Amateur Photography Is Becoming One Of India's Most Lucrative Professions
A photo taken by But Natural Photography’s Sujata Setia. Photo courtesy of Sujata Setia.
With the onset of e-commerce platforms, new avenues have opened up for the average Indian consumer to simplify buying photography equipment – something that wasn’t possible for many ten years ago. As demand spikes, does this make now the time for entrepreneurs to cash in on the new phenomenon of the photography business?
Six years ago Indian papers were reporting on the sudden rise in popularity of photography as art, something art-loving Indians had never before considered as an alternative to the country’s well-established love of paintings, and indeed it was the talk of the galleries: were photographs the new thing in high-value works of art?
Today, the market has moved beyond being a simple buyer’s market for finished works. People want to learn how to take their own photos. And they’re willing to pay.
“The European market started to saturate,” says But Natural Photography’s Sujata Setia, who began her career as a professional photographer a couple of years ago. “It’s a seller’s market in India – if I’m going to teach a [photography] workshop in India, I know it’s going to do very well.”
Setia, an Indian who now primarily lives in the UK, but spends regular amounts of time in India, is a self-taught photographer – but that hasn’t diminished demand for her to teach formal courses in outdoor photography in her home country.
Charging roughly $440 for a day-course in outdoor photography in New Delhi, Setia’s teaching courses, aimed toward amateur photographers, frequently sell out.
“Initially India was only about wedding photography,” she says. “But it has recently been changing so much in the metros [cities], everyone wants couples’ shoots, newborn shoots.”
Although Setia, a photographer specializing in outdoor, child and newborn subjects, admits photography remains a luxury industry in India, she says the avenues to get involved are so much greater than they used to be.
Those who want to hone their own skills can jump onto an e-commerce site such as Flipkart and quickly sift through their options for affordable camera equipment.
A former radio jockey in New Delhi, Setia says she previously told stories with her voice on air; today as a photographer, she’s doing the same thing with her images, something she believes Indians connect with due to the country’s rich storytelling heritage.
Popular Indian photographer Dayanita Singh made a similar observation in her blog, writing, “Photography is the new language, read and written by all people, regardless of their spoken language or literacy level.”
“Photography in India is a very women-oriented industry,” says Setia, citing several names of women running their own business in the Indian sector.
But Setia comments that despite this, women photographers not as experienced as their European counterparts are “earning way more than money than anyone in Europe.” This is probably due to the enormous amount of demand for photographers for traditional multi-day Indian weddings.
Being a photographer has become a popular ambition among the rising middle class in the country due to the salaries it can often command, and the spending power available to those pursuing such a profession.
Outlets such as The Times of India have tagged the rapidly growing photography industry as “more than just a hobby,” while in-demand wedding photographers in a city such as New Delhi can cost well into the thousands of dollars for an evening’s worth of work.
Setia, who has won a number of peer-ranked awards as a photographer, including a recent ViewBug publishing honor, says she now enjoys taking on fewer photography shoots and prefers teaching. She’s hugely optimistic on the growth of her profession in India as opposed to the UK.
“In two to three years photography is going to be really big in India, and I’m going to really tag into the market,” she says.