The Crown Prince of Dubai is among the most active leaders on social media. Even as he posts details about his adventures, official engagements and inspirational fitness routines, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum also finds the time to encourage talented individuals.
Two such lucky photographers who got ‘liked’ by the Dubai Crown Prince on Instagram are Indian resident Nishas Ahmed and Pakistani expat Altamash Javad.
A freelance photographer, Nishas had just returned from his day job last week when a notification on his Instagram made his eyes pop. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that Sheikh Hamdan had commented,” he said. “I checked and rechecked my account at least 20 times to make sure that it was not a fake account. After a while, my friends and family found out and they were overjoyed.”
The 24-year-old, who landed in Dubai in early 2019, had taken the photograph in November the same year when an international yoga practitioner came to the country. “We wanted to take some shots and when we asked Shangri-La, they gave us permission to shoot within their premises,” he said.
However, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that Nishas got around to posting the photo. “Because photography is something I do in my free time, it sometimes takes time to go through all my photos, find the best and post,” he said. “I never imagined that this is the response I would get.”
Meanwhile, Altamash (@aljvd) is a professional photographer whose photos have been ‘liked’ and commented on by Sheikh Hamdan several times in the past. “The first instance was back in 2016,” he said. “Instagram had featured one of my photos, so he came to my page and commented on it. My friends actually were the first to notice and I got a ton of messages and calls. It was such a huge moment for me. I humbly thanked him in the reply.”
Shortly afterwards, in 2017, the Abu Dhabi-born Pakistani took up photography full time. He says it took him a long time to decide to make the switch. “I took it up as a passion in 2015, first starting with my phone,” he said. “One of my biggest inspirations to take up photography came from when I attended a talk by a photographer named Reza that HIPA (Hamdan International Photography Award) hosted. It showed me the power of photography. I haven’t stopped since.”
Following this, he has had a number of achievements including being featured on the official handle of Instagram five times and winning a Sheikh Zayed Mosque photography competition. He also counts the role he plays in social causes as a big win. “More recently I was part of Tashkeel’s plastic exhibition,” he said. “I donated a framed picture from that exhibition to a school. It showed the impact of us littering and what it could do to wildlife.” Altamash is currently documenting mosques across the world through his page @masjidseries on Instagram in a bid to combat Islamophobia.
Nishas Ahmed also has a similar backstory as to how he started photography. “I first started when I was in university and the iPhone 5 had just come out,” he said. “I started experimenting with photos. That is when a friend gifted me with a basic Sony DSLR camera. It was a really precious gift and I use the same even now, although I have bought a newer camera.”
However, Nishas admits that being a photographer is tough. “I have approached a lot of people asking them whether I could work for them,” he said. “I am yet to receive a positive response. It is nobody’s fault, but the truth is, there are a lot of good photographers out there. For now, I am taking on a lot of freelance work so that I can build a portfolio. I hope that someday I will be able to switch to photography full time.
Altamash agrees that it is a tough market for photographers. “Photography popularity has increased greatly,” he said. “It has become a very saturated market. There are always new talents coming in who are clueless on pricing and the vast majority of clients are looking to always save money, hence taking on the lowest quote. You have to just keep distinguishing yourself and giving quality service.”
Altamash’s advice for new photographers:
1. Don’t shoot for social media.
2. Walk a lot. Let the moments happen and capture.
3. Learn the basics of photography. It’s all about light. So learn how aperture, shutter speed and ISO interact with each other.
4. Have a project with a purpose and create around that.
5. Don’t over edit.
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