Eyes on the Lens

One of the most challenging types of photography is portrait photography. Unlike fashion photography that relies on lighting, wardrobe and set up, the power of a portrait photo relies on the effort the photographer into capturing the essence of the person being photographed. The concept of having “photogenic” people is a myth. Even the quirkiest of individuals can look wonderful in a portrait image if the right environment and lighting are applied. In fact, sometimes a gaze into the camera lens can be more powerful than any prop in the world.

 

 

While colors can serve a crucial role in photography when it comes to amplifying a certain scene, sometimes removing them places more focus on the cast, their features, and their expressions. I worked on the below series of images with my colleagues Cathy and Garit in an attempt to create images that are raw and distinct.

 

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A dramatic contrast effect was also utilized in order to maintain an emphasis on the casts’ features and keep the audience’s focus on their faces. It is also essential to build a connection with the people you are using for your portrait photography, mainly because their personality is what gives the image all that zest and character.

 

An immense thank you to the wonderful people who helped bring this project to life:

Are there any portrait photographs that really resonated with you? Please do share 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  

 

NURTURING CREATIVITY: A Manifesto

The communication industry in this region is evolving to be a very visual one. Now, more than ever, people are using images in campaigns, on social media, and other numerous platforms. It helps put a “face to the brand”, and can also aid corporations and international brands in appearing more human to their consumers. Discussing the topic of intellectual property is important to both creatives in the photography field and innovators in the creative industry in general.  Nations, industries, and even individuals thrive when creativity thrives, and they also suffer when creativity suffers. That is why it is essential for both parties to be on the same page when it comes to the rights and obligations they need to abide by in their day to day dealings. This subject has always intrigued me as a photographer, and I am sharing my thoughts with you in the hopes that it will help shed some light on the issue of intellectual property, as a lot of agreements are often misconstrued, and not all creatives are aware of the rights they have towards their own creations. I feel that the industry may suffer due to the lack of understanding of the rights and obligations on both sides.

  1. Commissioning work and owning it are two different things.

Commissioning creative work and owning it are not the same thing. When a photographer is commissioned to work on a shoot for someone, he is licensing his creation (to some extent,) to the buyer. This does not mean that the buyer has the right to re-license the work, transfer ownership, or even use it freely.

It is important that both the photographer and the buyer know this, as it will help both of them.  The advantage for the photographer is that he will be compensated adequately for the work he has created, and the advantage for the buyer is that he will keep a positive, flourishing relationship with the photographer.

  1. Licensing is for the buyer and the buyer only. Re-licensing is a must when numerous uses are involved.

When a photographer licenses images to a buyer, they are giving the buyer the rights to using that image. This means that the buyer should not share that image with any other third parties. The same also applies to buying a software program, where you do not have the right to copy and re-distribute the program to other parties for profit or otherwise.

As for re-licensing, it is only fair to say that the channels and reach of a certain campaign also play a huge role in the price of the image. Is it not fair to say that an image that makes it on a magazine with low circulation vs. an image that has been plastered on every billboard in the city needs to be compensated for differently? I think so.

The advantage to the photographer is that he or she will feel that there is merit in all of their dedication towards making a living out of their life’s passion. This will only encourage them to come up with more creative and ground-breaking work. The advantage to the buyer is that not only will he or she have an impactful campaign, but also that the photographer may help advise as to whether the same image works on multiple channels or whether other images may help serve the ultimate communication purpose better. A win-win for both, if you ask me!

  1. Breaching intellectual property rights could leave us in a status-quo

When photographers, artists, musicians, novelists, or any type of creators are not compensated fairly for their own creations, the general spirit towards the work itself becomes a de-motivated one. Since they feel that it is unviable for them to make a living out of what they do, the quality will deteriorate, and this could be detrimental to the future of the industry and creativity in the region. The creative work will stop appearing as an appealing method to make a sustainable living.

  1. “Royalty-free” who?

One cannot compare the images that come from royalty free websites to those created by a passionate photographer who is in touch with the brand itself. Placing these two scenarios in the same category is equivalent to comparing a mass-produced basic t-shirt to a bespoke suit.

  1. Know your rights, and share them.

Independent creatives should also be aware that they have autonomic ownership of the work they produce, and it is protected by the law. This is a point I feel many people I talk to in the industry do not comprehend or are not aware of. The burden falls on both the creators and the buyers to be aware of the moral and legal rights that come along with their creations. They both should work hand in hand to help each other excel, and keep the creative juices flowing in our community.

Are there any points you would like to add to this manifesto from other IP experiences you’ve encountered? Please share 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  

Press Pause

These images were shot in Zanzibar in 2009. This was at a time when I decided to leave the corporate world for a while and pursue my passion in photography instead. The trip was elating, and encouraged me to focus on photography full-time upon my return.

I revisited these images and re-edited them recently in order to make the colors stand out more, (the same way they did in my memories.)

Sometimes all a person needs to do is press pause for a little bit, and the artistic outcome can be beautiful.

Was there a certain getaway trip you had that inspired you to create wonderful art? If so, please send your story my way.

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

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

 

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