A profitable hobby: Zain Charania’s journey in photography

Zain Charania takes pictures at The D Zone Shootout in Dearborn, Michigan in June, 2023. Photo by Toby Krupsky.
Zain Charania takes pictures at The D Zone Shootout in Dearborn, Michigan in June, 2023. Photo by Toby Krupsky.

“My sophomore year, Ms. Badalamente (or OC) [said] that she needed someone to go take pictures at a soccer game,” senior Zain Charania said. “I remember that I had to be after school that day anyway for some reason, so I was just like ‘Okay, I can stay for another hour or so,’ and I just went.” 

 

Though his first photography experience was interesting, Zain Charania’s passion didn’t develop immediately. His drive kicked in after he started learning more. 

 

“I have learned that it’s a very deep hobby,” Zain Charania said. “It’s very elaborate. [There’s] a lot of different things you can do. There’s a lot of things that I haven’t tried yet that I want to do.” 

 

After his initial photography experience sophomore year, Zain Charania continued taking sports photos throughout that summer with a camera borrowed from OC. At this point, he did not have his own camera yet. 

 

“A lot of people were just asking me to meet up [and] come out to their stuff. I was like ‘Okay, sure. I’ll just come out and have fun,’” Zain Charania said. 

 

His passion soon turned into a source of income as more people began seeing the photography he produced and posted on social media, including his Instagram account @zain.flicks. Because photography was just a hobby for Zain Charania to do in his free time, it came as a surprise when classmates and strangers offered to pay him. 

 

“I started having people DM me talking about ‘How much is it to have you come out?’” Zain Charania siad. “I never thought about it money-wise, so when I started hearing that I was like ‘Okay, this is really weird.’ I was just going for fun.”

 

After realizing he could make an income from this business, Zain Charania set photography as a priority and invested in his equipment. 

 

“I took a really big gamble,” Zain Charania said. “I ended up spending around $5,000 on my first purchase before I even made a couple hundred bucks. I said to myself, ‘If this doesn’t work out monetarily, if I can’t build a business out of it, then at least I have a hobby I can do for a while.’”

 

Zain Charania’s parents have been consistently supportive of his passion since the beginning. When he first made the $5,000 investment, he repeatedly confirmed their approval to make sure they were okay with the purchase. 

 

“He was very reluctant while we (Zain, his mother, and his father) were purchasing it,” Nadia Charania, Zain Charania’s mother, said. “He was surprised that we would support him that much. He kept coming and questioning me, ‘are you sure?’ and he kept going to his dad and saying ‘is that okay?’ We were very supportive of him because we want him to do things he can cherish.”

 

Even with his parents’ unwavering support, Zain Charania felt obligated to pay them back. 

 

“Once he got [the camera] he was in a shock for a few days, and then he said ‘I’m going to earn all this money [in] six months,” Nadia Charania said. “I said [to Zain] ‘You don’t worry about paying me back. In family, we don’t do business. We are there for each other and that matters to all of us.’”

 

As he took on more projects, balancing this business with schoolwork and other extracurricular activities became difficult for Zain Charania. 

 

“Last year, junior year, during basketball season, I’d be working like forty hours a week on top of school and my grades really took a hit,” Zain Charania said. “[Building a profit] took a lot of work and it was a lot of mental strain. However, I thought that it was cool to see something that I started myself from grassroots evolve into something that’s bigger than me.” 

 

One of Zain Charania’s strengths is being able to retain customers and have a positive reputation. One of his returning clients is sophomore Kinley Poole, who originally found out about Zain Charania’s photography through word of mouth.

 

“I enjoy working with Zain because he is great at what he does and he is genuinely a nice person,” Poole said. “He is reasonable with his prices and he agrees with some negotiations. I heard about him through my friends telling me that he was taking pictures at our games. I continued to work with him because I feel he is the best at what he does.”

 

Though his photography started out with high school clients, Zain Charania wants to expand his demographic to reach more adults in the future. In fact, this past summer, he worked at his first wedding and has received more wedding interest. 

 

“It was the hardest [project I’ve done] because I was the only guy there, so I was running around all day,” Zain Charania said. “But it was fun.” 

 

Despite the challenges he’s faced, the people he’s worked with have been worth it.

 

“Whenever clients are very excited with the results, that’s what puts a smile on my face at the end of the day,”

— Zain Charania

Zain Charania said. 

 

As Zain Charania heads to college at Michigan State University this fall, he plans to study Business and Economics. Even though he is not specifically studying photography in college, Zain Charania will take this hobby with him throughout life. 

 

“Memories can fade, [but] pictures exist forever if you really want them to,” Zain Charania said.  

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