Business + Marketing

Goddesses Next Door: Empowering Everyday Women in India

March 20, 2024

By Abbey Pleviak

That everyday women have goddesses within them is the radical notion that Bangalore, India, photographer Sudha Chandani Khatri makes evident in her portraiture of the women in her neighborhood. While glamour photography for everyday women has grown exponentially in popularity in the Western world, largely thanks to the work of portrait photography pioneer Sue Bryce and her mentees in The Portrait System, in India, this is still a relatively unknown field. Sudha’s mission is to change that and help everyday women in India feel as beautiful, elegant, and empowered as goddesses through portrait photography.

Sudha Chandani Khatri © Sudha Chandani Khatri

Sudha, who holds the prestigious title of Canon Influencer, worked as an engineer and wedding photographer for a decade before deciding to go full-time with weddings. Since she had a few months before the wedding season began, she decided to embark on a personal project of photographing women in her neighborhood. Initially, she put a call out on Facebook, signing up twenty of her neighbors for photo sessions. From there, her business took off through word of mouth, and taking glamorous portraits of everyday women became her main business.

Sudha recently manifested her vision of creating a Women’s Day exhibit called “Empowering Elegance,” an exhibit of 50 inspiring women next door. View footage and stills from the event.

Learn more about Sudha’s inspiring journey on her recent appearance on The Portrait System Podcast.

In the Q&A below, Sudha shares how she made breakthroughs in her business, pushing past fear to build a business she is proud to share with the world.

© Sudha Chandani Khatri

What has been your biggest breakthrough in business?  

1.    Capturing the women in my own neighborhood. Many photographers pick models or young good-looking girls to build their portfolio, but I started my portraits portfolio literally with the women living in my neighborhood. I never had to share any transformation stories because people could see the live transformations staying next door, which created a wave, and the rest is history. 

2.    Pricing Model. I have an outcome-based pricing model, and it is totally customer centric. This is quite encouraging for anyone who is even slightly interested as they have nothing to lose if they don’t like the pictures, but they have lot to gain because they have already lived that beautiful experience. 

© Sudha Chandani Khatri

How did you push past fear when building your business?  

I thoroughly analyzed all the challenges I faced in my wedding business. I also made a list of things that didn’t make me happy and created my new model addressing all of those. My corporate experience also helped me a lot with planning all the contingencies. 

Making a connection with your subject is one of the most important parts of a great portrait. How do you make lasting connections with your clients?  

I am a people’s person, and I am blessed with this particular skill. Hence, I don’t have to put any extra effort into this. However, if you want to develop this skill, then all you have to do is genuinely care for your clients, and you have to really like them from your heart. Everything else will fall into place. 

© Sudha Chandani Khatri

For someone starting out on their photography journey what advice would you have for them?  

1.    Consistency can do wonders. 

2.    Doing is more important than doing perfectly. 

3.    Everyone doesn’t have to like you or your work, so be insensitive to negative criticism even if it comes from your loved ones. Just listen to your heart, create what touches your heart, and your tribe will find you. 

Do you regret any decisions you have made in your business?  

Nothing so far. Even if something doesn’t work, it will be learning, not a regret 

© Sudha Chandani Khatri

Everyone has a favorite shoot. Tell us about yours and why it’s your favorite.  

Almost all my shoots are my favorites because I live all my girly dreams through my shoots. Whatever I can’t do to myself, I make my subjects do — be it wearing a stunning dress or giving a super-hot pose. I started doing portraits because it was food for my soul, but it ended up becoming food for my stomach as well. Most of the time, I get so engrossed in the shoot that I start seeing myself in that subject. What a fulfilling experience it is. 

What fellow artists in the industry do you gain the most inspiration from?  

1.    Sue Bryce – Dear Sue, You are no less than goddess, I worship you every morning in my heart. You have played a big role in what I am today. You have transformed my entire life in a most positive manner and no words and no actions can ever can repay what you have done for me. Heartfelt Gratitude — I wish I get to meet you someday in person. (fingers crossed)   

2.    Lindsay Adler 

3.    Paulina Duczman 

© Sudha Chandani Khatri

Where do you see your business in the next five years?  

I love teaching, and I see myself as an educator and a consultant helping women set up their profitable portrait photography business. I want to setup at least 100 businesses in the coming five years. As of today, “magazine-style portraits for everyday women” is still an alien concept in my country. I want to make it a norm. I want women to celebrate themselves in every way possible. 

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