It is rightly said that photography is a record of one’s living, for anyone who really sees. As a powerful medium of expression and communications, it offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.
For Najla Nabil, photography has not only changed her perspective on how she views things, people and places around her, it has also given her social media identity. A devoted homemaker, she does not fail to find time to indulge and improve her skill.
Community spoke to the Pakistani professional photographer who has made her mark in family, food, fashion and travel genres. Hailing from Karachi, she has been in Qatar for about 12 years along with her family and calls it her home away from home. “I have a Master’s degree in Public Administration. After working full time in Pakistan as a high school teacher, I moved to Qatar. Here, I have pursued my hobby of photography and now work as a freelance family photographer.”
Najla got attracted towards photography by observing her father taking beautiful images. “My earliest interest in photography stems from watching my father tinker with his camera gear. He was an enthusiast and while he took plenty of photos of ours, his real passion was nature, and he dabbled in macro photography. It was much later when my children were growing up, I would be taking their photos, or events at friends or school events. While I was doing all this, I realised that I wanted to improve. I then upgraded my camera gear, enrolled in recommended online courses, and looked out for quality workshops in Doha and abroad.
“From thereon, it just grew as more work opportunities started coming my way. I invested more in my learning, and with immense support from the community and my husband, I eventually went professional about six years ago.”
Dilating on how she brushed up her photography skills in Qatar, Najla said: “I am a self-taught photographer. From earliest paperback and online resources recommended by trusted creatives around me, to the workshops available in Doha, through VCUarts Qatar, and private ones conducted by some of the best photographers, I kept learning. Being a part of online fraternity on platforms such as Instagram, Flickr, Digital Photography School, Canon and Fujifilm, has contributed significantly towards my learning, growth, and my client relationships.
In response to a question on what form of photography she takes interest in the most, Najla said that she enjoyed the human connections through photography. “I am someone who immensely enjoys the human connections that my photography grants me. It empowers me to seek and capture my subject’s persona, photogenic aesthetics and preserve their most special moments in a digital image. It is a great responsibility to have their trust in you, not just as a service provider, but as someone with whom they can truly enjoy the entire experience of their photoshoot. This is why I am primarily an outdoor and home studio family and personal portrait photographer. I also do travel, food and fashion photography.
“In recent times of home isolation, I have been able to delve deeper in other genres like food and product photography, and am excited to add more diversity to my portfolio. I have also been working on developing my website and I hope to launch it very soon.”
She thinks that photography has changed her perspective while looking at different things and people. “Personally, photography has not only changed my perspective on how I view the things, people, and places around me but also my social media identity as an image-taker. It has given me the gift of some amazing creative connections in the local and global fraternity. It has helped me to appreciate that it is not the gear in our hands that defines the quality of the stories we share, and visuals we create, but the eye, thought, and planning that has gone into its execution.
“I shoot with Canon and Fujifilm for my professional work. I also shoot every single day with my iPhone and share the images on my social media handles and on my business accounts with captions that reflect my mood on the day (mostly humorous). This sharing feeds my soul. It presents freedom to explore my skills further, and the response from the fraternity and those who enjoy my work, encourages me to add more skills to my profile, peppered with inspiring conversations, treasured friendships in the real and virtual community.”
The photographer has established her own brand called Najla Nabil Photography. “I am grateful that photography allows me the flexibility of working on my own terms, as a full time parent to two amazing teenage girls. While my very small freelance photography business enriches my individuality and creativity, it also comes with the usual solo proprietorship challenges. I can assure you that photographer entrepreneurs are perpetually engaged in doing the math on gear investment.”
Responding to the question whether mobile phone cameras have improved or deteriorated standards of photography, Najla said: “There are both pros and cons. I firmly believe that the highly sophisticated cameras in our mobile phones have largely contributed to the growth of photography.
However, it has made it easy enough to go wrong. When it is in the right hands, phone camera allows for capturing amazing frames on the fly without the extra management of camera bulk, accessories, time, and camera settings. In amateur hands, it takes away the fear of camera technicalities making room for you to learn basic compositional and aesthetic skills to create a stronger visual.
“I am a firm believer that it is the eye and mind behind the lens that makes or breaks a visual irrespective of what lens or gear we have in our hands. There are also phone apps at your fingertips for ease of quick and brilliant editing like PS Express, Snapseed, Lightroom Mobile, InShot. Mobile phone photography is a hugely popular technical genre of present day photography, and I think that is fantastic.”
The photo enthusiast believes that modern technologies have helped in enhancing the quality of images. “The evolution of camera and light gear technology has definitely led to raising the bar for the quality of photography right now. Nothing can take away from the brilliance and learning that comes with having worked with the older film cameras, but there is much to be celebrated in modern day offerings. Since the time I bought my first SLR 20 years ago, the kind of cutting edge technology that I have in my hand now is very exciting. While it has made us ‘trigger happy’ and even lazy in our perspectives at times, it has opened more doors for creative exploration, than ever before.”
About how she enjoys her passion in Qatar, she said: “I owe much of my motivation to the photography community in Qatar. There are plenty of learning opportunities, collaborative projects and business possibilities. There are few challenges with regulations in some of the public spaces, and we all hope that those will be eased in times to come.
“Since I shoot outdoors typically, one would think that after all these years, it would feel like a drag. But I still find it very exciting to seek new frames and try new compositions even in the usual locations. Qatar’s spatial landscapes, beloved heritage and equally dazzling contemporary architecture present the most stunning frames for me to capture life as it happens, offering unique memories for the expat and local families residing here.” –
Najla Nabil, photographer