11 Questions from My Talk in IIT Roorkee – The Art of Travel Photography

After spending a whole winter sitting at my desk, completing the pending travel pictures, I got a call from IIT Roorkee, asking me to talk about travel photography and show my work to the students. I packed my bags for a short outing without my camera. It is so stress free travel without your equipment.

I reached Roorkee by train and as we entered the campus from the railway station, Yash and Vishal who where there to receive me, told me about a surprise they had for me which was unveiled in just a few seconds. A huge billboard with my portrait ( Photographed by Abhishek Bali) right on the entrance of the IIT. My very first billboard in one of India’s Premier Technology Institutes.

Billboard of Himanshu Khagta picture in IIT Roorkee
Billboard of Himanshu Khagta picture in IIT Roorkee

 

Now to the interesting part where I’ll mention some common questions I got from the students and might help student travellers.

  1. How can students travel on a budget?
    Use public transport and guest houses or home-stays. Not only will this be effective on your pocket, but you will get a better understanding about the place.
    Booking air-tickets in advance is one of the best ways to travel on a budget.
    Use car rentals if you wanna do a road-trip. They are really cheap.
  2. What is the best camera on a budget for Travel Photography?
    Your smartphone takes pretty decent pictures. Use that if you can’t afford a camera. Learn the art of composition.  If you have something like an iPhone 7, you might not need a camera. It is that good.
    Or get a Point and Shoot that can shoot in RAW. If you can spend more. The most basic DSLR by Canon or Nikon with any wide aperture lens is great for a start.
  3. How do you earn money through travel photography?
    Learn to take decent pictures. Decent is good enough to start earning money. Have a series of pictures of different types that tell a story instead of single beautiful images. Pitch in the stories to the editors of a newspaper or a travel magazine you like.
    Don’t shoot for free or for credits or attributes. It is better to just post it on your blog instead of giving it away for free. If the person makes money with your pictures, you should too.
  4. Should I take pictures for free? 
    Simple answer is NO.
    You can of-course have some mutual agreement where you get something in return, but never let anyone earn money out of your photographs. Its a business.

    A sad new trend has come up on social media these days.  Travel Companies sharing your pictures with a credit note on their Instagram and Facebook pages and building their own presence and then selling tour packages to their clients. They even earn money when companies advertise on their social media. Don’t let this happen. You might be lured by the large amount of followers they have but they are only destroying the career you guys are trying to make off photography.

    I got a call from a leading newspaper and they asked for pictures and told me they give attribution only but no money. Imagine if everyone starts doing it. You wont be able to pay your bills with credit notes.

  5. What if they are giving you exposure? 
    Thats the best excuse companies use to get you images for free but its a big scam. Reputed publications and companies have wider reach and will also pay for your work. Spend your time improving your craft and working with those instead of giving your images away for free. They need your pictures. It is adding value to their product. So just ignore such requests.
  6. Should I take free pictures for a cause or an NGO? 
    No.
    Big and reputed NGOs will have a budget for the photographs. They are professionals and they understand and respect the value photographs make to their work.
    Some small NGOs play on your guilt that as its for a good cause and they don’t have any budget for photography. Don’t fall into such traps. These people get a lot of big fundings and a lot of them waste it on useless things. You help them get those fundings. So charge. Treat them as a business. Never do it for free. Never.
  7. The most used app Travel Photography?
    While traveling these are the apps I use a lot –

    1. Google Maps
    2. VRP 7 (Audio Recording)
    3. Notability
    4. Instagram
    5. Agoda
    6. Kayak
    7. OYO Room
    8. GoIbibo
    9. YR.No (Weather)
    10. SAS Survival (Outdoor Training)
  8. Is it safe to travel in the remote mountains? 
    Of-course it is. Provided you know the basics of survival and common sense. Nature is way bigger than you. Don’t underestimate it. Learn about the place. Sometimes you get news of some kids getting washed away in the river or froze to death while hiking. This happens when you are not prepared or are stupid. Know what you are getting into. Read about the place. Don’t go stand in the middle of the river to take pictures. Take a professional guide while hiking in the forest or the mountain. Carry enough food. Learn about Acute Mountain Sickness when traveling to higher altitude. Bravery and stupidity are two different things. Be responsible.
  9. Is Travel Photography a Good Career Option? 
    Yes it is, but only if you like traveling and exploring new places and people. Can spend hours in busses, trains and planes. Can leave the life of comfort. Can create compelling stories or pictures after  all the fatigue. If you can live up that kind of lifestyle. You should definitely go for it. Learn to write and create a narrative with your images.
  10. I get conscious while taking pictures of random people. How can I overcome that? 
    First of all respect the persons privacy while taking his pictures. Ask for permission and tell them why you want to take their picture. Interact.
    A big camera gives a very false sense of power. So don’t just go in-front of strangers and take their picture and move away. Imagine someone doing that to you. Treat them with respect. Understand them. Their story and tell them your own. Have a meaningful conversation and then maybe they them-self might ask you to take their picture and you make a new friend. Just be humble and a nice human being. Don’t be that ignorant tourist who think they are better just because they earn more or live in big cities.
  11. Any extra suggestion?
    Never stop learning. Watch youtube videos. Stay updated with the trends and technology and read a lot of good books. Improving the way you write and communicate will help you in any field. Even I am learning the art of writing these days.
    This is a transition period and no one actually knows where the things are going. So make the most out of it and enjoy the journey.
    If you are getting bored at what you do. Immediately stop doing it and do something fun.

Though I was asked to inspire the students but I feel more inspired by spending time with the super talented students of IIT Roorkee. I met students making robots. Can you imagine that? A proper robot that can walk or swim in water and a lot of other mind blowing things. The Future of our world is in great hands.

I thank the students and the faculty members present at the auditorium during my hour long talk. Hope you enjoyed the videos and photos. Special Thanks to Yash and Vishal for the great hospitality.
Do write in the any more questions you have in the comment section. I would love to hear it.

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