Get to know some of the industry’s top photographers and learn what it takes to capture that perfect shot!
How did you get your start as a photographer?
Growing up, my family was very active. My dad used to take us on outdoor adventures like motorcycle riding and he’d always bring a camera to document it. When I moved to Canada, I started taking photos again as a way to rebuild memories and used photography as an outlet.
Michael Volpe was also a big motivator into getting me in the hair industry. I had a good understanding of photography and people, but Michael got me involved in the fashion world and took me to my first Contessa Awards.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I have different styles. I do a lot of street and hair photography. To me, photography is a time machine in the sense that you can capture images and hold them for the future.
When it comes to hair photography, I don’t like to add other elements in it (like jewelry) because overtime the photos will start to look dated. Hair photography is timeless. I want it to be simple and I want it to last a long time.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I used to (and still) get it from music. I listen to a lot of rock music and pretend the whole shoot is a rock concert.
Clients change where I get my inspiration from. Some big companies already come in with an art director who has the whole concept of a shoot planned. Small salon owners in small towns sometimes need a little more help along the way with art direction. So, you have to fit your business model to each one of your clients.
Tell me about how you first started shooting for the Contessas (who was your first Contessa client? When did you start?)
My first client was Michael Volpe. He invited me to be the photographer at a shoot and I was posing as a fashion photographer on stage and people seemed to like me and my work. So, Michael introduced me to the Contessa Awards and invited me to go there a few times.
What do you like most about shooting for the Contessas?
It’s very creative and exciting because you’re creating art that nobody has to like except for you.
I also like that everyone gets a shot to showcase their work. Small salon owner from Newfoundland can participate and win so it’s inclusive in that sense.
You’ve shot many winning Contessa collections throughout your career. Can you tell me more about that?
I always try to shoot images that I like rather than do it to win. When I work with clients, I never promise them a winning shot, but I always promise them a shot that they’re going to love forever.
How do you feel when a collection you work on wins a Contessa? What does it mean for you?
I always tell clients; it doesn’t matter if they win or lose because it’s the experience of doing the shoot that’s important. It should be a learning process so if you think of it as an investment, it never goes to waste. Shoot for your enjoyment, education, to meet models and clients and to promote your business.
Tell me about how you work with your clients on a Contessa shoot. Can you walk me through the process? How hands-on are you throughout the process?
The consultation process is different for every client. Some clients have their own ideas and concepts, but others are new to the Contessas and needs more guidance. In that case, I spend hours on the phone with them to try and figure out a plan and a mood for the shoot.
How do you deal with any differences in opinions that you may have with a hairstylist when it comes to shooting the collection?
I think if clients respect your work and ability to deliver, there’s usually no conflicts. In some cases, I’ve found that communicating and explaining your point of view to the client can help them understand where you’re coming from and why you make certain decisions.
What are your top tips when it comes to shooting for collections? Any tips on how to plan a photo shoot? Any tips for new stylists who are looking to enter for the first time?
Work with someone who knows what they’re doing. Being passionate is great but you also need somebody who understands how hair looks in a photo. Same thing goes for makeup artists, you need someone who knows what makeup looks good on camera. Having someone who’s experienced on set can help guide you.
My other tip is to keep it simple. Don’t overreach and try things you’ve never done for the first time. Stick to what you know and have experience in.
I understand that the pandemic was especially hard for photographers. How did you get through this? Was there anything creative that you did to still be able to work with clients during the lockdowns? (examples: shooting with multiple people/teams on the same day, offering special pricing/packages, travelling to them, etc.)
Because of the ongoing travel restrictions throughout the pandemic, I’ve directed a lot of photoshoots through Skype and Zoom and did a lot of photo editing for clients as well.
To check out Babak’s work, click here.