Giving Back in the Creative Community

In our modern day and age, everyone is thriving to become the best at what they do in the creative field that they are in, and that is why it is essential for all photographers to share their knowledge with each other. I got to where I am because amazing photographers shared their knowledge with me, and this is my attempt in paying it forward. There is a well-known proverb that says, “A candle does not lose its light by lighting another candle.” I firmly believe that is the approach we need to take in the photography field. In an effort to do so, I took part in workshops with Gulf Photo Plus. I have also started organizing numerous workshops with my team to help other photographers reach their goals and ambitions. These workshops can either be classes or one-on-one sessions that are tailored according to desired learning objectives and outcomes. I have had the honor of coaching students from various backgrounds and careers.

The first workshop was a product shoot that focused on the different ways a photographer can tackle complications with lighting, knowing that product photography can get challenging when you’re dealing with shiny and reflective surfaces. No pre-set formats or rules were shared, but instead my aim was to teach every photographer I interacted with how to identify a problem, how to approach it, and how to solve it.

 
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The students had a visible improvement in their work, and I am personally content with the outcome of these projects.
The second workshop I held revolved around the topic of fashion photography. In it, we discussed various lighting techniques for different environments (studio vs. outdoor,) as well as post-processing and editing techniques on Photoshop.

 


I truly enjoy teaching photography because it helps me look at things from a different perspective. It also gives me a great sense of joy to know that I am giving back to the creative community. Nothing can compare to the smile on a photographer’s face after he or she has just learned a new trick that will empower them through their artistic journey.
Are there any photography tips and tricks that you’ve learned that stuck with you throughout your work? I’d love to hear from you.

Should you wish to contact me for a photo-shoot or to learn more about the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to reach out on info@issask.com

The Two C’s: Creativity and Collaboration

Creative photography flourishes when artists from different genres with varying styles and backgrounds collaborate with each other. That is mainly because everyone has something great they can add to the table. Not only does this enable the creation of more ground breaking work, but it also encourages photographers, stylists, designers, and models to all learn from each other and keep evolving as artistic individuals. One of my collaboration projects was with Amani Al Shaali, a well-established and talented Emirati photographer, who is well-known for the mesmerizing stories her photographs unravel. I worked with her in an attempt to explore new styles. Working with Amani has really broadened the way I look at shoots, how I approach lighting in a project, and shown me a lot when it comes to post-processing and editing techniques. Below is the result of our collaboration. It is meant to capture that thin thread between despair and hope, darkness and light. I sincerely enjoyed working on this project.

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The second collaboration project I worked on had a lot more individuals involved. Some may argue that the more cooks you have in the kitchen, the more unorganized the process will be. However, I disagree with that notion. The more talent you have in the room, the more likely it is that the conflicting ideas will collide and result in… pure creative magic. Here are the credits for the team involved:

Here is the outcome:

The look and feel we were trying to go for was that of an over-glamorized after party. The work was intended to look, fashionable, edgy, bold, colorful, and modern.

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It was truly a pleasure working with these individuals. Although it was exhausting, I am sure each one of us left the shoot that day with a new learning.

What about you? Are there any collaboration stories you would like to share? I would love to hear from you!

Should you wish to contact me for a photoshoot or to learn more about the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to reach out on info@issask.com

Creative Compass: The Importance Of A Photography Brief

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Reading through a client brief for one of my current projects inspired me to write this article. In the world of photography in this region, the power of one key element is often underestimated: a complete photography brief. Some newly started photographers do not push back for one, and this may be due to the immense pressure that they face as art creators because they are always eager to attract new clients. Think of a brief as the middle ground where the client and the photographer meet. Its role is to amplify the client’s objectives, while steering the photographers’ focus into the right creative territories. There are many key elements to cover in a photography brief like: timelines, preference for stylists, location, number of images, a shot list, models, the story the images need to tell, how they need to be told, budget (as it helps measure the scale of the project,) and the list goes on… When I asked my good friend Bjoern Lauen, (a Dubai based photographer) what he looks for in a photography brief, this is what he had to say:

The points I look for in a creative brief are the elements that enable me as a photographer to create imagery that meets the client’s expectations. The brief is a literal translation of an idea that has been developed by a creative team into written and spoken words that allow and outsider to understand the idea and the thoughts behind it.”

Since producers also play a crucial role in shoots, I also asked my dear friend Alina Al Hamdani the same question and here is what she had to say:

I like briefs that are detailed, visual, and communicate clearly the background, the scope, the message, and the deliverables.”

The more detailed a brief is, the more successfully it fulfills its purpose as a compass that guides both the client and the photographer. This helps ensure that the best outcome is delivered, and that the client has a document to look back at for reference as the project progresses. The worst brief is one that is verbal in its nature, because both parties tend to forget key points and it is open to misinterpretation. A brief needs to be documented, and cannot be done over a phone call or in a meeting only. To me, a “perfect” brief is not only a document that clarifies what needs to be created in terms of images, but also provides stimulus and inspiration for the photographers to refer to during their creative process. My friend Jonathan, a producer at Araman Studio, also shared his input on what a good brief does:

The best briefs are the ones that are creatively challenging. The ones that bring up the proper questions, such as: What can be done here that hasn’t been done before?”

There are times where clients are unable to adequately explain what it is that they are looking for in their images. In such cases, my recommendation would be to ask them for an inspiration board that consists of snippets of images that are close to what they are looking for in terms of photography style and colors. One important thing to note is that a brief is not always set in stone. There is always room for it to evolve as long as both parties are aligned on timelines and expectations are managed. I hope that this sheds some light on how clients can help photographers and producers help them.

Should you wish to contact me for a photo shoot or to learn more about the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to reach out on info@issask.com

The Meeting of Two Worlds

Over the last few years, I have gathered plenty of technical and creative skills which have enabled me to create this series of images. These pictures are a part of an ongoing collaboration project that portrays a “modern Arabia” under a new light. The intention is not to mold the styles into that of a specific Bedouin culture, but to fill the gap where the modern Arab world and previous Bedouin identities meet. The wardrobe was provided by M.A. Fashion in Sunset Mall and the stylist assisting us was Daniela Rose. (To see more of her fascinating work, you can visit stylebydanielarose.weebly.com) Our make-up artist was Elena Khmelenko.

Setting up the looks required a meticulous attention to detail; as all of the colors and tones had to complement each other either directly or indirectly. The women’s harsh gazes into the camera balanced out the warm colorful clothes they wore. I would admit that these pieces are best admired when looked at thoroughly, as we have designed every detail: the women’s accessories, the henna on their faces, the burqa, the traditional fan as a prop, and even the background behind them (which was intended to give the impression that they were in tents, although this shoot was held indoors.) The head piece in this series was actually fabricated from coins and inspired from old photographs of Bedouin weddings.

It is always a pleasure of mine to see creatives from different nationalities and walks of life collaborate with each other to experience the birth of new ideas. I will be shooting more of these images to complete this story as it unravels.

Some may see these images and this time laps video as a portrayal of the current Modern Arab Women’s identity; courageous, welcoming, assertive, calm, and sitting still where the modern Arab world and the Bedouin world meet.

 

 

What do these pictures mean to you? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Should you wish to contact me for a photoshoot or to learn more about the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to reach out on info@issask.com

 

Twin Jewels

 

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The production of beauty images is a long and intensive process that requires a considerable amount of planning. The work starts long before the shoot itself. The team and the creatives brainstorm concepts, plan ahead, and align on the work early on.

For this photoshoot in particular, I had the honor of collaborating with this wonderful team:

Sonia Martorana – Make Up

Edgard Saliba – Hair Stylist

Nadine Kanso – A Dubai-based jewelry designer and good friend of mine, who was kind enough to lend us some of her creations to incorporate into our shoot.

Marie and Lucile – Models

Shooting jewelry can be a tricky process on its own. There are so many factors to consider: lighting, which lens to use, creating a soft reflection, the list goes on. Shooting jewelry on models, however, is an entirely different and even more challenging territory. It requires that both elements (model and jewelry) are prominent, without one overpowering the other when it comes to reflections and lighting.

I have created a video to give you an idea on how these shoots usually go.

 

If you’re interested in seeing how the finalization of the images went, check out the below speed edit videos.

Should you wish to contact me for a photoshoot or to learn more about the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to reach out on info@issask.com

The Mystery of Nunu: A Photo Essay.

My passion for photography stems from my curiosity towards people and understanding who they are, what makes them tick, how they think, and what makes them do the things that they do. I presume that this could be due to the influence of my previous marketing career, where I learned to use the art of story-telling in order to reach out to target audiences effectively.

Some may say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I believe that a picture is worth a thousand stories. Photography is the ultimate story-telling tool. It is a snippet of time. The capturing of a fleeting moment, where nostalgia and beauty meet. It is no wonder why we all keep photographs of the things that are dearest to us.

Unlike the creation of music and writing, photography treads into existing story-lines: the stories of real peoples’ lives. It is the magnifying glass between us and another world. Some are obvious, and others are so mysterious and enigmatic that they leave you with more questions than you had when you first started shooting.

During my last trip to the island of Mariah in Oman with my  mentor and friend, David Nightingale, and another fellow photographer, Catalin Marin, I noticed graffiti on the main ferry port saying: نونو “Nunu”!

 

Who is Nunu? Who is calling for Nunu? Is Nunu a term of endearment? Or is it a tease? As we drove around the island we found more and more of the same graffiti spray-painted in red everywhere… from the walls of houses, to the back of street signs, and even rocks and sidewalks.

Our day became an obsessive chase to unravel the secret of Nunu. Every time I had spotted a new graffiti, we would stop the car, and jump out to take photographs. Some were obvious and exposed, while others were hidden in places you would not expect them to be.

Exploring these visual elements in a natural setting was a very intriguing process. Each of us had narrated the same story in our own style. Although we were taking photographs of the same things, we viewed them from different angles. (David’s take on this story will be posted as soon as he publishes it.)

What do you reckon is the story behind this graffiti? Is it a story of love? Nostalgia? Obsession? Have you come across anything like this in the past? Please share your stories with me, as I would love to hear them.

Should you wish to contact me for a photoshoot or to learn more about the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to reach out on info@issask.com

 

Inner workings

Every business tries to connect with its customers and stakeholders on a personal level. Showcasing photographs of your team members at work is a great way to foster trust, introduce your team, and share a glimpse of your organization’s inner workings.

An office lifestyle shoot is also a fun experience for your employees to connect. It also serves a memorable outcome that they can take back home to share with their family and friends.

What are your thoughts on office lifestyle shoots? Have you ever done one? What was the outcome like?

I’d love to hear from you.

Should you wish to contact me for a photoshoot or to learn more about the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to reach out on info@issask.com

 

Search for Beauty

In my latest adventures, I’ve been venturing into beauty and fashion photography. I’ve done Lifestyle, Product, interior and environmental portraits for a while and I decided to try something new.
I found that shooting beauty images is helpful in pushing my creative and technical boundaries by getting me to experiment with things I’ve always known, but haven’t applied. I think the reason I never applied those thing is that I was afraid of trying. I wasn’t confident in my retouching and editing skills enough to do it. I was never a fan of relying on a third party for retouching, I enjoy the whole process from to start to finish. Over the last few months I’ve been honing my skills to the point where I feel like I’m comfortable enough to produce beauty and fashion images myself.

I’m constantly learning new things, and I’m always keen on applying what I’ve learned from these experimental test shoots in client shoots. I’m excited to share some of the images I’ve created with you guys:

Adventures and Explorations

Over the last few months, I’ve gotten to experiment with a lot of different things. I tried to make the best out of the beautiful winter weather in the UAE, and do as many outdoors shoots as I can. As the season is coming to an end, I wanted to share some of my adventures with you guys.

It started with a shoot in Dubai Creek with Bader and Fatima

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This year, I decided I needed to push myself. I feared getting stuck in a rut without realizing it, I feared the thought of my work becoming redundant and monotonous. I tried approaching photography in a new way and open up my mind to different ideas from different people.
Like this shoot I did in Hatta with Raluca

 

 

I gained a new perspective when I decided to dive into collaboration with other photographers. I met Emirati photographer Amani AlShaali during an exhibition that we both took part of. The exhibition took place in The Empty Quarter Gallery, the most established fine art photography gallery in the region. I showcased a series of images from my rose water project that I had spoken about in this blog post.

Amani and I agreed to start working together. Her style is radically different than mine. Most of the time, she approaches her work with meticulous planning. But there were days when I woke up to beautiful clouds, called her up, picked up a model, and went to shoot. No planning, nothing specific in mind – just the need to create something amazing.
And we did, here is the first image we worked on together:

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These visual exploration exercises helped me stay fresh. I think they’re important in generating new work and keeping creativity going. I look forward to what the next few months are going to bring. But I think that now, with summer approaching fast, we’ll have to get creative indoors so we don’t torture models in 45 degree weather.

Stay up date with new adventures by following my Instagram account @issask

Help I’ve been robbed

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I’ve decided to tell you my story in the hope that promoting the fair use of creative work, protecting intellectual property, and raising awareness in the creative community, will positively reflect on the quality of work produced in the UAE and in the region and reflect on higher-quality work produced for public and commercial clients.

What many people tend to forget is that the creative community also has living expenses and costs associated with producing the work everyone so enjoys, and by exposing our work in the public domain we are not making it free for all to use and take advantage of. If we do not get compensated fairly for the work we produce we will eventually not be able to sustain producing this work or will not be able to survive doing what we love and giving you what you enjoy.

Stolen Photo

So you wake up one fine morning, you open your browser, newspaper or favourite magazine, and you see a photograph. For a moment you squint in disbelief as you realise that the work that you are looking at is actually yours! A piece you worked hard to produce and invested countless hours of learning, experimenting and contemplating to produce. Not to mention the investment in gear and equipment, maybe even a trip to a far-off place to actually take the photo. Yet someone somewhere (in my case a global brand) thought that they could take this work and use it to promote their business (advertisement campaign) and make money out of this promotional activity, without compensating you for your work.

This happened to me in Dubai last year.

Today, after almost one year of legally claiming my Intellectual Property rights from the people who used my work without permission, I have finally been compensated for the use of my works

Know the Law

Understanding copyright laws and the protection they extend to the work of photographers and content creators in the region generally, and in the UAE specifically, was one of the first things I spent time on when I decided to take up photography as a profession.

I hope that sharing the details of my experience will help you stand up for your rights and protect your intellectual property as stipulated by the local copyright laws.

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Be Prepared

First of all; familiarise yourself with the local copyright laws. You can find multiple free documents from local law firms online.

Here is one clause – out of many – from UAE local laws that deals with the topic of intellectual property:

UAE FEDERAL LAW NO. (40) FOR THE YEAR 1992 FOR THE PROTECTION OF INTELLECTUAL WORKS AND COPYRIGHT

ARTICLE (2) The authors of the innovative intellectual works in literature, art and science, whatever the value of such works, their type, the purpose of their composition or the method of expressing thereof, enjoy the protection prescribed in this law. Protection includes the following intellectual works: Books, booklets and other written matters. Works given verbally as lectures, speeches and sermons. Dramatic plays and musical plays. Musical works whether accompanied by words or not. The works of designing eurhythmics and pantomime. Photography works. Cinema, television and broadcasting work, and creative audio visual works, and computer programmes. Works of applied arts whether handicraft or industrial. Works of drawing and painting with lines or colours, architecture, sculpture, decorative arts, engraving, designs, geographical plans designs, and relief maps. Encyclopedias, sundries and selections which form, in respect of selecting, arranging and editing their material, intellectual creative works, Protection also includes the works for which the aspect of expressing in writing, sound, drawing, photography or motion.

Second; make sure you are the only person with access to the image RAW files, and that you have your image metadata in order with fields of “Copyright” and “Creator” completed. This is something you should be able to program on your camera. This way all your photos come out of the camera with this information already embedded.

Third; make sure your signed agreements are properly written in such a way that clearly defines the scope of work, the duration of the license and the exact usage of your work that the license permits. For example, specify in the contract whether your images can be redistributed or republished by the magazine in a future article, other than the one you have authorised them to use your photographs in.

Fourth; when any of your agreements is breached do consult a qualified lawyer who can advise you based on the specifics of your claim.

In my case, a friend referred me to Mahmood Hussain Advocates & Legal Consultancy. Mr. Mahmood and his team had in-depth knowledge of the local IP laws in addition they can think out of the box. Their strategic approach to the claim eventually lead to a substantial out-of-court settlement.

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Have a Strategy

I will walk you through the procedure in the UAE. It might differ in your country.

  • Keep in mind that the UAE laws including the IP law may, depending on the case scenario, protect you at the Civil and Criminal levels. Plan your strategy using the most suitable legal path to get compensated for your work.
  • Sometimes the infringement is outright theft when an image is copied, for example, from your website and used without any license whatsoever. However, other infringements may be less straightforward when, for example, images have been paid for but are used outside the agreed scope. Say the images have been acquired for internal use but ended up being used for an advertising campaign, or used outside of the agreed license time frame. These points bring to light the importance of clearly having a contract that defines and limits the usage of your work based on the price paid.

 

What Next?

  1. Collect evidence:

Screen shots, photographs, copies of material where your image or images have been used.

Screen shots showing metadata of the original files, negatives if these images have been shot on film.

If the images have been used outside of an agreed license, make sure you have copies of the license and any supporting contracts and documents.

  1. Consult a legal adviser

(whenever possible) before adopting any future steps.

  1. Send out an invoice

If confirmed by your legal advisor also, draw up an invoice for the usage of the works. In most cases an invoice coupled with a polite note is likely to resolve the issue. If this happens everyone walks away happy and you get back to creating more attractive work.

  1. Legal notice:

If your invoice is ignored or challenged then unfortunately you will need to resort to the legal system to secure your rights. Get in contact with a lawyer to help you with this.

This notice has to be registered in court and needs to be delivered through the court courier. Your notice has to outline your claim as well as the actions you expect to be undertaken to resolve this claim. It should clearly define the execution time line. The cost of sending the legal notice directly through the court – and not through a lawyer – is approximately AED 200. Naturally if you ask a lawyer to do this for you there will be additional costs.

  1. File a criminal complaint

Infringing Intellectual property is a criminal offence in the UAE, this means if found guilty the offender could also face jail time in addition to substantial fines. If you have not been able to resolve the issue after all the above attempts then you have no choice but to file a complaint at your nearest police station. The police will review presented evidence and present the case to the public prosecutor who will in turn bring up the case in front of a judge.

FEDERAL LAW NO. (40) FOR THE YEAR 1992 FOR THE PROTECTION OF INTELLECTUAL WORKS AND COPYRIGHT

ARTICLE (38) The person who published a work not owned by him without getting a written permission from the work’s author or his heirs or his representative, will be punished with imprisonment and with a fine of not less that (50000) Fifty Thousand Dirhams, or with either both penalties. The person who claims, contrary to the truth, that he is the owner of a work, shall be punished with the same penalty.

  1. Civil law suit

The outcome of the criminal case, if it is in your favour, will also support your claim if you further chose to do so with a civil lawsuit.  Keep in mind this is the expensive part and you need to consult a lawyer before you move ahead with this. If you have all your evidence in place and the client wants to avoid criminal charges you may even be approached to reach a settlement. It is up to you then to agree on a settlement and drop all charges or let the legal system run its course.

I really hope no one has to go through this, though it is unfortunately part of the reality of the market place especially out of lack of awareness of the legal rights extended to the artist.

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Conclusion

Make sure you have your own contracts in place and that you clearly agree with your clients when selling an image or producing work for them. Do this by outlining usage limitations and also note that you have a legal right to credit for published editorial work being in print or digital even if it’s paid for.

FEDERAL LAW NO. (40) FOR THE YEAR 1992 FOR THE PROTECTION OF INTELLECTUAL WORKS AND COPYRIGHT

ARTICLE (9) The author alone shall be entitled to decide publishing his work or art, determining the method of publication, and exploiting his work in the way she determines for exploitation. No-one else shall be entitled to exercise this right without a notarised written authorisation from the author, whomever the author deputised to do so, or his successors after his death..

ARTICLE (8) It is not permitted to publish, represent or circulate any work whatever its kind is, without fulfilling the following conditions: To attach with the work a certificate of origin showing the name of the author or the person to whom the right of exploitation has been assigned. To attach with the work a permission from the supplier or the owner for presentation or circulation showing the geographical area and place, wherein the presentation and circulation has been permitted. To attach with the work a certificate from the supplier showing the payment for the copyright whether by public performance, making models of the work, or copying it for distribution.

Alternatively

There are many other avenues where you as photographer can sell your work and still be protected, by not dealing directly with the clients for example. In the UAE consider associating with a reputable stock agency offering you a platform to reach wider market while protecting your work.

 

Issa

Dubai June 2015

 

Special thanks to my family, very close friends and the team at Mahmood Hussain Advocates & Legal Consultancy who supported me and believed in me throughout this experience

Thanks Dima Khatib for the review and edit.

 

 

 

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