How I stumbled upon photography

It all started during my last year of high-school at Columbia International College. This was around the same time facebook started popping. A dear friend of mine named Aya Ulan used to post beautiful, colorful pictures on her facebook. The kind that in today’s age, you’d ask for what filter she used. At the time, filters weren’t really a thing for most of the general public. So my question towards her, was

What camera did you use to take your photos?

My thoughts were, if I had the same camera she used to take her pictures, I too would have the same results. To my surprise, it had nothing to do with the camera, but everything to do with photoshop’s magic. For those that use photoshop, what Aya simply showed me, was how to use the color balance adjustment tool to tone my pictures. Up until that point, I had no idea that such a powerful software like photoshop existed. This made me curious. I wanted to know what else I could do with photoshop! I wasn’t just going to stop there!

Aya & I at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain

Aya & I at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain

Through online tutorials, I quickly fell in love with photo manipulation. I think I learnt a great deal on navigating around photoshop by doing this. My process was, I’d come up with an idea, then quickly browse through my/friend’s facebook photos looking for one that compliments my idea. I’d then, learn through tutorials the tools i needed to execute the idea and spend about a day, upto three editing the photo. I’d immediately post it after its done and observe the likes and comments pouring in :). Shortly after, friends started begging me to edit their pictures, for they too craved the likes and comments that came with it. Whether the praises were on my profile or theirs, it all fueled me to keep releasing new work. Piece after piece, I’d pick up something new or get faster with editing.

At some point, I started having ideas that lacked a photo to go with for editing. Thats when I decided to invest on a small, cheap point and shoot camera. Not to mention, I was tired of crediting someone else for having taken the photo and wanted to fully own the photo myself. I then started using my small camera to take the photographs that I needed to execute on my ideas. This is how I slowly started getting into photography. Below is a photo manipulation I made for a dear friend of mine named Arsalan. I photographed a series of portraits in different poses with the idea that I was going to transform them from a raging animal to a calm human being.


Time passed, and I decided to get fancy. I asked my mom to buy me a DSLR camera for my birthday, which she did(I love you mum!).

How did I decide which camera to buy, you ask?

I, like many of you!, asked a friend of mine named Jarry Jartan what camera he used, simply because he took amazing photos. I figured, If I get the same camera and lenses he had, it would transform my photography for the better! Boy was I wrong!

Anyways, here I was with a Nikon D90 ready to dominate! I never was the type to read manuals on how to use any piece of gadget I bought. Till today, I’d rather figure it out on my own through trial and error. Not knowing the difference between shooting manual or auto, my camera was on manual mode and most photos I took were out of focus! I also had ISO-sensitivity on, therefore some photos came out with alot of grain at higher ISO. Needless to say, the pictures I took with my D90 were way shittier than my point and shoot, so I quickly switched back to my tiny camera(Oh no you didn’t #withthatattitudevoice).

A year went by and I hadn’t touched my Nikon D90. I thought to myself, if I wasn’t going to use it, I might as well sell it! After some contemplating, I decided to learn how to use my DSLR instead of selling it. In the midst of trying to learn how to use my camera, I discovered the auto feature and thats what I relied upon when taking pictures of friends, up until I started doing club photography.

How did I get into club photography?

A couple friends of mine from university were club promoters and decided to take a chance on me as one of their nightlife photographer. I was a total amateur, with zero experience in event or club photography. I can’t thank Matt Goulet enough for that opportunity. Especially because I totally bombed the first night and he was kind enough to let me go at it another night.

Screwing up my first gig made me realize that I can’t rely on auto settings to always take the pictures I wanted, especially when I’m also using an external flash light that adds its own complexity to the mix. I was so disappointed with myself, and knew that I wasn’t going to get that many chances if I didn’t produce better results.

For the next couple of days, I did my research on club photography, read tones of articles online on what are the optimal camera settings, flash settings, etc for different scenarios. (I think i’ll do a separate blog post and talk about how club photography made me a better photographer). Continuous online learning helped me get better and better, night after night.

 Nightlife Photography for Hype Productions

 Nightlife Photography for Hype Productions

Moving on, fast forward another year or two, during my vacation/visit back home in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania. I got contacted by a friend of mine that does fashion designs, Doreen Estanzia. She took notice of my pictures and asked if I were interested in a collaboration with her. I quickly said yes, because the idea of adding that missing fashion element to my photographs sounded amazing. This was my first shoot where it wasn’t just me and a friend (model). We had designer clothes, a make up artist and two gorgeous friends of mine (models). It was super fun doing this shoot, and most importantly, I learned that such collaborations only elevate my work to different levels.

 Pauline wearing Eskado Bird in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania

 Pauline wearing Eskado Bird in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania

Since then, I’ve always worked on getting better and better, so that I can attract collaboration with better brands, models, wardrobe stylist, hair & make up artist.

Thank you! for reading this article. If you have any questions or comments, am all ears!