“There must be a feeling, a mood, and an emotion.”
To begin, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what was your route to becoming a professional photographer? I’ve been interested in photography since I was young, but never took it very seriously until 5 years ago. I never thought it would take me where I am now! I always knew I want to photograph people, so that’s what I focused on. There is not easy way of becoming a photographer, there are so much to learn and acknowledge, understanding of light, shapes and colors, people’s psychology and body… But it all fascinates me so I never got tired and wanted to go further!
What is it that interests you most about photography? What do you love the most about your profession? I am always interested and motivated to capture the hidden personality of a person in a picture, see how my model or subject emerges in front of my lens. I get to meet so many different people and every one of them brings something new into my thoughts. With a photo you can capture a moment, and have it forever.
What I like most about my profession is I can freeze the moment, capture the beauty of a human and create an art.
How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos? My photography vision differs from one to another project. I see each project as one and learn about the person before I make a decision on my setup and also on my post-production.
Photographic vision doesn’t come easy to a photographer; to achieve it, I give 100% to a project, study my work, and identify my inspiration that I try to find in nature, human, lights and beauty.
I usually like to capture or create an image that talks to its audience, not just an image but also a living photo.
You have an amazing portfolio. Are there any photos or projects that you are particularly proud of? Each project is unique and has its own value for me. It is difficult to pick one project out of many. However, I am proud of one project or better say one image that I printed large and framed it on the wall. It is Jada! Her eyes mesmerize anyone that look at her portrait.
4 months after I started my professional photography, I participated in a competition that was judged by Don McCullin. I was selected one of the top 4 photographers in the competition, and then I realized I am in the right path. I started participating to national and international competition and have won 100+ awards from different photography societies and organizations (PSA, FIAP, RPS)
By participating in different competition, I evaluate my skills and develop my eyes to get better.
My work has been exhibited internationally and proud of that.
What inspires you and what gives you ideas to create your beautiful images? I don’t have a specific source for inspiration that I would rely on. It really just comes unexpectedly. It’s funny how sometimes I’m watching a movie and the only thing I really see is how amazing the lights and shadows are used and get ideas from that!
Are there something you always ask yourself/think just before you press the shutter button? There are few things that go through my mind before I press the shutter button or during the session. I do open my mind to see better with a different aspect of subject’s beauty and personality. Study their faces, movements and posing because it takes only 1 millisecond to see and press the shutter. I do also pause while my model keep moving or listening to my direction.
What from your point of view makes the shoot-session successful? What is your goal from the beginning to the end of the shoot on set? Obviously the result of the photoshoot would determine how successful it was. But it’s also down to the actual process; I think whatever you’re doing you must always enjoy it. You can never plan how smoothly everything is going to go, because some things just does not depend on me (like model getting sick, stylist bringing the pants that are too small, etc.), but the key is not to get stressed out and find ways how to deal with it.
What type of photo-sessions are your most favorite and why? My favorite has to be shooting creative beauty and portraits. I feel so in my zone doing that. I get to connect to my subject and see how ideas can be expressed via the face, angles, colors…
This is my own statement “I am a photographer and an image maker that can capture fashion, portrait and beauty in a wedding.”
Kamal, do you remember your first paid photography gig? How did it go? My first paid photography job was shooting singer for her music promotion purposes. We sat together few days before the actual shoot and discussed what she wants her pictures to symbolize, what kind of music she does and how that should reflect in the images. Everything went quite smoothly, and I noticed that she’s still using those pictures!
What’s your favorite light source, and why do you choose it? Any light source is my favorite. When I see a reflection of light from a white wall or window, a light source inside the studio that is more manageable.
Choosing a light source depends on what I like to achieve.
However, you can achieve the same look with both natural or studio light.
I love natural sunny days as my light source because I can achieve different looks.
Is there one piece of equipment or prop that you cannot live without? (Except camera :D) Did you mean except camera body? If you did, the one piece of equipment that I cannot live without is my 50mm lens.
Oh, did you mean except camera including the lens? Then the piece of equipment that I cannot live without is Ice Light!
Do you plan each photo out or are they created more organically? Can your ideas change depending on the model you are working with? There is always a plan prior the photoshoot. But the ideas might develop further when the team is around. I always do take other people’s opinion into consideration and the looks of a model can spark an entirely new idea. Of course it also depends on the actual project too.
How do you choose which images you provide to your clients? In your opinion, what makes the good picture to stand out from the average? Usually I don’t look at the pictures straight away after the photoshoot. I need my mind to rest a little from what I’ve just photographed, so I do not miss any details while selecting the images. The images that I choose must speak for themselves; there must be a feeling, a mood, and an emotion.
You bring a very high production value to your work. What is your retouching/production philosophy? How do you feel about digital manipulation and post processing programs in general? Through out the years, I learned to keep my retouching more natural and don’t create a plastic look from my subjects in their beauty or portrait images. I use Lightroom or Capture One for my photo management and basic adjustments, then I use Photoshop for further retouching. I used to use different plugins for my post-production; however, I learnt if I get a correct shot in my camera, I wouldn’t need to use other plugins or filters to enhance my final result. Don’t get me wrong, I do use some plugins like Nik software, or Alien Skin for some projects but I do keep it to the minimal.
In recent years, many photographers started selling Photoshop Actions or Lightroom Presets. I am afraid other photographers don’t realize that if you don’t get right exposure in your camera, these presets or actions wouldn’t make your image perfect.
Get it right in the camera first!
I have seen many images that human skin looks plastic and unreal. In my opinion, it is wrong and I always pass by those works.
When we talk about digital manipulation, I don’t agree to call it ‘photography’, I would call it visual art or digital fine art. Many photographers might disagree with me and I do respect their opinion.
What is the key to getting the best out of someone? Do you think that a person must possess talent to capture emotion and expression in a picture? It’s really important to capture personality and expression in the image, but it’s really not always about how experienced your model is. If you’re shooting an editorial you probably do want someone who can deliver a strong emotion while wearing some crazy outfit or expressive makeup, but sometimes I get to photograph just normal people who have nothing to do with fashion and then it’s a case of connecting to them at a personal level.
The connection between a photographer and a person is very important. The person should feel comfortable with their body and mind, connect with their sexuality and express it from their eyes. To create a great image, both should work together. The best source for learning how to pose is magazines and billboards.
I do run different workshops for my clients or models to teach them how to work with a photographer and build their confidence.
What would be your tips/advice to models looking to expand their portfolio? Always network with great photographers and check their portfolios before agreeing anything! You want to invest your time for working with people who are on the same page. Good team is also very important! In ideal world I would always recommend working with great makeup artist, hair stylist and stylist, but in case you don’t have let’s say a stylist on the set, make sure to prep yourself and find outfits that will stand out.
Stay away from selfie poses, learn about your body, look after your hair and skin 100%, drink lots of water, take care of your hygiene, exercise, eat healthy and sleep well.
From your point of view, what are the most difficult aspects of professional photography? Finding more time in 24 hours, working with the right team and marketing are the most difficult aspects of professional photography, and also photographing right person for the right project.
Photography is not just about clicking a button!
For those who want to break into the industry as independent photographers, what advice would you give to them? Make sure to photograph as much as you can. The more you do, your personal style will start to form. If you like to photograph people, make sure to be people’s photographer. Learn your camera and get it right in the camera.
Clear your mind of ‘I will fix it in Photoshop’! It is a wrong approach in photography to rely on software to fix your image.
Never stop learning! Exercise your eyes to good images!
Don’t sell your skills cheap and don’t under value your skills.
Where can our readers keep up with your work and get connected with you?
Any cool projects that you are working on or have coming up that you don’t mind sharing with us? My collaboration with makeup artist Zydre Zilinskaite artwork will be exhibited in The Brick Lane Gallery (London) from 20th July, so if you are anywhere nearby come and say hi!
One thing that bugs you about humans is that…? I really do not like when people trying to be who they are not! We are all special in a different way, why would you want to hide it!
Tell us one thing about yourself people might find surprising. I used to have curly hair and dance like MJ.