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Dabboo Ratnani Reveals How He Maintains the Exclusivity of His Celebrity Calendars

We caught up with Dabboo Ratnani on the release of the 20th edition of his eagerly awaited celebrity calendar.

Naqshib Nisar | News18.com

Updated:February 3, 2019, 1:29 PM IST
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Dabboo Ratnani Reveals How He Maintains the Exclusivity of His Celebrity Calendars
Image: Dabboo Ratnani Official Photography

Every glossy magazine cover with a Bollywood celebrity on it has a story to tell, and most of the time, it’s through photographer Dabboo Ratnani’s lens.

We caught up with him on the release of the 20th edition of his eagerly awaited celebrity calendar.

Your annual celebrity calendars have a fan base of its own. How hard is the homework behind it?

As the calendar is an annual ritual, we start working on it during the course of the year. From conceptualising to choosing locations, coordinating shooting schedules to sending out concepts to celebrities, it is a gradual process. After the shoot concepts are sent to the celebrities, they are free to choose the shoots that suits them and provide feedback.

From outdoor locations to indoor shoots, we are up for any location as per the comfort of the stars. Akshay Kumar, Varun Dhawan, Abhishek Bachchan shot for the calendar in outdoor locations whereas Anushka Sharma and Sonakshi Sinha’s shots were interestingly captured in their own makeup vans.

What do you do with these calendars once they are published?

The copies of the calendar are not up for sale as the calendars are exclusive and have to live up to the hype created around it. So only limited copies are out. The calendar is heavy on the creativity factor and not for revenue.

I prefer giving out the copies to my near and dears, my friends advertising, fashion and Bollywood. Apart from that the soft copies are put up on the Dabboo Ratnani website or my social media handles. Celebrities also put it up on their social media handles for their followers.

Your family is mostly on the sets while you shoot the celebrities. Does that create any distractions?

I am truly blessed to have Manisha (wife) and kids on the sets. There were times when Manisha and I would barely get two hours of sleep as we had to work endlessly throughout the day and sometimes at night as well. She has always stood by me like a support system.


Image: Dabboo Ratnani Official Photography


Image: Dabboo Ratnani Official Photography


Image: Dabboo Ratnani Official Photography

Will fans ever get a chance to possess these calendars?

Well, I have not thought of putting the calendar up for sale but later this year I am planning to run a contest on social media for my fans and hand out copies of the calendar to them.

Social media has helped a lot in creating such a huge fan base?

Before the social media people didn’t even consider photography as their career option. I believe social media is the future. I have about 1.2 million on Instagram and 2 million on Twitter because of my work. Now people expect photographers to put out their work as everyone wants to see it. They want to ask them the concepts and thought behind the shots. They want to connect with the photographers for insights.

What do you think about the social media photographers who are up against professional photographers?

Social media as a platform is good but here one tends to overdo things. Some photographs can be dangerously manipulated and we don’t even know to what degree. But at the end of the day, it is for the audience to decide the difference between a professional and an amateur photographer.

Prilli 2019, the international calendar, covered cinematic femininity in the era of #MeToo. Are you also planning to do something similar through your calendars?

Many social movements are slowly taking shape in our country and understanding of such concepts of the fashion industry will happen in the future when people completely understand it. Even if I happen to cover such social movements, I will probably choose to put it out as a separate property like displaying it at an exhibition, maybe create a separate property or a separate calendar. I might even collaborate with brands or NGO’s in the future for a particular social theme.

When it comes to few new age actors, their raw personality and acting skills speak louder than their style statements and they prefer less glitz. Are you also planning to shoot with them?

I have shot with a few new age actors and I think they are all very talented and interesting. I find Radhika Apte’s face very interesting, she is a brilliant actor and would love to take few images of her someday.

How much of photoshop is fine?

If you have seen my work, I am more focused on real photography and I don’t manipulate images. Even when it comes to celebrity shoots, I prefer being very minimal in my approach of editing and retouching the images.

This is mainly because during the onset of my career as a photographer, we had to do everything during the shoot and there was no way we could edit or digitally manipulate. It is due to that practice that I don’t go too heavy on photoshop. Unlike the current scenario where celebrity shoots are heavily dependent on digital manipulation.

You derive inspiration from the Iconic fashion photographer Herb Ritts. Which of his work has inspired you the most?

Herb Ritts! I love his work. It is hard for me to choose between any of his work or even chose from his series of work because he is legendary in every way. I was a huge Madonna fan. I loved her music, read all the magazines she featured in and most of her amazing photoshoots were done by Herb Ritts.

At the beginning of my career, I was working with Pooja Bhatt who was a Herb Ritts fan as well. Back in 1995, when Pooja and I did a lot of black and white photoshoots we shared an inside joke. Pooja Bhatt used to call me her Herb Ritts and I used to call her my Cindy Crawford, who was Herb Ritts' muse.

What makes you say “Now that’s a Perfect Shot?”

It is difficult to put in words as to what defines a perfect shot. If it is an actor with whom I have a rapport built over the years, I think we both realise when the shot is perfect, we just sense it.

I usually go with the flow, my instructions start changing rapidly, my clicking speed increases and before we know it happens, organically. But technically, there are so many things that contribute to a perfect shot. The first thing I see in a perfect picture is the eyes, the expression and the mouth. When it comes to a full length picture is that the focus has to be on the body language, the angle and many other things.

To be honest, I often go back to my work that I might have done 6 years ago and I find myself looking at it thinking I wish I had done it differently. Going back to the work you have done in the past and analysing it is very important to keep evolving which according to me is growth.

What is your two point guide to amateur fashion photographers?

Fashion photography is a very glamorous world but budding photographers shouldn’t get into this genre of photography only because they wanted to be surrounded by famous actors, models and the who’s who of the industry. In photography, trying your hands at new concepts and techniques is important to evolve.

I also want to advice, budding photographers that if you get an opportunity as an intern or work as an assistant, you have to give it your all and make it your own. When I worked as an assistant I didn’t do the shoot like I was working for somebody else, I used to work as though the shoot was my own. I personally find that kind of passion missing in today’s generation, few don’t want to work for long hours and few want an easy way out. The aggression is missing.

One of the reasons why I am one million more followers than any other fashion photographer in the country is the hardwork and passion I have given to my work over the years.

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