Member Spotlight: Faten Smith

For years, Faten Smith assumed that studio-flash photography was strictly for professionals only. But since joining Visual Education, Faten’s confidence and expertise has blossomed. “I love the excitement of learning new techniques,” she says. 
Faten was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, and earned a BA in Fine Arts from Baghdad University. In 2004, she met her future husband, a South African national. Today, they live in Cape Town, South Africa.

Finding the right teacher

It was in 2016 that Faten first got serious about photography. She was looking for some artistic photography techniques to help her photograph food and flowers. Having tried several different training courses with various photographers, Faten found herself growing frustrated.

“They didn’t teach me much beyond basic camera settings and natural-light photography,” she says. “I didn’t feel equipped or encouraged to try anything else.”

Faten Smith product photography
© Faten Smith

Faten’s frustration lasted until 2020, when the first COVID-19 lockdown forced her to stay at home. She began searching for more in-depth photography tutorials, and soon came across one of Karl’s YouTube videos.

“I immediately realised that this was far superior to any of the other photographers I’d been learning from.” Soon after, Faten became a member of Visual Education.

“When I joined Visual Education, I was absolutely amazed by the way that Karl teaches. His methods instantly send us to a different level, increasing our confidence and encouraging us to become more daring in our photography.”

Faten Smith ice image
© Faten Smith

A well-stocked home studio

As Faten grew more interested in studio photography, she recognised the need for a home studio. So she and her husband set about converting half of their double garage into a small studio, complete with white walls and an ever-growing collection of equipment.

This includes her four Canon cameras (a 5D Mark IV, a 6D Mark II, an 850D, and an 800D) and five Canon lenses (24-105mm, Macro 100mm, 55-250mm, 50mm, and 18-55mm). Three SIGMA lenses are also in the mix (150-600mm, 24mm Art Lens, and 18-300mm).

Faten Smith home studio

© Faten Smith

In terms of lights, Faten has a nice range of GODOX gear. This includes six MS300, two SK400, two Outdoor AD300Pro, and six MF12 lights.

Elsewhere in the studio you’ll find several background stands, light modifiers, diffusion scrims, PVC and paper background drops, and more.

Not bad for a photographer who for a long time thought outdoor, natural-light photography was the only kind they would ever be capable of!

Faten Smith

© Faten Smith

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Ideas and inspiration

Faten describes fine art photography as her main focus. For this reason, she considers Still Life Natural Decay to be her favourite Visual Education class.

But since becoming a VE member, Faten has also begun to experiment with techniques that take her out of her comfort zone – product and liquid work, for example. “I have learned to be more confident and bolder in my photography, and to use humble things to create incredible images.”


Still Life Natural Decay

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Faten Smith still life

© Faten Smith

Faten’s confidence got a particular boost when Karl praised her image (see above) during a Members’ Image Critique on food photography. “His positive comments really and truly inspired me.” Her work was also among the Highly Commended images in our 2021 ‘Patterns’ competition. 

Similarly exciting was capturing some stunning moon images (see below) by attaching her camera to a telescope and using it as a lens. “That was one of the most thrilling photography experiences I have ever had!”

Faten Smith moon shots

© Faten Smith

Another experience that Faten finds thrilling is tuning into our live photography workshops. “It always feels so good to watch the live shows,” she says. “It’s like a global school where members from all around the world can pick up new ideas and inspiration.”

Faten Smith tulips

© Faten Smith

Labour of love

Right now, Faten considers herself a photography hobbyist. But she is determined to turn semi-professional (or even fully professional) in the not-too-distant future. Her goal is to start her own photography business “where I can do what I love doing and earn a living from it.”

Given her obvious talent, enthusiasm, and commitment to learning, we’re sure Faten has a bright photography future ahead of her.

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