Learning to look
Nick Arundel was one of the original 16 photographers (inkopians) to join us when we launched at the end of 2020. Unlike many of our other photographers, Nick hasn’t been learning the trade for over 20 years. Photography wasn’t always a passion. It came about from a need to change direction, to do something he enjoyed and a diversion from the usual crises that life can throw at you. A cheap entry-level camera and a move to Dubai provided the impetus, drive and a new sense of energy with which to start a new life.
Nick only picked up a camera five years ago. And in those years he has learnt fast. To do that he knew he would have to learn from someone who knew more than he did and absorb all the information he could from the photographers around him, YouTube and other relevant groups and online resources. Through sheer determination and persistence after six weeks of cajoling a teacher he met on a MeetUp group, Nick finally became a photographer’s assistant. Most junior assistants would complain, get bored and laze about during jobs – not Nick. He put the time and graft in and his mentor soon recognised that Nick could be a positive support and colleague in time.
After learning the techniques and processes Nick became a prolific photographer of Dubai landmarks, many of which are featured on popular Instagram media accounts in Dubai. For a while he and a small group of colleagues led the foray into sourcing rooftops and balconies to achieve the perfect shot. They led the pack with constant and consistent posting on social media channels. But, with Covid and the clamp down on permits and approvals to access key spots the restrictions have impacted not only Nick’s repertoire but also his enthusiasm to constantly stay ahead with all the obstacles and rules in place. With limited travel Dubai became to feel claustrophobic and the subject matter too stale.
With today’s culture of short term content and attention spans the industry has taken a hit commercially. Content is alive for 24 hours only and the decreased shelf life and quality of content now means that clients are rarely budgeting big production costs that would have previously included a whole team that also included hair and make up. With expected quality dropping, so do the payment terms and many photographers are having to diversify or pivot. With the added impact of an average 1% of likes by followers on Instagram for images – “What is the point of all the effort?”, asks Nick.
Nick has expanded on his natural ability as a personable character and is benefiting from his sales skills. He is now a Canon Ambassador and has worked hard to produce a 10 week virtual online programmes for schools. Nick’s tenacity has grown a network that has provided him with opportunities to deliver summer camps, half term programmes, basic and advanced courses, including a Canon camera for participants.
Additionally, he has reassessed what he does and what he is good at and slimmed down his offering to redesign and market himself differently.
Although he is passionate about photography, he is also a businessman and is keen to maximise revenue opportunities and earning potential to ensure a good life for him and his family in Dubai.
Top tips for taking a great landmark photo
Nick’s images of famous Dubai landmarks regularly feature on the likes of TimeOut Dubai, What’s On and LovinDubai. So, we asked him how he manages to take great shots again and again that are attractive to such a large following.
- Plan everything ahead
- Use the PhotoPills app. It’s extremely useful for identifying where the sun will rise and set so helping with the composition of the shot in advance when time is of the essence – especially useful in the Middle East when these events can happen so quickly.
- NiSi app helps for long exposure photography with ND filters. Perfect for stretching out clouds or sea when its too light and you need a longer exposure.
- Use a remote control. Simply, a remote ensures no shake when you least want it and you can easily review and look at pictures on the phone immediately to see how the images look when you’re far from the camera.
Advice for aspiring photographers
“We are all precious about our work, but photography is very personal and subjective. Don’t let others knock your confidence.” Nick explains that you may spend four hours driving and three hours editing to get what you think is the perfect shot, only for someone else to be indifferent to your work. His advice for new entrants to the industry:
- Take, practice, delete, take, review, repeat 100 times.
- Start low to get the experience and learn the craft.
- Understand that it is not just about taking the photo; you also need to be a salesman, lighting assistant, accountant, driver, account manager….
- Take advice from someone who can help you understand the business of photography – you need to think from a commercial perspective to stay afloat.
- Understand how to deal with clients.
- Be good, reliable and turn work around fast.
- Use your time wisely, doing what you’re good at. Know your strengths and weaknesses so that you can focus on the strengths and outsource the rest (when you can).