Every photographer sees pictures as one of the simplest means of communication. Mohammed Alamin Samaila, CEO Photography by Amin, is no different. His love for beautiful imagery and stories told by pictures in a split second cannot be over emphasised, he tells TMG.
TMG>Tell us about yourself:
Mohammed> My name is Mohammed Alamin Samaila and I come from Plateau State. I’m a graduate of MBA(IT), Bsc Software Engineering from Staffordshire University, University of East London respectively and CEO, Photography by Amin.
TMG> Why photography?
Mohammed> Well, as cliché as it sounds, photography is my hobby and the love for doing it takes away the stress of the profession. I could not picture myself doing a regular 8-5 job, plus it’s fun and you always meet new and interesting people.
TMG> What was your original career path? How did it grow from hobby to professional photography, and actually doing it for a living?
Mohammed> Initially I wanted to be a software developer, but soon realised I was more drawn towards visual content and contextual elements. I’ve always documented my travels with my phone and that pushed me towards getting a camera and I kept upgrading ever since and the need to do it professionally came when my school started paying my photography club to take pictures during school events, festivals and functions. So I took it a step further to hone my craft and try and be more professional. When I returned to Nigeria, I worked at a Photo studio but felt stuck creatively, so I quit and my friends started helping me get jobs and one thing led to the other.
TMG> Where and how were you trained? Did you go to professional school to learn photography & what credentials did you earn through the program?
Mohammed> I didn’t attend a photography school, however, my passion drove me towards attending lots of workshops and courses. Among notable ones are are Sony Alpha Workshops, Learnfinity, Creativelive and KelbyOne. I’m still learning though, so I would not rule out photography school yet.
TMG> What other positions/jobs have you previously had before going into photography?
Mohammed> Well, I run a vegetable farm which produces beef and cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and Cucumbers. It’s taken much of my time in the past but I’ve slowly given my passion the time and energy it deserves so the farm has taken a back seat.
TMG> What motivates you to continue taking pictures economically, politically, intellectually or emotionally?
Mohammed> Pictures are one of the simplest means of communication and are more dangerous than weapons in some instances, hence my love for beautiful imagery cannot be over emphasised. It’s the stories the pictures tell in a split second and how it defines the subject that motivates and wants to keep telling more powerful stories to my imagery.
TMG> Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
Mohammed> Gregory Heisler, Joe McNally and Dani Diamond are photographers I always look up to. Heisler’s ability to bring out emotion in his portraits is something I’m still trying to emulate. McNally could light anywhere with ease and Dani’s images have a look and feel that’s just mind boggling. Henry Orgi (Big H) and Obisomto are also awesome photographers; I love their work.
TMG> They say photography is a medium of expression. What exactly do you intend to express with your photographs?
Mohammed> I am always trying to appreciate nature and depict it in the best way my technical abilities allow. I always try to avoid a busy and distracting background, colors need to balance out hence complementary colors are a must on most of my pictures, and finally, placing my subjects to a pleasing compositional frame and then click the shutter.
TMG> How do you get the person, place or thing that is in front of the camera onto the film, chip or paper in just the way you want?
Mohammed> I think the most important thing when it comes to portraits is the relationship you build with your subject. Being the director means I will always engage with my subjects and make them comfortable and relaxed. Once they are in this state, it’s an easy task to make beautiful photographs.
TMG> What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused as you photograph?
Mohammed> In terms of Camera gear, I strictly use Sony Alpha and some of their best lenses (Zeiss 16-80f4,70-200 f2.8, 50mmf1.7, 11-16f2.8, 90mmf2.8 macro).I use an Apple MacBook Pro 15”retina for all of my editing due to its power and portability. I like to use reliable equipment whenever I can afford them, as that keeps you focussed on your subjects without fussing with technology .
TMG> How many employees report to you and how efficient are they? If you are alone how do you manage?
Mohammed> I work alone presently but usually have an assistant or two whenever I need extra hands on set. I usually work with people I trust are reliable and professional in handling themselves. I’ve developed a system that lets me work alone as well, with lots of redundancies just incase something decides to fail.
TMG> In case of problems, how do you manage? Do you seek for help from another professional?
Mohammed> I am always expecting a problem so I have enough backup in most cases, however, I have a set of really awesome friends that help me when I am in a situation that needs them.
TMG> What do you do to stay educated about new trends?
Mohammed> I am mostly overloaded with information on my industry, especially now with the ease of internet access. I always learn new things or better ways to do things. I’m on You tube at least 3 times a week learning new techniques and a couple of websites to keep me updated on what is going on in the photo industry.
TMG> What are your challenges and how have you been able to handle them?
Mohammed> My major challenge has to do with being under appreciated as a professional and this affects most photographers and our ability to grow and compete with our global peers. The recession is not helping as well, hence this is the perfect time to do lots of personal projects and try new things that will hopefully be used in future Jobs.
TMG> Give us an example of someone you have trained or mentored. Where did they start and where are they now?
Mohammed> I haven’t trained anyone professionally but I do guide people willing to learn mostly through assisting me and learning practically on the job.
TMG> Tell us about an accomplishment that you are most proud of in your career.
Mohammed> While I’ve won a couple of photography competitions, it’s the friendships that I’ve built through photography that I am most proud of.
TMG> Describe to us a problem you have had with any customer and how you handled it.
Mohammed> There was this time a customer got me to shoot their pre-wedding with the agreement and promise that they would pay with the wedding booking. I ended up forfeiting that payment as they stopped picking my calls. Needless to say that it taught me a lesson and has affected my payment before service policy ever since.
TMG> What is your management style like and how do you handle your clients?
Mohammed> Every potential client is important and every customer is special in their own way. I usually go above and beyond to make my clients happy. I never promise something I can’t deliver and really value building a relationship out of every client. I’ve gotten lots of return clients and referrals from happy ones, which is something I am building upon – trying to please them without hurting my business.
TMG> Tell us 3 things that you consider to be your strengths in photography?
Mohammed> 1) My smile is one I think – I always handle every possible situation with a smile on my face and because I mostly enjoy working it’s usually there by default;
2)Planning – I usually plan out every thing and go over every possible detail before any shoot and that has helped me anticipate and prepare for eventualities;
3)Friendships – I can’t overemphasise how friends have helped me and how they opened doors where there were none .
TMG> Tell us something you would like to learn or improve upon as a photographer?
Mohammed> I would like to learn to market my business better and effectively. I’m a shy person so I’m not always willing to walk up to everyone and try and sell myself but that is something I really need to improve on and perfect.
TMG> How do you manage risk, in terms of damages or loss?
Mohammed> Risk is present in every endeavor so my best techniques in mitigating it involve having contracts drawn with clients, Model releases with models, insurance for your equipment but above all, being careful and not taking anything for granted is a must.
TMG> Would you encourage other youths to go for entrepreneurship instead of depending on government for jobs?
Mohammed> One way to encourage other youths is by succeeding in what you’re doing and being a good role model; most will want to emulate you and with that drive they’ll chase their passions which no government job can provide. Another way is to encourage and nurture young talent from a small age so whatever they do becomes second nature to them. The Chinese Olympic teams are an excellent example of this on how they’re grooming different sets of youngsters that’ll represent their country in upcoming competitions.
TMG> Do you have time to socialise and how?
Mohammed> Yes, just a little though. Hanging out with friends , doing some fun adventure or even taking photo walks with other photographers with no goals but to share and network with each other. Other times it’s traveling to new places to meet new people and experience their culture.