Hiring a Photographer 101

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. I think it’s long overdue.

A few years ago, I worked at a photography studio prior to establishing my own. What I learned then, and continue to see now, is the lack of education that people have regarding hiring a photographer, or anyone in the creative industry. Many people are highly misunderstood and mislead by the meaning of copyrights, and it’s understandable considering the drastic change in the industry since the increasing affordability of DSLRs (imo).

If you made it this far reading this post, great. Let’s continue.

It’s easy to start to be a photographer anytime you want, but it’s difficult to be a professional. Here’s my personal opinion as to why.

There’s a LOT of competition in this field for a number of reasons: technology advancement, accessibility to technology and online information, increasing demand and interest in photography, misconceptions of the service itself, social media branding and trends, etc. But what makes it difficult to obtain clients, is when someone advertises their photography at a REALLY low price (which is fine if you’re looking to grow your portfolio, been there done that), but misinform the clients of one important thing: copyrights and reproduction rights. If you’re an amateur photographer looking to become ‘instafamous’ or what not, understand that the way you perform your service, any client will take that knowledge and information and pass it along to someone else who may be more experienced or qualified. Then that newer photographer faces the complications of the client requesting a service with a complete misunderstanding of what it means to hire a photographer.

I can go on and on about this but here’s my quick 2 cents:

Regardless if you’re a hobbyist taking photos for someone at a low fee, or an amateur trying to make it to the big leagues, always:

  • have a contract EVEN IF you’re doing it for free. Make a contract.

  • explain your contract to your clients.

  • always have a copyrights clause. Explain the clause. If you’re having a tough time explaining it, use this link. https://www.the-aop.org/information/copyright-4-clients

Last thing:

There are a lot of “photographers” out there. And I put it in quotations because more often than not, the professional photographers wouldn’t intentionally screw another photographer over. But anyway. Don't worry if you didn’t get every single prospective client that came your way. Just remember, treat other photographers with respect. It’s hard enough as it is to explain certain things to clients without looking arrogant, but this is a craft and just because we use a machine with a button, doesn’t mean our craft can be replaced with a machine. A camera is just a tool.

challenging surburbia

Our house was built at the end of the road, neighbouring a beautiful bungalow sitting on a three acre lot.

My bedroom window overlooked a beautiful ravine, and a lush green canopy that consisted of apples and pears. On the occasional spring day, i would find a hawk lurking the ground, flying in circles above.

The developer promised that the bunglow would remain, making us the last house on the block. but shortly after, we find ourselves an empty field with nothing but pipes and tools.

Once upon a time, in this suburban space, I had the chance to overlook a beautiful ravine with a lush green canopy by my bedroom window that consisted of apples and pears. but now, i can no longer find the hawk who flew in circles above. 

integrating urban elements in suburban spaces by adding elements of community engagement in smaller suburban communities - but also containing sustainable features.

the ultimate goal of this conceptual diagram is to demonstrate how creative use of spaces can promote a sense of community, even in an enclosed suburban subdivision.

There are many negative connotations in relation to suburban landscapes, but by utilizing ‘urban’ design as a tool for future community hubs in suburban spaces, we can potentially aim for a less individualistic environment.

in this concept, the gazebo was created as a space for the community members to use an appreciate the natural landscape of the ravine.

How can planners influence policies for future development to accommodate engagement through creative fixtures?

What questions should we be asking to implement these changes?

Transitioning Approaches: The Future Roles of Millennial Planners

On March 15th, 2017,

I had the honor to participate in the YUL Social + Panel Discussion, Planning is Political, moderated by Jay Pitter (author of Subdivided) among four other panelists, who have also published incredible articles in the Ontario Planning Journal Volume 32, No. 2 issue. 

An evening discussion, put together by passionate young urbanists to discuss the perspective of millennials entering the field of planning. And I have to say it was quite the remarkable experience.

I mean, once you’re done school, or perhaps on the verge of finishing your academic chapter, you have all these ideas and theories about what planning could be and how you can make it better. And I’m sure that you can, but we have to be realistic, and that was what I’ve learned the hard and uncomfortable way from this discussion.

Jay Pitter, introduced the event, as a conversation, but not just any generic conversation. It was rather introduced as an uncomfortable conversation. And while you’re reading this, I’d like you to be conscious of maintaining an open mind. I say this because (and I wholeheartedly believe in this), that planners have to maintain the strong difference of our advantage and privilege, as well as being realistic and rational.

What I mean when I say advantage and privilege, versus realistic and rational is this: being a planner, comes with the advantage of understanding the scope of the field within various respects (environmental, social, economical, political, and in some cases, psychological), and the privilege, is that we have the ‘advantage’ to speak on behalf of what we think is ‘best practice’. We carry the voice of what we believe is the best way to approach a conflict. However, by carrying the voice, we also don’t have as much power as we think we do – hence, why I believe that we should be realistic and rational about the choices and the decisions that we make. I’m sure that at some point during your academic studies, you had to do a SWOT analysis (strength, weakness, opportunities, threats) and for me, it drove me insane at times. But that’s what allows us to have such an incredible profession – we have to always think outside of the box and consider all aspects, no matter how big or small the project is.

Unfortunately, planning is not always rainbows and butterflies. It can get ugly, and during the conversation, we had to establish that it was going to get uncomfortable. But how else are we going to grow, learn, understand and analyze? We have to get uncomfortable – but maintaining an open mind because planning can be quite a subjective practice and based on the individuals’ experience, it can really change their perspective of what is considered ‘best practice’ or the best approach.

But one of the important topics that were discussed amongst the panelists and the audience, was that as planners, we must be conscious of our influence. What I mean is that there’s always a limit to what we can say or do, however, we should be able to understand when and where we say, “okay, now, I have to take a step back.” And the reason is because it’s a lot easier to go beyond our boundaries and make an ‘executive’ decision, but what good is that when we haven’t taken the time to respect and understand the context and cater to what is needed, rather than what we want.

Several questions have been raised as to what we feel planning should be, but from my experience, I can’t give a definite answer, except for the fact that I can wholeheartedly say that we need to be more creative in planning. There are a lot of millennial urbanists who have remarkable ideas and hold a new level of understanding, but we have to be realistic in a sense that a lot of the times, we aren’t given the power to say and do what we think is best, but by using the ambition and energy that millennials have, I think, especially for Toronto, we’re on the right track.

We’re a team, a pretty large team, and as cliché, as this seems, we need to continue to support each other and have these uncomfortable conversations to push the boundaries of our practice. It takes a certain kind of individual to be passionate about planning to use that and make a difference, but we can’t lose that spark. After all, I think Toronto is in need of millennial urbanists now more than ever.

Suburban Features.

The following photographs challenge suburban design and the way public spaces are used. It images how future development could potentially look. What is the best use of suburban space? how can we provide services and necessities all year round to all communities? How do we build community oriented spaces in a landscape geared towards individualism? Can we create public spaces that promote physical activity, health, and wellbeing in suburban neighbourhoods? these are some questions the photographs investigate.

Featured in the "Planning in the New Millennium: A look at planning across generations" edition of The Planning Journal

March/April 2017 Vol. 32, No. 2

A Man's Story.

I met this man at a street market, and I noticed he was closely observing his coin collection. I walked passed, looked at the neighbours' booth, and I picked up something. I asked the lady a question about the item, but she couldn't speak English, so she directed me to the same man I saw earlier. 

He was an older gentleman who seemed to know a lot about everything. I asked him about the piece I purchased. As the conversation progressed, he asked about my ethnic background. I responded with, "I'm Persian, but I was raised in Canada." He paused, looked at me, and smiled. He got up, walked over to the back of his booth and brought me a bowl. It was handcrafted with various shapes and intricate designs. He was unsure of the origin and perhaps the era it was made in so he asked me if I knew anything about it. I wasn't sure exactly but we assumed it was from ancient Persia. 

He was exchanging his ideas while he was showing me his collected texts, while I was trying to explain my ideas by showing pictures from google images. 

Obviously, I thought to myself how great of a subject he would be for my photography blog. As I told him my story, he looks at me dubiously, and he continued to give me the most unexpected response. He says, "Look. Months ago, I came across this book on Avesta. These books don't just show up in Rome. Three months ago, I came across this crafted bowl. I don't know what it is but I've been trying to figure it out. Now, you show up. I don't particularity have a certain faith, but I do believe in God and I do believe that certain things happen for a reason."

There was absolutely no shred of hesitation in his words. 

"I'm just a channel of the universe. So are you. But rather than looking for something, look within yourself. You have more to share than what you're seeking." He did not blink. His piercing blue eyes locked onto mine. So I blinked, turned away, smiled, and thanked him. As I asked for his name, he said, "that's not important. Just remember my eyes." 

That, I cannot. 

So, to my dear friend. You probably won't see this as you're far more traditional in exploring the world with your bare hands than reading what's on the internet but I just wanted to say, thank you. God Bless. 

(Rome, Italy, 2015)

My little garden.

Since we've moved to the suburbs of Ontario, my family has grown fruits, herbs and veggies in our very own garden every spring and summer. One of the benefits of living in the suburbs is having the space to have your own garden. So the past few years, I've been learning how to grow our ethnic herbs, and how to spruce up our rose bush and fruits, how to cover the peach and cherry tree every winter so they bloom the following year. So far, they're looking pretty good. 

The past couple months, I've been doing extensive research in urban agriculture and how to implement the growth (no pun intended) of food in the city. I have interviewed various stakeholders and I have to say, it's been quite a journey. I'm impressed with the feedback I have been receiving from all sorts of positions, but if it's one thing that I strongly believe is that education plays a vital role in the growth of urban agriculture. 

It's important to note that there are significant factors and challenges involved in making it a successful feature in the urban environment, but many of the underlying points boil down to one thing: education. Whether it's our professional planners who are academically specialized in the matter, or if it is the lack of sufficient understanding or education within our local communities.  

For those living in the suburbs, we tend to be ungrateful of what we have: space. Before you take this the wrong way, I understand that having a garden can be time-consuming, especially if you're juggling mortgage, children, car payments, and mundane everyday life tasks. It's also dirty, and not particularly fit for everyone. But if you do have an interest in pursuing your own garden, by all means, go for it! Space is a critical issue in accommodating food in the city. And no, it's not a matter of growing veggies and fruits in our backyards to provide us food for the rest of our lives, because let's get real, Ontario doesn't have the greatest weather to accommodate for a year-round edible garden. However, there are many benefits to having our own edible garden. I don't think it makes much sense to have a communal garden in the suburbs of York Region, for instance, but I do think that having an edible garden is a sustainable way to maintain a green city and a way to control the quality of food we produce and consume. I am, however, guilty of purchasing a box of delicious yellow mangoes, or watermelon sized papayas in the wintertime, but since the start of this dissertation, I've got to thinking that it's really bizarre to have a tropical fruit such as mango or papaya (very bland in flavour, by the way) available to me in the midst of winter in Ontario. I wonder how young this freshly bloomed fruit was before picking, what methods of preservation it endured, and how long it's been on the road long before it ended up in my fridge. That doesn't make sense to me. Frankly, it's kind of disturbing. Oh, and the fact that there's a little sticker that says it's 'organic' definitely raises a few questions. 

The point I'm trying to make is this: don't buy fruits or vegetables that aren't in season. Well, yes, but no. Education. That's the point. Education can really alter the quality of your life, and food, is something that comes so naturally to us so why not take full control over it? Why not use it to our advantage and change the way we interact with our environment? Do you know your neighbours? Well, if your next door neighbour saw you tending to your garden every evening, I'm sure that you'll eventually get to know their kids' name, and by the end of the summer, you'll be invited to at least ONE barbeque. I'm not even exaggerating because now I know all my neighbours. Unfortunately, my tomatoes were slow bloomers this season, but at least I got to trade my Persian basil leaves, parsley and leeks with their delicious cherry tomatoes and mini cucumbers. 

I can go on and on about this, but I really have to get back to writing my dissertation. I'll be providing more efficient solutions for those living in the city because I'm sure that many older style apartments lack the proper infrastructure to accommodate for a rooftop garden or a full balcony filled with tomatoes. 

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop them below. 


If there's movement, there's flow. City planning isn't just abiding by the rules. It's art. Being able to create something extraordinary in a place that seems utterly boring and lifeless... to bring it back to life... to make it function for as long as possible in this fast progression of our modern world. That's art. - A.K

DIY project.

I'm currently in the process of writing my dissertation, and sometimes it can be extremely overwhelming. I decided to start a DIY project in my 'down time'... I've always wanted a middle-eastern sun bed for our backyard so I made a concept to see how it would fit for the backyard. Once I started making the design, I thought that it would be fun to turn it into a SketchUp time-lapse video. 

20 hours later, the structure is finished. 



[Render concept below]


Community Gardens.

Urban community gardens can be a wonderful feature to a busy city. It can be a useful way to utilize public space and create movement by getting people to participate within their local community. What are your thoughts? Share them below. 

Urban Environments.

 Urban animals - should the state be responsible for them? 

In Turkey, stray animals are (majority) regulated by the government. Stray dogs are tagged, spayed, and neutered so they can't be harmed by the public and cannot harm the public. The Turkish government is very much against euthanasia of dogs and cats for "population control" but other methods are taken into consideration to control or manage the exponential population growth of stray dogs and cats. What are your thoughts? 

In Turkey, stray animals are (majority) regulated by the government. Stray dogs are tagged, spayed, and neutered so they can't be harmed by the public and cannot harm the public. The Turkish government is very much against euthanasia of dogs and cats for "population control" but other methods are taken into consideration to control or manage the exponential population growth of stray dogs and cats. What are your thoughts? 

The Start.

People tend to ask me, "how did you get into photography?" It's a difficult question to answer, but I'd say that the first thing that comes into mind is my childhood. 

My first photograph was at 12, when my family went up north for camping and I took a film camera with me. As soon as we got to the campsite, everyone else was unpacking the tents while I grabbed my camera, and shot my first image of the landscape. It was a foggy, but warm afternoon. Something about the gloominess drew me to shore and the next thing I knew, I was chasing dragonflies and butterflies. It wasn't long before my film ran out and we had to drive up to the closest convenience store for me to grab a few more. 

My family praised artistic talents, but generally seen as a hobby than a long-term career. But no matter how many times I changed my mind for my academic career, my camera was always my go-to. Unintentionally, my photography ended up being influenced by my educational momentary point of interest. 

I have experimented with portrait, studio, and event photography, but nothing gets me more motivated than freelance photography. I prefer candid street style photos, but due to the nature of my current academic work, architecture and urban design have been heavily dominating my new snapshots. 

In June 2013, I began my first photo-blog called People of Toronto (PofTO). I aimed to capture peoples' stories with their photograph. Shortly after the launch, a friend of mine introduced me to Humans of New York. So, I changed my direction of my photography and geared it towards sharing opinions regarding issues of social-justice. 

By moving to London England, I put PofTO on hold and, naturally, it shifted towards observational photography and soon enough, began my 'KAUPD' adventure.