Life behind the lens


Interview with KL.Raja Ponsing, founder and director,

How has the landscape for photographers changed in the city in the last five years?

The landscape of photography altogether has changed a lot in the recent five years on the whole and Chennai is not an exception. One can find that almost every professional photographer now owns expensive cameras and equipment. Unfortunately, many of these photographers believe that good photos come from an expensive camera or an expensive brand. Many of them tend to work very randomly and shoot 100 images to get 10 usable pictures. Turn the clock back 10-15 years, photographers use to think before every shot. But now many of them are reluctant to check even the basics. Many feel that making mistakes while shooting is accepted and is a part of the process because there is a software to repair the images later on.

At the same time, professional photography has become very expensive now, ie. people do spend big time on photography. If you look at wedding photography, photographers direct the entire wedding like a feature film. They use all kinds of gadgets whether it is really necessary or not. One can find images shot from up in the air till under the water in one wedding album. However, it’s saddening to see that the very essence of true and natural emotions, meaning of a ritual and the overall feel is lost in wedding photography as they are directed and set up shots.

Coming to commercial photography, part-time hobbyists do the jobs at a throwaway price pledging the values of photography. It has become rare to find genuine, passionate photographers who maintain the values of the profession.

What is it that students have to have in order to learn and pursue a future in photography?

The most important quality to pursue and be successful in photography is the ‘passion for the great art’. A passionate student can dedicate his/her time effectively in learning and become big and useful. They must be willing to do hard work 24X7 with a target to achieve. Though photography is a lot of fun, it should be learned and practiced seriously. Students with an artistic bent of mind and who think little out of the box have a better chance to become successful professionals. In the present scenario, they must be willing to learn throughout their life and update the technology and the trend.

Many photographers, though not all, are self-taught. What role does a school of photography play in guiding photography aspirants?

There is nothing like ‘self-taught in photography’. We pick up a lot of information from the internet, other photographers and their photos. This helps the self-taught photographers to do some trial and error basis learning. A good photography school can help the students in the following areas,

  1. A formal education from a school of photography leaves no stone unturned.
  2. The learners are given ample scope to understand all the possible technics and art through the structured curriculum.
  3. This gives a lot of self-confidence and helps them solve the problems thrown at them quickly and efficiently once they start their professional photography careers.
  4. This makes learning fast and reduces the possible mistakes that happen otherwise. For example, a photographer who has attended a formal course will be able to master the techniques, art, and business in a couple of years. Whereas, others may take years to achieve the same through a lot of trial and error and guesswork.
  5. Most importantly a good photography school can give a hands-on experience on some of the expensive and rare state of the art equipment, facilities, special skills, and real-time job experience.

These opportunities may or may not happen even after a long time for a self-taught photographer.

What are the courses in photography offered by Ambitions 4?
Ambitions4 Photography Academy offers fulltime and weekend courses.

How is the scene of photography in Chennai when compared to the other metropolitan cities in the country?

Chennai is a unique city in India which has a beautiful mix of technology and tradition. The value of photography as a business is very much influenced by the culture and tradition of the place/city. The photographers in Chennai are equally talented like other cities and some of them are even internationally renowned. A lot of big jobs in photography is being done in Chennai for a simple reason, the photographers are dedicated and disciplined to their jobs. The commercial value of a job in Chennai is relatively less, I mean; the photographers are not paid like other cities. The job opportunities are becoming good in recent years.

In what line of work can photography students explore a more lucrative future? (i.e., Other than still photography)

Moving to become commercial, advertising, fashion and big-time wedding photographers is the best option for a lucrative career. Apart from being still photographers, the students can head towards working for movies after assisting cinematographers. They can also start doing short films, corporate films, advertising films and so on. This is possible for, they have a strong foundation about the visual art and medium.  They can team up to operate as a company to do weddings and events which could turn out to be a lucrative future. Image post-processing and designing is yet another area they can explore.


How to shoot Moon?

Though Moon reflects the light from the Sun, in the context of photography Moon is a light source. Though it is appearing in the night, the exposure for moon is not like as most of us think – a long exposure or ‘Bulb’ shutter. Surprisingly the exposure for a bright full moon is almost the same like any other Sunlight scene (1/250, f/11, ISO 100). Let us look into some of the tips to shoot a full moon.

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Try to shoot moon as it rises with a feel of sky and clouds. A small portion of the landscape included at the bottom of the frame, makes the image truly artistic. A late night shot will not give any details of the sky and the moon looks clueless with respect to the location we shoot.

Moon, being a source of light by itself is very bright and a quick exposure (1/250, f/11, ISO 100) could being the details (the craters). The exposure given here is indicative only. We need to experiment to decide about the ideal exposure.Using a manual exposure mode is better to lock the desired exposure for all the shots.

Remember that the edge of the moon has to appear sharp without too much of glow. Remove the U/V filter and see the front element of the lens is thoroughly clean. This will avoid unwanted flare or glare in the picture.

A long lens in the range of 200-400mm may be best suitable. We can also get the advantage of greater magnification if we use a APS cropped sensor camera.


To get the composition fixed and to avoid possible camera shake, a sturdy tripod is a must. Use mirror up option in the camera and release the shutter using a remote shutter release. Shooting with the 10 sec.self timer can be an alternative option. This will prevent the camera vibration.

Try using manual focus or use a single point focus and match the focus sensor on to the moon and then shift the AF/MF switch to MF. Remember to disable the IS or VR as the camera is on the tripod.

Include some tall structures or building that are lit well as a part of the frame so that the frame is gently filled. Moon partly hiding behind a patch cloud with a silver highlights will be an interesting shot.Remember the moon moves very fast, we need to be really smart to get the shot before it raises too high in the sky.

Shooting in RAW would be an ideal choice, for in the post production we can bring in the details of the bright moon and relatively dark skyline with a bit of landscape.We can even shift the white balance as per our taste. Some feel a shift little to blue will bring mood. Some even feel to add little amber.