Musings-discover | 3 min read | by Dysco

I Quit Studying Engineering to Pursue Photography – Shreyak Singh’s Dysco Diary

Shreyak Singh is a photographer based in Hyderabad, who focuses primarily on fashion editorial work. He’s also an Editor at Kalakaaris Magazine and a Design Creative at TETO Inc. He chose to study engineering while growing up, but felt compelled by his interest in photography and design, to explore these hobbies and discover how to make a career out of it. Shreyak shares the process of how he made this choice, how he’s been learning from those around him, and honing his skills by introspecting and reflecting on his progress over time. If you’d like to know more about it or are a student who’s keen on making the jump to a creative profession, talk to Shreyak on Dysco

What should I study? Engineering. 
My interest in photography began when I was in class 11. Back then, I wanted a DSLR, but because I was busy juggling between my other hobbies like learning guitar and cycling, photography seemed like an expensive hobby and days passed by without me exploring it. As time went on, I realised that I had to seriously think about my future career, since I had to plan my higher education accordingly. The main issue at hand was that I had always been very interested in computers, and my family and friends who knew me well, thought I would pick engineering as my subject of choice. Even though it was never really a compulsion, since my parents are quite open-minded and have always encouraged me to follow my interests and passions, this conflict was still prevalent. I struggled with this dilemma, and after several discussions and debates with my friends and cousins, I ended up choosing engineering over photography. The fact remains that I don’t regret this decision at all, because it was only by studying engineering and failing repeatedly, that I realised it wasn’t my cup of tea.

From computing to cameras, I came a long way
And just like that, an entire year passed by, before one day I came home from college and told my mother that engineering was just not happening for me. Unlike what you’d expect from most other traditional Indian mothers, she did not panic one bit. To my surprise, she was extremely supportive and said, “Just quit it and and choose something that you’re truly interested, it’s not too late.” The next thing I knew, I left engineering college without telling any of my friends, and went to Mumbai to get enrolled into a photography college. I roamed around a lot, exploring and discovering the options around me, but I felt like most of the Institutes in Mumbai were too expensive. I came back to Hyderabad and told my mother that I had decided not to enrol myself in any of the colleges that I had visited. Naturally, she was taken aback and got quite worried – I had quit engineering to pursue photography, but wasn’t planning to join any professional institute. What would become of my career?

I brushed aside her concerns, and focussed on teaching myself. I started learning through video tutorials, and I began experimenting with the camera along with some of my friends. I kept feeling like I was still left behind, and was lacking the guidance and mentorship that could help me build and improve my skills. So I tapped into the few connections I had in the local photography community in Hyderabad. I contacted Shreyans Dungarwal, a photographer whose work I have always been inspired and motivated by. He very kindly agreed to mentor me, and told me to come down to his studio on a regular basis so he could teach and guide me along my new professional adventure. I very readily agreed, and made sure to attend regularly. We went out for various shoots, where I could watch, learn and practice different skills; I’m grateful because I got to learn a lot from Shreyans. I decided to learn even more, so I decided to apply for a graphic designing internship at a local firm, since I had a knack for design already. Simultaneously, I improved my abilities as a photographer and a graphic designer.

My first real investment, in my new career as a photographer
More months passed by, and people had slowly but surely started recognising me for my work. I realised that it was time to improve the quality of my work, and that required a camera upgrade. It was a big decision to make, as I’d be investing a lot of money into this new piece of equipment. All this time I was shooting with a Canon 550D, so I decided to finalise on the Nikon D750, even though I had little experience using it. I had always been a Canon user, and while on shoots with Shreyans I had always used Sony. I had used Nikon a couple of times, but it was always a bit difficult for me to set it up. I very clearly remember the buildup to the day I was going to buy the camera. Even though I had made up my mind to buy the Nikon D750, a small voice in my head kept telling me that I would regret the decision. I decided to pay attention to that voice, and I took all the money I had saved from my time working professionally, and put a down payment on my first full frame camera – the Sony A7II. 

It was a big decision, but the right one.

Once I began exploring this new industry, I started meeting a lot of photographers and other people from the fraternity. It opened my eyes to a lot of new things, and I discovered the different types of photography that people specialised in. I took the time to learn about the nuances of each area, and I happened to find fashion photography the most compelling. I decided to begin building my career as a fashion photographer. The more I learn, experiment and explore, the more my passion and love for fashion photography increases. I would love to visit Europe and the fashion capitals of the world – London, Paris, and Milan, to complete my education and immerse myself in the latest trends happenings of the region.

What I’ve learned, and what I’m learning
I spend time identifying my weak areas, and try and find ways to improve on them. The hardest part for me while shooting is the pre-planning of the shoot. I noticed that most people I meet find their initial concepts on inspiration platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. I used to do it myself, but I no longer think that looking at such sites and searching for concepts to replicate can actually be considered as ‘creating art’. You need to be original to grow, so, in an effort to stimulate creativity and originality I spend a day or two thinking before any shoot, I create a mood board, I get the model and stylists’ on board, and I ask them for their individual suggestions. Everyone has something unique to pitch in, which helps the idea grow and come together beautifully.
I’ve faced a lot of rejection, but rejection is what makes me want to try even more. Recently, I shot two editorials which got featured in BeautyMute Magazine and Imirage Magazine – two achievements which I’m really proud of and which push me to keep going. I also turn to artists and photographers who I admire – I have always loved Lara Jade’s & Emily Soto’s work. They are still my main inspiration.

My advice for others trying to pursue their passions and turn them into careers

  1. Don’t be afraid of failing or changing your mind, it’s never too late and everything is a learning experience
  2. The options around you aren’t the only options available, you can make your own. Teach yourself, and find mentors to guide you
  3. Don’t limit yourself to one or two things, push yourself to learn as much as possible, and keep learning more
  4. Discover communities and use existing resources to make informed choices and decisions. There are many people around who are happy to help you.
  5. Trust your gut instinct and the little voice in your head
  6. Work on your weakness and discover your own style and aesthetic
  7. It’s okay to dream, that’s what keeps you motivated

The featured image is from a series by Shreyak entitled Peace in France. The model, makeup and styling is by Zeeshan Ali.