Meet Rathika Ramasamy, a professional wildlife photographer in India who began with photography as a hobby but made it a career.
Interview by Anne John
Rathika Ramasamy gets her kicks from shooting in the wild; though not with guns. Armed with her camera, she is one of the few successful professional photographers in India today. She is well-known for her striking photos which keenly capture a snapshot of wild animals and birds. Here she talks about pursuing an off-the-beaten-track career.
You were working as a Software Engineer earlier. How did the transition to a Wildlife Photographer happen?
Rathika Ramasamy: After my marriage, I moved to Delhi. I started photography as a hobby and became passionate about it. I was first doing travel photography, and then in 2004, I started with wildlife photography. It is not easy to take up a field that is very different from one’s education, but I wanted to pursue what I was passionate about.
Given the number of amateur photographers, what does it mean to be a professional photographer today? What distinguishes a professional from an amateur?
Rathika Ramasamy: Professional photographer means you get paid for your work; you sell your work on various mediums like magazines, agency, prints and commissioned shoots. As a pro you have to keep up high quality work, as you are paid for your shoot, and later you plan to sell your work. The work should reflect passion, your own style and quality.
With the advent of digital technology, there are many more amateur photographers today. It is good to see many people into photography; I don’t think of it is competition as there is lots work for everyone. This trend should be encouraged – afterall most of the professionals today were amateurs once. I do get to see some amazing work from amateur photographers.
Being a professional freelance photographer is not only about photography; it is combination of photography plus marketing your work to prospective clients, knowing the latest trends in the industry etc. One should have a great body of work to showcase and have their own online portfolio website and a good network of clients with whom you work regularly.
Professional female Wildlife Photographers are quite rare, especially in India. Do you think being a woman is challenging in this field?
Rathika Ramasamy: I don’t think as a woman I find any difficulties; wildlife photography is a tough job, there will be lots of practical constraints. But if you have a will, then definitely you can overcome them. Camera and animals are not gender biased!
Tell us one memorable experience that happened on a photography expedition.
Rathika Ramasamy: There are many memorable experiences I have. A few months back I had been to Tadoba Tiger Reserve. For the first time, I sighted three tigresses with their cubs. I spent time photographing them as they were playing, and it was unforgettable.
Keolodeo National Park in Bharatpur is one of my favourite places to shoot birds, and I captured many interesting images of several species of birds. One memorable photo I have is of a pair of Sarus cranes dancing.
I can never forget shooting a pair of Spotted Owlets (Athene brama) at Sultanpur National Park in Haryana in 2008. Spotted owlets are nocturnal birds like Owls, but smaller in size. I had never seen them preening and snuggling; it was my first sighting and it was very special to watch them and photograph their interaction.
I have gone to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is the world’s largest wildlife reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I had a wonderful time photographing lions, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras and other animals.
What is the scope for a career in Wildlife Photography in India today? Can one pursue it beyond a hobby?
Rathika Ramasamy: Wildlife photography in India is still nascent, but is growing. Only a few photographers pursue wildlife photography as a full time profession. I would advise that you take up wildlife photography only if you really love it. Wildlife photography is not only about learning technical aspects. You have to spend a lot of time in the field, and you have to have in depth knowledge of the animals and birds.
Who are your favourite Wildlife Photographers?
Rathika Ramasamy: My favourite are Arthur Morris and John Shaw.
What plans do you have in the future related to Wildlife Photography?
Rathika Ramasamy: So far I was shooting in North, South & Central India. Next I am planning to cover East Indian parks. Also coming up are more wildlife photography workshops for wildlife photography enthusiasts and nature lovers.
*All photos credit: Rathika Ramasamy.