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Five minutes with Royal Photographer Samir Hussein

Seeing a picture on the front of the newspaper or a magazine of the Royal Family isn’t anything new, a week can’t go by without a headline story. So it may come as a surprise to many that the man responsible for numerous of said pictures is as humble as he is.

I first met Samir (Sam) Hussein at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto. He and a handful of the other photographers took me under their wing and showed me the ropes. A lesson I will forever be grateful for! However, if it weren’t for the bragging of his friends, I would have never learned about his accomplishments.

Sam was raised in the world of royal photography, his father, Anwar Hussein was a royal photographer for well over 40 years.

“My Dad was a photographer who photographed show business throughout the 60s and later the Royals, so I grew up surrounded by great photography of legends such as The Beatles, The Stones and Steve McQueen,” Sam told Royal Central. 

It was that influence that ultimately led him down the same career path, continuing he said:  “I was always into photography, but it was only after I finished my degree in journalism that I pursued a career in photography. I moved to London, started working as picture editor and shooting small jobs whenever I had the chance. Having built up experience and contacts, I decided to become a full-time freelance photographer focusing on the Royals and entertainment. That was ten years ago and I haven’t looked back!”

Fortunately for Sam, his father has been a big support and an “inspiration”.

“The fact he’s a successful photographer who has achieved so much is more of an inspiration than a pressure”, revealed Sam.

“Inevitably people will compare us, but I think we’ve both achieved a lot in our own way and it’s been really fun and rewarding following on my father’s work with the Royals for another generation.”

In his relatively short career, he has been awarded the 2016 Arts and Entertainment Photographer of the Year at the Picture Editor Awards and the 2015 Getty Images European Entertainment Portfolio of the Year Award, but possibly the momentous moment is having his picture chosen for a royal stamp calling it a “great honour”.

Royal Stamp from engagement of Prince William to the then, Kate Middleton (now Duchess of Cambridge) (c) Samir Hussein

Having a photo of William and Kate from their engagement used on a stamp was a big moment for me as it was the first time I had photographed them together. You work hard to get classic photos, and you hope that your best work gets recognised and used. There’s not much better recognition that having it chosen for a stamp!”

Since the first stamp, he has had another stamp after the tour to Australia, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s effigy were taken from his photo to put on a coin.

So, what does someone on the inside track look forward to in 2018? Like the rest of us, he is also hoping for a Royal Wedding.

Harry and Meghan look set to announce an engagement and if they do we should be set for a wedding next summer. It would be a huge occasion and I’m very excited to photograph them more as a couple.”

If you want to learn more about Samir Hussein you can check out his website or follow him on Instagram @samhussein1.

 

Alternately, you can read the full interview below including advice for aspiring photographers!

How did you get into photography? How long have you been a professional photographer?

My Dad was a photographer who photographed show business throughout the 60s and later the Royals so I grew up surrounded by great photography of legends such as The Beatles, The Stones and Steve McQueen. I was always into photography, but it was only after I finished my degree in journalism that I pursued a career in photography. I moved to London, started working as picture editor and shooting small jobs whenever I had the chance. Having built up experience and contacts, I decided to become a full-time freelance photographer focusing on the Royals and entertainment. That was 10 years years ago and I haven’t looked back!

Is there a pressure following in your father’s footsteps?

I’ve never felt any great pressure as my father has never pushed me into photography. As I’ve built up my career he’s been a big help with advice and encouragement.  The fact he’s a successful photographer who has achieved so much is more of an inspiration than a pressure.

Inevitably people will compare us, but I think we’ve both achieved a lot in our own way and it’s been really fun and rewarding following on my father’s work with the Royals for another generation.

What has been your favourite tour and/or event you have covered?

My favourite tour for photos was William & Kate’s tour of India and Bhutan last year. Photographing in India is like nowhere else and I was lucky enough to capture them in such striking locations such as the slums of Mumbai, Kaziranga National Park and of course the iconic shot of them in front of the Taj Mahal. Bhutan was equally as colourful and special. Climbing up the mountain to Tiger’s Nest monastery to document William and Kate on their way up was definitely a career highlight. It was so tranquil with stunning views – definitely felt privileged to visit such an amazing location.

Although this tour was great for photos, it was also a very tough schedule with loads of travel, no downtime and very little sleep, so it for enjoyment it doesn’t rank high.

Travelling with William and Kate to Singapore, Malaysia, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu was great for photos and was a tour we had time to appreciate the countries we visited.

Do you remember the first time one of your pictures made it to the cover of a newspaper/magazine?

Yes, I do. It was a photo of artist La Roux that made the front of The Guardian. I’ve had many of my images used on the front of newspapers and magazines since, but you never lose the thrill of seeing your image used on the cover of big mags and papers.

What was it like to have your image of W&K picked for a stamp?

It was a great honour. Having a photo of William and Kate from their engagement used on a stamp was a big moment for me as it was the first time I had photographed them together. You work hard to get classic photos and you hope that your best work gets recognised and used. There’s not much better recognition that having it chosen for a stamp!

What are the members of the Royal Family like behind the scenes?

Both William and Harry are very charming when you meet them. They have great banter and effortlessly home in on a common ground of interest. It’s very hard not to warm to them when you meet them.

Probably the easiest to photograph though is the Duchess of Cornwall. She makes a big effort to acknowledge the cameras and is always up for trying things which will help us get a strong photo. She is super friendly, going out of her way to engage with the press.  

You shoot multiple genres, what is your favourite?

To be honest I like the variety of shooting different genres. I love the fact one day I could be shooting a music festival or fashion show and the next at a Royal engagement. There are different skill sets and protocols for each, but I get to witness and record some amazing events. Travelling with the Royals is particularly special though as you get to visit and see extraordinary places that you would never normally have the opportunity to.

What royal related event are you most looking forward to in 2018?

I hope a Royal Wedding! Harry and Meghan look set to announce an engagement and if they do we should be set for a wedding next summer. It would be a huge occasion and I’m very excited to photograph them more as a couple, having shot them for the first time at the Invictus Games in Toronto.

There’s also another Royal baby on the way. It was a joy to capture  William and Kate emerge from the hospital with Prince George and Princess Charlotte and this should be no different. There will be a huge buzz of excitement again. It’s a massive moment in their lives, but also as a Royal photographer, the newborn will form an important part of my work for years to come.

Any advice for aspiring royal photographers?

Take every opportunity to go out and shoot the Royals, even if this means shooting smaller engagements.  It’s vital to have a good output for your photographs so speak to different agencies and publications. Things won’t just fall into your lap however, you’ll have to graft.

Learn which type of photographs get used of the Royals in the press and elsewhere.

Build up contacts in the Royal Palace press officers and don’t be afraid to seek advice and guidance from the experienced Royal correspondents, be it photographers or journalists.

Finally, research the best Royal photographers and compare your photos to theirs. It’s a very competitive market and you need to stand out, so set your standards high. Analyse how you can improve to be as good or better than them.

 

 

 

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