“I have always been interested in photography but I never thought of taking it as a profession. However, in Doha I saw that there is a big need for good photography. I started with baby steps, started leaving interior and graphic design and concentrated more on photography, until finally I dedicated all my time to it,” says Nabil El Andari, a Venezuelan-Lebanese professional photographer, who comes from a pedigree family of poets and artists and has been living in Qatar since 2006.
In 2009 El Andari decided to place aside his career as a designer, and invest himself a 100 percent in photography.
El Andari says there is a great need for photography, particularly in the commercial sector. “I worked with photographers preparing advertising and design layouts, even though a big portion of the photographs is still purchased on stock libraries such as Shutterstock.”
He adds how most clients have a basic knowledge of what is considered ‘good’ photography in reference to the advertising industry and popular photography services such as family portraits, corporate headshots and commercial photography in general.
“Commercial photography is still in an infancy stage in Doha as a service.”
The lack of knowledge of photography as a service was huge and still is to a certain extent.
“Of course, there are a lot of photographers introduced to the market, but I can say that most of the time you find people with cameras and photography gear that have the minimum idea of what they are doing.”
For instance, El Andari highlights the lack of knowledge of how to interact with the client starting from understanding the client’s needs, and building a storyboard for better execution. He explains how wedding organisers send people with cameras who know how to use a camera, but not necessary have the knowledge of what ‘good’ photography means.
“Whoever is in the frame is in the frame. The picture has to tell a story, whether it is a wedding, family portrait or food, and in order to tell a story, the photographer has to understand the subject. This is called editorial photography, it is like journalism, you need to be there, understand, visualise and pre visualise the scene in your mind, and then start creating the image in your own way.”
Weddings have always been a lucrative ‘market’ for photographers around the globe. But although there is a minority of expatriates who organise their weddings in Qatar, El Andari says, they are not willing to invest in photography for a number of reasons. “Primarily, there are not many places in Doha where you can go in a suit and a wedding dress in public and take photos without being questioned if you have permission or not.”
In general, taking outdoor photos is limited since Doha lacks nature, and is currently undergoing a lot of construction to finalise public park developments in addition to completing its National Vision 2030 projects.
According to El Andari, although Dubai has a similar climate, the service of photography is strongly established. “The photography service in Dubai is very well practiced while in Doha for the moment it is still in a primary stage. Locals in the United Arab Emirates are also much more open to professional wedding photography, whereas in Doha it is gradually being introduced.”
Drawing with light
Photography by definition means drawing with light, hence it is another art medium. But while creating a painting is done by applying colours and adding elements to the canvas, in contrast the art of omission is what applies most of the time while making a photo. Both, a painting and a photograph, have the same rules of composition such as the rule of thirds, colour and light contrast.
A pleasant photo will affect the viewer emotionally, El Andari says, and whether the viewer is aware of it or not, it will impact him either positively or negatively.
“Social media is popular in Qatar and it is mostly imagery – you tell a story everyday by uploading a photo on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, and perhaps you write a caption as well. We could say people are starting to get into documenting their life day by day. Some people have started to realise that a mobile photo is not as good as a camera photo,” continues El Andari, “So, they are starting to buy good quality cameras. Others have a basic understanding of entry-level cameras, lenses and that of DSLRs. Some believe that if they buy a good lens they will become good photographers. It is many things happening together and this will come to a stage when everyone will know their skill level and their need for what they are buying into.”
In summary, advertising photography is always in demand, on the other hand, quality photographers for the moment are rare.
Hovewer, El Andari underlines, photography has evolved in Doha since 2006 as the market is starting to have a proper understanding of the relevance of professional photography as a service.
Professional photography services cover all sectors including sports, food, hospitality, and even landscape. “There has to be a story board, a stylist, a makeup artist, a producer – in terms of commercial photography as a business – it will take some time, but it is progressing rapidly and there is a positive prospect of photography as a lucrative service for serious photographers,” concludes El Andari.