These 5 Things Allowed me to Photograph Jennifer Lopez (and other Celebrities)

These 5 Things Allowed me to Photograph Jennifer Lopez (and other Celebrities)

In this article I’m going to give all kinds of tough love to help you have a more successful photography career. Only read if you can handle tough love because these are some of the best things that I did for my photography career.


Anyhow, I posted a few images that I photographed of Jennifer Lopez on my personal Instagram today. And just like the day that I met Jennifer Lopez, I had a visit from all those emotions again when I posted. The feeling remains the same and I often wonder how a kid from Afghanistan, war torn and devastated Afghanistan end up surpassing everyone else and got to work with these incredible figures? If you’re wondering what goes through my head a few feet away from JLO, as I’m about to shake her hand? It’s this:

YOU ARE PHOTOGRAPHING JENNIFER LOPEZ. YOU ARE A REFUGEE KID FROM AFGHANISTAN AND LIVED IN A LOWER INCOME AREA. HOW DID YOU GET HERE?! DON’T F*CK THIS UP!

But really though, how did I get here?! I guess the same way Jennifer got here, hard work and not giving up…but keep reading! I mainly did 5 things that I owe everything to for a successful photography career!

Jennifer Lopez photographed by Walid Azami

Jennifer Lopez photographed by Walid Azami

POINT 1: STOP LYING TO YOURSELF AND EVERYONE ELSE

Lets start out the hard way and be honest with ourselves. Ask yourself if you would hire yourself as a photographer? Well, would you? A big ingredient to my success was always asking myself what is good for me, what I am doing right and what I’m failing at. The biggest and boldest move you can make is to admit that you need real training as a photographer. There are many ways you can get free training as a photographer and this blog is one of them!

  1. Do you have what it takes to photograph for them?
    Are you good enough to photograph their wedding? Do you have experience in multiple cultures and capturing everything on a very tight timeline? Do you have the experience to photograph their clothing brand? Do you know how to make a garment look amazing on a model? If you’re not ready or confident, you need more practice. There’s nothing wrong in admitting that or knowing that, in fact knowing that means you’re ahead of others who are in denial. Do you have the skills to capture the images you want for the clients you want? If not, practice and grow! That’s one of the biggest things that I preach on my photography mentorship course.

  2. Are you reliable and return phone calls?

    Do you return calls in the first 1 hour? They’re calling because they are impatient and need answers from you (or anyone willing to pick up their phone). Remember that the longer it takes for you to return a call, the longer the potential customer has to research other people. Be fast! Don’t be lazy, be fast.

  3. Are you a “Oh I don’t call, I just text” person?
    You guys need to stop that sh*t. You don’t talk on the phone and only text? GET THE F*CK OUT OF HERE! No one wants THAT type of a person handling their business. You return calls immediately and learn how to talk on the phone. I have a stylist friend who I never employ anymore. He hates to talk on the phone, he prefers to text. Guess what I texted him once? “Hey sorry I’m not 17 years old. I conduct business via phone and I had a job for you. I hired someone else who doesn’t have the rules of a 17 year old” - I told you, this is all kinds of tough love!

  4. Are you making it easy for them to hire you?
    What do I mean by this? Are you making their decision so easy that they don’t need to visit another photographer page? If you do weddings, is your website all about weddings and has a definitive direction? If you photograph automotive do you have the most amazing images of cars or do you confuse clients and throw in some weddings, fashion and landscape? Make their decision easy and just give them what they want. Do you make your contact page easy to find and have it in multiple places? Do you have all your social channels listed in an easy to find spot? Is your website easy to load and smartphone friendly?

  5. Is there a good reputation on you? Can they call anyone of your clients and get a great recommendation?

    This is self-explanatory and word of mouth is stronger than any paid FB ad. Your word is gold, treat it as such.

Jennifer Lopez at her rehearsals photographed by Walid Azami

Jennifer Lopez at her rehearsals photographed by Walid Azami

POINT 2: CUT TOXIC PEOPLE OUT (EVEN FAMILY)

Cut out the evil. Slight tangent but totally relatable: Do you know that when a human body suffers, it cuts out things that may diminish its chances of survival? Ever seen an anorexic person lose body organs? It’s in a particular order actually. The body knows what is good for it, but we don’t always give it the right tools like a healthy environment. Toxic people can be as dangerous as anything physical. This is the other thing that I did which brought success early on. I cut those little toxic monsters out ASAP. Lets see how you can find the culprits in your life.

Make a list of each person below. You can have one or many, but put people on a list and see how they fit into your mental health. Then each person must fit into a PROMOTE, DEMOTE OR FIRE category.

THE SUPPORTERS: They support you and cheer you on. They dust you off when you fall, sometimes share your photographs and clap for you. They tell friends how great you’re doing and just overall great people. In most people this is a couple best friends and some family members. These people encourage you to dream bigger, to point out things you’re great at and share articles about how awesome you can be if you ever started that business. They want you to be a very successful photographer.

God bless these angels. Keep them near. Surround yourself with them, and encourage them right back! These are rare friends and if you have 5 of them, you’re doing quite well. PROMOTE THEM!

THE CANCERS: They put you down. They let their own sh*t take over and spill onto your life. They say mean things that can make you feel less. I cut family out that did this to me, so there are no rules to who they can be. They scare you from big dreams, tell you to settle for less and bring their own unhappiness into your life. They are miserable so you should also. They could well be the best humans deserving of love but they won’t do you any favors. Surround yourself near these people long enough and you’ll start to see the glass half empty. You’ll see the shitty parts of life and that’s all you’ll see. Basically, they help you fail fast.

I cut these people out soon as I can. I sometimes fail to see them until it’s almost too late, but first chance that I wake up, I cut them. FIRE THEM.

THE DISTRACTORS: They aren’t intentional about being harmful to your future and in some cases they are fun fiends. Actually they are too much fun and that can be a distraction. Generally they are the short-sighted friends who want lots of fun now and don’t really plan on much for the longterm. They’ll say things like “hey just do it tomorrow and wake up super early, but lets go out tonight!” - and for these type of people you should probably have a few answers ready in your back pocket. They are masters of distraction and know how to get you to postpone your work.

Again, it’s not that they are malicious. They are generally wandering without a goal and they’ll distract you with their dying need to have fun NOW. Know what works for them? I use the word WON’T instead of saying CAN’T. To them “can’t” means please try harder. Check this out…

“Hey I can’t go out tonight cause I have to finish this client proposal” - What that is saying is to try harder, I really want to go out but please try harder to convince me. Instead try saying, “Hey I won’t be going out tonight. I have an important client proposal but I’ll call you tomorrow and see what’s up” - Just by saying you will not generally get them to leave you alone sooner.

What should you do with these people? Demote them. That means less time with them, but they’re not people who should be cut out. DEMOTE THEM.

THE INVISIBLE: The saints and soldiers. They’re taken for granted and sometimes it’s a mom or dad. Sometimes it’s that person who always supported you, but you just didn't talk to them because they weren’t cool enough, or they were easily accessible so the thrill of the chase is gone. These people are fighters for you, and they are believers but once you lose them it’s gone forever. Take a minute and find your own invisibles before it’s too late. Celebrate them, spend time with them and see if you can develop that relationship(s). I’m personally seeing this more and more lately and hoping to save some of them now. PROMOTE THEM.

Jennifer-lopez-WalidAzami.jpg

POINT 3: SUGGEST YOUR OWN JOBS (NO ONE IS GOING TO SAVE YOU)

Look no one is going to knock on your door and ask to make your life. That’s not reality, that’s reality TV garbage. The rest of us work hard and we create our own path. Do you know that nearly every single job I’ve booked is because I planted that seed and suggested the job myself? I emailed about Jennifer Lopez myself and the manager said he has been throwing my name around lately. Ricky Martin? I suggested the job to the creative director and he thought it was a wonderful idea, and showed Ricky my work who also loved my work.

Are you talking about your job and how you can help others? Is your photography a point of conversation usually?

POINT 4: YOU BETTER LEARN TO RECOGNIZE OPPORTUNITY

Opportunities comes wrapped in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they are disguised in the crappiest package like getting fired, dumped or not booking a job. Sometimes you get the chance to showcase you photography and it’s a pain in the ass from start to finish. Take the opportunity, because you don’t know what can come of it. See things as they are and as they could be. That takes practice but you should work on that. Sometimes it’s an opportunity and sometimes it’s a nuisance but look into each one carefully. Just don’t shoot things down so fast, and be more open-minded.

Quick story: A friend sent me a video created by another director. The video was awful and needed lots of work. A part of me didn’t want to give the critique because “You could have hired me but you went to this other person and now your video sucks!” - but I took the opportunity to critique the video. Instead of giving some notes, I took the request to heart and broke it down. I broke the video down second by second and even offered suggestions of how they can fix things up. The owner of the company was blown away by the amount of notes that came in and called me personally to thank me for the help. He then sheepishly asked if I could re-edit the video and make it better. I rejected that offer because THAT would not result in anything successful. But he still saw the notes that I gave and was intrigued enough to ask me if I wanted to photograph the entire new campaign. Guess what? I’d never have the job to photograph the entire campaign for the clothing label if I didn’t give the notes on the video created by someone else. I saw an opportunity to help someone and it turned into a job. Hell yeah!

POINT 5: THE WORLD OWES YOU NOTHING, BUT YOU OWE THE WORLD KINDNESS

Seriously though, the rest of us don’t owe you anything. But think about that and how liberating it is! If we don’t owe you a single thing, then that means you have to do it all by yourself. That’s amazing because you get to control your own destiny. See how liberating that is? YOU decide how you want to photograph something and what type of photography career you want. You decide how hard you’ll work to be pro photographer. You decide which clients to photograph and which ones to walk away from. YOU owe the world something though. You owe the world kindness and no matter what decisions you make, do it with kindness always.

When you move with kindness, the universe gives back.

Hear the Podcast version of this… LISTEN HERE

THAT WAS AWESOME. I WANT TO LEARN MORE FROM YOU.

You probably get an idea by now that I am passionate about helping photographers make more money. I am obsessed it and I want you to have success like me. Go shoot celebrities and weddings in Hawaii. Go photograph for National Geographic or Sports Illustrated. Go help every blogger and help them create relevant content. I want you to win, and there is enough for all of us to win! I promise.

That’s why I started my course in photography. It’s actually a mentorship and there isn’t anything like it. It’s not just any course, but THE course you need to start a photography business. In fact, if you follow all the steps the way I say it you should have a photography business in 30 days. I walk you through every step necessary and in the right order.

Is that all you learn? No. You will learn how to use social media to get clients, how to do paid ads, how to network and how to narrow down your portfolio to increase the chances of booking paid clients. You will learn the most popular lighting setups, beauty retouching to submit to magazines, and I will tell you all the equipment necessary. Like I said, I’m walking you through every step. Each month you will build on what you’ve learned the last month.

It’s a complete transformation from hobbyist to professional and paid photographer. Lets get started! The best way is to sign up here.

I also have some free resources to help you. Here they are…

HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH: FROM PASSION TO PROFIT: This is the course that I wanted when I first started. It’s a course and mentorship and it covers everything you need to have a successful photography business. There’s nothing like it out there! If you’re a photographer who is tired of not making money, I want you to consider having this transformation to a profitable business. This is a course/mentorship taught by someone (me) who has accomplished what you want to do yourself. That’s the key in investing with a good course. Make sure they have already done what you want to do!

INSTAGRAM:  My Instagram is where it all started. Join me and the rest of us there! It's called @HowtoPhotograph and we post daily tips on photography, the business of photography, how to start your photography career and more. I also post IG Stories and now IGTV. 

PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP: This is my newest extension and I love it! My PRIVATE Facebook group is exactly that, private and filled with great people. Every day new people join and all of them go through a questioning process. You must promise that you will be respectful and not spam. Hang out with us, ask questions or post your questions. I am very involved in that and contribute also. Also on Thursdays, we do a really cool and free photography portfolio review. The whole community joins and gives notes to those that want to post images. I'm also usually involved in that. Join us! 

Podcast: If you’re in the car or on a walk, listen to short podcasts that will teach and inspire you!

Youtube: Find me there too!

Reposted in part at Fstoppers

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