We had the good fortune of connecting with Nadim Zoghbi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nadim, how do you think about risk?
I was born and raised in Lebanon, which has been under turmoil and hardships for as long as I remember. My parents had planned to move my sister and I to the US to give us the opportunity for a more prosperous life and better future. We ended up moving to Tampa, Florida in 2006, which is where my journey began in the US.
My entire life, I was guided to follow the traditional path of success – study hard, do well in school, get a college degree at a reputable university, get a good job with solid benefits, climb up the corporate ladder and save enough money for retirement. That was my idea of happiness and success in life.
I played it safe for nearly three decades. After attending one of the top 5 public schools in the Nation, I graduated in 2012 with a degree in Industrial Engineering and secured a solid job at a large Software company.
Although I worked for an amazing company where I led a relatively successful career, I never felt fulfilled or happy about my job. For nearly a decade, I silenced any internal doubts and convinced myself that this was how life and work were supposed to be.
When the height of the pandemic reached the US in March of 2020, a lot of things started to change, including my perspective on life and happiness.
That’s when I slowly started to plan my exit from corporate America to pursue my passion for photography. I gave up a lot of material things I had accumulated over the years and did my best to simplify my lifestyle/financial dependency. After many months of planning and assessing my options, I was ready to put it all on the line to pursue a life I never imagined would be possible – a very lucrative career I had built over 10 years, health benefits, a luxurious lifestyle and financial security.
It was the biggest and riskiest decisions I had made in my entire life. I was worried about what my family and friends would think and was so scared of failing. But when it came down to it, I knew I would always regret not giving myself the chance to build the life of my dreams doing something that actually brought me happiness and fulfillment.
August 31, 2020 was my last day as a full-time employee and the start of a new journey building a career as a photographer and content creator.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started my creative career mainly as a photographer with a focus on fitness photography. Fitness is a big part of my life personally so I had a natural inclination to surround myself with fitness enthusiasts and athletes.
I think what sets me apart in that field of photography is my understanding and appreciation for the discipline, hard work and perseverance that’s required to be an athlete at the highest level. I get so much fulfillment collaborating with athletes and capturing epic moments of them performing in their element doing what they love.
I also feel like I’m pretty versatile in my photography style and always up for capturing “The Shot” regardless of how challenging it may be. I try to incorporate every tool I have to capture the best content (i.e. my drone for aerial shots, waterproof camera housing for an underwater perspective…)
Outside of “work”, I’m blessed and fortunate to be living in one of the most beautiful coastal areas in the world. I’m a fanatic when it comes to a good sunrise/sunset burn and I’ve almost never skipped shooting a single one in the last year and half (unless I’m out of town of course!). I enjoy taking aerial photos of the different coast lines and chasing marine life with my drone when the opportunity presents itself! I recently got a great water housing for my camera, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I love getting in on the action and taking shots of surfers and/or crashing waves in the ocean whenever I can!
The pandemic was a blessing for me. I’m empathetic towards all the people and families who have struggled during this pandemic, especially those who’ve lost their loved ones. I’m not in any way dismissing the hardships that have been experienced all over the globe. Having said that, it served as a wake up call for me. I had spent almost 30 years of my life living under the false pretext of what it meant to be successful, following social norms and chasing financial wealth. The pandemic forced me to reflect on where I was and reprioritize my life.
I have a pretty extreme personality, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to take on photography as a side hustle or hobby – I had to go all in and quitting my corporate job was the first step. I knew I had to give up a lot of “luxuries” to avoid financial stress, so I canceled all my monthly memberships and online subscriptions, replaced my SUV with a scooter, and cut out all unnecessary spending from my day to day.
Nothing about the transition was easy because I had to reprogram my entire life but it was worth it. I never had formal training or education in photography so I dedicated all my time towards educating myself on YouTube/Google, learning how to properly shoot in manual mode, testing out different editing software and seeking out every opportunity I had to build up my photography portfolio.
I’ve learned so much through the process and I’m still learning every single day. I still struggle with fear of failure, personal doubt and confidence but I always remind myself why I started and how much I’ve been able to achieve in just over a year.
Most importantly though, I’ve learned to appreciate the simple things in life, lead with gratitude and find fulfillment in the work I do for others.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I lived in Laguna Beach for the last three years before moving to Newport Beach earlier this year. I spent most of my time outdoors exploring the different coves and unique seascapes Laguna has to offer. Some of my most amazing and memorable experiences as a photographer were different encounters I had with marine life during whale watching tours all around the coast in Orange County, CA.
My ideal day would start bright an early, going to watch sunrise at Crescent Bay in Laguna. We would head back towards South Laguna for some breakfast at Active Culture. After that, we would spend a few hours hanging out at different coves and iconic beaches around Laguna Beach. Some of my favorite spots are between Pearl St Beach and Thousand Steps.
Then would make our way up to Newport Beach Peninsula for an afternoon walk along the boardwalk and make our way to the Fun Zone in time for a sunset whale watching tour (and pray for an encounter with the amazing marine life!)
And finally, we would wrap up the evening at Lido Village for some dinner and cocktails at Malibu Farm.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A few people come to mind. To start, my parents and sister were very supportive and reassuring during my decision process. At the time, I had kept this decision pretty private, so I didn’t really rely on friends or mentors but I had a couple of close friends who were very encouraging. I filled my time with audio books, podcasts, Ted Talks and motivational speeches which really helped shape my new perspective on life and the pursuit of happiness. Gary Vaynerchuk (Gary Vee) was my go-to podcast. I followed his advice religiously and it really paid off.
With that send, my main influence and inspiration was my girlfriend Lexie because she was the one person who opened my eyes to the possibility of quitting my corporate job to pursue my passion as a career. She’s a professional swimmer who had led a very different lifestyle up to that point. She always focused on doing what she loved, finding fulfillment in her work and helping others along the way and much less on financial wealth, social status and other people’s judgment.
Being a professional athlete, she had a lot of partnerships with fitness and lifestyle brands that required some form of content for social media. When the pandemic hit the US and lockdowns began, I found myself with a lot more free time and offered to help her with a photoshoot for a swimwear company. We were shooting at Victoria Beach in Laguna. She was really excited about the photos we were capturing and told me I could get paid for this type of work. This is how it all started back in April of 2020. What seemed like a crazy idea that came up during a fun beach shoot became reality a few months later.
Instagram: @thezoghbiphoto | @thezoghbistudio
Silhouette Sunset Photo – In Frame: Brandon Dela Cruz Aerial Dive Photo – In Frame: Lexie Kelly