Arab Ad Magazine Interview in September 2016

Driving the Message Home

Mohamad Seifeddine fell in love with photography out of the need to express his thoughts and feelings visually, which is quite unusual considering that he was only 10 years old. Since then, the camera has been his most trusted companion. What follows is his vision of the world.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Honestly, I do not see any hard part in my job, although it transformed over the years from a hobby to a profession. However, I still enjoy it a lot because, from the get-go, it began and continues to be my way for self-expression.

If not a photographer who you would have been?

I see photography as art and what I mean is that it is a combination of sculpture, painting, poetry and music… All these together form a photo. For that reason, I consider myself an artist rather than a photographer. It is where I belong and what I was born to be.

How would you describe your style and how did it develop?

Style develops with time and experience, a reality I continually emphasise during my photography workshops. However, I lean more toward the artistic side rather than the school of photojournalism, because I do not believe that a photographer should “capture the moment” unless he is a photojournalist… Nonetheless, an artistic photographer should “create the moment” rather than have a “snappy happy” shot. In other words, one should put his/her ideas, feelings, concepts and messages into the visual before presenting it to the audience.

Which photographers inspired you most and how did they influence your thinking, style, and career path?

Many pioneers have inspired me such as, Ansel Adams with his great black and white landscapes, Dorothea Lange and how her portraits of immigrants helped in changing all immigrants’ rules in the USA to become more humane! I also like Sebastiao Salgado and Salvador Dali the pioneer of Surrealism. These great artists inspired me to such a point they became the trigger for me to take photography as an exceptional means to convey all sorts of messages and thoughts related to social, environmental, personal or even political issues.

How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?

In photography, like in any art, the learning process is continuous. You learn something new every day that adds value to you and your work. Seeing the work of famous photographers can help any beginner to learn how to better see the techniques. But, when you reach the phase of creating your own path or style, you start to educate yourself about more profound subjects like philosophy. You suddenly find yourself delving into art movements and humanity because you feel more concerned in using these to express issues that can benefit and improve society or the environment to which you belong.

What is the influence of digital technology on your work?

Let’s face it, we are in the digital era and digital photography has brought us millions of things that boosted photography and opened up the horizon of creativity. For me, those who still criticise digital photography are the ones who were incapable of adopting new technologies. Digital photography is a part of our lives whether we like it or not. After all, who doesn’t have a camera phone today? The influence of digital technology on my photography is unlimited… I now have the opportunity to take many more photos that are not limited to the film being used and develop them without the need for a dark room. Let’s not forget the large selection of mediums we today can print on… The entire industry changed for the better, especially since we now have so many options to choose from, which are based on how creative one is.

What kind of mode do you go into when photographing a concept or idea you are passionate about?

Detached from the rest of the world… When I am working on a concept or idea I am passionate about, I live inside it.

We know that each of us has someone or something, which inspires our life and work. Can you tell us the true basis of your inspiration?

My inspiration can be a poem, a scene, a song, a situation that I am living or a state of mind… The subject here varies but the point of departure starts with the idea that links the inspiration. In my mind is where the idea starts developing after which I start the daydreaming process until it fully-matures.

What is the favourite image you recently shot?

Honestly, I do not have a favourite photo… Each one expresses something and has its own meaning and taste for me. Nonetheless, I would like to point out that initially, the idea precedes the composition and location. As for lighting and camera settings, those are also important but secondary… I emphasise this point because many photographers worry more about lighting and camera settings than the actual idea and its composition… In 2010, I participated in an international photography exhibition held in UNESCO and the photographer next to me had some a very creative and unique style. So, when I asked how she did those pieces, she laughed and took from her purse a small point and shoot camera and explained… It was a turning point for me, which taught me precedence in relation to concept.

What makes a good picture stand out?

This is the question I always ask in my photography workshops. The answer is simple. When we have the full knowledge of the theories and principles of photography, we will be able to make a photo that captures the eye and conveys the message we want to the audience.

What it is that you want to say with your photographs and how do you actually get your photos to do that?

My work carries a lot of messages that I insist on showing. My concerns are mainly related to the human condition, environment, revolutions against corruption and inequality. As such, I try to spread peace and nonviolence through photography, while highlighting the beauty of the places I visit, especially my beloved country Lebanon. That is why I sometimes use conceptual photography and surrealism techniques to convey a social message.

What has been your most memorable assignment?

My latest e-book entitled, “The Vision”. After releasing two photography books, I wanted to release one for free and in a digital copy accessible to all, which I invite you to download from my website. It reflects new thoughts in a new way.

Do you get to work with ad agencies on specific assignments?

I did a lot of commercial photography jobs that were mostly for products, shops, hotels, restaurants, real estate companies and artists. Unfortunately, I turned down some ad agency offers since they wanted to communicate ideas using small budgets, which could have jeopardised the whole work. What I am looking for is a highly creative and interesting advertising collaboration.

Do you see yourself as a photographer many years down the road?

Photography is my life’s passion. Unless I am physically debilitated, I will always see myself holding a camera.

What advice do you have for photographers just starting out?

Do not go for the expensive camera because it will never add anything to your work. Cameras are just tools, so learn to develop your eyes to “see” the world and learn the principles and theories to better understand when and where you can break them and when they are excellent to use! See the work of others but never imitate.

On the technical front…

Nikon or Canon, other? Many will not like my answer or will be surprised. Considering the mirrorless cameras coming out, Nikon and Canon are being replaced with Sony and Fujifilm.

Favourite lens? Depends if you are shooting studio or landscape, macro or street. However, I can always say that prime lenses are the best regarding quality.

Favourite photography accessory, other than your camera? Tripod, shutter release cable and ND filter.

Favourite editing accessory, other than your computer? Wacom Retouching Tablet.

What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.? Levels, curves, spot healing brush.

Are you a Mac or PC lover? Mac.


ARABAD – SEPTEMBER 2016 PAGE 82-83-84-85 

Stop using a camera, start making photos!!!

The tools of the photographer are his/her language and not the camera itself!!!


WE put on one lens instead of another to include one thing and exclude others.

WE choose one moment over another.

WE choose what we focus on, and what we blur.

The ways in which we can tell a story are endless, and each time the camera does what WE ask of it.

We begin, most of us, learning photography as the art of using a camera, figuring out the buttons and dials and learning to focus and expose.It’s a first, necessary stage.

The mechanics are the tools of craft, but the language is the tool of art.


Learn why the orientation and ratio of your frame helps tell your story…

Learn how to use scale and proportion…

Learn to tell stories…

Learn about colour…

I blame the poets for pushing me further, for drawing me out of my technical pursuit and into something so much richer…


They too master the technical stuff – the verbs, the grammar, the pens, the word processors.

Using a pen is not the point, even using it really, really well…

You might even lead workshops in pen-use, and write a blog. You could probably fill bookshelves with books about using pens. And you could do this without ever writing a poem, without ever writing a novel…


Stop obsessing about the gear and start finding excitement in finding great moments, new approaches to composition, and great light.


Breaking rules for the sake of breaking rules isn’t usually art; it’s just anarchy. And following rules for the sake of following rules is just mindless conformity.


THINK of those points mentioned above, they will make you think deeply on how you can improve your photography!

The 7 Legal Commandments of Photography

I teach these in my workshops and classes and I insist that photographers MUST know these seven points:


  • Anyone in a public place can take pictures of anything they want.


  • If you are on public property, you can take pictures of private property. If a building, for example, is visible from the sidewalk.


  • If you are on private property and are asked not to take pictures, you are obligated to honour that request.


  • Sensitive government buildings can prohibit photography.


  • People can be photographed if they are in public (without their consent) unless they have secluded themselves and can expect a reasonable degree of privacy. Kids swimming in a fountain? Okay. Somebody entering their PIN at the ATM? Not okay.


  • If you are challenged, you do not have to explain why you are taking pictures, nor do you have to disclose your identity (except in some cases when questioned by a law enforcement officer).


  • If someone tries to confiscate your camera, you don’t have to give it to them. If they take it by force or threaten you, they can be liable for things like theft and coercion. Even law enforcement officers need a court order.

This article is extracted from my latest E-Book: The vision, you can download it for free, just click this link:


Creativity in photography

The creativity journey starts with YOU… Camera is not involved… only YOU!

Many people speak of creativity using nice words like soul, mood, passion, feeling and spark. And yes, these are all great words to wrap around the concept of creativity, however they are not particularly helpful in giving us some real goals to aim at.

For me, creativity implies that we have created or added ‘something extra’. It is that bit of ‘magic’ which will occasionally take what we make and transport it to a special place.


There’s No Recipe for Creativity!

Several photographers can shoot the same subject and all come back with technically competent captures. But one of those photographers might produce results that will shine —all because of the creative X factor!

My creativity is not the same as your creativity, nor should it be. My eyes and my experiences are different than yours.

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.” ~ Mary Lou Cook


Some argue that creativity cannot be taught… It’s a gift for the privileged few…

Based on my own experience, i disagree!

Throughout every step of my journey, there have been people, books, movies, classes, and workshops that have helped me to become more creative! I still remember when studying photography that my instructor George Seper in his food photography class showed us his passion for food photography and how this led him to be one of the creative and famous food photographers. He taught us how to think with creativity!

Creativity is NOT something only a few are born with!

It is an ASPECT OF LIFE that some nourish and others ignore.

” Creativity is imagination and imagination is for everyone” – Paul Arden

When we were younger, our imaginations were limitless and unfettered with practicality…

That’s why Picasso once said: “All children are artists. The problem is to remain one when you grow up”

If you want to be creative, you need to step out of your comfort zone, be a beginner again! challenge yourself and your way of thinking in photography… Try something new even if you know you are bad in it… It is all about challenging yourself and in the same time exploring your self… Break the rules… use your imagination and have fun!


How to choose what is best for you? RAW or JPEG?!


Another frequent question i get asked and the most confusing one for most of the amateurs…

Many switch to RAW without fully knowing why while others keep shooting JPEG because it’s just plain easy…


Now shouldn’t you know why you’re doing what you’re doing?  


There are lots of situations where shooting in RAW is better BUT also many situations where you should choose JPEG.


Which Format Is The Better Format To Use?

An argument can be made for both formats. Some photographers will feel more strongly in backing the use of one versus another, but it is ultimately an individual choice.

Personally, I shoot RAW + L (large) JPEG as it provides me greater flexibility. For photographs that I’ve exposed correctly, JPEGs allow me a faster path to share images online and selectively use for printing. For photographs that I am interested in having published or printed, I begin my post-processing from the RAW file and make alterations in lossless file formats (TIF). The end result is the production of images that I feel are of the highest quality.


If you shoot hundreds or thousands of images in a day shoot JPG and don’t worry!




The Pros of RAW format:

  • RAW is a digital negative holding all of the data captured by your camera with no sacrifice of image quality.
  • RAW file software editors allow you to quickly and easily change the output of your image such as adjusting exposure, white balance, noise reduction, saturation, contrast, levels, curves, sharpness, output resolution, bits/channel, etc…


The Cons of RAW format:

  • RAW files take up more space…
  • RAW files require you to work with a raw editor then convert your image to an editable file type for editing, printing and/or online display.


The Pros of JPEG format:

  • JPEG is a file format that has been adopted as a standard and can be loaded in a variety of programs making display easy and simple.
  • JPEG files take up less space.


The Cons of JPEG format:

  • JPEGs are not a lossless file format. Each time the file is saved data is compressed, with some data being lost in the process. The net impact can be loss of color saturation, color range and sharpness.
  • JPEG files reflect a one-time interpretation of your subject based on the settings of your camera (white balance, exposure settings and output resolution, etc.). Altering these settings and re-outputting a new file, as you can with a RAW file, is not possible. What you capture is what you get.
  • With specific types of photographed scenes JPEG compression artifacts can appear in prints.


Now the decision is yours 🙂




How to shoot fireworks!



A frequent question “How to shoot fireworks?”

With the summer coming up and different celebrations you may have the opportunity to photograph some fireworks.


Photographing fireworks can be challenging but it’s not impossible!


Choose your location wisely 

Take the time to discover a great location to view the fireworks from. When you get to the location, look for foreground objects. Fireworks against a black sky are colorful, but not that exciting in a photograph. Reference points—buildings, hillsides, trees, monuments—help a lot.

  • Tip – be careful of the wind direction! Otherwise after the first couple fireworks your photos will be clouded by the smoke.


Be sure that your flash is OFF


Tripod is a Must!

To effectively capture fireworks, you will have to use a long shutter speed and without a tripod you simply will get a blurry photo.


Shutter Release Remote

You ideally should be using a shutter release remote which will let you open the shutter without having to physically touch the camera – which can cause blur. I use a cable release


Keep ISO Low 

Make sure to use as low of ISO as possible to ensure your photos are as noiseless as possible.


Which lens is best?

Unfortunately, the best answer I can give to that question is, “It depends on your location.” . I prefer wide angle!


Manual Focus 

Focusing at night is always a challenge. I recommend to set the lens to manual focus and set it to the ∞ (infinity) mark. With most autofocus cameras, use autofocus to focus on something very far away, and then reset it to Manual focus to lock the focus at infinity for the rest of the night.


Camera settings 

It is impossible to tell you what is the “exact” settings…

But we can start with ISO100, f/11, 2 seconds shutter speed. If the fireworks are too bright, pick a higher f-stop number and if too dark, vice-versa (like f/8).

I use “bulb” mode in which I control the length of the shutter manually.  If using “bulb” mode, open the shutter at the start of the firework trail and hold open until the burst, or longer to capture more!


Do NOT use live view 

If your camera has it. This will eat up your battery really fast!


Shoot most of your shots at the start of the show

To avoid the smoke/haze that appears a bit later and ruin your photos!


Make sure you leave enough room in your frame to anticipate the height of the opened bursts!


Have fun and experiment!

Quick Photography Tips For Beginners


Here you go… Some short and sweet photography tips to think about!




  1. A more expensive camera doesn’t make you a better photographer
  2. Rely on the Rule of Thirds
  3. Use a camera sling instead of a neck strap
  4. There is NO easy way
  5. Always have a spare memory card.
  6. Photos do not show the world you have seen, they show the way you see the world
  7. Contemplate your shot
  8. Try different angles
  9. The best equipment doesn’t help if you’re not standing in the right spot
  10. You cannot force a picture to be good
  11. Think about what light you want
  12. Not everyone is beautiful, but everyone is interesting
  13. Prime lenses will make you think more
  14. Zoom lenses are your best friend in street photography
  15. Bump the ISO if needed
  16. Shoot during sunset and sunrise for the best light
  17. Shadows can be subjects
  18. Aperture controls depth of field
  19. Shutter speed controls motion in your picture
  20. Auto ISO is your best friend
  21. Be critical of yourself
  22. Tripods are extremely useful for both interior and exterior shooting
  23. The relationship is about you and the subject, not you and the camera
  24. Show only your best work
  25. Changing photos to B&W does NOT make an uninteresting shot interesting!
  26. Color photography is NOT more artistic than black and white
  27. Two good pictures out of every fifty taken is a pretty good ratio
  28. Use a large aperture for portraits
  29. Use a small aperture for landscapes
  30. Stop hating on others!