Discovery of the Industry
When he was a child, Ali's school noticed that he had unusually high computer proficiency and invited him to join a program where he would be given an Apple computer for $150 with free upgrades for life. However, his father thought that this would be a waste and instead put the money into starting a new local soccer team. While the team was practicing one day, Ali was given a camera to hold, which spawned his interest in photography.
"At the risk of sounding clichÃ©, the rest was history," Ali remembers of his beginnings. "After soccer games, I was using the camera at 'Bollywood-style' weddings throughout my family."
The young Ali quickly became the go-to family photographer, a chore demanded by his father. (And he was only too happy to comply!)
Even without professional equipment, Ali was able to discover lighting techniques through trial and error (and a good eye) while shooting family events. "Without any professional equipment, I had to learn how to bounce light off walls to make brides look beautiful, to capture large family portraits in small spaces and other such homemade lighting tricks," he explains. "As I taught myself light and film--and every way possible to be the family photographer with no resources at all--it started to get under my skin and in my blood."
Diversity in the Industry
Today, Ali's photography focuses mainly on fashion, modeling and product modeling, but he feels able to cover any type of photography (thanks to his childhood experiences).
"I never had a chance to choose a specialty because most of my photography 'assignments' were mandatory at such an early age," Ali adds. "I had no choice but to be diverse and do well at anything that was thrown at me."
Here's an example of his diversity--and how photography skills can help in vastly different ways: Ali has served as an expert court witness in California and New Jersey in cases where photographic evidence may have been altered. Ali considers this work to be among some of his top accomplishments as a photographer.
"There are too many cases where people alter photo evidence, and the untrained eye is none the wiser. For example, I can point out how the lighting in an image is too infeasible to be true," explains Ali about his work as a court witness. "I'm proud to say that some falsely accused people regained their freedom partially due to the simple illustration that a natural light source could never do what I saw in certain photos."
Devotion to the Industry
Along with his above accomplishments, Ali says that just knowing he is a real professional photographer is a joy: "It's no longer a childhood chore; it's one of the greatest loves in my life." In fact, Ali is now applying his previous skills--in website design, optimization and online marketing--to his own photography and helping other photographers. "Every 'click' is another step toward a dream realized," he adds.
Ali has taken a lot of steps toward that dream despite a lack of photographic resources in his beginnings. And when he found PPA, he found even more help for keeping his business successful.
"A rising tide lifts all ships; and by joining PPA, I've been lifted to a level where I can look to the future and see a world of possibility in photography," says Ali. "The resources, the knowledge, the support, the feedback... I could go on and on, just like the advantages of PPA go on and on."
In his words, PPA has been a "wellspring" of knowledge throughout his photographic career, thanks to the forums, online courses and Professional Photographer magazine. "I've also gained a much greater appreciation for the meaning of true photography and the integrity of being a true photographer," he adds. "No matter how far I go, I will always remain one of PPA's most grateful and attentive students."
With help of PPA and the knowledge gleaned from a lifetime in photography, Ali is sure to keep growing his business and creativity. Who knows where he'll go next!
ALL IMAGES Â© MICHAEL ALI