Yash Bhatia

The challenges and triumphs of celebrity ad shoots: Insights from Photographer Rahul Jhangiani

Jhangiani, who has worked with over 200 brands in 2023, talks about the behind-the-scenes life of brand shoots, challenges, and more.

If you've ever caught sight of striking billboards while driving, chances are you've seen the work of Rahul Jhangiani. Renowned as a celebrity photographer, Jhangiani has collaborated with a plethora of A-list celebrities such as Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul, and many others.

Beyond the realm of celebrity endorsements, he has lent his creative touch to iconic brands like Bluestar, Rungta Steel, Beardo, Dream11, Lays, Royal Challenge, AJIO, and numerous others.

Rahul Jhangiani
Rahul Jhangiani

In 2023, he has worked with over 200 brands, and in the first quarter of 2024, Rahul has shot with over 30 brands.

Jhangiani's first big project was for the Unilever brand Lux with Alia Bhatt in 2017.  “Alia was a big push, she gave me the first chance. She saw my work, and it worked out well. That’s how my journey began,” he says.

He adds, “I was very nervous since it was my debut shoot, and being in a foreign country where English or Hindi wasn't widely spoken added to the challenge. I couldn't bring my team and had to work with a local crew. Despite the initial apprehension, the shoot went incredibly smoothly, and it's an experience I'll remember for the rest of my life."

Alia Bhatt x LUX
Alia Bhatt x LUX

Jhangiani started his journey as a fashion photographer and then moved to working with brands. According to him, photography in the fashion world and advertising are completely different.

He mentions that fashion photography is more about editorials, where the photographer enjoys more creative freedom compared to brand work.

“The ad campaign is more commercial, the fashion work is done to get advertising jobs. Ad campaigns are more restricted, as there’s a certain client brief.”

Rahul Jhangiani's fashion photoshoot
Rahul Jhangiani's fashion photoshoot

He says, in monetary terms, working with brands is much more lucrative than fashion photography.

His passion for working behind the scenes ignited when he began assisting Subi Samuel, a photographer who happened to be his neighbour. He then pursued a master’s degree in photography in the United Kingdom.

“Initially I approached test shoots in a way that it could be pitched to various mediums like ad clients or creative agencies. The objective was to showcase my work in a manner that demonstrated my capability to execute ad campaign,” he says. 

Jhangiani believes the crucial part of the brand shoot is to understand the client's requirements and work along with the rest of the team, including stylists, makeup artists, hair artists, and more.

Sharing an example of a recent shoot for Vivo with Virat Kohli, he says the client wanted to showcase the phone in a way that it receives equal importance alongside Kohli.

Finding the right angles considering a celebrity’s presence was a key part of a successful campaign, according to him.

In this case, the former Indian captain was advised to wear a white T-shirt with a green phone to get a good click. The creative agency also determined the lighting that complements the phone set of Vivo.

Virat Kohli shoot for Vivo V30 PRO by Rahul Jhangiani
Virat Kohli shoot for Vivo V30 PRO by Rahul Jhangiani

“Usually we have numerous creative discussions before the shoot, focusing on everything from lighting to composition. The shoot itself is the easiest part; it's the pre-shoot and post-production phases where the real brainstorming happens”, Jhangiani says. 

The still photography for the brand can be leveraged in print mediums and outdoor campaigns. Moreover, static imagery can be utilised by brands for purposes like promos, sales, and new product launches. In a particular shoot, the photographer can click up to 50 pictures, which can be leveraged differently.

For a photo shoot with a celebrity, he also does his homework beforehand to understand the star. Jhangiani researches their previous shoots, the lighting used, preferred angles of the celebrity, and their overall profile.

He also witnesses a new trend in the ad land, where celebrities now want a raw and organic look in their photos, specifically for beauty and cosmetic brands.

“Previously, images were heavily retouched, but now actors and celebrities prefer to appear natural and unfiltered. This shift is partly due to increased public awareness, fueled by paparazzi videos and social media, where people can see celebrities in their unedited state. There's a desire to be authentic and transparent in ads, avoiding the promotion of unrealistic beauty standards,” he adds.

He determines the success of a photoshoot by the reach of the post on social media and how viral it goes. The faster approvals of celebrities also give him a feeling of satisfaction.

While the job of the photographer looks fascinating from the outside world, it also has many challenges.

He says, “The biggest challenge is to keep creating something new because if you're shooting with an actor consistently, they might get bored if you keep doing the same thing. It's important to always strive for innovation, to be inspired, and to produce fresh work so they don't lose interest. Each day on set feels like day one for me, ensuring that every shoot brings something new and exciting."

His guidance for young aspirants who are looking to pursue photography is to be creative with beautiful imagery. Jhangiani advises, “With the ease of becoming a photographer, the work must stand out. Now it’s beyond just technical skills, but also artistic vision and craftsmanship.”

Currently, Jhangiani is busy with brand shoots featuring cricketers for the upcoming Men’s T20 World Cup held in the USA and West Indies.

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