Society

This photographer does not own a single camera!

Pranesh (centre, in black) with his team Photo: R. Ravindran  

Pranesh Padmanabhan describes the four years he spent studying electrical and computer engineering in four simple words: a waste of time. “In Chennai, if you’re doing anything other than engineering or medicine, you’re considered a terrorist,” he laughs.Looking back, he could have selected the study-engineering-get-fat-paycheque route. But that didn’t excite him.

What did set his heart racing, however, was taking pictures — or rather, “visualising photographs”, as he’d later realise. That was in 2010, when candid wedding photography was still nascent and a fad among the elite.

Pranesh, who already held two management degrees then (one from Chennai Business School and an online certificate course from Harvard), was, simply put, in the right place at the right time… with the right idea.

Today, Pranesh Photography – or Studio 31, as it was rechristened – is run like a corporate and boasts an office environment that might give top IT companies a run for their money.

They have 27 full-time employees and 40 freelancers, plus a Happiness Manager, an accountant and a full-fledged technology team.

These numbers are essential. After all, the team works on one wedding per day, sometimes even two. On one particularly busy muhurtam last year, they covered 27 weddings on a single day.

The big revelation comes here: they don’t own a single camera.

“I don’t understand why one needs to invest when you can just hire cameras, as per requirement,” he says matter-of-factly.

“I’ve a regular deal with a vendor who gives me great equipment on short notice. He takes care of all the equipment, insurance, the works, while we concentrate on the pictures and post-production.”

That’s an aspect he takes very seriously, and so calls it his USP. “Anyone can take photographs these days. And by that, I mean, good candidphotographs. But it’s still an unorganised market. The challenge is to deliver a smooth start-to-finish process; right from the time an enquiry call comes to the final delivery of the album.”

Facebook and other social media have helped his company grow from strength to strength. He typically targets the IT crowd, who hail from middle and upper middle-class families who would like to see “rich photo shoots” done at their weddings as well. “For us, every wedding is special. We target the aspiring middle-class crowd that would like to see a colourful spread of their special day.”

That doesn’t mean just photos of the gushing bride, her happily-in-tears parents and the coy groom. It also includes the traditional posed photos — something that everyone has, especially the elders in the family. Of course, those were shot by shutterbugs growing up at a time when Pentax, Kodak and Konica were household names.

Thanks to package deals made by the company (about one lakh for a wedding, all inclusive), the young, jeans-clad candid photographer no longer poses a threat to the traditional photographer. “I can proudly say that we have changed the lives of about 50 of them. They have bank accounts now. They’re no longer treated with disdain.”

Success and money came Pranesh’s way, but there were still challenges. 27 prospective life partners rejected his marriage proposals – or rather, their families – pointing out that he was just a photographer. 18 banks rejected his application for a loan, because they weren’t convinced that a photographer could earn so much money.

But he’s forgotten all that and moved on. Now happily married (to a journalist), the 28-year-old prefers the cool confines of his Kodambakkam office space to the hustle and bustle at a wedding hall. He’s looking at increasing revenues – their turnover was Rs. 3 crores last year, and he hopes to achieve Rs. 15 crores by 2018, by expanding to Coimbatore, Madurai, Erode and metros like Bangalore and Hyderabad.

What about the need to keep his passion for photography intact? “I’m planning to set up another company called Hues, through which I will directly get into honeymoon photography. It will involve travelling to places like Bali, New Zealand, shooting the newlyweds for a couple of days on location. There’s a huge demand for that now.”

However, he still does not plan to buy a camera, though he can afford it now. “I came into the photography industry without one and I wish to stay that way.”


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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 10:57:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/pranesh-padmanabhans-big-picture-for-studio-31/article8600780.ece

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