Zaid Patel

Although this is only the second interview in my photographer series, I’ve been lucky enough to meet really talented individuals. This interview in particular was so refreshing. Below you’ll meet Zaid, a full-time student at UT Austin and part time photographer. However, as creatives, we know that our full-time job doesn’t limit us to our greatest creative potential.

Zaid Patel – @zaidpatel

How and when did you pick up photography?
I first bought my Rebel T3 camera about 6 or 7 years ago. I mostly just took photos of my family in auto-mode until about 5 months ago. 5 months ago is when I really picked up the camera and decided I was going to do this.

Who or what influences you to do what you do?
My girlfriend has been my biggest influence. She’s always telling me to go shoot here, go shoot there, showing me different styles, telling me how to improve.

As far as Instagram influences, I really like @dfreske and

How do you think you have you grown from the time you started to today?
I transformed my personal Instagram into my business Instagram. My personal page had about 900 followers and now that I’ve switched it, I’m at about 1,600 in only 5 months. It’s been crazy to see my business grow – from gaining more likes and followers to people reaching out asking for pictures.

How have you grown your business? What has worked and what hasn’t?
The biggest thing for me is post as much as you can. Just this past summer, I was posting pictures every other day and I was averaging at least 10 new followers per post.

It’s important to study and consider the hashtags you use, and the captions you post to make them relevant to your followers. If you’re in a sunflower field, don’t just caption the photo “sunflowers,” but make sure you write out something thoughtful that your followers can relate to.

Posting pictures of yourself is a good way to show your clients and followers who you are and it gives you an opportunity to share your goals with them too.

Another thing that has helped me grow is giving shout outs to other photographers. People who are following them and aren’t following you

What are some things you wish you knew when you started your business?
I wish I knew about about manual mode. When I first started shooting, I was using auto mode but my cousin who is a photographer in Houston actually taught me to shoot in manual mode and he showed me that shooting in manual mode will help with more creativity and control in the images.

I also wish I would have started meeting other photographers early on. If I would have created Austin Visuals early on, I know that it would be a lot bigger than it is today.

How do you organize and plan your work? (choosing clients, locations, vibe, etc.)
Every time I drive now, it’s not about me getting from point A to point B, it’s about me scouting out locations. Just the other day, I drove by P. Terry’s and noticed the neon lights and figured it would be good location for a retro themed shoot. I pitched the idea to my girlfriend and we went to a thrift shop, picked up an baseball jersey and made it happen.

I have to plan my work around school. I use Google Calendar to plan most of my shoots. Each time I get a client, I have to ask: What type of shots their looking for, are they looking for full body shots or portraits? I usually tell them to go through Google images or Instagram and send me examples of what they want so I know what they’re going for ahead of time instead of me showing up to shoot and then realizing that’s not what they wanted.

What are some of the most important lessons you can share with someone just starting out?

1. Meet as many people as you can. If there’s meet ups in the area, go out and meet photographers, models and other creatives in your area. I’ve met so many people through the Austin Visuals meet up. Everyone has their own style and it’s all about learning from them to improve your own work.

2. When you see something on Instagram, don’t copy it. Use it as inspiration but always go out there and be unique and make it your own.

For example, one of my favorite local photographers is @mariogclark. When I asked him who is inspirations were, he told me he likes @dfreske and @brandonwoelfel and I like how Mario takes a bit of both his inspirations and mixes them together to create his own style.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

  • Motivated
  • Responsible
  • Innovative

When you are not studying or taking photos, what do you enjoy doing?

  • I’m part of the UT Spark Magazine
  • I play intramural flag football at UT
  • Hanging out with friends

A lot of time, we find ourselves overwhelmed and busy with school, work and all other adult responsibilities. What do you to make time for yourself? What does your “me” time look like?

Monday through Thursday at UT is grind week. I’m at the library studying, doing homework, etc. There’s no “me time” between Monday and Thursday. The weekends are more of my “me time.” I spend time hanging out with friends, tailgating, UT football games, or going out to eat.

What advice would you give to someone who has a vision/goal/dream but is just stuck?
Always write it down. Every time I have a vision of a photoshoot, I’ll pick up my phone and write it in my notes:

Model: ______
Location: _____
Date/time: _____

After I have that, I start to think about a potential model to fit the scene. Every model has a different style so you want to make sure the model you choose matches the vision you have. Next, I’ll pull up Instagram and search for the hashtag “austin model” and choose from there.

Favorite pizza in Austin?

Favorite coffee joint in Austin?

Favorite burger in Austin?

What about brunch spots?
Kerbey Lane

Zaid – thank you so much for taking the time to let me interview you and I’m even more thankful for the photos you took of me. It was something so out of my comfort zone but I’m happy it was such a pleasant and non-stressful experience. I’m blown away by how young you are and all that you’ve accomplished so far. Good luck with the rest of the school year & HOOK ‘EM!

Contact me if you’re interested in being featured. The feature will include a Q&A with similar questions and a few portraits to go along with your story.

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