Inspiring Figures is a monthly column where I share with you people who are catalysts in inspiring and motivating me. They are people that you should really know about. You can find the whole list of my inspiring figures over on the shiny new website, InspiringFigures.co.
Each feature first took place live on YouTube Live, this is a write-up of our conversation. Thank you once again to everyone that joined in live!
February 2020 features Sravanti Tekumalla
Sravanti is a Software Engineer at Uber, working in the transit team and she is also a passionate photographer, focusing on mainly portraits since the start of 2019. Her love for these two disciplines is incredibly inspiring, as she is able to apply concepts and learnings from both so beautifully.
I’ve been following Sravanti on social media for a while now, and we’ve been trying to organise a chat to talk through her story so getting her on Inspiring Figures this month was a dream! I’m not going to lie, I did have a mini-fangirl moment before going live. 😂 Read on to find out more about her life as an engineer and photographer.
Listen to our live conversation
Getting into technology
Sravanti initially wanted to study Piano Performance and become a musician. However, she decided that being a musician wasn’t the most sustainable career choice. She ended up trying out Biology and Music, but did one dissection and decided that was not for her.
As she tried to figure out what to do, a friend of hers suggested that she go and try Computer Science. Sravanti’s initial reaction was, “Computer Science is for nerds.” But alas, she found herself going to an intro class and ended up loving it! Computer Science was an opportunity to solve problems and use solutions found in engineering to everything in life e.g. education, finance, health.
Once she finished her degree, she interviewed for a bunch of different technical roles and ended up at Uber.
“I walked into Computer Science and Uber with an open mind.” Sravanti shares that having this open mind is so important in life. I couldn’t agree enough!
Whilst at Uber, she grew an interest in cities and landed in the transit team where they focus on helping Uber more accessible to everyone. Being in the team has helped her realise that there are so many different people, and that we need to be more aware and mindful of everyone when designing technical solutions.
Sravanti primarily develops in Go and React at the moment, her life philosophy is to stretch herself as much as she can and so went from front-end development to now back-end tech!
Being a Photographer
Her love for baking was one of the main reasons she wanted to become a photographer!
In the early days of Instagram, Sravanti would style her photos of her food with the best lighting and decoration to really show off her work. At the time, she was thinking of going into food blogging but ended up pursuing photography instead.
After working in tech for a while, she saved up some money to buy her first camera. Ever since then she has been training her eye to be a good photographer, experimenting with lighting, colours, different types of photography, conveying different emotions and generally stretching her creative boundaries.
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Really wish I had a subject to play with in these fields. It’s the perfect spring photography location! This is what happens when I make do with myself and a self-timer—I didn’t mean to look as sad as I do in this picture 😅 . . . . #advancedselfie #wildflowers #superbloom #portraitphotography #selfportrait #moodyphotography #moodyports #agameoftones #agameofshadows #agameofportraits
As her photography skills grew, she fell into portrait photography something that she enjoys the most! “I have the opportunity to create a connection with someone, understand their vision and make it happen.” Sravanti has worked with friends and budding models for her work, which you can see on her Instagram on website.
Her favourite go-to camera is a Canon with a 35mm lens that is perfect for work and travel! She has a bunch of different lenses for different focal lengths, which she enjoys playing around with. Recently she’s been playing around with film cameras too, which is a little more tricky to learn the settings (very different to what she’s used to!) But it seems like she’s enjoying the challenge.
Learning to take better photos
As you probably gather, Sravanti is a wonderful example of someone who loves to learn and continuously push herself. It’s wildly inspiring! She primarily picked up her new skills in photography and accelerated further from YouTubers who have shown behind the scenes processes.
“The very basics are just 3 variables – ISO, aperture, shutter speed.” Once you learn the basics, you can really start to understand and create beautiful photos! Sravanti’s reference back to Computer Science material had made me smile – the two different technical worlds do come together!
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My last post of 2019. I’m proud of the work I’ve done this year and the progress I’ve made. I look at the first portraits I ever took in January, and while I love those, I see and feel the growth when comparing those photos to some of my latest. . I think a lot of people in my life don’t understand why I shoot so often. For me, photography is meditative—the opportunity to focus on getting the shot and nothing else. There aren’t enough moments in my life with that amount of singular focus. . One thing I know and love about myself is that I throw myself 100% into whatever it is I’m learning about or doing. From YouTube tutorials to workshops to online courses, I’m trying to figure out the next frontier for my work. More than anything, I’m trying to find my voice, a concept I’ve been familiar with from playing piano, but completely clueless about when it comes to photography. . If I have one hope for myself going into the new year, it’s to create without seeking validation. Creating what feels true to me, and not so that a well-respected photographer or Instagram page likes my post. This is the hardest thing to do, especially when Instagram and YouTube have been my teachers. . 2019–this is year one. One of many, I hope. Still figuring out what photography demands of me and what I demand of it, but patience is a virtue. . One last thing: I could never grow without willing women to model for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you to anyone who’s given me the opportunity to take your portrait. It means the world. 🙏🏽 . . . . #goldengatepark #portraitphotography #portrait #sfportraits #sfphotography #sfphotographer #agameofshadows #agameofportraits #sfportraits #sfigers #bay_shooters #cityports #moodyports #portraitpage #portraitsmag #bravoportraits #dreamermagazine #insomniamag #portraitstream #aintbadmagazine #wethecreators #pixsoulmag #nowheremagazine
A lot of people think that it’s almost like you’re cheating when you edit photos. But that is far from the case! Playing with lighting and colours in post is part of the process. 🙌🏻 In order to really convey a connection and make an artistic photo pop, Sravanti encourages working with the image you’ve taken – it can really bring them to life.
Nowadays, some photographers have created presets. These are specific edits that can be applied to any photo – pretty good for those who don’t want to spend so much time editing photos and to create a consistent “vibe”. Sravanti hopes to create some herself in the future!
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Appreciating negative space more, and the room to breathe. . . . . #baytammeet #portraitphotography #portrait #sfportraits #sfportraitphotographer #sfphotography #sfphotographer #sanfranciscophotographer #sf #shadows #bay_shooters #moodyphotography #moodyports #agameoftones #agameofshadows #agameofportraits
Inspirations from the Photography World
Most of the people that she learns from on YouTube has been a central source of inspiration for Sravanti. Some notable people include Annie Leibovitz and Brandon Woelfel. Sravanti also tries to take as much inspiration as possible away from the Instagram bubble, it has helped her figure out who she is and what sort of photos she wants to create to really show off her skills and unique eye.
Tips from the pro
If you’re interested in dipping your toes into the world of photography, Sravanti shares her main tips:
- Don’t feel like you need to go out and buy a new camera, iPhones are just as good nowadays!
- The number one way to improve is to shoot consistently and practice consistently
- Take the time to learn the manual settings – this is also a good reflection of what is in your mind
- Be kind to yourself and accept that as you’re learning, most of the photos won’t look great at the start
Tips for models
During her shoots with people, Sravanti’s clients have always said that they don’t particularly see themselves as a model and the whole process is quite uncomfortable for them.
As a photographer, it is vital to make sure that models are as comfortable as possible. Sravanti shares that she does a bit of a pep talk to those who aren’t comfortable in front of the camera to put them at ease. Some other pointers for models:
- Don’t forget that you have full control! Take your time and experiment with what works for you and what you’re most comfortable with
- It’s ok not to smile all the time!
- Try and relax as much as possible (Tip for photographers: make ‘em laugh!)