We’re bringing you our next artist feature from the July winners of SLR Lounge Awards! These articles are meant to give the photography community insight on how our award winners created their business, grew their portfolio, and achieved excellence in the industry.
Abul Shah, an award-winning wedding photographer based in Hertfordshire, England, entered a winning image into our Awards submissions, earning an Apex Award in the Wedding Photojournalism category. He also earned an Ascent Award for Wedding Portraiture in June. Let’s take a glimpse into his creative process and learn what tools and ideas have inspired him along the way.
Your clients hire you for your specific vision. How do you define that vision or approach to photography?
That’s a good question! To define my photography style is difficult for me, because I consider myself to be a real lover of the arts, and so I’m a fan of many different styles.
When I meet potential clients, I show them examples of my work, which goes a long way towards helping me to find out what their preferences are and what kind of images move them. My ultimate goal is to make people feel emotion when they look at the images, and perhaps even to show them that there can be beauty in things that they don’t always see. If I understand my clients better, I have a better chance of delivering something that resonates with them.
My approach to photography is that I’m a visual storyteller. I plan ahead and shoot with a purpose, namely that of producing a wedding album that documents the day — from the venue, to the guests, and of course, the emotions. By paying attention to the details, I can recreate the atmosphere of the day. Anyone looking at the wedding album will be able to imagine being in the venue, marvelling at the intricacies of the little details, seeing the guests, and reacting to the emotions that have been captured on the day.
One of my favourite wedding photographers, and my mentor, Adam Alex, taught me the value of street photography, and to look at weddings as a form of social photography. This has played a big part in my development as a photographer.
What’s the one tool you use, that helps you daily in managing your business?
I keep a journal, which contains my to-do task list and goals for the day, plus a task board on the wall beside my desk to mark off completed tasks every day.
It is important to complete tasks and respond to enquiries promptly, but also to have something with you at all times to write down any ideas, opportunities, inspiration, or tasks that come up, so that’s why I always carry my journal.
What marketing advice would you give to those starting out in the wedding industry?
Get out from behind the desk and network. It really is invaluable. Many of my clients hire me because of a recommendation, which is the most powerful and most trusted form of advertising. Before I was so fortunate to receive recommendations, I used to go out and network with wedding vendors, suppliers, venues, industry-related professionals, and other photographers. Immersing yourself in the world of the wedding industry can be infinitely more rewarding than even a well-targeted Facebook marketing campaign. Go and meet your local industry professionals, make a good impression, and always be the hardest worker in the room.
If you could only shoot with one lens, what would it be and why?
Tough question! For a few years, I was (and still remain) in love with my Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens. Not only is it an incredible fast lens, but because it’s a prime lens, it encourages me to work for the image I want and prevents me from being lazy. Having said that, my new appreciation for street photography led me to invest in the 35mm f/1.4 Sigma Art lens. It’s definitely a contender to be one of my new favourites.
What software do you typically use to edit?
90% of my workflow is completed in Adobe Lightroom. There are times when I import an image into Photoshop, for images that need more technical work, but generally, my workflow is pretty straightforward, and consists of importing images, culling the ones I don’t want, and processing. Once that is done, I put that particular wedding to one side for a day or two, and come back with fresh eyes, which helps prevent over processing images or sometimes, missing something that needs a little more work.
When making albums, I used to create each spread in Adobe PS. Yes, it would take me a week to complete a single album draft! Now, I use Fundy, and my productivity has increased tremendously. This has freed up time that I can allocate to other important tasks. It was a big investment for me, but it has proven to be something I couldn’t do without now.
Favourite place for inspiration/ Education?
One of my favourite local places that has helped with my personal development as a photographer is my local Camera Club. I found and joined a local club near me, W.C.C. (Watford Camera Club, UK), where, for the first time, I got to meet so many like-minded and passionate photographers.
But it was watching images getting judged that really changed things for me. Understanding what judges look for, what appeals to the eye when viewing an image, what the important technical factors are, the different aspects of creativity, and how subjective opinions can be was a real eye opener for me.
Then, a little over a year ago, I joined the SLR premium lounge, and wow, did things change for me! I suddenly had access to a wealth of information, tutorials, reviews, and videos about photography at my fingertips. For the first time, I had found a community and online resource that covers everything, from posing wedding couples to optimising Lightroom for speed. Now with the awards feature, I can browse through images and get inspiration from so many talented photographers from across the world.
I have invested a lot of time going through many of the online workshops, and I know that I wouldn’t be the same photographer without SLR Lounge.
See more of Abul’s work on his Website & Instagram and view our latest SLR Lounge Award Winners here! Don’t forget to submit your images before September 21st to be considered for our September 2017 Award Winners!