Lebanese-born Saad Salloum (aka SkyLinkd) is a Jack of all Trades, master of most who has been dabbling in the creative arena since he remembers with countless projects going on at once. For the filmmaker, videographer, editor, 3d artist, musician, pianist, guitarist, composer, visual disc jockey and self-taught photographer, who was raised by a family of artists, communication arts was a sure path, having been an outlet for him as a teenager. In this interview, Saad talks about his passion for photography, how he's made it into yet another career move; how this whole thing developed to become an inherent part of who he is, and who he has come to be, an ace signature when it comes to photographic portrait.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: what was your career path like?
I was brought up in a house that lives on art, as my father was a painter and architect and my mother is a writer and lawyer. I remember my parents got us a piano before we even had furniture in the living room and they got us the best piano teachers. I also used to love seeing my dad in his studio just immersed in his own world, with Tchaikovsky music in the background.
To cut a long story short, I was born with music inside of me and in my eyes a crave for visual beauty.
As I grew up and got exposed to the cruelty of life due to war, I felt art is like an escape window where you can have glimpses of heaven.
So when the time came and I had to chose my major in college, I decided to go for something that has to do with audio visual art; so I went for a bachelor in Communication Arts major with emphasis on radio TV and film and later on went to study film production and song composition in the UK.
What inspired you to be a photographer?
What inspired me to get more into photography during my college years as a filmmaker student is the fact that I wanted to enhance my framing techniques as in composition lighting feel, emotion and colours and mastering how to capture a good image. I took courses at university in studio and outdoor photography as well as photojournalism around 1996 and worked on some job assignments like capturing all the statues of Lebanese figures in Lebanon and shooting live events as plays, night gigs, TV series, etc. But I was more of a real-life dreamer looking for surreal subjects, which I guess made me a conceptual photographer. It took me almost a while to understand that. As a photographer, you can't just shoot anything you like, if you want to work as a professional photographer you have to focus on one thing like fashion, beauty, landscape, conceptual, weddings etc.
So I am a photographer since 1996, which makes it 19 years now but I've been focusing on beauty portraits and fashion besides the conceptual and landscape and all other genres since almost three years now.
My main income comes from doing video arts and documentaries working with Fashion / Beauty / Sports Magazines / Business companies / Pharmacutical companies I am also a director / videographer / video editor and photographer.
Photography for me is a job and a hobby, in the sense that sometimes I have projects for clients who need a certain outcome and I have to just technically give them what they want; this is when it becomes a job. At other times, I feel it is my hobby when I have the freedom to experiment more and break all the rules, try new techniques and just have fun.
Which five words would your friends use to describe you?
Mutli-talented; passionate; creative; patient; hardworker.
What's the best part of being a photographer?
As a portrait photographer, I just love it when I have a shoot with someone and they leave extremely happy by the end result.
I also love dealing with people and making them look at their best as somehow headshot photography is 90% therapy and 10% lighting and camera, in the sense of dealing with the human psychology besides the facial geometrical expression and emotion--as eyes are the door to the spirit; so if you're sad you can't just fake it; it needs real emotions, real happiness or real glam. I can't stand fake expressions that give a faceless look.
What's the hardest part of your job?
Working with people who are very insecure or in a bad mood and trying to suck it in and transform that energy to make them feel real good so the pictures don't look like someone is gonna kill you or a total mess. This is why I tend to neutralise the face sort of speaking to bring it back to normal then I try to draw a nice expression from there.
If not a photographer who would you have liked to be?
I don't know but I can't imagine my life without art, so probably all the other stuff that I do like being a musician a 3D artist or a filmmaker. But I think to be a good director you have to pass through a lot of experience to be able to excell. You have to understand lighting, human psychology, perspectives, composition, editing, make up, fashion, beauty, music and much more. So I guess it all adds up.
How would you describe your style and how did you develop it?
My style is quite a litlle dark at times, sad at others, happy and euphoric, sometimes nostalgic and simple, sometimes surreal. People who get exposed to my work think I am only kind of dark artist or only sad or I only do beauty shots or 3D images but in fact I like to break rules, to learn new stuff. You have to get out of your comfort zone and try new stuff. This is why I get labeled sometimes, but I don't care about that because I know it is a phase I am passing through to learn something and I will move on to another chapter and another phase when the right time comes.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
Trial and error, using new techniques in lighting, understanding the subject and dealing with them accordingly. It also depends a lot on self tutoring, as I watch a lot of tutorials online on different aspects of this field and trust me if there is a will you can learn anything you want; nothing beats the feeling of waking up one day with something as a target to learn that you know nothing about and ending the day with knowing more about it and by time trying to master the knowledge you have and putting it into practice and use.
One of today's main discussion points amongst photographers is about the use of digital photogprahy; what is the influence of digital technology on your photography?
I use digital cameras and I can say I am a proud digital artist. As a matter of fact, some of the techniques I use in photography like HDR (high dynamic range photography), which is use to get more details in the photos as to highlights, mid-tones and shadows, can't be done with analogue cameras and is only doable with digital ones.
What does it feel like to be inside your creative inspired mind when photographing a concept or idea you are passionate about?
Sometimes I have a vision in mind before I go on for a shoot so I look for the character that suits the vision the most.
Sometimes if the person being shot is doing great I let go free style till I find the right angle. But if the subject is clueless about what to do, I study the face and see what are the best angles and try coaching to capture its best.
What are the true basis of your inspiration, the point of departure for a photo session?
Well it is quite simple! Beauty! I love capturing beauty and specially when it comes from inside out. There is a lot of beautiful faces yet they are deeply far from beautiful.
So I think it is a challenge and I find myself shooting beautiful people more than agency models. I think it is easier to shoot a model and have her look good than shooting an average person and making them look stunning. In both ways, it is fun. When I have a shoot with someone I prefer having an idea of their faces and body types. So this is why I tend to have a quick view on their Facebook profile pictures or Instagram to see what angles or sides they like so I know their 'sweet angles' as we call it.
When someone has a beautiful face but is not comfortable with his/her body, I tend to go for head shots and medium shots; but if someone is more 'comfy' with their bodies, I rather go more towards full body shots and medium shots and head shots; if someone is only comfy with their bodies and not their face, I go for full bodies and mediums, more than head shots so they don't end up feeling bad about their weak points.
Sometimes I have photo sessions with people I get to meet for the first time. In this case I try finding their best angles on the spot and being all spontaneous and random so to focus on those 'sweet angles' you see when you meet someone for the first time.
What is the favourite image you have shot recently? Can you describe its creation?
Well a couple of weeks ago, I was having a shoot with a friend in the middle of an empty beautiful road, up in the mountain and suddenly a wedding crew arrived, closed the road and started filming the bride so my perspective was kind of lost because I have a film crew now in the background with a happy bride that nobody wants to upset.
To our luck, a weird kind of truck came out of nowhere with stuff in it like refrigerators and old vintage boxes and the truck could not go through due to the wedding crew closing the road.
So I asked my friend to quickly jump and pose in the truck after I took the truck driver's permission and boom there was the shot that made this experience more meaningful, which is to make the best of one's surrounding and always keep an eye open for opportunities that could make your photo more interesting in storytelling and composition.
What makes a good picture stand out from the average?
I think it has to do with a harmonious combination of factors that should get all in sync.
To name a few... Simplicity, composition, colours, mood, perspective, lighting, angle, message and most importantly the subject being shot.
Exactly what it is you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photos to do that?
Well what I want to say in my photos depends on what I am working on, as I work on beauty, fashion and conceptual photography and for each my audience and targets are different.
If it is a beauty headshot I would like to show some realness and I would like my subject to be themselves in the best version they see themselves and I see them according to the theme that is portrayed.
If it is fashion, then the dress is the main subject and has priority to look good more than focusing on the model.
As for conceptual shoots with a surreal touch for instance, it would be mainly as an inner revelation where I'd be using the subject to convey a message rather than having it look at its best like I usually tend to do in beauty and fashion shoots.
Can you tell us about a project you've felt really connected to and why?
Usually I am the type of person that believe I either do it with passion or not at all. So all my experiences have been good so far, even the hardest people to deal with have gave me endurance and experience while working with them. So I am grateful so far and I am looking forward for the upcoming projects as always...
Do you get to work with AD agencies on specific assignments?
Yes I do work a lot with agencies, magazines, TV stations, radio stations, artists, celebrities and common people. I do photo shoots, video arts, tutorials, events & documentaries.
This year, I am planning to get more into music and video clip production and featuring a lot of hidden talents besides well known artists and performers. So stay tuned!
Do you see yourself as a photographer many years down the road?
Yes, as long as I have eyes and hands and there is Internet to share my work and/or money to print it and exhibit: Yes for sure!
What advice do you have for photographers just starting out?
Work out the scene, be adventurous, don't be pushy. Once you know the genre you like in photography, work in it. For example if you like shooting fashion, don't spend all your time on shooting landscapes.
Meet people. Share your work. When you're happy go out, experiment and when you're sad and not in a shooting mode, watch tutorials, take courses, attend workshops, google things…
On the technical front...
Nikon or canon, other?
I think both cameras are beasts in the sense that they are good... I personally use Nikon.
My Favourite lens would be 35mm for landscapes / 85mm for portraits / 50 mm for street photography
Favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?
I like Using a DSLR Optical Viewfinder, which makes it possible in hard light conditions to clearly see the final image on the LCD screen.
Favourite computer/editing accessory other than your computer?
I use Photoshop to retouch my images; Lightroom to organise my photos and set ranks.
What is your most used photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?
My most used tool would be the clone tool as I use it retouch skin. As to plug-ins I recommend the ones made by Topaz, Digital film tools, Imagenomic, Alien skin & Photomatix.
As for actions, look for Digital Heavens bundle of actions; I find it to be the best so far.
Are you a Mac or PC lover?
I am more of a PC person for the simple reason that I like the system workflow. Even if I shift to Mac I will still install Windows on it so I can use some of the plug-ins and programmes that do not exist for Mac.