Shahrukh Sharif

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Shahrukh Sharif is 25 years old and lives in Karachi, Pakistan.

He has been working at the Aga Khan Development Network Digital Health Resource Centre (AKDN dHRC) in Karachi for the past 6 years as a Creative Associate specializing in film making, photography, and web/graphic designing. He has always been interested in all things related to camera. His father and brother are also in this line of work – father being a 3D animator and brother being a 3D character animator, filmmaker, and photographer.

So, it did not take long for this interest of his to develop into a passion, which in turn, led to becoming his full-time job. He loves shooting videos and taking photos, and almost never give up the opportunity to do so.

He loves all sorts of photography, but the ones that attract him the most are those photos which carry a strong message with them, and nature/scenic photography. He loves it when a photo makes you think twice about what you are exactly looking at and what it is trying to say to you.

None of his shoots/projects have been individual, he has always worked in a team with his brother, because he – Shahrukh – believes two minds are better than one when it comes to making something artistic and creative. Also, together, they work off each other’s ideas and to their benefit it has always done wonders for them.

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What appealed to you about photography in the first place?

The one thing that has always stuck out for me regarding photography is that ‘A picture can say a thousand words’.

It captures the story from that moment and keeps it forever – no matter how many years later you look at that photo, you can still recall everything that happened at that time.

The first photo I took which got me interested in photography was when I was 12 years old and it was just a very simple family portrait from my brother’s high school graduation. Looking back at that photo sometime later, I realized that this is such a strong artistic medium that has the power to retain the subjects’ emotions forever.

Which is your favourite lens? Why?

My favorite lens out of my gear is the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II. This is a very versatile lens in my opinion and since it is a Micro-Four Thirds format lens the correctly focal range is 24-70mm which is ideal for most type of photos – whether it be a nature shot or a portrait shot.

Also, the fixed aperture gives the same type of bokeh if you are zoomed out or zoomed all the way in. This lens feels very good in the hand while using, it’s build is really premium quality and overall, it’s a very good durable lens.

What kind of gear do you use?

Honestly, I do not really believe in using high end gear to make art. I believe that photography can be done with any type of camera, be it a mobile phone, a DSLR, a film camera or even a simple point and shoot one.

To be a good photographer you must have a good eye and be a good storyteller.

With that being said, I use the following equipment:

Which of your photos is your favourite? Does it have a backstory?

This is photo is titled after the location it was shot in ‘Eagle’s Nest’.

My brother and I had gone on a shoot to Northern Pakistan in late December of 2016 to shoot a documentary for our organization, AKDN dHRC. It was our first day in Hunza and our Shoot Manager took us to this place in Duikar called Eagle’s Nest.

It is one of the best vantage points in this whole area overlooking all the districts of the Hunza Valley. But like everything else in life, this vantage point did not come easy.

To get to this beautiful location we had to hike up a mountain and once there we saw another mountain peak which at that time did not seem that far away but as we went closer to it, we realized that it was getting steeper and steeper. But that did not stop the adrenaline rush we had inside us due to the low oxygen levels and sheer excitement.

Once we got on this peak this is the view that we were looking at – an endless sea of the Karakoram Mountain Range. It went as far as our eye could see and even then it did not stop but instead just become covered by the lingering clouds.

It was such a beautiful sight that truly cannot be explained in words, but this photos does a good job of getting the point accross and also makes us realize that nature is a great work of art – a beautiful masterpiece!

Among the gadgets that you own, is there something that you wish you hadn’t bought? Why?

Not really. Whenever I am purchasing any sort of gadget, I triple check everything. Whether or not I really need it or am I just doing it for the heck of it.

So, all the equipment that I have are well thought out and I use all of them at certain times.

In the field, what are your settings?

I do not have exact settings per se. I like to change my settings according to the situation. If I am shooting something out of a moving car then I switch the camera to shutter priority mode and just bump up the shutter speed and let the camera manage everything else on the go.

But if I am doing a steady shot then I shoot on all manual with the occasional exemption of shifting to auto-focus every now and then just to avoid that human eye error. But mostly for outdoor shots my ISO ranges between 100-640 and for indoor I keep it around 640-1000.

As for the aperture, it all depends on the subject in the shot – whether I need everything to be in full focus or I am looking for a more of shallow depth of field look. But, as far as the image format is concerned I’m always shooting JPEG+RAW on all platforms (DSLR, GoPro, Phone), because that way if I ever mistakenly get anything wrong in the picture like the exposure or the white balance, I can fix it in post thanks to the RAW format.

What kind of tools do you use for post processing? Explain your workflow.

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are my go-to software for post processing. I love the dynamic processing both the software have to offer.

But if I ever have to edit on my phone, I use Snapseed. It is an amazing mobile app that lets you edit RAW and has features very similar to that of Photoshop and Lightroom.

There is also Lightroom and Photoshop for mobile, but I do not really use them as much as Snapseed.

How have you educated yourself to take better pictures?

I would say in my opinion YouTube has been a great source of knowledge for me. I have learned so much from watching how other photographers take their shots and what goes on in their minds.

But all in all, I would say observation is the best teacher one can have for this type of field. I have learned a lot just by looking at other photographers’ works on Instagram and the backstory the give about what happened while they were taking the shot.

A best example for this would be how Peter McKinnon explains the efforts he made to take a shot of Lake Moraine and how important that shot was him and how happy it made him.

Whose work has inspired you the most?

Peter McKinnon is one of my favorite photographers of all time, I have learned so many tips and tricks from him that I probably wouldn’t have from anyone else.

His choice of shots and style of color grading have really influenced my work a lot. Another one of my favorites is Brandon Woelfel and his style of portrait photography is very unqiue and not everyone else does that style of neon lit portrait with his excellent use of blue/pink color tones.

My list of influencers is a long one as I belive we can learn even a little bit from everyone. I really like the works of Chris Hau, Alen Palander, Justin McDonough (Dunnadidit), etc. Being a filmmaker, I would say even a Directory of Photography (DoP) is a great photographer who can set the tone and mood of a shoot through proper lighting and just bring the whole shot together as a whole.

Therefore, I also like the works of Lawrence Sher (DoP for The Hangover Movies and JOKER), Andrew Lesnie (DoP for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) and my list goes on.

What is the one photography-related thing you wish to tell your past self?

“Your photography mode does not matter!” When starting out I would always ‘waste’ my time in switching my camera to manual mode and keep fidgeting with the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed before taking any photos.

By doing that, I would lose so much valuable time that I could have spent taking good photos. So, my brother would often get mad at me about doing this and he would say that photography mode does not matter, just shoot in auto mode, and get the shot – do not let that shot get away, main thing is the vision behind the shot.

In hindsight, he was and still is right. I could not agree with him more on this now, because photography is more about storytelling and good composition rather than choosing perfect setting to take the shot.

The ‘perfect’ setting configuration just comes along the way with experience, I believe it is not something which you can nail right off the bat.

Why did you become a photographer?

People often ask me if I got into this field and eventually made it my career choice because of my father and brother also being in the same field. The answer is NO. My interest has always been in storytelling. Growing up, I was told by my teachers that I could be a great writer.

Because, while writing I always let my imagination run wild and take control of my pen. I love telling stories – no matter what the medium. That is the main reason I got into this field. I saw an opportunity to tell stories through a lens – be it in the form of a film or a photograph.

Each one of my photos have their own story attached to it. For example, during our Northern Pakistan shoot, my brother and I planned to get up every day at 4:00-4:30am and go up to the hotel balcony and set up the camera for a time-lapse.

On the first day up on the balcony, we witnessed a beautiful sunrise over the Karakoram Mountains with the sun just coming up behind the mountains, lighting up the sky and the light from the sky illuminating the fog on ground. That sight left us in awe and still talking about it to this day brings back those great memories.

Thus, the story of this photo has stuck with us ever since and after hearing the backstory, this photo feels even better to look at. This photo was taken by my brother on that day, but it sets a perfect example of the memories a photo can capture.

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