At a workshop hosted by The Commons Photo Studio last Tuesday, fashion photographer Raad Rahman talked about making his mark in the demanding industry and offered advice to aspiring photographers through personal anecdotes.
Based in Toronto, Rahman has shot clothing campaigns and editorial spreads featured by internationally-recognized magazines, such as British Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Rahman is a completely self-taught photographer.
According to Rahman’s website, he graduated from the University of Manchester with a degree in Economics. He is also stated to have experience in investment banking.
His online portfolio features works from beauty editorials, menswear designer, and womenswear designer. He also does work on personal projects and journals on his website.
When he was nineteen years old, Rahman bought his first camera during Christmas time. During the event, Raman recalled trying to replicate photos off Pinterest and “blasting everything on Photoshop afterwards.” Soon, Rahman quit his job as an investment banker and started a career in professional photography.
Rahman claims that almost all professional photographers struggle with income. Presently, he is not paid for 85 per cent of the work he does, which includes shoots with freelance models whom he takes the initiative to reach out to. He says that a couple years ago, an extra bottle of water was cost-prohibitive and that he only had enough income to pay his rent.
When asked whether it’s feasible for emerging photographers to make a living off solely their photography, he replies that only if one is willing to dedicate enough time to the craft. Rahman said, “Photographers are paid based off credibility and their repertoire of work. My best advice? Just go shoot.”
To beginner photographers, he suggests creating a concrete pitch for a shoot and learning photography with friends. Once, he wanted to take a photo with his subject in water, so he asked one of his friends if she would pose in a spring in her prom dress. An online magazine took note of his photos and used them for its feature spread the next month.
Another tip he suggests is to go on trips to photograph someplace new. One of his favorite locations to travel to is Montreal and the countryside of Quebec, because it pushes him outside his comfort zone of being in a studio. According to Rahman, a photographer’s work can easily “get repetitive unless something tangible changes like the background.” He also emphasizes how composition can make or break a photo. Photographers and magazine photo editors “see things whereas a normal person wouldn’t,” even if said things are unfocused in the photo.
The last piece of advice is on marketing and style. Rahman explains that everyone should have a personal style. Being inspired by and trying to “emulate photographers you look up to is great,” but Rahman emphasizes that photographers seeking to stand out must have a unique personal style.
Rahman concludes his workshop leaving us to ponder on his favourite quote regarding photography: “It has little to do with what you see and everything to do with how you see them.”