What advice would you give yourself if you started photography from scratch again?
Shoot less. Shoot better. When I started I overshot. Sometimes I still do. I didn’t take enough time to frame my images and really look around the viewfinder to fill the frame thoughtfully. As you gain experience this will come more naturally and you’ll be able to do it faster. It shouldn’t be random, it should be deliberate. That separates average wedding photographers from great ones.
What do you think are some clichés in photography you tend to avoid?
When I started, selective colour was really popular. When I saw images like that I believed they were a fad that would pass and didn’t produce them. Wedding photos are meant to last a lifetime and be passed down generations. I think it’s important that they be timeless and not quickly dated by being trendy with the latest tricks on our computers, so when you look at them in 20 or 50 years, you won’t be distracted by some passé Photoshop trick, you’ll be able to appreciate the beauty of the image as it was intended when I took it.
What would you want your viewers to take away from your work?
When people view my images, I want them to be able to feel the range of emotions and excitement of my clients’ weddings. I want them to feel the intimacy between the people there and be moved by the beauty of the venues we shoot at. I hope that my photographs come together to offer viewers a compelling story about how the day unfolded with the different quirks and characters that made that day unique. In short, I hope my photos help make your day memorable.
Among your works, which one is your favourite? Why?
One of my favourite engagement shoots was for two friends, Ian and Holly, at the Mena House next to the pyramids. They were a great couple to work with, fun and comfortable in front of the camera. Holly used to model and Ian is a TV news correspondent so they’re both used to it. They came to the shoot with fun creative ideas on creating a vintage feel that matched the historic Mena House Hotel perfectly.
How do you prepare or work on taking better pictures?
There’s inspiration for improving your photography all over the place. I travel a lot and like to view natural and architectural beauty all over the world to give me new perspectives on landscapes and angles. I follow the work of photographers in many different countries to make sure I’m getting a diverse variety of visual stimulation. I’m lucky to have friends in this industry on every inhabited continent in the world and keeping up with what they’re doing helps make me a better photographer.
How much of your shooting is instinctual vs. planned?
Most of my shooting is instinctual. Going into a wedding with too rigid a plan or an overly detailed shot list is more likely to lead to you missing great shots because you’re preoccupied getting through your list rather than paying attention to what’s happening around you. I also try to find new angles and locations at venues to keep things interesting. A risk for experienced photographers is getting repetitive. Trying out new angles and techniques helps keep your work fresh, dynamic and interesting. It also helps you as a photographer maintain your passion for your work.
What tools do you use for post processing? Explain your workflow.
In our post processing, we almost exclusively depend on Adobe Lightroom. It allows us to organize thousands of RAW images and adjust them to correct for white balance, exposure and contrast while also offering you the tools to render beautiful black and white images. I personally like my photos to be as close as possible to what I want in the camera. I never like to depend on editing too much in my photography. As for my workflow, after a shoot images are given to an editor on a separate hard drive for selection and editing in Lightroom. The catalogue of edits is then sent back to the office where they’re reviewed and exported for clients.
How do you generally deem black and white vs. color? Do you find them to be separate techniques or interdependent?
Colour and black and white images both have their place and can complement each other in a collection of wedding images. In my work, I find black and white images great for showing off interesting light and shadows as well as to add more depth to powerful moments captured in my photographs. Colour can be more expressive in capturing the excitement of wedding parties or stunning scenery at certain wedding venues. We shoot everything in colour initially and then decide during processing whether to use colour or black and white.
Did you study photography or did it start as a hobby?
Photography started as a hobby for me. In February 2008 my friends in grad school bought me a digital SLR camera for my birthday. I immediately got obsessed, reading everything I could find about photography, lenses and lighting. I practiced nonstop and my friends were nice enough to let me photograph them all the time at gatherings. A few months later I moved to Cairo and in the summer of 2008 I photographed my first magazine cover and spread in (in)Sight magazine actually.
What were the difficulties you encountered when you embarked on this career?
Not many. I was lucky to connect with some great venues and wedding planners early on who helped me find great clients when I was still new to the industry. One challenge is developing an efficient workflow when starting out by yourself. When I started I did my own marketing, editing, archiving and client relations. Now I have staff that helps me manage much of the non-photography work. Saving money to buy all the appropriate equipment wasn’t easy but it was very important. Before you start shooting weddings by yourself, you need to have a full kit with backup equipment. That means having enough spare equipment as well to get you through the day if anything goes wrong, from lenses, to flashes to cameras to batteries.
How has social media played a role in today’s photo standards and expectations?
When clients post your photos onto social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, they’re giving you a chance to reach their friends and families. Social media has its drawbacks as well; the ease of downloading and sharing images has led to many cases of plagiarism and dishonestly posting the photos as their own work. I’ve had many people steal my work over the years. One easy way to check the authenticity of a photographer’s work is to check their large print portfolios, as they are much more difficult to steal, as high-resolution images aren’t as readily available online.
Who are your favourite photographers, and how do they influence you?
My favourite contemporary wedding photographers are probably Jonas Peterson, Nessa K and Ryan Brenizer. Jonas is a phenomenal storyteller. His images come together seamlessly to offer viewers a beautiful narrative of his clients’ special days. Nessa’s portraiture is deeply intimate with beautiful lighting and unique perspectives that capture and retain your attention. Ryan Brenizer is a brilliant problem-solver who can make stunning portraits in a gray stairwell if need be. I’ve had the privilege of shooting with Ryan last fall in New York. It was great to have the chance to see this master at work.
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