An Interview with Sujata Setia founder of But Natural Photography
RISE: Something everyone always wants to know…..is Photography something you’ve always wanted to do?
Not at all. In fact my friends and family were surprised that I suddenly took to the camera 5 years ago. Before that I was a radio presenter and a TV journalist back in India. Following marriage I moved from India to the UK and my work experience didn’t count here. Hence, I had to recalibrate my entire life. I seriously have not a clue, where photography came from. I just picked a camera one day and started taking pictures and when I got tired of rejections on job applications for a good five years, in sheer desperation I resorted to my camera to become my main source of income as well.
RISE: How would you describe your photography?
My photography is just a whole bunch of emotions translated into images
My photography is just a whole bunch of emotions translated into images. On somedays it is my inner demons that I battle out and on other days its my joys that take charge of my visual narratives. Either way, my photography is a window to the person I am, the person I wished to be and the person that I never will become. And so all you will see in my work is the unabashed joy of storytelling.
RISE: Your images are emotive and heart warming, did it take you long to feel comfortable with your style?
I am still not comfortable with my style. And I will never be. I guess it’s the hazard of being a woman with the soul of an artist. You are forever questioning yourself and your work. With this art,I have to satiate my creative hunger and also seek validation from my audiences. It’s a double edged sword. There will always be one of us, who will not be so pleased with the final result and so Ive just over time learned to make peace with what I produce. Be kind to myself and my work and not take it all too seriously. “Do what your heart desires. Adulation and money will follow” is what I always tell my students.
RISE: Your outdoor locations really add to the overall feel of your images, with ethereal light, is there a particular time of day you shoot, can you tell us more about the process of finding such beautiful locations as we all know the UK is not best known for its great weather?
I love shoots closer to sunset. So I usually step out two hours prior to sunset on a winter day and 1 hours prior on a summer day. The light at that time is soft and romantic and any image created in that hour with the sun behind the subject usually has that magnificence and magic that can turn a simple images into a painting. Location wise I usually seek distance/length in a location. The further the subject is from the background the better is the depth of field. So just an open wild patch where no one has ever gone to tame the grass. I avoid tamed/trimmed grass… anything that is orchestrated and not natural, wild and free… I dont like that location. In UK we are blessed with the beautiful countryside. I just reach out to farms and ask them to allow me to shoot there. Every client I get, I first go online to look for “farmstay” options in the UK. Book a farm that I fancy and basically force my client to make the journey with me so we could create some magic.
RISE: I’ve recently fallen in love with what I call your generation shoots, they really tell stories. What is your inspiration behind these and how do you prepare for such a shoot?
I have always believed that the simplest way to find your style and your visual narratives is to seek it in your immediate surroundings
This series as well rose from within me. I was seeking a closure on the loss of my grandmother for several years and somehow one day, the idea for this series came. Whether it was my subconscious pushing me to deal with my demons or sheer luck that I saw my little girl play with her grandmother at a perfect spot with perfect natural light, that led me to capture that moment… I’m not too sure. But I have always believed that the simplest way to find your style and your visual narratives is to seek it in your immediate surroundings itself.
RISE: Do you have a favourite go to lens, that you couldn’t live without?
Absolutely 100% it has to be 135mm f 1.8 sigma art. Just the focal length 135mm is everything. I swear by that focal length honestly. I earlier had 135mm f2 DC (Nikon) and both these lenses are equally amazing and have served me incredibly well.
RISE: Do you have one favourite image that you have taken?
Yes, the very first images that I created for myself and not for a client, not for an audience… just for myself. It was of my daughter sitting on the kitchen top with my bulldog and playing with a bowl of flour while he stared at her. I would say, that’s where my creative journey of visual narrative really started.
RISE: I must ask you about your iconic editing style, did this take long to develop and refine?
Oh ya. Finding your editing workflow is a journey in itself too… You will see my work has three strong elements. Light, depth and colour. It all comes from my personality. Each of these three elements is the person I am. I found them along the way. A lot of trial and error. A lot of glasses of wine 😉 and many free youtube editing video tutorials as well. Sometimes I went overboard too. There was once I learnt how to whiten teeth through a free youtube tutorial and the next entire month I forced all my clients to smile to the camera so I could use their images as guinea pigs to practice my new learnings on. You can only imagine how angry my clients would have been that entire month. So yes, along the way I have learnt how far I need to go with my editing on every image as well. That control in itself is very important for an artist. Also, paying attention to details. Balancing highlights and shadows in your editing. These are such small things but so extremely critical for creative masterful work.
RISE: Congratulations on every award you have achieved, your work is very well published in newspapers and magazines, is there a particular award or moment that you’re particularly proud of?
All of it has been rewarding equally but what has given me the greatest high is to be able to share all of this with my students. I think teaching is my greatest award. I feel like the more I share, the better I become.
RISE: You run workshops all over the world, what can someone expect if they book on one of your workshops?
My workshops are very intensive. I have often have students come back and say they went numb for a week because just being able to absorb so my is something they never expected. I take my students through everything from he basics of what gear, what settings, how to understand natural light, model selection, location selection and styling… which essentially are the A, B, C of photography. Then we step out and shoot with a set of models that suit my narratives and then I show them my editing in details. I also teach my students everything about how to market their business. What are the marketing tricks that took my brand so far so quick and of course how to set up a business. The numbers I mean. Pricing your product, creating contracts and all the logistical stuff. hmm… thats about it.
RISE: You also offer online training, can you tell us more about this?
Online for now I am only offering, two intensive editing workshops; one on one class where students can gain a completely insight into how I turn my images from the shot out of the camera to the final result. I show that in detail and gift my actions to my students too. Well you can purchase these actions separately as well on my website now.
RISE: What is the one piece of advice above all others, you would like to share?
Just don’t keep photographing only your clients. Take time out every month to create an image for yourself too. The more you create for “yourself” the better you will become at your art.
Sujata it has been an absolute delight to hear about your journey and love of photography
You can connect with Sujata below and find out more of her stunning work and workshops