Artist Spotlight | Karan Sidhu
In conversation with Gurgaon-based wedding photographer Karan Sidhu
Finding his love for photography wasn’t accidental for Karan Sidhu. He’d always had a certain inclination towards it, but only discovered it as his “calling” when he left his career in the hospitality industry. It didn’t take long for him to realise that taking pictures and creating extraordinary memories for people was what he wanted to do in life.
Today, his decision of pursuing his passion for photography has been proven the right one. He recently won the prestigious Better Photography Wedding Photographer of the Year (2017-2018) Award. Though he’s not new to getting recognition, Karan has also won 4 WPAI awards previously. This conversation is an attempt to understand the inner workings of this warm and generous man and understand what inspires his work, what success means to him, his relationship with those around him and more.
Congratulations on winning the Better Photography Wedding Photographer of the Year (2017-2018) Award! How does it feel?
Thank you. Any form of appreciation or recognition feels great. So that’s how it feels, great! But with recognition also comes a sense of responsibility to continue to improve and learn and do better with each shoot if not each shot. 🙂
What was your thought process while curating the 16 pictures as part of the final submission for the contest? How did you choose and was it difficult to separate your favourites from the “best”?
Oh, it was a mind-numbing exercise! I just didn’t know which ones to submit and which ones to discard. But eventually, I just went with my gut and submitted the pictures that resonated with me the most.
Tell us about the face-off for the final round of the WPOY contest. Considering everyone was given the same shooting conditions, what did you do differently that allowed you to emerge the winner?
I didn’t, even for a second, think I was shooting for a contest. Nor did I think of what the other contestants may or may not do. It was like any other shoot for me. I went in like I normally do for any shoot and tried to make the most of what was available.
You’ve won the BP WPOY award and also four awards in the WPAI contests. What do awards and winning them mean to you?
I’d be lying if I said they don’t mean anything. Awards mean a great deal. Especially when they are judged by the masters of the craft.
But the thing with me is, I don’t hold on to my successes or failures for too long. There is so much more to learn and to achieve and more importantly, to experience that if I keep basking in my own glory, I’d keep myself away from greater experiences in life.
What does being a ‘successful photographer’ mean to you?
A successful photographer to me is the one that can successfully, (and repeatedly so), take successful pictures. It’s as simple as that.
And successful pictures are the ones that my clients will hold on to for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t need to be a ‘creatively genius’ or an ‘award-worthy’ picture. It may just be a simple portrait of the bride and groom; or a picture of the bride or the groom with their grandparents; or a picture of the brides father whose normally awkward displaying emotions but when its time for him to give his little princess away, a tiny tear finds its way out; or a picture of the grooms mother welcoming her new daughter with open arms.
The point is, to be a successful photographer, you don’t need gimmicks. What you need is your heart and your mind in the right place. When I walk into a wedding, I walk in with a huge sense of responsibility. I am well aware of the fact that I am going to an event where I will be creating history for that family by making pictures that will potentially become an heirloom for generations to come.
To each their own but to me, this is how I measure my success:
1. Client’s happiness.
2. Creative satisfaction.
3. Enough money to travel (after paying the bills :D)
From hotel management and chef-in-training to a real estate marketeer and now a wedding photographer – we’d love to know more about this journey and how wedding photography happened.
I love to cook which is why hotel management happened. But when I joined the hotel industry after college, I very soon realised that I enjoy cooking for my loved ones with a drink in my hand. This commercial cooking is not my thing. Left the hotels and worked in various fields in various organisations for over a decade and hated every single day of it. All along, I knew that this isn’t for what I am born to do and also knew this is just a means to an end till I find my “calling”.
They say, when life shuts a door, it opens another. So when my then girlfriend shut her doors on me (it was my fault and I deserved it), I suddenly had all the time in the world after work and on weekends, which were otherwise spent with her. I decided to take up “hobby classes” and photography was one of them. I fell in love with the process of picture taking. I always had this love for photography but when the passion for a skill is supplemented with the knowledge and technical know how it’s a different ball game altogether. Well, then one thing led to another and I decided to take my camera to a friends wedding I had to attend. Loved every bit of it. Gave myself a year and shot friends’ and acquaintances’ weddings for free (where they had commissioned photographers and I was just doing my own thing without coming in their way) before I decided to do this professionally …and rest as they say is history!!
Today, I can very confidently and VERY PROUDLY say that I was born to do this. There is nothing and no one I love more than my work.
We’ve heard that once you sign on a client, you’re all in. From the decor and planning to the bride’s makeup and trousseau. Is it true? What is the thought behind this approach?
Oh yes!! I love weddings. And a wedding isn’t just that last day where the ‘pheras’ take place. A wedding is actually the entire process of it. The months and years of planning that goes into it. I love being a part of the entire process. Not only does it create a great rapport/friendship between the couple and me, which is a phenomenal thing during the shoot, it also lets me get to know who they really are as individuals and as a couple, which further helps me in making meaningful pictures for them that depict their personalities and true self.
Does this part of your personality also extend to your work colleagues? We’ve heard that you’re a tight-knit group and you share more than just a formal employer-employee relationship with them. Tell us about your approach to team-making and team-building.
I am a lover, I am a compulsive hugger and its obvious that my team will face the brunt of it… hahaha. I am lucky to have a great team. They stand by me, support me, encourage me, inspire me, and also deal with my mood swings.
Honestly, I didn’t grow up in a very normal household with loving parents and picnics and holidays etc. It was more of a life of struggle amongst other things. I guess that’s also a part of the reason I love weddings – I get to see and experience the familial love. It fills my heart with joy to see all those emotions.
I don’t have any serious ‘approach’ towards team making or team building. The only approach is to:
1. Keep nurturing the sense of responsibility that comes with every assignment.
2. Always have each other’s back.
3. Continue learning the art and craft of wedding photography.
4. Most importantly, have loads and loads of fun.
Has your background in hospitality and marketing helped you in the business of wedding photography? If yes, how?
They say we are all a sum total of our experiences in life. Therefore I am most certain that it has helped. I just don’t know how though…haha…may be in being able to tell good food from bad ?? … I’m guessing…haha
What impact has photography seminars and workshops had on you, if any, during your time as a photographer?
Oh yes!! Workshops are a great source of learning. When you see the work of masters, it inspires you to do better. And I am no different.
So many photographers have inspired me and continue to do so. Rocio Vega and her ability to freeze emotions that shake your soul or Susana Barbera’s layering mastery, or Jeff Ascough’s clean and jaw-dropping compositions.
Part of being an artist means you’ve to constantly experiment and evolve with time. What is your process, your inspirations to that?
I think more than constantly experimenting and evolving, it is important to have a ‘healthy dissatisfaction’ with your work. I don’t mean should dislike your work and get depressed and also it’s not something one can put on. It’s either there or it’s not. But if you get too happy and proud of yourself, then that’s already half the battle lost. Again, to each their own but I haven’t yet reached the skill level in terms of the craft of picture taking that I intend on reaching. Once I get there, I’ll think of “evolving”. 😀
I don’t think of myself as an artist yet. I am learning to be one. 🙂
So what’s next for Karan Sidhu?
I haven’t ever planned my life. And I feel that’s the beauty of it too. I like to let it surprise me.