Lahore-based Zain Ul Abideen who is currently living in the United Kingdom is one of the top Pakistani Successful photographers. He is also one of those artists from Pakistan who are enlightening the name of the country throughout the world. For years now, he has been passionately working in the fields of art, photography, and business development not only to satisfy his clients but also to his own self as he always loves to be on the field. He never compares his work with other professionals, saying that he has gained a lot of respect despite a huge competition in the field. We recently caught up with him to talk about his experience for our readers.
What is art & photography for you?
The first thing I want to share is that I’m just a simple guy who loves to take photos and is lucky enough to make a living doing so, as photography is my passion and now my profession as well. I didn’t take any photo classes at all and I didn’t pick up the technical side straight away as I knew I had an eye for art, color, shape, and composition. My interest in art & photography is a natural direction to exert my creativity. In my work, I try to get a few variations I like and only pick the best ones at the end that best tell the story in one image. One more thing that I have got expertise in with the passage of time is business development. Starting from a cipher and taking it to a large clientage and viewership, I have established my brands with my own bare hands and today, with the grace of Allah Almighty, Infocus by Zain is recognized all over the world.
How do you carry out your work?
My work becomes more refined with every shoot I do. I always aim at making my work distinctive by filling the frame with details to create an artistic narrative. Fantasy plays a big part in the style of each shoot. I try and think about how I can make it more imaginative. I like to offer some escapism, to take the viewer to a different place other than just a studio, or a street, or a plain room. I like to think up imaginary places and try to construct these as part of the image. Each component works to create a picturesque illusion.
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How did you enter the field of photography?
As I share with you that photography is my passion. So I entered the field to learn more about this profession and to polish my passion. Fortunately, the surrounding environment and unique situations at the time of the shoot give me ideas and inspire me to create great work. I just go into the location and see what I want to do and where and how I want to do it.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
Frankly speaking, I may not limit my inspiration because every good work has inspiration for me. I gather inspiration on a daily basis as I go along, whether I’m surfing the internet, traveling, or reading a book. So I just love to enjoy creative and artistic work.
What is your specialty in photography?
After understanding composition, exposure, and color balance, I was well aware that a career in photography was my ultimate goal and that getting a master’s degree in Mass Communication was just a learning experience and not a career move. Although, I probably still think I am a little too good at both – journalism and photography – I never planned on being a professional journalist despite my specialization in media studies. I stayed involved in photography by shooting lots of stuff for myself and now for the development of my business.
You got quick success, how do you feel?
I feel proud whenever I am thinking about my successes in a field that is my passion and that too in a short time. This may be the blessings and the prayers that I am achieving what I was thinking in the near past. I believe most of my improvement over time has simply come from being honest with myself, brainstorming about my weaknesses and how I can improve weak points from my life.
How does social media help you in your professional work?
Absolutely crucial – such as our websites – social media forums are now our face to the world, and everyone sees your work for the first time through Facebook and other related sites. In the current scenario, you have to have a professional website besides a good presence on different popular social media networks along with your followers. I have over 0.1 million followers on my social media page, and these are growing day-by-day due to the best quality work. We are getting a lot of feedback and response from our followers on our work.
What are the difficulties a professional photographer faces?
A professional photographer has had to face unnecessary competition due to the influx of non-professional ‘photographers’ in the ever-growing local market. I started off with zero investment. I didn’t have any financial support from the beginning. I was all in debt at the start, it was a point where one is sure to quit, but I didn’t. Meanwhile, the number of photographers was increasing day by day as a trend. That time was extremely tough but thanks to ALLAH SWT I managed.
Is relevant education necessary to become a photographer?
Yes, a photographer needs formal as well as the technical education to become a true professional if someone is interested in excelling in the field. I believe photography is an art that needs relevant knowledge and professional training. For instance, I’ve done MSc Mass Communication – Pakistan, MA Global Media Management – UK with other minor courses from different universities and have 6-year international photography and film making experience.
Which one is more important – editing or photographic sense?
Both are necessary as photographic sense and editing are interlinked. You cannot separate these both – photographic sense and editing.
Having a DSLR camera is a trend now? Your take on it?
In Pakistan, most people have cameras in their mobile phone sets while many in major cities have DSLR due to attractive packages, advertisements, and purchase power. So keeping heavy equipment is not important but the use of these highly professional cameras is vital.
Whom do you want to give the credit for your success?
My grandpa – Syed Masood Haider Bokhari – always encouraged me to pursue this field as I was the one in my family to choose photography as a profession. I always consider my grandpa as a true leader in my life. Also, my mother has a supportive role in my successes, as she is too caring and a guide.
What is the expertise you gained among these years?
While working in the field and studying at the universities, I always tried to gain more knowledge and apply it to my work. The expertise I have developed over the years are:
Social Media Management
Marketing and Strategic Development Planning
What are the milestones you have achieved until now in this field?
Well, there is a huge list but I can tell the most basic achievements which include, 700+ events in UK, UAE, and Pakistan with 725,000 above social media fan following. I’ve been working in all beats as in, Fashion Weddings Brands, Lifestyle, Corporate, and Commercial, etc. I’ve also co-directed a short film in the UK. I’ve received an appreciation award from Canon MBM as well. The best thing is that I’ve taught 100s of students about Photography/Film Making. It was amazing being a judge in different photography competitions.
My work is appreciated in many countries as some of it was published in Ukrainian Magazine 2018 and other places around the world. I also achieved the honor of becoming a lead photographer for one of the best French perfumery brands in the UAE. Recently, I am working with different companies in the UK as their business/marketing consultant. I’ve sponsored 10s of events for Fashion and Entertainment as well. The best thing so far is that I am working for an organization that provides one pair of socks for every pair of socks bought. They have managed to sell 1 million pairs of socks to donate thousands of homeless people a pair of socks in the UK.
What is yet to be achieved?
As I have done a master’s in Mass Communication from Pakistan and MA Global Media Management from the UK, I am interested in going for my Ph.D. now. On the other hand, I want to achieve excellence in photography that is my passion and profession both.
Whom do you want to capture in your life?
I am very much interested to capture ancient places in Pakistan and in South Asian countries due to the remains of rich civilizations in the region.
What is the best thing about your work?
I always expect criticism about anything wrong with my work. That way you get a more honest opinion and it helps to improve your work, so all creative criticism is positive. I love it when people remark that my work is unique, but the best comment is one that a professional leaf on your work
Your message to newcomers to photography?
Be realistic and honest with yourself and with your profession. I believe that hard work and perseverance are keys to success despite the fact that it’s never easy to succeed and sustain your achievements. Also, I think there’s a lot that can be done with very basic kits and equipment.