A lot of young budding photographers and videographers are hesitant to volunteer their time; in other words “work for free.” I was the same way. People would ask me to be a photographer at their birthday parties and unless they were family I would give them the squint of the eyes, and tilt of the head accompanied by the high pitched uncertain voice searching for the polite way to decline. It wasn’t until two years ago (the Summer before I started my program at Seneca for Broadcast Television) when I had gone to a beginner’s filmmaking workshop. From that workshop I met the first of my many mentors. She was the one that set all my networking opportunities in motion. At first I didn’t think I would network very much through her.

Rule #1: Don’t try to impress anyone. 9/10 times you end up looking like an idiot and filling the grave you dug from the inside trying to recover from it.

I guess I didn’t make a huge fool of myself because lo and behold, 6 months later, without any prior contact what so ever I get an email from her asking if I would like to help out with the North American Ismaili Games 2014 that was held in Chicago. Knowing that this is a community event (regardless of the size) I knew no accommodations would be provided. And my first response was – “So I’m paying to volunteer?!?” Immediately she corrected me saying that I was being recruited to work with some of the best media professionals in the community. Instantly I was sold and packed my camera bag to head off and cover the tryouts for Volleyball, Basketball, badminton, and table tennis. Without fail my first day I met my photography mentor. Despite working such High Profile events; The Ismaili Games (Kenya, Edmonton, Chicago, and recently Calgary), Aga Khan visits and Celebrations, the IIFA Awards (A.K.A. the Bollywood Oscars), and more, he was so humble and eager to teach me how to improve my photography skills.

On this journey to the Ismaili Games I did not only meet mentors but also I made friends with common interests that can see past the competition within our industry. I even connected with a fellow budding photographer who I can say in a matter of 365 days since, has become more than a friend, she has become my partner in crime when it comes to shooting, framing, hanging our subjects (a little photography humour) and a loyal trustworthy confidant.

Rule #2 Keep working! Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Just unappreciated by the lazy people you outshine.



No, the Ismaili Games are not a huggey, lovey, dovey tournament where people come together to sit by the fireplace at the hotel, holding hands singing Kumbaya. There is actual growth for your career. They give you full photo and video credit for your work; so people can recognize your awesomeness and ask you to take pictures for their birthday parties and Instagram/Facebook profiles!

But opportunity turns into what you make out of it. I used to be quite shy to speak to people about working with them on films and photo shoots; in other words “NETWORKING.” Especially to this one individual who happened to be judging the dance competition. I grew up watching her perform with the Indian Cultural Dance prop “Dandiya Sticks” but now she had become so much more established. I thought she was so experienced and so connected to the entertainment industry that she would not want to waste her time with a struggling filmmaker. But I mustered up the courage and marched right up to the judges table after the dance finals only to completely chicken out of presenting my pitch to her and instead asked to take a “Selfie”. After taking the selfie I said to myself “To hell with it, what do I have to lose?” so I asked her if she wanted to do be featured as the Face-Of-The-Month, an initiative by Yaar Entertainment, the production company I work for. She smiled wholesomely and said she would love to and we exchanged contact information with each other. After the Ismaili Games 2014 tournament was over I drove back from Chicago to “The6” (Coined by Toronto bred artist Drake) and let my inner skeptic get the better of me; based on previous experience of being brushed off; that she was simply being nice. Months passed and I had completely forgotten my interaction with the ever so talented dancer, until I got a text asking me if I do creative videos. With complete confidence I said “Of course.” But really on the inside I was freaking out wondering how I was going to pull it off. But if it wasn’t for my self induced confidence I never would’ve gotten my first opportunity to prove myself and really see what I was capable of.

Rule #3: Don’t be OVER-confident. Be your worst critic and anything anybody else says will be a compliment.

Don't be OVER-confident!

Don’t be OVER-confident!

If I didn’t ask to take that selfie I would have lost out on one of my most loyal clients, producing some of my best content in my portfolio, who also is a very good friend. Ironically our best project turned out to be a Bollywood-Hip-Hop Dance Masterclass to the song Selfie Le Le Re from Bajrangi Bhaijaan(Foreshadowing much?). And incase you are wondering, yes, she is a paying client.

Just recently I returned from the Canadian Ismaili Games in Calgary where I continued to work with my mentors who now consider me an equal (on some levels) and even spoke about doing some paid gigs. That just goes to show that sometimes volunteering does pay off, just be careful to trust the right people and be aware of the people trying to take advantage of you.

About The Author

Safira Halani
Professional Photographer

Safira's life revolves around media, arts and entertainment. Always wanting to go to see the most recent release, keeping up with the latest gossip, and trying the newest in technology, Safira discovered she had the capability to show people the way she viewed the world, either through her artwork and writing skills. While in high school at the Toronto Waldorf School, Safira joined the Yearbook committee introducing her to graphic design & photography. From there Safira began to hone the power of the word & design, and to visualize stories through photography. Safira attended Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology for their Media & Communications and Broadcasting Television Programs where she mastered her skills in Mass Media, Communication & Broadcasting with a main focus on Sales, Marketing and Public Relations in regards to media and skills in photography, video editing, audio design, graphic design, production planning, and much more! Now, Safira is true jack-of-all-trades with a passion and knowledge in PR & Marketing, Film/Televison Production, and Photography & Graphic design with industry related experience in all.

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