Foto Fundas – How photographers get scammed.

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Image shot by author. Copyright: SK Srinivas

 

Cost of DSLR camera and accessories: Rs. 1.5 lacs.
Cost of travel: Rs 10,000/- per month.
Cost of imaging software: Rs. 1700/- per month.
Cost of home PC: Rs. 50,000/-
Costs of labor, photographic expertise, injuries, and the like: Can’t be counted.

Remuneration received per photo: NIL.

Professional photographers and freelance writers in India are the most exploited people in the land. We get looted, scammed, intimidated by security personnel and cops, chased and bitten by dogs, hounded, beaten, and generally treated like concentrated crap.

To some extent, we are ourselves to blame. Here are some of the scams that photographers keep falling for:

1) The Happy Couple Scam: Best friend or relative is getting married. You are expected to shoot hundreds of photos, edit them overnight and deliver high quality prints to the happy couple – in exchange for a meal at the wedding. How can you ask for money? He’s your best friend, after all. And you have to buy him an expensive wedding present as well.

No matter how nice and loving your relatives and dearest friends claim to be, this is a scam. If they can spend a ton of money on the wedding hall, the priests, the caterers, jewellery, Kanchivaram silk sarees, and everything else, why can’t they spend a few thousand rupees on the photographer?

Flatly refuse. If these people are really your family and friends, they ought to help you in your business, instead of screwing it up.

2) The Anthology scam: You receive an email congratulating you on being selected for an anthology curated by a famous photographer. All you need to do is to submit your best photos for selection. If you are lucky enough to be selected (and you will), you will be asked to pay a “nominal” fee for the privilege of being published. And you are told to buy the published anthology, at a “special” price, if you want to show off your work.

In other words, the publisher not only gets free photos, he also gets the photographers to pay his publication costs. In exchange, you get “exposure”.

There are moronic photographers who fall for this vicious scam.

3) The Cleavage Scam: This happened to me recently. Hot young thing wearing a plunging neckline (and tight jeans) comes up to me at a dog show, bats her eyelids, and tells me that for a small fee, they will permit me to shoot photos of their dogs. They will then print these photos (at my expense), and then display said photos at their exhibition. Those photos will be sold and the entire proceeds will be donated to their dog charity. Everything goes to the dogs. Not a penny to me. All I get is a glimpse of cleavage and a dazzling smile. “Empowerment of Indian women”, you see.

Men will be men. Especially single, middle-aged farts like myself. I almost fell for it. Many male photographers at that dog show did. I didn’t. But almost did.

This is one of the most common scams in Bangalore. There are different variants, but the basic idea is the same. Seduce, entice, deceive, get free photographs from you. And in exchange, you get a mind-job.

4) The Noble Cause Scam: A subtle variant of the above. If you really want to donate free photographs to some cause or the other, that’s your funeral. But use some discretion and common sense. Yes, there are some genuine NGO’s that do good work. These are few and far in between. Do some digging before you give away your work to them.

Remember, once you become known as a “noble” photographer, NGO’s will flock to you for free photographs. And thanks to them, you will get “exposure” – as a free photographer. “Exposure” won’t pay your bills. Nor will Facebook likes.

5) Where-no-man-has-gone-before Scam: This is my favorite. I have to admire the people that can pull off a smooth scam like this.

Renowned scientist and his students undertake a scientific expedition to an exotic location.

You are cordially invited to volunteer for this expedition, as a research assistant. For this exceptional privilege, you have to pay your way through. Not just yourself. But pay for the scientists as well. There will be other volunteers like yourself, who will also have to pay for the entire expedition.

The minimum amount each volunteer will have to pay is Rs. 2 lacs, for a week’s expedition. And this does not include air fare and travel. That you pay on your own. You will work 14 hours a day in hostile conditions. Sleep on the ground. Crap in the open. You don’t get to choose your food. You are a vegetarian who can’t eat the half-cooked meat they serve, too bad.

If you think you can shoot photographs at will, you’re wrong. They will tell you what to shoot. If you think you can sell your photos, you’re mad.

Your photos will be used for research, not for your crass purposes, you greedy thug. But don’t worry, your name will be mentioned – as a footnote somewhere.

Mind you, this scam is quite legit. It is legit, because they will actually tell you all this well in advance. The beauty of this scam is, you will still fall for it.

Poorer by Rs. 2 lacs, you get back home with gastroentiritis, mites, bites, welts and perhaps dengue fever. You pat yourself on the back for your selfless contribution to Science. While the scientist you sponsored gets research publications, awards, press conferences, and other academic honors, at your expense.

What’s scary is how successful this particular scam is.

6) The Contest Scam: Most photo contests are scams. Except for a select few that are run by reputed brands, the rest are scams. They will steal your work, period.

Don’t ever believe that your business will dramatically improve by winning a contest or two. And don’t ever believe that your customers will be impressed by a long list of “awards” that you may have won. Unless it’s a NatGeo contest or some such, don’t waste your resources on any photo contests. I speak from harsh experience.

Don’t brag. Your work will speak for itself.  So will your happy customers.  Even in this day and age, word-of-mouth still sells best.

This is a short listing of the scams out there.  There are always media houses that download your images from Facebook. Scamsters who will screen-print your images on Instagram and sell them. And other sharks who will steal your images on-line.

I have had so many of my images stolen by local newspapers, that I stopped posting images on FB and Instagram altogether. Do the same, if you value yourself as a  photographer.

If you consider yourself a professional, there’s a simple rule for you – No money, no photo. You shoot. You get paid.

If it’s below your dignity to ask for money, then think about all those photographers (like myself) whose living depends on their cameras. When you give away your photographs, you are killing the rest of us. Your nobility doesn’t pay our bills.

Professional photography, like any other business, is a business, first and foremost. A business runs on profit. Bills, travel, service charges, printing, taxes, computers, software, and most of all, camera equipment. These things cost real money. Not to speak of your family and dependents.

Don’t get scammed. It’s your photo. It’s your money.

Stay safe. Click happy. Make money!

Cheers … Srini.

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The fundas of Yugadi – and Chaitra Navaratri.

Death of Krishna. Public domain image from Wikipedia.

 

The Indian calendar can be baffling to many people.

The significant difference between the Indian calendar and the Western calendar (or the Gregorian calendar)  is that our calendar follows the phases of the moon. The Western calendar follows the revolution of the Earth around the Sun.

That is why Indian festivals seem to fall on different days each year, with reference to the Gregorian calendar.

In the Indian calendar, there are certain days that are especially important, since they mark epochal events in Indian history.

The death of Krishna marks the end of an era. Kaliyuga, the age of Evil, began from the moment of Krishna’s death, and according to the scriptures that day was during end-March in 3102 BC. Hence, this day is called Yugadhi, the first day of an Era.

Yugadhi also marks the beginning of a new year. Unlike the Gregorian calendar that calculates the passage of each year based on the Earth’s annual revolution around the Sun, the Indian calendar is based on the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. As these two planets move through the heavens, they seem to transit across the twelve Zodiac constellations, starting with the constellation of Aries (Mesha rashi). Jupiter takes one year to move from one Zodiac constellation to the next and therefore takes twelve years to complete one round of the Zodiac. Saturn takes thirty years to complete one round. And once in sixty years, both planets wind up at the starting point, i.e. Mesha rashi, at the same time.

Hence, the Indian calendar follows a cycle of sixty years. Each year is called a Samavatsara and is assigned a specific name, like in the Chinese calendar. Last year was Hevilambi Samavatsara, and it began on March 28, 2017.

The 32nd year in the cycle begins today, i.e., March 18, 2018. The new year is named Vilambi. This is not predicted to be a good year!

Yugadhi falls on the first day of the first half of the first month in the Hindu calendar, i.e. the month of Chaitra. The official Indian calendar, that was adopted by India on March 22, 1957, and starts from that day, is based on the Shalivahana Saka.

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Shalivahana, also known as Gautamiputra Satakarni, was a mighty king from the Satavahana dynasty, that ruled much of South India for about four hundred years, from 230 BC to 220 AD.

Shalivahana was the greatest of them, and the date of his coronation is the beginning of Shalivahana Saka. This was during the year 78 AD. The month of Chaitra is reckoned from that date.

Therefore, the Indian national calendar officially began on Chaitra 1, 1879 (Saka era) i.e. March 22, 1957 (Gregorian era).

And therefore today, March 18, 2018 is Yugadhi, Prathami (first day), Shukla Paskha (Bright half), Chaitra (first month of the year), Vilambi naama Samvatsara, Shalivahana Saka 1940, Kaliyuga (age of Kali).

Also, Chaitra Navaratri starts on this day.  This nine-day festival is dedicated to the goddess Durga, just like the Navaratri festival we celebrate during October each year.

The ninth day of Chaitra Navaratri is Rama’s birthday, i.e, Rama Navami, hence it is also known as Rama Navaratri.

Happy Yugadhi everyone!

Cheers … Srini.

Hunger illa … at Hungrilla!

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Not many eating houses in Bangalore can provide acceptable vegetarian fare for delicate palates like mine.  This is especially true of Kanakapura road, well known for its cut-rate bars and dubious hotels.

Hungrilla, a newly opened vegetarian bistro near the Art of Living ashram off Kanakapura road, comes as a relief for those who like their grilled sandwiches. The name is a Kannada-English pun, and nicely appropriate. The grilled sandwich menu here is a delight for the most finicky vegetarians.

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Vishnu and Lakshmi, the young couple that owns the place, are both practising Ayurvedic doctors and active AOLites. For the uninitiated, this means that they are with the Art of Living ashram and disciples of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. For the hungry customer, this means that their fare is strictly vegetarian, clean, healthy and cruelty-free.

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The sauces are hand-made and vegan. The kitchen is squeaky clean. The hands that make the food are cleaner. There’s no garlic used anywhere. And onion is used only if you want it.

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The decor is unpretentious, breezy and made entirely from recycled wood and other eco-responsible material. And it’s DIY, hand-made by the owners and volunteers from AOL. You get a nice 360-degree view of Kanakapura road and the surrounding greenery. There’s even a nook for children to play board games, and a little library for those who like to read while they eat or vice-versa.

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Food portions are generous indeed, believe me. I was hard-pressed to finish my grilled sandwich. Their grilled menu is quite varied. I’d recommend the Bombay masala grilled, or the Rajma masala grilled. My personal favorite – Alu cheese. And take a look at their cold beverages and shakes.

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Birders like me are a hungry lot, and after a hard day’s birding in the hot sun, we’re always on the lookout for safe, clean places to rest and feed. Hungrilla fits the bill just right. Large portions, clean veggy fare, airy decor, and reasonably priced.

Payment, for now, is via Paytm or cash. And they provide home delivery within a radius of five km. Although, I’d say grilled sandwiches are best enjoyed straight off the grill and piping hot.

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The bistro is brand-new, and a start-up venture by first-time entrepreneurs. A few rough edges here and there to be smoothed over. They’ve got off to an impressive start though, and they’ve got the most important factors right – the location, the quality of the food and the price they charge for it.

A hefty meal for two with a large glass of cold coffee, will cost about Rs. 350/-.

Location: Just off Kanakapura road, about 500 meters after the AOL ashram, and adjacent to the main gate of Soudamini apartments. On the right, as you drive down from JP Nagar towards Kanakapura.

Bottom-line: Solid value for money. Just go, and bindaas khao.

Cheers … Srini.