How Alireza Sheshmani Takes Incredible Street Photos With His iPhone

I’m really excited to share this interview with Alireza Sheshmani, an extremely talented iPhone street photographer based in Tehran, Iran. The way he connects with people and captures everyday city life is fascinating. His photos tell powerful stories which often evoke strong emotions in the viewer. In this article you’ll learn more about Ali and how he uses his iPhone for incredible street photography.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Alireza, but people know me as Ali, a guy who takes photos. I’m based in Tehran, Iran. I’ve been taking photos for almost 4 years, and I actually started my world of photography with an iPhone 3gs.

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How did your iPhone photography journey begin?

Like most people, my journey started with Instagram. In the beginning I didn’t take Instagram seriously, but then I realized I could use my iPhone camera for real photography, so I did.

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Do you have a photography background?

Before getting my iPhone, no. My whole passion for photography began with the iPhone because it was my only tool. It was all I needed for taking photos and it was right in my pocket at all times.

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What inspires you to take photos with the iPhone?

I love the iPhone because it’s so much smaller than other cameras, and it makes you invisible as a photographer. And what’s more exciting than an invisible street photographer in the street?

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You mainly shoot street photos with your iPhone. What is it that you like about this style of photography?

This might sound crazy but I see people’s soul when I take their photos on the streets. I take fine art photos as well, and in fine art you tell people your story, but in street photography the story is already there.

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The story of people is waiting to be discovered by you. And trust me, discovering all those different stories is incredible.

Do you use any other cameras, and if so, when do you prefer to use the iPhone?

I have a Canon 600D and a Russian film camera. I mostly use my iPhone for street photography because you can get closer to people than with other cameras due to it being small and unobtrusive.

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Close-up shots of people is my favorite part of street photography.

You have an amazing ability to capture incredible light and shade in your images, with powerful silhouettes, shadows and sun flares. What tips do you have for shooting in strong sunlight?

You know, street photography isn’t fashion or commercial photography. You don’t need that much detail in your photos so don’t fight with the light. Sometimes only the shadow of a human in a photo does the work and tells a great story.

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How important is it to include human subjects in your photos?

There are awesome and professional street photographers out there who say don’t just photograph people. But for me it’s all about the people, otherwise what’s the point?

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One of the main challenges with street photography is photographing people you don’t know. How do you deal with this?

You have to try and blend in when shooting street photography. Hiding my iPhone isn’t a problem because of its small size. I blend in with the people and become one of them. When they stop, I stop. When they move, I move. It’s like I know what’s coming next, like I know them and we’re no longer strangers. I become an observer of people’s lives.

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Let’s talk about photo apps. Are there any apps that you use for taking photos besides the native camera app?

I use Camera Awesome because it makes your whole iPhone screen into a shutter button, and imagine how cool that is! I also use Hipstamatic. It depends on my mood which one I choose.

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What are your favorite apps for post-processing?

I’ve used Snapseed since the beginning. I also use Faded and Analog Film to edit my photos.

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Squaready is great for preparing rectangular images for Instagram – it gives you a square canvas onto which you can place your image so that you don’t have to crop any of the photo.

Can you briefly explain the story behind your three favorite iPhone photos?

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This photo of a kid who’s trying to throw a rock is one of my favorites. Believe me, it was a moving shot for me and I remember I couldn’t forget his face for days.

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This is a portrait of a man who was on a bus. As soon as he saw me, he looked away when he found out I was taking his picture. But I had captured the moment and this took only 3 seconds.

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And last but not least, a portrait of an old man. It was like he was waiting for me to go there and take his picture, so I did.

Most of your street photos are black and white, while some have just a hint of color. What draws you to black and white photography?

It’s not that I don’t like photos in color. I actually have lots of color images, but all I’m trying to do with my photos is show something that people don’t often see. Turning photos black and white helps me do that.

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What tips do you have for beginner iPhone photographers who want to start shooting street photos with the iPhone?

I have only one thing to say: One day I stopped being afraid.

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Which iPhone photographers do you admire the most?

First of all my motivation and inspiration is the photographer Richard Koci Hernandez. I love fine arts and street photography, and guess what? He does both in one frame. You can see his photos on Instagram @koci.

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Another iPhone photographer that I admire is my friend Nesam Keshavarz. He really knows what he’s doing. And finally, Ako Salemi.

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Where can we see your iPhone photography?

You can find my iPhone photos on Instagram and Facebook.

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  • Thanks for sharing your wonderful street photography with us Ali! 🙂

    • Alireza

      Kind and dear Kate. You have no ideal how grateful I am. thank you so much for everything.

  • Jason

    thanks Alireza! ” I see people’s soul when I take their photos on the streets” nice way to see it! About light, you say, “so don’t fight with the light” but what does that mean really? I don’t know if I got you there. Hard light is aggressive, whether one fights back or not,…how do you handle exposure in glaring sunlight and window shots? Do you under-expose and handle the brightening in an editor? Thanks for any clarification 🙂

    • Alireza

      Many thanks Jason. All I’m trying to say is we shouldn’t be obsess with exposed photos.
      when you can tell a story of a guy with his or her shade so why not doing it?
      sometimes let your viewers do the job and imagine it. for example: An old man with a blue sky behind. you can’t see part of his face but I think you can imagine it.
      that’s what I’m doing. I hope I could answer your question.

    • Jason

      Hi Alireza! Thanks for explaining it. Have a great New year 🙂

  • ElzoRillo

    Great photos. Alireza jaan, do you have a website or is there an email address or a way to contact you? Also, Thank you Ms. Wesson for this post.