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The best way to photograph Mumbai

“It is the inner eye, not the gear that makes the difference between an average and excellent photographer.” So, if you have a camera, pocket-size or professional, here’s all you need to know.

brunch Updated: Apr 27, 2013 17:19 IST
Pooja Biraia
Pooja Biraia
Hindustan Times

Krishna Madhavan Pillai, editor of Better Photography, says it best: “Buying a Nikon does not make you a photographer, it makes you a Nikon owner.” “It is the inner eye, not the gear that makes the difference between an average and excellent photographer,” he adds.

So, if you have a camera, pocket-size or professional, here’s all you need to know.

Knowing your surroundings is important. For shooting in Mumbai, a small camera is often the best choice. “Cameras equipped with a lens that can go wide enough to shoot within a small space are ideal,” Pillai explains.

DSLRs These give you the option of using a wide range of lenses and allow you to control every aspect of your shot. Ideal when you have serious cash. Then, the sky is the limit.

According to experts, it’s best to graduate to more expensive cameras over time. The best buy for an amateur photographer is a good quality DSLR that costs between Rs 29,000 and Rs 35,000, and includes an additional 18-55mm lens, says photographer Parikshit Rao. “You can also opt for a telephoto zoom in the range of 70-300mm.”

DSLRs: Recommended models
Under R35,000:

Nikon D3200/D3100, Canon 600D, Canon 550D

Under R50,000:

Nikon D5200 and Canon EOS 650D

Above R50,000:

Nikon D7000/ D600 and Canon 7D/5D Mark3

Lenses Matter
Lenses are more important than the DSLR body. They enable you to play with your shots; so spend more money on different kinds of lenses than bigger camera bodies. “For an amateur, any basic DSLR will work,” says fine art photographer Anindo Ghosh. “Invest in a lens with a cheaper body, since most camera bodies get outdated, but lenses last a lifetime.” Usually, most DSLRs come with a basic 18-55 mm lens. You can also buy an additional 50mm prime lens and a wide-angle lens (ranging from 14mm to 50mm). Invest in a nice long zoom lens like the Canon 70-200mm f/4L, a pancake lens (40mm EF f/2.8), macro lens like the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 for close-ups and a 18-250mm lens for travel photography.

For safe keeping: Carry a waterproof camera bag that fits chargers and data transfer cables (Photo credit: JJ Mehta)

Are you Kitting me!

Pack a DSLR, varied lenses, a 5ft tripod, a wireless remote which prevents the camera from shaking, UV filters, hoods on lenses to prevent unwanted sunlight, a waterproof bag that fits chargers and data transfer cables, and a hand-held flash to assemble a complete kit. “However, try to keep it minimal. I only carry my Canon 550D, 70-300mm and 18-55mm lenses, a tripod and an extra battery,” says commercial and abstract photographer Hrushikesh Sonsurkar.

What’s available
From simple all-in-one models to more complex devices, there’s a large variety to choose from these days

These point-and-shoot cameras, where the lens isn’t separate from the body, are the smallest you can buy. They’re a step up from smartphone cameras, unless you have an awesome smartphone, like the iPhone 5.

Wi-Fi cameras and Eye-fi SD cards

Wi-Fi cameras will upload pictures to social media, the Net or a computer directly. Eye-Fi-enabled SD cards also upload photos any time it detects a Wi-Fi network.


Bridge cameras

This is somewhere between a DSLR and a compact. It’s smaller, portable, and comes fitted with long lenses that are not interchangeable. A less complicated option than a DSLR.Lomo cameras

LomoPictures captured through lomo cameras look over saturated yet pleasant.

These give you the option of using a wide range of lenses and allow you to control every aspect of your shot. Ideal when you have serious cash. Then, the sky is the limit.

Vantage points Mumbai from a new angle
“The buildings Sumer Park and La Vision at Byculla both offer super views of Mumbai, from Churchgate in the south, till Chembur in the east and Dadar in the north,” says David De Souza, veteran photographer. “The terrace of the 35-storey Sanghvi Hills in Ghodbunder Road, Thane, gives you an excellent view of the skyline till Powai,” adds Hrushikesh Sonsurkar. To gain access, first obtain the society’s permission.

Mount your camera on top of a 10-foot pole in the Dadar flower market lane and use a self-timer for excellent shots.

“Find your way into any one of the tall buildings near Mohammed Ali Road for views of the JJ flyover,” says De Souza.

Mount your tripod on the rocks at Dadar Chowpatty (near Kirti college or Hinduja Hospital) for a clear view of the Sealink.Worli Village also offers a stra-ight view of the Bandra-Worli bridge.

To shoot nature, visit Kanheri Caves at the National Park on a clear day.

ALWAYS POPULAR: Marine Drive is a popular location to capture the bustle of city life

For a top view of the entire Queen’s Necklace, shoot from Hanging Gardens.

“If you want to shoot Marine Drive from the rooftops of one of those ‘Mahals’ facing it, you need permission from the society, which isn’t difficult,” says Anindo Ghosh. “They’re helpful if you can convince them that the picture will be taken in good faith.”

If you’re willing to brave the climb up Gilbert Hill in Andheri, you’ll get good panoramic shots. A sturdy tripod is essential, the wind makes shots difficult.

Go to Vasai fort after 6.30pm to get some excellent shots of the green.

“Heera Panna society offers a good view of Haji Ali, Marine Drive and the city. The society is lenient with permission. You just need to sound convincing,” says Sonsurkar.

Rights and permissions
“The police have the right to bar anyone from taking pictures of places if they feel the picture may be misused,” says a senior inspector at Mumbai police headquarters, who did not wish to be named. “Buildings such as the High Court and lower courts, CST station and others can’t be shot for security reasons.”

And yet, pictures of those are shot every day. Permissions vary from location to location. If you want to shoot at a railway station, you need permission from the chief public relations officer.

“One can shoot any building, except for defence premises, with a compact or smartphone camera,” says photographer Kaushik Chakravorty. “If you come to a site with fancy equipment and don’t have permission, we will stop you,” says an inspector at Kings Circle police station. “But if you have a small camera or smartphone, we may not even notice it.”

The penalty one pays if caught also differs in terms of the police station and the cop. “Most times, these guys simply harass you,” says Javed Iqbal, a former photojournalist and present freelancer. An inspector at Kings Circle police station responds, “We first warn the photographer and let him leave if he doesn’t argue. If need be, we take him to the station and ask him to delete the snap.” “The best thing is to tell a cop that you’re a hobbyist. If they find nothing wrong with your intentions, they won’t interfere,” says Chakra-vorty. Sonsurkar advises going to such places with a high-end lens fitted into a compact camera.

Street Photography
“Generally, street photography requires no permissions since the street is a public space and I can do what I want as long as I’m not doing something which will be considered offensive under normal circumstances,” says photographer Chirodeep Chaudhuri. However, even if there’s nothing legally binding, a problem may arise when a photographer shoots something objectionable. “If you shoot vendors, they will doubt your intentions. Similarly, if you take a picture of a man digging his nose and publish it, it is akin to invading his privacy. “It’s always better if you have a chat with your subjects before you take pictures if you aim to make them commercial,” adds Chaudhuri.

How to make money
Buy or rent gear “In order to make photography work for you, invest in supreme quality equipment,” says Sunil Thakkar, photographer and founder of Or rent equipment for assignments and charge the rentals to your invoice.

Assist a senior photographer
Get ready to do anything your senior says, from arranging lights and checking if the make-up artist has arrived, to adjusting exposure. Start out on your own only once you are ready.

NEW ICON: The Sealink is the city's new landmark, so try and find a new angle to capture it.

Print cards, carry your portfolio

“Start shooting out of passion, and compile it into an enviable portfolio,” says Sonsurkar.

Go to events
Attend family gatherings as well as your friends’ special occasions and get clicking. You’ll get exposure and, maybe, get hired.

Take on work from different genres, such as food photography, wedding photography, abstract and product photography. Select the one that interests you the most, and build on it. Get on a contract Leave your card with firms that provide photographers for events. “Half-day events pay about R3,000; full-day events command a fee of R5,000,” says Sonsurkar.

“Leave your card with the hosts so they can approach you directly next time.”

Build up contacts
Networking is important to gain assignments.

Intern at a print publication
It can be gruelling, but you will learn a lot.

Embellish your talent
“A course does not guarantee you a job, but it will improve lens skills and help you compile a portfolio,” says Thakkar.

Log in
Photo sharing sites such as pay you either a fixed rate or on a download basis. Similarly, Flickr enables photographers to share their images on Getty Images, a stock photography site, and sends you a fee in case they are bought or downloaded.

Shoot model or film portfolios
“It’s the easiest way to make good money,” says photographer Gaurav Sawn.

Approach a stock agency
Thinkstock, Getty, iStock, Shutterstock and Dinodia Photo Library trade in pictures. You cannot give the same image to more than one stock agency.

Where to buy your camera and accessories
When it comes to new equipment, always buy it from a company-owned store or authorised dealer. One normally needs to do a price check online before going to local shops to buy the equipment. Always ask for a guarantee slip and make sure your equipment's well sealed when you get it. Then unseal it and switch it on. Take a few images just to check if it's working well. Also, make sure to get the screen guard on the spot.

Central Camera: All the big brands -Nikon, Canon, Sony - are available here. They also do repairs, but aren't authorised service dealers for branded cameras. 195, Saheb Building, DN Road, Fort.

JJ Mehta: A well-known shop for all things connected to photography. Narayan Smruti Chhabildas Road, near Dadar railway station, Dadar (W).

Gola Lane, CST: This is the popular camera lane near CST station. "Gola Lane market is known for its genuine new branded pieces that come with the bill and warranty card, as well as custom clearance pieces that are given without any form of guarantee or bill," says Hrushikesh Sonsurkar. "However, the ones that come without any invoice aren't necessarily fake products; they're perfectly genuine pieces but don't offer the option of free servicing after the sale. However, if you buy a billed camera kit for Rs 34,000, you can buy a similar kit minus the bill for Rs 28,000, a fantastic saving." Angel Photo in Gola lane is an authorised dealer and I buy gear from them," adds Aneesh Bhasin.

BE DISCREET: If you want to shoot CST station, use a smartphone or compact camera. Otherwise, make sure you have permission from the authorities.

Bags and accessories:

Kalabhai: Come here for a range of tripods, panorama equipment, custom white balance filters and more. 43/44, Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg, Vikhroli (W).

People Camera Co: Find Canon cameras, and Lowepro and Tamrac bags and accessories here. Shop no 177/179, next to Sterling Book House, DN Road, Fort.

Servicing your camera
In terms of semi-professional and professional DSLR camera bodies, Nikon and Canon rule the branded category. Anindo Ghosh strongly recommends brands which have a direct presence in India instead of national dealer or distributor networks. "A dealership is focused on pushing sales numbers, rather than brand credibility. Once the sale is completed, they address just the most basic warranty issues," he explains.

Canon, for instance, has a world-class service and support network in India, with two company-owned service centres in Mumbai and Gurgaon. "They've repaired my second-hand cameras without receipt or warranty," says Ghosh. "In contrast, Nikon does not have a direct presence in India, and its dealerships (e.g. NN Mehta, near Central Camera in Fort) can be difficult to deal with. In the point-and-shoot segments, Sony and Olympus are well represented in India, with company-owned (not just dealership-owned) stores and service networks.

Service centres
Nikon: Satellite Silver, ground floor, opposite Star Plus, Marol Naka, Andheri Kurla Road, Andheri (E.

Canon: 502, 5th floor, 194, Natraj By Rustomjee, Junction of Andheri-Kurla Road and Western Express Highway, Andheri (E).

Olympus: Camera Care Centre, 25, Commissariat Building, next to Old Handloom House, DN Road, Fort..

Sony: Sony Service Centre, ground floor, 349, Business Point, Western Express Highway, near Sai Service Centre, Andheri (E).

Where to buy lenses
"The Sigma EX lens family is the best for their professional line," says Anindo Ghosh. "Otherwise use Tamron lenses. While the quality is not at par with the Sigma EX, the price, especially for their image stabilised lenses, makes Tamron a great option."

Tripod: Photo credit: JJ Mehta

Second-hand film equipment: There are great bargains available, especially for second-hand film equipment, on, says Ghosh. "I have bought a Canon EOS 3 film body (lightly used and in near pristine condition) from a seller in the UK for just Rs 9,000."

Camera bags: Popular brands for bags are either Lowepro or Kata.

Shooting with film

Anindo Ghosh still actively shoots with film, though he says his choices are very limited. "I use Fuji Sensia color negative extensively, and occasionally various black and white C41 (color-chemistry) films."

The best place to buy film in Mumbai, says Ghosh, is JJ Mehta in Dadar (W). For more exotic films, it's advisable to order them from abroad. "The reason I choose C41 chemistry B&W film is that the few remaining film processing studios all cater primarily to the standard colour negatives segment, so asking them to develop any other kind of film roll is met with a blank stare," adds Ghosh. You can also buy film rolls from Standard Supply at 123, Image House, Hira Chand, near City Palace Hotel, Fort.

To develop films, rolls are usually sent to Elite Photo Studio in Bandra. "They do a great job of developing as well as scanning, so I get back both a developed roll, and a CD or DVD of high-resolution scans," explains Ghosh. "I've settled on this one studio after a lot of experimentation, both for development of film, and for exhibition quality large prints."

Where to see photography exhibitions in Mumbai
National Centre for Performing Arts, Marine Drive:
The Piramal Art Gallery here is one of the few galleries in India dedicated exclusively to photography.

Chemould Prescott Road, Fort: Occasionally hosts photography shows. The last one was 'Parsis' by renowned photographer Sooni Taraporevala. Institute of Contemporary Indian Art (ICIA)

Kala Ghoda: It provides space for photography exhibitions conducted by Tasveer (an organisation from Bangalore that promotes the art of photography). Tasveer recently hosted a Raghu Rai retrospective.

The Circular Art Gallery, Nehru Centre, Worli:

Hosts regular photography exhibitions.

Terrace Gallery for Photography and Visual Art, on the terrace of Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda:

This is a dedicated space for photography exhibitions.

Project 88, Colaba: Hosts regular photography exhibitions. Photographer Chirodeep Chaudhuri showcased works from his book 'A Village in Bengal' here recently.

Photographic Society of India, Fort: PSI exhibitions are held annually at Jehangir art gallery; the last one was the 63rd All India Exhibition of Photography Salon 2013, held in January 2013. Other than this, exhibitions take place throughout the year on the premises of PSI.

Expand your knowledge
Tasveer: This quarterly newsletter has information about the various exhibitions held in Mumbai and elsewhere in the country.

PSI: Their newsletters are focused on PSI activities only, including contests and exhibitions. Only members can subscribe.

Better Photography: Subscribe to the monthly magazine, or better still follow them on @betterphoto on Twitter.

Smart Photography: For news and features, take out a subscription or visit

NCPA: Subscribe to their mailing lists online for free to get updates on the exhibitions hosted there.

Flipboard - Download this app to stayed updated on what's making news in the genre of photography. This monthly magazine covers the photography industry. Choose from weekly, monthly or quarterly newsletters.

From HT Brunch, April 28

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First Published: Apr 26, 2013 17:51 IST