A professional Bahraini photographer and entrepreneur who left a full-time job to pursue his passion for photography, only to become Bahrain’s leading advertising photographer. Meet Ali Alriffai
How did you get started in photography?
It was in 1999 as a hobby. I used to do a lot of photo editing and retouching for my own and personal photos. I felt in love with photography and working with images. After two years, I started an Arabic website on photography www.adigicam.com and that took my passion to different levels especially when I started interacting with other professional photographers in the region. The website today has more than 38,000 members.
What was your original profession before becoming a professional photographer?
Before hopping on to Photography, I used to work as part of the Chemical plant operations team in GPIC Bahrain.
What made you take the brave decision of quitting your job and becoming a full-time professional photographer?
The main driver for taking this decision was to do what I love. I was a bit careful though about leaving my fulltime job, so for almost 3 years, I used to do a lot of freelance photography work for different events and clients. That gave me a huge push and made the decision of resigning much easier.
What were the main challenges you faced when you started and how did you manage to overcome them?
The main challenge was to convince local and international advertising agencies to work with me being somehow new to the field especially when there are well-established professional photographers in the market. This takes time and requires a lot of patience, but it also drives you to get the best out of you to prove yourself. I started growing my portfolio, exposing my talent and networking with people from the field to increase my chances of getting hired.
What’s the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur?
I think financing is the most difficult part. When I started and for almost 3 years I used to invest the majority of my earnings back to the business. Photography is an expensive profession, as you need to have high-end cameras, equipment, and software to deliver exceptional results that will impress clients.
What are the sources of your inspiration?
The work of many international photographers and artists inspire me. Movies are also a great source of inspiration especially the ones that use new age technologies. It gives me a lot of insight into new technologies, lighting and editing techniques.
What’s your favorite camera and the one you use the most?
For professional photography and commercial advertising, I use Hasselblad digital medium format camera because the output quality and the level of details are impeccable. For personal photos, I love my iPhone. Its always in my pocket, takes great photos and can be easily and immediately shared.
How do you measure the success of your work?
I consider my photos successful when they deliver the message carried, and we usually assess that with our clients from their cus- tomer feedback and the impact of the ad on their businesses.
It happens a lot where I receive positive feedback and compliments on ordinary photos as well.
What differentiates a good photographer from an ordinary one?
Creativity and technical skills are the main differentiators. From creativity aspect, a good photographer would deliver his message in a unique yet simple approach. Technically, there are obvious things such as lighting, composition, framing and basic editing.
Which of the commercial ads you shot that you love the most?
From my recent work, I loved the national team campaign, “The Mission” TV program and few fashion photography I did for local designers.
Do you do photography in Bahrain or do you have regional assignments?
The majority of my work is in Bahrain but I have also have different assignments in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Are you engaged in any new project or initiatives?
I am planning on starting newly advanced photography workshops for amateurs who want to become professional. I am also considering having regional professional photographers to deliver those workshops beside me. I also started a public YouTube channel where I will share my work and what happens behind the scenes.
What advice would you give to young photographers who want to become professional?
First of all, I advise them to invest time in learning about photography. Take it slowly and be patient as it does take time. I also advise them not to fall into the equipment trap. Photography tools and equipment are there to help you but are not the reason behind great photos.