Interview with photographer Ismail Sirdah

Ismail Sirdah is a successful photographer in the Atlanta area and the owner of his studio and school. He was born in Cape Town, South Africa. Sirdah received his early business education working in his family’s restaurant business in Atlanta. He took photography classes at the Savannah School of Art and Design.

Since his family’s restaurant is part of the Atlanta music scene, Sirdah was at first interested in working in the music business. His initial interest in photography stemmed from his desire to do event photography himself, rather than paying high rates for the service. He bought a simple DSLR camera and started working as a photographer’s assistant. He learned the ropes of the business from his employers and began creating ideas for his independent studio.

Ismail Sirdah is one of the up-and-coming names in the Atlanta photography business. He specializes in portrait photography, though he is also well versed in wedding, travel, and retail photography. Sirdah’s combination of creativity and business savvy have propelled his business from a startup to an established studio. He also teaches photography classes and pushes his students to learn more about this changing industry.

Sirdah is known as a creative photographer who is an expert in the use of backgrounds and settings. Photography captures the world as he sees it, and the vision he has created is beautiful. His success stems from his entrepreneurial spirit and his skills with the medium of photography. He credits his mentors with helping him achieve success.

How did you get started in the photography industry?

I was working for my father’s restaurant, and contracting a photographer to help us with some marketing campaigns. I was struck by how expensive it is to hire a good photographer, and I decided that I wanted to try it for myself. I bought a small DSLR camera and apprenticed as a photographer’s assistant. Through working with my employers, I shadowed them and learned what makes a good shoot and what kinds of editing are needed to make the photos shine.

Is photography your biggest passion?

I would say yes. I started off in music marketing, and while I enjoyed my work, I didn’t find out what real job satisfaction was until I started as a photographer. I feel that it’s crucial to be passionate about your chosen work. If you’re working in a field you love, every day is better than the last.

Which business leaders, past or present, have inspired you the most?

I’ve been deeply inspired by Steve Jobs. His vision and leadership skills can’t be duplicated. His constant innovation motivates me to discover new things continually.
In my field, I have always enjoyed the work of Annie Leibovitz. Her portraits capture the truth in each person. She has been in our field for decades, yet her work is always fresh and new. I hope that I can continue to make progress in the field of photography for decades to come.

What motivates you?

I’ve always been a self-starter. I have the need to work and the passion for bringing in new inspiration. I won’t deny that financial success is another motivator for me. There were times when I was afraid I would fail while starting my business from the ground up.

How do you stay ahead of the competition?

I’m always finding new ways to accomplish my work. It would seem that teaching others would possibly cut into my own business, but I haven’t found this to be true at all. When I’m interacting with my students, we give each other great ideas. I try to stay at the forefront of technology in this business. I am always adapting new types of equipment and fine-tuning my suite of editing software.

Photography can be taxing, how do you relax?

I love to travel, and I love good restaurants. One of my favorite destinations is Miami. I stay with friends in Coconut Grove. We go to the beach and enjoy the fantastic food and music scene. The whole vibe of Miami is so different from Atlanta. I love where I live, but every so often, it’s important to step aside and take time for myself.

What is the next step for you?

I hope to expand my photography school. I would like to hire some dedicated teachers to expand our offerings. While I’ve enjoyed doing all the teaching myself, I feel like I need some new blood in the business.

What advice do you have for others who want to enter your sector?

Start out by taking a photography class. You can find a class at a local art school. That way, you will have the fundamentals down when you go out on your own. Finding clients can be difficult when you are just starting out. Build as much of a word of mouth reputation as you can.

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