Few people have the drive and vision to follow their passion. Fewer still have the drive to juggle more than one passion and still do justice to both. We caught up with renowned photographer and heavy metal musician par excellence Pritham D’Souza, to give us an insight into what makes him tick, both from a professional perspective as well as a financial one.
What followed was a fascinating, entertaining and wholly enlightening interview on what goes on behind the camera lens. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to professional photography, it probably runs a few encyclopaedias deep.
Follow us down the rabbit hole and gain a brand new perspective on the man people affectionately call ‘The Metalfarmer’.
Hello Pritham! Thank you very much for taking time out to do this interview with us, considering your packed schedule. To kick things off, tell us a little bit about how you got into photography? What fuelled your passion?
‘’Well, to be honest, I was quite fortunate to be born into a family that has always treasured photography. From an extremely young age, I was exposed to film cameras of all types, so you could say my interest in photography was an intrinsic part of my childhood.
For people who aren’t in the know, farming played an important role in fuelling my passion for photography. I grew up on my farm in Mangalore and I can vividly remember taking photographs of the crops and the harvest back in 2002. Unfortunately, all I had back then was a simple Nokia 6600 camera phone.
You could say that was a definite turning point since things just snowballed from there. I eventually graduated to picking up a ‘point and shoot’, before then moving on to a bridge camera. In 2010 my sister gifted me a DSLR and I landed my first gig as a wedding photographer in 2011.
And as the saying goes, the rest is history.’’
With social media abuzz about the quality and depth of your photo shoots, you’ve managed to earn quite a reputation for yourself in wedding photography circles. What do you bring to the table that makes you stand out amongst your peers?
‘’While I certainly love what I do, it certainly hasn’t been easy. I love to document weddings. It gives me a chance to capture real emotions and genuine human expressions without having to intrude or step into anyone’s personal space.
While this is generally referred to as ‘candid photography’ in this day and age, I prefer to call my style ‘wedding journalism’. To me, it isn’t just a job. It presents me with a unique opportunity to capture moments in time that will stay with my clients forever. This is exactly why I take my profession very seriously.
A few years ago, I launched my own company called Photosynthe, which is currently also based in Mangalore. Ever since its inception, it’s been a whirlwind journey, to say the least. To date, we have covered over 400 events in 20 cities all over India. We’ve even covered events in 4 countries abroad as well.
To say that my schedule is quite packed would be an absolute understatement. Currently, I limit myself to around 50 weddings a year, but I’m actually fully booked right up to January 2019. Sure, it can be fairly hectic, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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Can you tell us more about what a typical wedding shoot is like for you? Any interesting or amusing anecdotes you’d like to share with our readers?
‘’Haha, well, a typical wedding shoot is usually quite chaotic. As you can imagine, everyone tends to run around helter-skelter with a constant ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look on their faces. But, that’s fairly typical of weddings.
People are generally in a hurry to get things ready on time. Plus they also have the added pressure of dealing with guests, caterers, venues, arrangements and so much more. Understandably, it can take its toll on everyone involved.
It can be a bit difficult for me and my crew from time to time since we have to deal with tons of people blocking our view at any given point. After all, everyone with a smartphone wants to capture the bride and groom and share it with their family and friends on social media or WhatsApp etc.
So, getting in the right positions to capture crucial moments at every wedding can be quite a task. However, each wedding is unique and poses a different set of challenges. I would certainly say without hesitation that it has taught us the value of patience.
As far as amusing anecdotes go, we are extremely punctual, almost to the point of obsession. But, this can be blamed solely on my OCD. If a client wants us at their house for a photo session at 7 a.m., I’m up at 5 a.m. and at their doorstep with my team at 6 a.m. sharp.
But, of course, no one is really ready at the ungodly hour of 6 in the morning. More people than I can count have told me that we are probably the first team of photographers they’ve come across with such a penchant for punctuality.
But, the way I look at it is, time = money. And I certainly intend to honour both.’’
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What goes into becoming a professional photographer? What drives you to do it and what advice would you give aspiring photographers, especially as far as the financial aspects are concerned?
‘‘I’ve noticed in recent times that there is an increasing number of people who seem to think that just buying a professional camera automatically makes you a professional photographer. Well, it just doesn’t work that way. I’ve even come across many people who can afford to buy high-end professional gear, but don’t even know how to use it.
To put it as simply as possible, a professional photographer is one who earns a living from photography. It is his profession. It is a combination of years of hard work and dedication in the field of photography, which also involves mastery of his or her gear as well.
Being professional to me is to respect time and to honour commitments. In short, always deliver on your promises to your clients. This has long been a major driving factor for me.
I’ve come across so many people who are unhappy with the quality of the photographs or wedding albums they receive, or the excruciatingly long time it takes to get their photos from the studio they hired.
Since time and quality are the very foundations my company is built on, my team ensures that clients receive their photographs within 2 – 4 days (maximum 14 days during peak season) after the conclusion of an event.
After the photos are selected, my design team gives the client the PDF within 7 working days. Once approved, albums are then printed and delivered to the client’s doorstep within 5 working days. I honestly doubt there is anyone else out there at the moment doing as much as we do in the timeframe mentioned.
But, of course, all of this costs money. A lot of money, in fact. However, if you can manage your time well and deliver what was promised without any delays, it can actually go a long way towards reducing expenses while also building long-lasting relationships with your clients.
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Photography equipment and gear can be quite expensive. How did you manage your finances to fund your passion?
‘’It’s true that good photography gear can be very expensive. However, that’s the price you have to pay if you want to deliver quality output on a consistent basis.
My gear consists of absolutely top-of-the-line flagship cameras and lenses from Canon, all of which has actually cost me a small fortune. Usually, photographers don’t really save all that much since we are always buying new equipment or looking to upgrade or service our existing equipment. However, I try and do things a bit differently.
When I started my photography career in 2011, I had a 60D body with a basic 24-105 lens, a 70-200 tele lens and a 50 prime. To acquire all this equipment, I had to dig deep into my savings. I made it perfectly clear that I wouldn’t borrow money from anyone, not even my parents. I was adamant that I would stand on my own two feet, which is why I ensured that I saved as much money as I could to get where I wanted to be.
As I started to cover more and more events, my earnings increased, which helped me purchase more and more gear. So, 4 camera bodies and 11 lenses later, I still continue to do this. Now, I always have a target in mind. I set aside a certain amount of money, which goes towards servicing my gear, while the rest goes into my savings.’’
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What has photography taught you from a financial perspective?
‘’Like I mentioned earlier, professional photography can be very expensive. While some may view this as a troublesome aspect, it has taught me to be much more organised with my finances.
Since I don’t have any other sources of income, my livelihood depends solely on photography. It pays my bills, my loans, my travel in India and abroad, my food and drinks, shopping etc. Basically, it pays for just about everything.
Since my earnings from photography aren’t exactly ‘well-defined’, there are months during which work is at a premium, while there are other months when I am absolutely swamped with work.
Due to the nature of my profession, I’ve learnt to set financial targets for myself. I have also learnt how to budget my finances over both short as well as sustained periods of time. But, through it all, I have never lost sight of the importance of saving for a rainy day. For freelancers such as myself, building a savings kitty to fall back on is a must.
So, overall, I would definitely say that I have become extremely disciplined with my finances over time thanks to photography.’’
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Do you have any professions or interests other than photography? After all, there must be a reason why you’re also called The Metalfarmer.
‘Yes, I do! I’ve been a die-hard heavy metal fan since 1985, when I was 5 years old. I am a self-taught musician and I learnt to play the guitar when I was 8. I’ve composed and recorded at least 120 tracks as a one-man bedroom artist (haha) between 2006 and 2009, in various genres like thrash metal, death metal, prog rock, doom and more. Currently, I am the bass player for India’s oldest extreme metal band “Dying Embrace”.
I have also studied agriculture from UAS, GKVK in Bangalore, and have worked on my father’s farm for over a decade, specialising in organic vegetables. I also belong to the first batch in the country to be trained in hydroponics, which is the science of soil-less cultivation.
I have given workshops to farmers on integrated management practices and have been nominated for state awards in 2008 for ‘Best Progressive Farmer’. I still maintain a blog on farming and continue to receive at least 2-3 queries every month from farmers or farming enthusiasts.
When you put my passion for music and farming together, you get ‘The Metalfarmer’ haha. The word was actually coined by one of my friends, Abraham Michael. Amusingly, he coined the name because he had never encountered a farmer who listened to heavy metal music before.
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How do you manage your finances? Do you dabble in investments and do you follow a strict monthly budget?
‘’Managing finances for me has always been a challenge. Like I mentioned earlier, the income I generate from photography isn’t very well defined due to the sporadic nature of my profession.
Because of this, budgeting is right at the top of my list of priorities. My wife and I maintain a strict monthly budget, where we set aside a small amount to take care of household necessities like rent, utility bills, groceries etc, while a major chunk of our income goes towards savings into our joint account.
Between the two of us, we have around 11 insurance policies with LIC and other insurance firms, along with two Recurring Deposits in banks. In essence, this is a ‘forced’ method of saving, which we religiously maintain.
I also have a Credit Card, which I mainly use when making online payments, or for flight and hotel reservations abroad. However, while in India, we tend to use our Debit Cards to make purchases and rarely use cash for payments.
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What financial advice would you give the youth of today? Especially youngsters who want to tread off the beaten path and follow their passion.
‘’Well, I think the most important piece of financial advice I can give the youth of today is to strive to be financially independent. Many kids these days have easy access to money thanks to their parents. Unfortunately, due to this, they don’t seem to learn the real value of money.
For anyone who wants to forge their own path and follow their passion, it is extremely important to work smart and move quickly up the income ladder. It is also important to look for long-term gains by investing a small amount every month in Mutual Funds, insurance plans or even Recurring Deposits.
By all means, enjoy and live your life the way you want to, but always make sure you start saving early in your career. And most importantly, always have a back-up plan in place.’’
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Thank you for your time, Pritham. Do you have any last words for all our readers out there?
‘’Thank you for this opportunity. Here’s something I always tell young photographers, and I’m sure it will hold good for all of you out there as well.
“May your enemies live long to see you succeed. Stay humble and always respect time”