Portrait Photographer – Working with Praneet Akilla

Editorial Portrait Photographer

I swore to myself during lockdown last year that I was going to start blogging consistently, which started off well, but once I got really busy with work, it once again went on the back burner. Obviously my main focus is on being a portrait photographer, but I know I should focus more on sharing my stories with you.  I suppose I should start with one of my favourite portrait photoshoots of 2021, working with actor, Praneet Akilla. This was, in fact, my first shoot of the year, so I must say that I was really pumped to do what I love most: editorial portrait photography.

Editorial portrait photography for publicity has turned into a bit of a niche for me over the years. As much as I genuinely do love shooting actor’s headshots, editorial portrait photography gives me an opportunity to get really creative with story, light, and colour. When shooting editorials, it is important that we are trying to tell a well rounded story of the subject. For this shoot, we decided to showcase a few different sides of Praneet.

You can see more of my editorial portrait photography here: https://brandon-hart.com/portrait/

Success in the Film Industry

One of the greatest things about working in Vancouver is the sheer amount of talented actors who work in the local film industry. This means that, being a Vancouver portrait photographer, I really do get to work with the cream of the crop.  When Praneet got in touch with me, he needed portrait photographs for publicity because he had just finished shooting as a series regular in the second season of Nancy Drew on The CW network.

As a portrait photographer, it is such an amazing experience to work with actors who are making some serious strides in their career. Making it in the film industry as an actor has got to be one of the most challenging career paths imaginable, let alone people in the BIPOC community. An entire blog could be written about minority actors in the film industry, so I will touch on the little bit that Praneet and I spoke about during our shoot. We are slowly getting to a point in time where people like Praneet may not have to hustle for years, only auditioning for roles as terrorists and corner store workers (this is a thing, for those of you who do not know). And thank god for that. We have a very long way to go, but to see a Canadian dude with Indian heritage book a role on merit (what a concept), is pretty great (and should have been normal in the first damn place).

I don’t mean to skim over this; it really is such a massive conversation that needs to be continually had. For full disclosure, I had gone back and forth so many times with this portion of the blog, asking “does this belong in this blog?” and, “does this part stick out like a sore thumb?”  I finally decided to include it simply because conversations like this tend to only be brought up when it is an “appropriate time.”  It needs to an appropriate time all the time if we want to move forward on the path of inclusivity and equality. With all this said, moving on for now for the simple fact that I prefer Praneet to be defined by his character, work ethic, ability, and passion, which he has in spades.  

I believe that Praneet will have a really great career as an actor for two very simple reasons: he truly believes in himself and he is very humble.  There is a difference between hope and belief.  I think that a lot of actors hope that they will find success one day, which they need to do, but the ones who actually start to succeed are the ones who genuinely believe in themselves.  Humility is the character trait that gives a person the perspective to know that they can always get better.  I think it is important for people to know they are good now, and with continuous work ethic, can be even better tomorrow.  Praneet, at least from my point of view, ticks these two boxes.  Onto the photoshoot…

First Look

I really like painted backdrops. They are very popular with photographers, and for good reason. For our first look I chose to use my green canvas backdrop painted by Gravity Backdrops. I always like to start my editorial photoshoots with simple looks so we can kick things off with good photos. We wanted this look to have a bit of that sexy edge. Praneet did not miss a beat and kicked ass right out of the gate. I chose to use a blend of hard and soft light. This essentially means that the key light is small, producing hard, contrasty shadows, and the fill light is large, filling in those hard shadows and softening the skin. This took me years and years to get good at, and I continue to try to get better at it everyday.

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Second Look

We then moved on to our next look, where we wanted to show a little bit more of Praneet’s bad ass side. I chose to go simple and use a paper backdrop. I used a strip box for my key light and a large octabox for fill, with a small gridded light adding the slight gradient to the backdrop. I’d say Praneet pulls off  that classic bad boy look!

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Third Look

Our final look was clearly the most fun. It is always great to make the fun look the last of the day because we know we already have a number of good photographs in the bag and now we can just act like kids. I cannot tell you how many laughs Praneet and I had. He was such a great trooper for this look.

Me: Act like you’re kicking a soccer ball.

Praneet: Why?

Me: I don’t know?

Praneet: Done.

Both of us: Ok, this looks amazing. Let’s keep doing it.

After reviewing his wardrobe options, we both looked at the pink paper backdrop, and thought, “hell yes.” I had recently bought a focusing soft box but I had not used it yet; I figured why not test it out for this look? As many artists know, we often stumble into happy accidents. As much as I would like to take credit for planning the triple shadows on the backdrop for this, I cannot. This is a byproduct of the focusing soft box, and normally, would drive me insane, but for this look, it totally worked. I feel that it gives it a sense of movement and humour. I love happy accidents that make me look like I actually know what I am doing. To be fair, happy accidents usually happen when you are taking a risk, trying something new. The big thing is learning why it happened, and once you know that, you can add it to your arsenal for the future.

 

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I really love what I do and I have to thank Praneet for making it this much fun. He killed it in this shoot and I had such an awesome time working with him. And for Praneet, if you are reading this, how about an update for your next big gig?

If you are an actor (or anyone else, really) looking for a Vancouver portrait photographer, send me an email to mail@brandon-hart.com. If you haven’t already, follow me on Instagram if you wish at @brandonhartphotography.

Cheers,

Vancouver Portrait Photographer, Brandon Hart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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