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Smartphones put tourist shutterbugs out of business

About four years ago, tourists used to flock around the 100 odd photographers in and around Udhagamandalam to have their printed pictures with the picturesque evergreen and colourful backgrounds in memory of their trip to the ‘Queen of Hills’.

Smartphones put tourist shutterbugs out of business
Tourists taking selfies in Udhagamandalam

Equipped with a DSLR camera and an album with photographs of different sizes in hand, each tourist photographer used to have a printer wrapped in a water proof bag to protect it from rain, big printing ink bottles and a battery to power it at the backend to get their clicks printed. 

“Now, we have to run after tourists as we frantically try to get at least half of the business that we got once,” laments 59-year-old D Mohammed Ilias who had been a photographer at the Government Botanical Garden for 42 years. He attributed his poor business to use of mobile phone cameras and people buying cameras.

He became a tourist photographer following the footsteps of his father A Gulam Rasid, who did a roaring business more than six decades ago. Ilias recalls that there were only seven tourist photographers when he entered the field. “Some families used to click a set of pictures and what we demanded was the price. We used to wind up business in the afternoon,” he said. 

Selfie sticks add to problems: 

Fellow photographer A Hussain says that the impact of tourists using their own DSLR cameras is about 5 to 10 per cent. “But mobile phones have affected business by more than 50 per cent. Selfie sticks have made things worse. I have done business for more than Rs 4,000 a day during the peak season. Now, it is difficult to do business for even Rs 2,000 a day,” he remarks.

“We pay Rs 2,500 a month to the horticulture department to get permission to click pictures of tourists. We get to click 50 pictures a day during the peak season and not more than five a day during off season. When it rains, we return empty handed. Most of us have jobs in different fields and we transform ourselves into tourist photographers only during April-May,” he notes.

Over the years tourist photographers have tried their best to change with time to attract tourists. They were printing 8X6 size photographs a few years ago. Now, they are now printing A4 size pictures for a price range of Rs 70 to Rs 100. “But we reduce the price if they click a few more pictures,” says photographer B Das. 

Price of the printed pictures varies from one tourist spot to the other. The price of an A4 size picture is Rs 70 at the Boat House and Doddabetta, Rs. 80 at the Botanical Garden and Rs 100 at the Rose Garden. Similarly the price of 7X5 and 6X4 photographs ranges between Rs 30 and Rs 50 and Rs 20 and Rs 40, respectively.

Young photographers 

Tourists don’t want printed pictures and they ask for help to click pictures on their mobile phones and cameras. A few young photographers are ready to offer this service for Rs 10 a click. “We know the right background and also the technique to take good shots. If we click 20 pictures we easily make Rs 200 without investing on a camera and other equipment,” says D Sadiq, a young photographer.

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