Interview with Fashion & Wedding Photographer Sharjeel Ahmed
“The most important thing I have learned is to be patient and if you love something really stick to it and give it your all.”
Sharjeel, What was your route to becoming a professional photographer? What is it that interests you most about photography? My route to photography was never planned nor was it something I had ever imagined myself doing. I moved to London in 2010 which is where I recite now to pursue a career in Television and Radio presenting. I had a background in media production and my interests were always filming and video editing. My dad got the ‘Photography Bug’ about 10 years ago and but it never really interested me as I always had other goals to make it in show business. About 5 years ago one day my mum said to me ‘Why don’t you try photography and photograph weddings for a bit of money?’ I had that typical non photographer mentality where I was like I don’t want people to see me on TV then photograph their wedding because I thought it would bring my stock down and people wont perceive me as a presenter anymore. Boy was I wrong? I just one day said “Ok, I’ll give it a go” and that same day my dad brought me my first camera which was a Canon 550D and ‘It was love at first click.’ I started doing weddings but realized I have a love for portraits.
So to answer the question is was my mum’s idea and dad’s influence. I just wish I cared back when he used to bring new lenses and cameras home because the stuff I once saw as junk turned out to be a goldmine which I inherited.
How has photography influenced you as a person? As person photography has influenced me to really appreciate the way we look at things and how certain things can tell a story but if you don’t want to take a minute to observe then you won’t be able to see it. I’m an observer which I was actually unaware of. I have realised that there is a big beautiful world out there to explore and I now really appreciate scenery, nature and big cities. Most importantly I have learned to become a better communicator with people in order to get the right shots out of them.
How would you describe your photographic vision? I really wish I could tell you my photographic vision but it’s so diverse that I cannot pinpoint on it exactly. I would say that I am a fashion / portrait photographer so my vision is quite editorial looking or with male models I have that GQ magazine vision. As a wedding I’m very artistic and love taking that epic looking wedding shot or I like my wedding shots to look like a fashion or editorial style. That’s just the fashion / portrait photographer inside of me and there is another side of me who loves taking night shots around London or New York and travel photography in poor countries where I can tell a story with my portrait shots.
In your opinion, what makes photography an art? In my opinion what makes photography an art is when you can see or capture certain things people cannot or when people can see what you have captured and how you have capture it and appreciate it.
What is your favorite light source, and why do you choose it? My favourite light source is natural daylight as it is always the right amount of light you need and when clouds change colour it can give moody looking shots. I shoot a lot outdoor but one light source I use a lot is the Godox 360ii which provides me with amazing lighting not only during the day but at night as well. They are well within budget and provide fantastic results.
What is your favorite thing to shoot for yourself? Why? Portrait and fashion sessions are my favourite and my favourite location to shoot is in Notting Hill, London. I love shooting in Notting Hill because of the roads, the colourful houses and it has a certain buzz and look like no other part of London. But these are not high end or really edgy fashion shots but simple, chic and beautiful models.
How much do you research your subjects before photographing them? If it’s a city such as New York then I google the iconic landmarks and see where they are and how they have been shot for inspiration and then add my own touch to it. If it’s a location shoot then I look on the internet for pictures of the place or if it is easy to get to then visit the location myself and pick out the spots that stand out to me and the model would look nice in. In the summer I did just that for a beach shoot and the results for me were out of this world. With the models I go on their Facebook or Instagram and see how they are in front of camera, what works for them and what does not and mostly to see what shots they have done before so I don’t repeat somebody else’s work.
In your own eyes, what are the biggest challenges for an independent photographer? The biggest challenges as an independent photographer is getting noticed, recognition, a following and the break you need to keep on getting work. There have been many times where I have been rejected by agencies for test shoots with new models just because they go by other agency photographers or by people that they been recommended. There are so many challenges and people may not trust you enough to photograph their wedding or memories but you need that one chance to change their perception. It can be very frustrating and disheartening but you really have to stick to it and keep trying.
Is there something you always ask yourself/think just before you press the shutter button? Yes, there is I always keep asking myself if my shot is in focus or is the model about to blink?
Sharjeel, what from your point of view makes the shoot successful? What makes the shoot successful is energy. If you have positive energy where everybody is happy, having fun and cooperating with one another then you have a great shoot. Teamwork is as important if you work with a great team and all get really well then you have nailed it. This makes everybody bring out the best in them and you will see amazing results.
In your opinion, what makes the good picture to stand out from the average? Other than image quality there’s use of lighting, composition or if people can see your vision and passion. I know I keep saying this but if your image can tell a story of your subject then those factors can make an image stand out from the average.
What is your retouching philosophy? And what do you think it delivers in the final image? My retouching philosophy is different for each picture I take sometimes when I am about to shoot a pic or haven taken a pic I already know how I want this image to look in post -production. A retouched image is the final image people do not want to see a dark picture or spots on their face. Retouching gets rid of unwanted items and that final element of making somebody or something looking beautiful.
Most of all retouching is the crucial part of delivering the final product people often wonder why photographers charge what they do they don’t know the amount of time put in to post production our work does not just end at the end of the day of a fashion shoot or a wedding. Personally my retouching philosophy is to enhance not to make things look unrealistic such as fake looking extra plastic looking skin. I’m afraid that just does not do it for me.
What would be some tips you would give to a beginning photographer? To a photographer just starting out my advice is don’t go crazy on a first camera and get a semi pro camera such as a canon 750D (I’m Canon biased) and try to learn everyday. Watch tutorials, ask other photographers questions, know what you want to shoot and concentrate on that style, do lots of research. I’m lucky my dad helped me out a lot with settings and equipment but you really must be dedicated to it don’t be that guy or girl who only shoots in automatic mode. I’m happy to answer questions on Instagram @sharj_photography because I was that person once.
What photographers from the past/present have influenced you the most and why? My father because he has an eye for nature and landscape which none other he sees things which I can’t see or get out of an image plus he is the reason I got in to photography. Professionally Anna Fowler is my inspiration as a photographer her work is just amazing she shoots beautiful women and portrays them in the most sexy, elegant and chic way possible. A lot of my style is based around her influence on me as a photographer and from there I have added my own touch. Those 2 photographers are amazing.
What are your future ambitions? Is there somebody you are fascinated about and you’d like to work with in the future? Why? My future ambitions to own my own studio where I can shoot fashion and Vogue / GQ style shoots. Every photographer says it but yes I would love my work published in Vogue and GQ. I want to be that go to guy for all agencies and magazines. I really want to shoot fashion in New York and travel all over the world. I will continue shooting weddings but would also love to spend the day with Anna Fowler and shoot with her. I would also like to teach more photography and do more videos.
What role does social media play in your photography business? Social Media is everything you know I still do not have a website because I am so critical of my work. Believe it or not only this year I felt like my work is up to the standard where I am happy with it and am ready to build a website. I use social media such as Instagram now more than Facebook to promote my photography and through Instagram I see other photographers and their work and get inspired on an everyday basis. Social media is the first thing people look at when they wake up in morning I am guilty of doing that on a daily basis to see what response my images got and how my following is. I believe people use social media more now than websites and people can judge you on likes and followers. I use social media not so much to ‘promote’ but to exhibit my work. All famous brands use it I’m just lucky Instagram is about pictures which is what I do and I love it.
For those that would like to consider working with you, what is the best way to start? The best way to start working with me is drop me an email [email protected] or message me on Facebook or Instagram. I am always looking for assistants that is the best way to learn. You will learn so much on shoots, believe me that is what I had to do.
What do you love the most about your profession? What I love the most about my profession is that it’s not a 9 – 5 office job which we hate but have to do nor does it feel like a chore. Every shoot is a new challenge not repetition, you meet cool new people and make friends along the way too. You are your own boss and no manager is there to talk down to you however, the client or agency hiring you is technically like your boss as they have hired you but you are there because they value your work. I also love my job because as cliché as it sounds I love seeing smiles that I put on people’s faces when I show them their images from a shoot a wedding especially. It is their reactions that also make it all worth it and brings me happiness.
What is your favorite thing to do when you are not behind a camera? When I’m not behind the camera my favourite thing to do is watch Wrestling I’m a huge WWE fan till this day and I never miss it.
What is the most important thing you have learned that you want to share with the world? The most important thing I have learned is to be patient and if you love something really stick to it and give it your all. There many hardships and obstacles along the way and you may feel like giving up but if you really love it and have talent it will come do not stop believing in your talent. You have to chase your dreams and do not ever under value your work some people may think your services are not worth what you think they but that is their opinion. Give it your all so that later on in life there are no regrets. It has taken me years to finally get the recognition or respect from my peers for my craft because they may not have taken it seriously in the past but I made sure I gave it everything and upped my game. I did so much research on lighting, equipment and still am learning till this day. Don’t anybody tell you that you can’t do it or are not good enough just check out my Instagram page you will see my early work and see it build to where it’s at now and I have left that there to remind me of how much time and effort I put in to get to the level that I am at now.
Tell us one fact about yourself that our readers may find surprising. Photography is not my first love, wrestling is growing up I always wanted to be a wrestler and I even travelled to Dallas, Texas this year on my own to watch Wrestelmania 32.