice on :www.tryangle.in