Royal Photographer Samir Hussein...a conversation in lockdown

Ella
9th June 2020

We spoke to multi award-winning Royal and Entertainment photographer Samir Hussein during lockdown covering his most memorable moments with the Royal family, what slowing down has meant to him and his advice for aspiring photographers.

You can browse more of Samir’s work at www.samirhussein.com and follow him at @samhussein1

Shop his incredible limited edition fine art signed prints here samirhussein.com/fine-art-prints

© Samir Hussein 2020

Samir Hussein...a conversation in lockdown 

Samir Hussein is a multi award-winning Royal and Entertainment photographer. Spending much of his time as an official photographer capturing the British Royal Family he also documents Europe's biggest entertainment events. Samir regularly travels abroad with the British Royal Family, most notably capturing the journey of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge since their engagement, the subsequent wedding and arrival of Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. He has also documented the relationship between Prince Harry and Meghan since before their engagement. This has led to him to become one of the most widely published Royal photographers in the world.

His timeless imagery is extensively published in world-renowned publications, including the cover of Vanity Fair, The New York Times, Hello!, Life, Paris Match, Rolling Stone Magazine, The Times, Point de Vue and his imagery has also graced Royal stamps, coins and big-scale advertising and marketing campaigns.

He has been crowned Arts and Entertainment Photographer of the Year on three different occasions at the prestigious Picture Editors Awards while in 2015 he won the Getty Images European Entertainment Portfolio of the Year Award.

We spoke to multi award-winning Royal and Entertainment photographer Samir Hussein during lockdown covering his most memorable moments with the Royal family, what slowing down has meant to him and his advice for aspiring photographers.

BB: How are you, and are you able to take photographs in lockdown? Who, or what, have been your subjects?

Samir: I've been doing well. I've been just at home with the family, keeping healthy, which I think is the main thing. I've been taking a few photographs since lockdown started, but not professionally. And that's really down to the nature of my work, Royal engagements, big shows, events. None of these have been taking place, obviously. So there's not been any access to shooting famous faces on lockdown. Just like anyone else, I've been at home. I've got two kids. That's been fun. And the rest of the time, just working on my business, planning a bit for the future.

One of the things I started working on is selling hand-signed limited edition prints for the first time, which I'll be selling through my website. I think, as a photographer, it's just nice to see your work printed out. It's quite rare you get to see that, normally it's in papers and magazines and on websites, so to actually see them printed out, it's really nice. I think that's one of the most pleasurable things you can do as a photographer, is to see them really nicely printed out.

© Samir Hussein 2020

BB: You obviously travel so much as a Royal and entertainment photographer, how have you adapted to being at home?

Samir: Well, it's been a change. I mean it's been good overall, in that as much as I'd rather go out shooting, I do love to travel, it's also just really nice to be at home with the family. I think when I look back in three years' time at this period, I think I'll look back at it very fondly, because of time with the kids.

Normally at this time of year, I'm incredibly busy. I'd be at the Cannes Film Festival for a couple of weeks,and then going into early June, I'd be covering really big events, like Trooping the Colour, Royal Ascot, and then Glastonbury, so I'd be away from family a lot. So actually, to spend this time with the family is really unusual for me. And I'm really enjoying it.

BB: What was your path to becoming a photographer and getting into this line of work?

Samir: I was very lucky, because my dad was actually a photographer, and used to photograph showbiz throughout the sixties and seventies, all these amazing characters and famous faces. Everyone from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, and then he actually went on to photograph the Royals throughout the Diana years. So I was lucky in that I actually grew up surrounded by great photography. And photography's always an interest I've had. I studied journalism and it was only after I finished uni that I got more into the photography side of things. So I then started off working at some photo agencies as a photo editor, and going out and shooting whenever I had the opportunity.

© Samir Hussein 2020

BB: Looking at your work, how do you manage to capture smaller moments that are much more candid and natural? Especially on big glitzy red carpets…

Samir: Whatever kind of shoot I'm going into, I'm going into it with the same objective. Be it a Royal engagement, a red carpet event, music concert, a portrait shoot one-on-one, whatever. And I think my objective is really to try and catch a bit of humanity, to capture something ... to show a bit of personality, and to show that famous face more as a human. My goal is always to try and achieve that with the most beautiful photo possible. It's not always possible, but that's how I go into every job I do. And often these can come in unexpected times, such as shooting stars on the red carpet. Sometimes these moments come after they've been posing for photos, and they suddenly relax and you can capture maybe a slightly more candid moment.

I think the same goes for the Royals. I'm just looking for these small little moments that go beyond the pomp and ceremony that you get with the Royals. For instance, with Harry and Meghan or William and Kate, it could just be a little moment when they turn to each other and just give a little smile, or one of them might put their hand on another one's back in a supporting kind of way. It's just these moments of spontaneity that I think, with experience, you learn to look out for. And they can come unexpected times

© Samir Hussein 2020

BB: Do you have any kind of standout photographs or moments from your career?

Samir: There's been so many. In terms of the Royals, I love going on tours with the Royals, because they're a lot more relaxed. They're in more interesting locations and scenarios. We went to India and Bhutan with William and Kate, and that was just absolutely stunning for pictures, just two amazing countries. We went trekking up a mountain with them, and it was just so beautiful and breathtaking. So from a personal point of view, that was really special. More recently, I took the picture of Harry and Meghan walking through the rain which went viral. And that was a really pleasing picture to get. It's one of the last jobs they were doing before they were stepping down as Royals, so to get a really strong picture like that, that was so well received by the public and so well used, was really special.

BB: What kind of advice do you have for photographers looking to get into entertainment photography?

Samir: I think it's the same whatever genre of photography you want to get into. I'd recommend studying the leading photographers in that genre, and ask what makes them so good? What is it about those pictures and what is it that you can try and not copy, but try and learn from? And get to those heights yourself. I think you've got to be quite critical about your own pictures, and look at ways that you can improve as a photographer, and just set really, really high standards. And you can only do that by comparing yourself to the best.

I think it's a great idea, if you can, to try and get a mentor that works as a photographer, or someone who's very well-established in the industry, so that you can talk to them about a career path, and maybe they can critique your pictures and you can learn ways to improve your photography. We're all learning the whole time. I think to have some kind of mentor or someone you can speak to in the industry is really invaluable.

The other thing I would say is, particularly with press photography and the media, is you've got to collaborate with other photographers and people in the industry, and also with agencies, with newspapers, magazines, with websites, because these are the people that are going to help you get the access, and the access is absolutely key to what I do. You can be the best photographer in the world, but if you haven't got that access to these famous faces, then you're not really going to be too successful.

I work a lot with an agency, Getty Images, and they help me a lot to get access. But if you're just starting out, you're not going to have a big name in the industry, so it might just be a local newspaper or a website or magazine, so try and get in with them and ask them, what kind of jobs can I do? Maybe do smaller jobs that other people aren't doing, just get your foot in the door with them, building up contacts and relationships with people in the industry, because you look at any big photographer that's made it in this way, they've been working with a good agency or they've been working with really good publications that really help them with access.

© Samir Hussein 2020

BB: Just lastly, what do you think the impact of this period will be on your career, and how do you anticipate navigating the restrictions around social gathering, red carpets etc. And can you think of any silver linings?

Samir: It’s hard to see how events will adapt in the coming months. A red carpet event would have quite a lot of photographers normally. I'd imagine they're going to restrict this, so that we can have some kind of social distancing. Same goes with the Royals. They're going to be really, really careful, so they might just have a really limited amount of photographers, maybe even just one or two documenting their events.

So I think it's going to be hard for a lot of us to get, at least initially, the same access we were. And it is quite worrying for the whole kind of arts industry in itself. I was talking about Glastonbury earlier, I think a lot smaller festivals are going to struggle to come back from this. There might, at least initially, be less work out there. On top of that, newspapers are struggling, magazines are struggling, budgets have been slashed, so people are going to be paying less for pictures initially. So I think at least for the next year or so, things will be tough for a lot of photographers. From a personal point of view, I'm going to have to make sure, if there are less photographers, that I'm still getting that access, and think of ways that I can work with the artists in other ways. Maybe working more one-on-one with them, maybe doing some more portraits.

Any silver linings? Well, from a personal point of view, I think it's allowed me to slow down, take stock and plan for the future. Another real positive is that I'm really going to appreciate the work I do when I go back, and really not take things for granted. I'm going to be really hungry to go out and take pictures and I'm going to come back more motivated than ever.

BB: And in the meantime, you can continue to take incredible photographs of your kids!

You can browse more of Samir’s work at www.samirhussein.com and follow him at @samhussein1

Shop his incredible limited edition fine art signed prints here samirhussein.com/fine-art-prints

© Samir Hussein 2020