September ‘16

September ‘16
Mahmoud Abd El Salam
Mahmoud Abd El Salam


The enterprising celebrity photographer, Mahmoud Abd El Salam, has proved himself the ultimate trailblazer with the effortless eccentricity depicted in his flawless photoshoots. We finally got to meet him, and he told us all about his secrets to reaching the summit of his success.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring young photographers out there?

I have two pieces of advice, each for different kinds of photographers. If you’re only doing it for the money, then you should target wedding photography because that’s your way to making the fortune you dream of making. As for those actually following
their dreams, I must advise them to only take pictures that they love and to never take a million photos to choose one from. A good photographer never presses the shutter button unless the frame is as perfectly set as what’s behind it.

Do you have any photographic ambitions that you have yet to achieve? What are they?

Of course, I do. Success wise, I think I achieved a lot of things in a time span that could have been longer, but thankfully wasn’t. However, there are still places I have yet to visit and international fame I have yet to gain. There’s always room for improvement, and that’s something I never stop working on.

What’s your favourite image you have shot?

That’s a tough one to answer because I love all my work, but the closest shoot to my heart was the one I did with Hanan Tork. I’m very grateful to it and it’s why I made it this far.

What’s your dream destination to carry out a shoot?

India and Russia for sure. As a photographer, I think it’s quite obvious why I want to go to India. People there are much more natural and spontaneous, and the sceneries there are generally easy on the eyes. As for Russia, I love the culture and there are countless nature spots that would make beautiful photographs.

You’re mainly a celebrity photographer. But is that what you enjoy doing the most?

Of course, not. I love shooting cars and food! Those are my two favourite things to shoot. I think vehicles make the most beautiful still models. I also sometimes feel like cooking different plates just to take pictures of them.

How would you describe your style?

My main style is the lack of it. I never stick to just one, and I’m open to try different things every time. I think I like to go a little crazy and do what’s unexpected, yet classy. I also tend to only do what I am convinced of. My clients trust my work, and so I always have the capacity to craft the shoots the way I want.

Do you prefer to work alone or with a team?

There are lots of things I prefer to do myself, but I can never work without my team. I wouldn’t go anywhere without my assistants and editors. However, when I say I like to do things myself, that only means that I must do the shooting and the final editing, not necessarily the in-between. I also never tell my team members what to do. I’m completely against the idea of sitting down with the photo editors to guide them. You have to give them the space and freedom to modify whatever they feel the need to improve, then you can put the final touch after they turn their work in.

What’s your favourite photography accessory/lens other than your camera?

I cannot possibly choose a favourite! From all the filters and camera lenses, each have their own use depending on the shoot and the lighting and everything else. Although the 100-400 lens is the only I feel most comfortable with, that does not mean I don’t find uses for other ones.

What camera/gear/software do you prefer using?

I love Cannon products, but my favourite camera is definitely the Hasselblad! As for lighting gear, I use what’s available, nothing in particular; it’s the camera brand that matters the most. I let my editors use whatever software they feel comfortable with, but it’s mainly Adobe Photoshop.

Is there a message behind your shoots?

I mainly photograph celebrities for a living, so it’s hard to say I have some profound message behind all of my photoshoots. I work in advertising, so it’s different from illustrations. However, some of my shoots in the past have conveyed humanitarian concepts and whatnot, like the Hanan Tork one I previously mentioned. Besides those, any other message I try to portray is that natural is best. I never like to over edit my shoots or use ridiculous lighting and filters. I like my photographs as natural as they can possibly be.

Which photographers would you say have influenced you?

David LaChapelle for sure! He’s one of the best photographers the world has ever seen. His work is insane! He’s my favourite mainly because of his use of basicallyevery colour on the spectrum in each of his shoots, all of which are employed so homogeneously. In my opinion, he started an artistic revolution that took photography to a whole new level with ingeniously unconventional notions behind his shoots.

How do you get the person or thing you’re shooting to turn out just the way you want?

There are three steps I always take when preparing for a shoot. I have to first make a brief for the shoot, try to think out of the box and come up with something that hasn’t been done before. Step two is to think of who I will hire to work with me for styling and makeup..etc, that’s when it comes to technical preparations. The last step is to get the person I’m shooting to turn out consistent with the theme and idea I chose, and that just comes with trial and error.

How did you end up being a photographer? Is this something you have always planned to be?

It was definitely planned. It has been something I’ve always wanted to do for years. I studied for it, and I decided I wanted to make it my profession alongside my studies until I graduate. I had a brilliant idea for a visual storytelling shoot one day and I proposed it to Hanan Tork, whom I met through my sister, and she loved it! I was so lucky to work with Hanan Tork because I had no portfolio or work experience then–all I had was an idea. The idea was awarded in a festival based in Milano, Italy around nine years ago. It’s one of my greatest achievements, and it was the gateway to making photography my career.

By Mayar El-Shamy