It is time for a more unstructured article than usual. I saw this video about a story of a brand spanking new photographer who landed a dream job when he didn't know jack about his camera or really anything at all with respect to photography.
I couldn't contain myself after watching it. I'm surprised there are less than 2,000 views on this video, especially since it comes from Pat Flynn. More people need to see this story, especially if you are one of those people who want to be a photographer and haven't made any money on it yet.
Chance of a Lifetime for a Beginner Photographer
The video below tells the story of Walid Azami. Watch it!
Walid shares a crazy origin story during FlynnCon that blew everyone away. This story is about how a photographer who was once so green and yet became Usher's personal photographer on tour.
It all starts with something in his gut telling him to buy a camera – something he had no idea how to use.
From Gut Feeling to Determined
Walid had a weird feeling to buy a camera. The next rent cycle is coming. It's not a fiscally responsible thing to do but he's been feeling this way for 2 weeks now. So, he goes to the camera store with $2,000 left on his credit card and bought a package that he most assuredly paid too much for.
Afterwards, he almost felt like he made a mistake. He didn't even know where to begin. Didn't know what F-stop was. Didn't know that Photoshop existed. He starts at ground zero.
Within that same week of purchase, he runs out of money, wondering how things will be like next month. Then gets a call from a friend of a friend with an opportunity of a lifetime. This opportunity, to do a behind the scenes video for Usher! WTF!?
He gets this special feeling, validating his original feeling and recent decision. Now, he's super motivated to see this photography thing through, despite his extreme lack of experience and qualifications.
Fueled by Persistence and Passion
Talk about on the job learning. He made notes like “f-stop means…” He just decided to go along with it. There's literally nothing to lose at this point.
When it came to the actual hands on side, he was just pushing a bunch of buttons. Light temperature is off. “Pictures are coming out, but not the pictures I want.” He's trying to figure things out literally by doing them in the moment. That's some courage that many people don't have.
Usher walks up and asks him what F-stop he is using. Walid of course doesn't know and didn't want to answer in that way. He literally just looked up what that meant and was experimenting with different settings. He mainly stuck to taking wide pictures, like a security shot. Walid looked him and walked away. “It's better to have him think you're crazy than incompetent.” Again with the courage thing. I probably would have froze.
When There's a Bump in the Road
Walid returned home and went from being excited to being shaken up. The pictures are way off color. He only had a 1GB card and shot all pictures in JPG small. From there he edited pictures in the default Mac photo viewer (comparably Photos app for Win 10) and chose the only 10 pictures where Usher was identifiable.
Then he put the ISO all the way up, so the pictures were so grainy and so contrasted. From there he kept hitting buttons to make them black and white since they were all kinds of different colors and just sent those 10 best pictures in black and white.
He gets a call back in 30 minutes with a confirmation that Usher likes “old Hollywood” and he wants Walid to go on tour with him!
Wow! What a story. That's how he learned photography folks. His first Google searches were things like “How do you take off a lens on a camera.”
From then on, he stayed up late and made a promise to himself that he was going to learn 1 new thing a day. He even steered future photoshoots towards the topics he was learning at the time. He made things up and learning on his own. People around him took notice and reached out to him when an opportunity arose.
He didn't just stop with Usher. He's since gone on to photograph celebrities including J Lo, Madonna, Ricky Martin, Mariah Carey and many more. This isn't just a bunch of celebrity photos either, his fashion and beauty photography is incredible.
The reason why I resonated so well with this story is that I had similarities in my start as well. No, I'm not a successful celebrity photographer, nor do I claim to be on the same artistic caliber as Walid in any way.
Many years ago, I had someone come up to me and ask me to take photos of part of the inventory of a pawn shop that they wanted to move online. They knew I was a reseller and did eBay full time (at the time) and that I took above average pictures. This venture was successful and eventually led to an opportunity that I thoroughly enjoyed, taking condo photos on the beach for a real estate investor. All the while, being a complete n00b when it comes to photography. Hell, I still consider myself to be a hobbyist photographer to this day.
Besides similarities in starting, I also enjoyed this story about Walid becoming a professional photographer when he really had no business being one (at least at the time, according to normal progress). You're supposed to spend countless hours learning and perfecting your craft, building a portfolio, building a website and social media presence, heavily network, and then do some work for free before even being considered to take low wages for your first real gig.
This story is one of putting yourself out there and breaking down barriers. There are so many good photographers out there that have difficulty monetizing their passion. I often wonder how close these people truly are to having the career or business of their dreams.
Thank you, Walid, for sharing your story about listening to our gut feeling, and just putting ourselves out there. Nature abhors a vacuum and you never know just how the universe will respond and make things happen for us.
What did you take away from this? Start before you're ready? Keep pushing until you're capable? Listen to your gut? Let me know in the comments below.