Aanchal Wadhwani (Matryoshka)
Canon 5D Mark 4.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
Aanchal Wadhwani is a photographer, entrepreneur and actress born and raised in Hong Kong. She started her journey as a fashion designer with the understanding that people portray a reflection of themselves through what they wear.
While studying, she founded her company ‘Matryoshka’ and began designing handmade jewellery. She was later introduced to Photoshop and instantaneously fell in love with the limitless canvas through which she could create.
Aanchal Wadhwani spent a year retouching photos for professional photographers before venturing into photography herself. ‘Matryoshka’ was soon transformed into a photography production company and Aanchal has never looked back since.
As a front runner in the world of fashion and beauty photography, Aanchal joined with a partner to start ‘Academy of Design’, an institute that provides affordable English and Cantonese language design courses taught by industry experts. She enjoys meeting new talent and playing a part in their journey to grow in the industry she loves.
Having spent years behind the camera, Aanchal had the opportunity to explore her creativity through acting after being scouted for a role in a mini-series for DBS Bank, ‘Sparks’. She found that stepping on screen has allowed her to better understand herself and has since furthered her on-screen career by appearing in several local movies as well as on Channel NewsAsia’s documentary series ‘Indian Diaspora in Asia’.
As a creative, Aanchal is constantly brimming with new ideas; whether it’s the next photo shoot, the next venture or the next performance.
-Did you always want to be a professional photographer?
I always knew I wanted to work in fashion. I started my career in fashion design and during my degree I was exploring many areas of fashion like styling, modelling and Photoshop. I instantly fell in love with being able to create without boundaries unlike fashion design where I had to work around the human body. Shortly after, I had the opportunity to organise my first photoshoot and, fast forward 8 years, here I am creating images full time!
-What words best describe your style of photography?
Vibrant, bold, edgy and conceptual.
-Is there a theme or concept that runs throughout all of your work?
Although my work and style changes with my experiences, I’m very much attracted to darkness – whether that comes across through lighting or a subtle concept, I think it’s pretty evident in most of my work.
-How do you attract new clients? How do you market your business?
I strongly believe social media plays a huge role with attracting new clients. Facebook and Instagram pages act like a quick portfolio of all your work but at the same time new clients get to see how your followers or other clients react to your images.
-What is your post-production workflow like?
During a shoot, I mostly shoot tethered so as I’m shooting, my images are being organised into different folders by looks. After the shoot I go through the shots with my client or myself, rate the favourites and remove the unwanted images from the album. Then, I immediately back up the images into a hard drive to make sure I have a copy of everything incase of any errors.
Following image selection, I begin my workflow on Photoshop starting with RAW adjustments before going in for deeper work. I try to eliminate the need to do too much in Photoshop through great lighting and direction during the shoot.
-What is your dream project?
My dream project is actually one that I have started working on already! The P.E.T.S. project is a personal project I was able to actualise with the support of my team of videographers, animators, my friends and my family.
I love animals and the aim of the project is to share stories from real people who care for different types of animals in different situations to tear down the stigmas and hopefully remind people that before they get a pet, they take the time to do their research.
A pet is a responsibility for life! The first video has been released on youtube (https://youtu.be/lyudvxc0ljA) and I will be sharing more stories soon. I also have a second project in mind once this one is complete but will keep that a secret for now.
-What is your creative process like? What are you start, middle and end points?
I start with research. If I’m working on a commercial project, my goal is to create images that target my client’s audience efficiently while expressing uniqueness and creativity. After fully understanding what I am trying to achieve in the images, I create a concept and a storyline that the images can flow through. If my team has been given a video project for the same product simultaneously, this is where the story can come alive!
As soon as the concept is confirmed, I arrange for the talent to be scouted and communicate with my videography, makeup, hair and styling team to brainstorm how the images and video will actualise. Props are made, the set is arranged and a schedule is made for the rundown of the shoot.
Although delegation is key, I like to be present throughout the process because the clients that work with me trust my vision and my creativity is what helps me stand out from other photographers.
-How do you approach posing or directing your subject?
Working as a model and actress myself allows me to understand what it feels like to stand in front of the camera. I always have a print out of poses during a shoot and when shooting video, my team and I prepare a backstory to help the talents get into character.
I enjoy working with subjects that bring their own ideas to the table, but if I’m inspired in the moment, I usually jump on set and demonstrate the poses for the models.
-What is your general guide when it comes to lighting?
I always start by lighting the subject. I begin with the highlights and work towards the shadows. After the subject is perfectly lit, I work on the background lighting.
-What is your top technical tip?
The best technical tip I would say is to know your gear. Once you are a master of your equipment, you can push its limits. Great work doesn’t require the top of the line gear, it requires someone with talent.
-What was the best career advice you were ever given?
I would say the same as the question above. Know your gear before you push its limits. I was given this advice unknowingly back in high school when I spent my weekends studying fine art. My teacher had me drawing lines for weeks and then spheres, cubes and small objects for months to perfect the technique of pencil drawing.
I was so driven to create something in my own style, I kept questioning why I had to repeatedly draw lines. He then told me all the best artists spent years mastering the basic techniques before being able to push the limits and create something new. The same is true for every creative industry! I see it now after years of working in the photography.