Bahare Salehnia took a risk in venturing into photography after she graduated from University. The young photographer, who has amassed 2.2 million followers on Instagram since deciding she would pursue photography full time, is somewhat of a force among the influencer community. Where many photographers opt to use Instagram as a way to showcase their work, Salehnia dedicates an equal amount of energy to giving tips to her followers on how to take better photos on their own. This strategy, as different as it is, helped her leverage her skills by offering more interactive content that her followers can enjoy. We spoke with Salehnia on what inspired her to take on photography as she navigates living during COVID-19 with family back in Iran.
Grit Daily: You had your own adventures before you started scripting video tutorials. Before we get to that, share those.
Bahare Salehnia: I’m a civil engineer after graduating from university. I had to choose between going to University for a Masters or starting my other option that was starting the pass of photography. In another way, my father told me to choose what you love. It was so challenging because I am an engineer. I love studying but I think civil engineering was a little tough. On the other hand, I love to show the world in the way that I see and create art, so I choose photography! I took some classes in Iran and some classes here. I’d say I’m a Portrait photographer because I love to show personality and beauty in everyone in my photo.
Just want to tell you more about myself, my mother passed away when I was 13. It is hard for a teenage girl that lost her mom but… this is life right? She is the reason why I love to teach. I think it is in my genes.
I have one older brother, Soroosh. We are so close together and he is in Iran right now because of Covid, so we are patiently waiting for the embassies to open. The reason that I started photography and having so many followers… It was my father that told me to make a video tutorial…so I did! He is my mentor and so supportive.
As I say I start teaching photography on a phone because everyone has a phone. Besides being in the photo world, I got married two years ago in Iran. I came to New York 8 months ago and am waiting for my husband to come, but because of Covid — just like my brother Soroosh he couldn’t come and we are far from each other for 8 months. I am having a tough time right now! I miss my husband. I miss my brother. I miss my mother. But these are Covid times and many people are going through it so I know I’m not alone.
Grit Daily: When did you first pick up a camera?
Salehnia: I don’t remember the first time but I remember when I was 6 every time that my parents wanted to take photos, I took the camera from them and said “Hey, I want to take pictures!” I have loved photography since I was child but as a professional around 5 years ago my father bought me a Canon 600D and I took some photography classes. It was interesting that between all the students in my class that had the best camera at the end of class my teacher just published my photo as the best result of student work, because photography isn’t just about gear that you use. It is about having that creative eye and vision. This taught me a valuable lesson for how things have gone for me.
After that I went to Peter Coulson class and started sharing my photo on my Instagram page. It’s good to learn from best but the creativity in yourself is more important than anything.
Grit Daily: What is your relationship to Peter Coulson?
Salehnia: He was my teacher in his class in New York. I remember those times. My English wasn’t very good and they told us: “Don’t record the class.” Before class started I spoke with him and told him I came from Iran for his photography class and he was so kind and said I was his second Persian student . In breaks, he came to me and asked if I understood or not, and he explained again if I didn’t. That was a good experience and I was so lucky to meet him. He told me one thing that I always remember. “Don’t ask anyone about your photo. You are the photographer and you should like the photo that you take..not other people”. I remember these sentences from him and teach millions of people to trust their job and their photography.
Grit Daily: For the uninitiated, what is a “retoucher?”
Bahare Salehnia: A retoucher is someone that professionally edits photos; the face and color and the composition of photos and if it needs changing to the exposure or adding a special theme to the photos; color grading! A good retoucher is someone that edits photos so when other people see it, they don’t understand that it has been edited.
Grit Daily: Given your Instagram following, why venture to other platforms like TikTok?
Bahare Salehnia: When you have followers, people want to see you on another platform because every platform has a special theme. Environment and videos on YouTube are different from Instagram and Instagram is different from TikTok. In my home country of Iran, TikTok and YouTube are banned, so I don’t have much activity on these two platforms. Growing on TikTok is much easier than growing on Youtube or Instagram but the point is you have to work on it day by day to be successful wherever you find yourself creating content. I also feel TikTok is young and exciting. It is a challenge.
Grit Daily: What’s one conventional wisdom about posing that’s just plain wrong?
Bahare Salehnia: There are a lot of mistakes in posing, but if I could tell one thing, I would go with “strengthening the back.” If your back was like a curve it would ruin your photo no matter if you are a boy or girl. Straightening the back will follow self-confidence and when you have confidence in yourself it will show on your photo as well. If you do not have a good feeling about yourself especially at the moment of taking a photo, your pictures won’t be good. Those with proper posture always seem to be most beautiful in what they bring out in their photos.