My latest book is The One Who Swam With The Fishes.

"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times

"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine

"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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20 September 2010

Smile please!

A lot of people have been asking me how I take my pictures. I want to be clear: I’m far from being an expert. I’m pretty amateur, in fact. But the way I took to photography has surprised even me. I didn’t know I’d like it so much, and therefore, manage to improve my skills considerably from the first time I got my camera to now. What flatters me is when people specifically ask me to bring my camera to social events, and of course, the number of Facebook ‘likes’ that I get every now and then. It’s all very fun—made even more so by the fact that this completely isn’t my medium.


I use a pretty basic camera, the Canon Powershot A480, which, in my opinion, is one of the best point and shoots out there. Ignore the fancy, slim ones, trust me, go for a brand that has proven itself. My Canon is bulky, so it won’t slip into my pocket, but it goes into my handbag, which I think is essential. I like that it’s light enough to carry anywhere, and has enough of a body that I can curl my fingers around it to steady a shot.


What I did, when I got it, was to play around with it a whole lot. I read articles online on how to make the most of your point and shoot (especially in low light conditions, which is when I take most of my pictures). Of course, I went through my macro phase, which is when I went super close to the subject and got all sorts of “arty” shots, tell tale of a first time photographer. I also did the equivalent of what you do to be a better writer—you read—I looked at good photos. I tried to see how they composed their pictures, what made one picture appeal to me more than another. While reading, I came across an article telling you that for great composition, you had to rely on the rule-of-thirds, and I switched my camera display, from just a face focus to a grid, where I can see exactly where everything is before I take a picture.


But let’s let them speak for themselves. These are some of my most popular shots off Flickr, which I think are a pretty good example of what I’ve been doing.


may 006

This is a picture I took one day while I was swimming at the Taj. It got a lot of comments, and I thought I’d share it here with you. It’s basically a reflection of the back of the building in a puddle. I liked the way it looked, and flipped it around so it looked right side up. You have to keep looking for interesting perspectives like this, so you get the best shot, not just straight up.


england 005 (4)

This one, I actually printed out and framed and have on my wall. It’s from a grey April day in England, at a farm shop, and I liked the texture of the table blending into the grey of the sky. The abandoned swing and bare tree provide a nice context, I think, for putting forward what the picture is supposed to make you feel.


For a long time, I didn’t put any post production work into my pictures, apart from cropping and maybe sharpening, every now and then. But sometimes, the pictures do look better if you fiddle around with them a little bit. For the “fiddling”, I use Picnik, an online photo editor which lets you do quite a bit with your photos. For this one, I used an infrared filter, blending into the photo, so that the main subject, this old man on Mohammed Ali Road, would be in darker colours, with everything lightened around him. I like that it puts him front and centre, and sort of makes everything else a little less important, unless you look at it closely.



And finally, an example of how I made macro work interestingly (I think). I call this picture ‘Money Changing’, and it was when I was emptying my wallet of all the other currency it had. If you look closely, you’ll see a pound, some Malaysian money, a dollar bill, all held together with the rupee coin. Sometimes, I like my pictures to be like a tweet or a status message, saying a lot with very little.


What I’ve learnt most of all, is not to care about the size of the camera. You get good shots if you get good shots. I am upgrading, but not to an SLR, but another point and shoot, the Canon G12, all the features of an SLR and I can carry it in my handbag, just the same as always.


What I propose at the end of this very long post is this: if you have a point and shoot, and you can get good pictures out of it, do a post on your blog with the picture and a note about it and your camera and send me the link. We need a sort of collective—a place where people who don’t have fancy cameras can still be inspired by good photography that their camera is perfectly capable of taking. I’ll choose the five best, and if there’s enough interest, I’ll make it a monthly thing with its own Flickr group. Send me your link no later than Saturday, 25th September, 12.00 pm, IST.


  1. Here are the links! No fancy stuff though... just some random shots using my phone camera! Although I love these pics!

  2. I have the G12 and I loooove it! Great choice. As I was reading your post I was thinking you should buy one. Excellent photos!

  3. i love your blog. if you were on tumblr, i would have recommended your blog for creative writing. honestly. :)
    now as with the post, here are a couple of my favourite shots i took with my SONY DSC W110:

    hope you like it. :)

  4. actually, not a couple of shots, but just one from my favourites.*

  5. Canon G12? Damn, I thought I'd sold you the Olympus EP series. =D But yes, it's a lovely little camera, that Canon G12. Happy shooting. :)

  6. I don't know if this counts, no blog post! BUT since you are on Flickr you can check them out anyways!
    all point and shoot (canon!)

  7. Very pretty pix, I must say. I have a Canon IXUS too, and wouldn’t trade it for all the SLRs in the world!

  8. heyyyy even i use a480. in my 1st use, i thot it ws useles, but once i transfrd d pics 2 my laptop, dey i found dat d resolutn is veryyyy nice :)n picnik too :D

    very nice pics :D

  9. Hey. I use a Panasonic Lumix, which is not a point-and-shoot, but I often just keep it on those settings. It's just the tiniest bit sharper, and I love that and its auto settings. I'm at a boarding school and a couple of my classmates asked me to take these...

  10. Nice photos, nice post!

    P.S. For the money that you'll spend on the G12, you could get a decent DSLR. Get a bigger handbag, girl!!! Especially if you like to take photos @ low-light conditions, you will really benefit from the bigger sensor on a DSLR (less grainy noise) + you could get a lens that opens up really wide like the Canon 50mm f/1.8 ... your photos would be so much sharper! I can really understand the weight / size concern, especially if you want to take it everywhere ... but personally, I decided to buy a DSLR because if I was going to spend so much time taking photos, I didn't want the camera to let me down.

    Don't mean to sound patronizing or anything; I'm sure you've done your research on this.

  11. The reflection pic is awesome!
    I am in love with my Canon point & shoot too! I had an A series point & shoot earlier and now I have the Canon SD 1300. I think the SD series take really great pictures and the chargeable batteries ( which last *forever* ) are great. Also teeny enough to fit in my pocket.
    I also happen to think this camera's pics somehow make me look thinner :)
    I mainly take pics of food and post them on my recipe blog

    I love these pics I took at my macaron baking class with some random pics from San Francisco:

  12. love the green of oval..

    nice blog ... and books :)

  13. pretty pictures! :)

    dunno if you'll remember me, eM... last we talked i was an angsty little 19 year old you'd said you connected with :P nikhil, eh, remember a bell?

  14. hi eM

    I gifted my wife a canon powershot sx120 recently, strictly point n shoot. Now my worry is that there will be less words on our blog and more pictures. Have a dekho

  15. Hey, I am one day late. But by end of today, can I can I send you my own pix? They're all taken on a cell cam, but somehow my cell cam gives a lovely rich colour to the pix, so all is well. It's just that I received the link now, but would love to be a part of a collective like the one you're planning.

  16. Love your reflection shot and also like the bare swing, it seems to have a sort of story in it, and I like that it's yellow.:-)

    Oh well, rather than shuffling my feet and saying 'May I?' here are the links to some pix I took:

    one of the early ones, enroute work:

    a beautiful flowering tree cut down in front of our office

    and a recent one:

    what is the G12? I am planning to upgrade from the cell cam, don't know if I should get a proper dslr (which I can't lug to work daily, surely) or a handy advanced point and shoot.

    Best of luck with your purchase.

  17. I am glad to have chanced upon this blog. I bought the Canon Powershot A3100 IS recently and love it. Great pictures here!


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