“I really don’t like to do anything to influence what they are doing or where they are looking,” explains wildlife photographer Amir Saidi. The result of his approach is a body of work that feels authentic and respectful, teaching us all how to photograph our fellow animals. In a quest to learn more about his technique, we reached out to Saidi for an interview.
Based in Los Angles, Amir Sadi operates within several photographic practices. Beyond his wildlife photography, he also shoots portraits and works in editorial. It’s certainly his wildlife images that caught our attention. However, we’re also happy to learn about his photography life in general.
Gear Used by Amir Saidi
I love a lot of things about that body and those lenses, but a couple of things that I’m constantly grateful for are the low light performance and the 45-megapixel sensor. I can crop in on an image taken with my 27-70 and have it look like it was taken at 200mm while still being large enough to print.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you fell into the wonderful world of photography.
Amir Saidi: It wasn’t until my middle school photo classes that I took photography more seriously. It was great to be involved in the entire process from rolling my own film to shooting a manual camera for the first time to developing, enlarging, and printing. There was something magical about it that was captivating and kept me in our school’s darkroom for hours. I guess after that, I was forever hooked.
Phoblographer: How would you describe your relationship with wildlife and animals?
Amir Saidi: I love wildlife and animals and have always been fascinated by them. I generally like to observe and not interfere, unless the animals in question are our two cats. I just have a certain respect for animals and see them as very pure.
Phoblographer: How do your feelings for animals influence the way you photograph them?
Amir Saidi: I let animals be themselves and give me whatever version of themselves they are that day. If they are sleepy, I’ll get a shot of them at rest; if they are playful, I’ll capture them at play.
Phoblographer: A lot of your photographs are in black and white, why do you favor this look?
Amir Saidi: The funny thing is that I hadn’t really noticed that since all the work I do is in color, but perhaps subconsciously, I choose black and white because it feels less distracting and less cluttered to me. I think it is more pure and raw, which is how I see animals.
Phoblographer: You also shoot portraits. How does your approach to people differ from the way you photograph animals?
Amir Saidi: The biggest difference is connection and direction. I either get what I can get from wildlife, or I can wait to try and get what I want, but ultimately it is up to the animal to do whatever it wants. With people, I can make a connection and build quick rapport then give some directions to get closer to the shot I want.
Phoblographer: If you could only photograph one for the rest of your life: people or animals?
Amir Saidi: I would definitely photograph animals. I find it so much more peaceful and enjoy the patience it takes to capture wildlife. With people, I’m on someone else’s time, but with wildlife, I’m on my own.
Phoblographer: Tell us about a day in the life of your professional photography gigs.
Amir Saidi: I am lucky that photography is all I do for a living and very lucky to mostly shoot for MotorTrend magazine and MotorTrend network TV shows. For the magazine, I spend the day going to different locations around Los Angeles to take photos of a new car with the help of one or two assistants. For the TV shows, I am always flying to different parts of the US and working around the film crew to get action and candid shots of the hosts and vehicles that can be used to promote that particular episode.
Phoblographer: If you think about the first time you picked up a camera, right up to the present moment, how has your relationship with photography evolved?
Amir Saidi: I’ve had a long journey from when I first picked up a camera. From not knowing what I was doing and just blindly exploring, to going to photography school and getting my degree in professional photography. Learning to see light and having technical aspects become second nature. Aside from my growth in capturing an image, I think the biggest evolution has been in post-production and how much I enjoy spending time in Lightroom and Photoshop. It has gotten to the point where I get near-equal enjoyment from shooting as I do from working on the photos in post.
Phoblographer: What does the future look like for your photography, both professionally and personally?
Amir Saidi: Professionally, I hope to continue my automotive photography and transition to shooting for manufacturers and private collectors. Personally, I hope to shoot a lot more nature and wildlife from around the world.
All images by Amir Saidi. Used with permission.