Naina Redhu calls herself an “experience collector” and she’s got the photographs to prove it.
The professional photographer’s website shows a blend of luxury products, Indian culture, street fashion and exotic destinations that have been catalogued under her trademark hashtag #eyesfor (For example, #EyesForDestinations and #EyesForStreetStyle).
Naina’s “chaos with colour” style has made her one of India’s most popular photographers and created high demand from brands and online fans alike. Luxury companies like Anahata in India and Mathieu Lustrerie Chandeliers in France have invited the influencer artist to expose their products under her unique lens.
Naina’s curiosity about life extends to technology where she loves to experiment and blog her experiences with new image editing updates. A regular advocate for Photoshop CC and Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe India sat down with Naina to talk about her passion, her latest experimental tools and finding your audience as an artist.
- How did you begin your journey as a photographer?
Professional photography started for me in the year 2006, when I was hired to photograph a shipping port / jetty to build a bank of images for the client. Prior to that, photographing was purely a hobby. My love for it started as a kid when I’d use my Dad’s analogue camera to photograph all manner of subjects. All my pocket money went towards purchasing rolls of film and getting that film developed and scanned. I would take extensive notes about each frame I shot – what aperture it was shot at, what was the ISO of the film, etcetera. Once I received the prints from the lab, I would pencil those details on the back of each photograph. It feels archaic now but it helped me nail the fundamentals.
- How would you define your style?
With lots of color and shapes and contrast. It’s honestly pleasantly shocking to me that I am even able to decide what my “style” is – I never thought I’d know. I never thought I even had a style. The way I work, I photograph across a multitude of genres. And I don’t think there’s a style that can define or encompass everything that I do. I don’t like thinking in terms of “labels” as much as I can help it. I find it limiting. Besides, “style” is always evolving. The nature of a professional photographer’s work now, and going forward, is dependent a lot on how technology changes. These days, you could show me what kind of style you’d like, and I’ll produce it for you. It’s possible. One needs to know the tools available and then put them to use.
- Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Nowhere in particular really. Nature I suppose. Travel. I try not to look at the work of others because I have a terrible case of impostor syndrome. Looking at the work of others only makes me think that my work is mediocre at best. I would much rather put my head down, get to work and produce something. I guess that inspires me to “create”. While shooting, I’ll try some variations of ideas I might’ve had in the past & maybe I’ll come up with something new. But otherwise, give me a good beach, lots of sun and I will have a few ideas in a couple of days. The rest depends on the client’s brief. That’s where the “structure” comes in.
- You have worn many hats as creative professional – Graphic Designer, Photographer and very recently, you have added videos to your repertoire. How has your experience of working on videos been?
Initially, I stayed away completely from video production because it scared me. I didn’t know how it worked and didn’t want to spend hours learning. I had spent some time looking at basic video tutorials and they seemed insanely complicated. As with everything, one learns when one does. So, eventually, I did. The basic principles still apply – tell a story, keep it simple. Fancy effects are not necessary and if the narrative is bad to begin with, no amount of effects can save the video. I don’t produce videos professionally per se, but I have been hired to produce short one-minute videos for Instagram campaigns. But then I don’t think those are seen as traditional “video” anyway. See? There’s those “labels” getting in the way again.
- Can you share one work that is close to your heart and the concept behind it?
The #EyesForPeople portrait series is probably the closest to my heart. It started on a whim – I wanted to get over my fear of asking people if I could photograph them. Not for a client – for my personal projects. So, I invested in a professional portraiture lens. And now I had no choice except to put it to use. The response was and still is overwhelming. Not only did hundreds of people say “Yes!” the first time I asked them, the feature also got a lot of appreciation from people online and from clients. It has led to clients’ assignments where I get to photograph more portraits.
Why I feel attached to the project is because of this: when I ask someone if I may photograph them, 99 times out of 100, they will tell me that I must make them look good. Or that their nose / eyes / ears / chin / lips are “not all that good”. And I always tell them, “But you’re beautiful! Hell! I WANT to photograph you!” And then when I sit down to edit the images at my desk, each person truly is beautiful. I’ve teared-up more than a couple of times while editing. People’s faces. Their eyes. They radiate.
- Tell us about ‘The Naina Redhu Experience’ and how it came to be?
I wanted to do a podcast. I’m a huge fan of The Joe Rogan Experience, which is a podcast that I follow religiously. Using the same naming format is my way of showing appreciation. Also, I couldn’t call it #EyesForPodcast or #EyesForTalking!
Mostly, I talk about the photography and blogging industry in India and my experiences, client assignments, etcetera. But sometimes I talk about nothing in particular. I enjoy producing the episodes but it is a lot of work for my solo-ass. The last few ones I’ve recorded, were done entirely on my smartphone. From recording audio / video, edits to publishing it online. This was great, because it makes the process simpler, which might help me keep it a regular feature.
- How has your experience of working with Adobe been so far? Which apps have you used extensively so far?
It’s no secret that I’m an Adobe fan girl. Adobe has moved with the times and taken user feedback seriously. I cannot imagine what it must be like to build, maintain, tweak and develop a software behemoth like Adobe Photoshop. Currently, I rely mostly on Adobe Lightroom and use it extensively. I also use Adobe Photoshop to work on images that need more detailed editing or prints for my canvases and Adobe Premiere Pro to edit any video work. I also have Adobe InDesign, which I use primarily for making my invoices and stationery.
- Share your experience of working on our mobile apps.
I use Adobe Lightroom on Mobile when I have smartphone photos of landscapes, or shots from an airplane. The DeHaze filter really makes those images work. Selective radial filters also make Lightroom useful to have on my phone. I’ve also use the Sketch app to scribble and sketch whenever I have an itch to do that. Adobe Photoshop Fix and Mix have been useful to quickly create graphics from images I’ve shot on the phone. I cannot tell you how excited I am that a whole host of Adobe apps are now available on Android!
- Any words of advice for budding creative artists out there?
I don’t think I’m qualified to give advice – I don’t really know what I’m “doing” (traditionally speaking) after all. The one thing that I tell myself, that keeps me going is that I must show up. If I don’t even show up, I won’t get started on whatever it is I am meant to be doing. Just showing up (meaning literally showing up – at your work desk, in the morning, even if it’s in your PJs and firing up that laptop or picking up that camera) is more than half the battle won. While it has never been easier to create something – converting your imagination into something you can show to someone else – it is also difficult, more than ever, to show it to the people who matter. Talent is great. Hard work is a no-brainer. Getting on a distribution network is also a no-brainer. But, reaching your “tribe”, THAT is where the pot of gold is. No one taught me this. If you figure out a way to reach your tribe, do come and tell me how you did it! Keep at it, regardless!