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Meet Saba Alhadi of PhotoWalks Tours in Beacon Hill, Back Bay, and North End

Today we’d like to introduce you to Saba Alhadi.

Saba, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Many moons ago, I worked as a travel agent. I had a fabulous time traveling around the world and taking pictures of anything that caught my eye and represented a destination. Eight years later, my globetrotting days came to an end. I quit my job. I decided to finally pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur. With trepidation, I took a flying leap of faith into the unknown without a clue of what to do next. On a mild December day in 2001, inspiration struck unexpectedly.

Walking along the meandering pathways of the Boston Common with my camera, I was in awe of the city’s beauty around me: the Public Garden nearby, Beacon Hill’s 19th-century architecture and a kaleidoscope of colors on Frog Pond as ice skaters glided by. There were photo opportunities everywhere I looked! I wondered, do locals and visitors take the time to really observe the details in our historic city? Or, do they just keep walking and overlook their immediate surroundings? All of a sudden, I had an epiphany: I am going to start a photo walking tour business in Boston and include fascinating, historical commentary too!

That serendipitous walk in Boston Common changed my life and shaped my career path. Long hours of research, planning marketing strategies, building a website and mapping out itineraries followed. Six months later, my entrepreneurial dream became a reality. PhotoWalks, Boston’s first photo tour business, was launched on May 1, 2002, with only two tours on the calendar: Beacon Hill and the Public Garden. Today, there are a variety of tours, workshops, and Scavenger Hunts in Boston and beyond. In 2016, Private Photo Sessions were added to capture visitors’ experience in Boston in front of the camera. It’s a great way for clients to explore the city and have professional pictures taken of them at scenic locations with historic and iconic landmarks in the backdrop.

Over the years, providing fun, educational walking tours has taught me so much. It tested my strength, perseverance, and dedication to my business in ways I never imagined. I learned that I had to be prepared for all types of changes—from new technology, digital marketing and even handling unpredictable weather while on tour.

One of my greatest joys as an entrepreneur is meeting many wonderful people from all over the world. I have learned about them and from them. We meet as strangers and end up bonding while exploring Boston in less than two hours. It’s always exciting for me to see how surprised clients are when they discover that they might have a hidden talent as a photographer! A PhotoWalks tour experience gives clients confidence and empowers them to take their photography skills to the next level. And that, is very rewarding for all of us.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
As any entrepreneur can tell you, marketing a new business is a struggle and very demanding. In the past decade alone, so many different marketing options have emerged to promote online sales in the tourism industry. Keeping up with the trends in advertising and social media is time-consuming. Making the right marketing choice in hopes of a strong return on investment is a challenge.

Thank goodness I have many happy clients who have written online reviews and have spread the word about the long-term benefits of a PhotoWalks tour. Consequently, this type of advertising has generated a lot of sales.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about PhotoWalks Tours – what should we know?
Each PhotoWalks tour is designed to teach people of all ages and skills levels how to see and think creatively by capturing creative pictures of Boston while sightseeing. On a PhotoWalks tour, I am both a photography instructor and tour guide. I really enjoy sharing my photography knowledge and fascinating commentaries filled with fun facts and trivia of Boston’s historic sites and iconic landmarks.

I begin each tour by telling participants that an important thing to remember in photography has nothing to do with the camera at all. You must choose your shooting position first because where you stand is one of the key elements that determines the outcome of the photographic composition.

As we are walking, it doesn’t take long for participants to realize how much they can improve the way they take pictures by choosing the right spot and looking more closely at the details surrounding us–whether it’s the architecture and statues in Back Bay, reflections in Beacon Hill on windows and door knockers, historic buildings along the Freedom Trail or in the North End or the scenic beauty of the Public Garden and along the Waterfront. The photo opportunities are limitless.

My message to clients is that they don’t have to have a fancy camera to take beautiful pictures, just a creative eye. And, photography does not have to be complicated. What matters is what they see behind their camera that captures their attention and why they want to photograph it.

Providing photography tours that are eye-opening and life-changing is very fulfilling to me. Helping people develop keen observation skills transcends into their personal and professional lives. There is no other tour experience in Boston that has such an intrinsic effect. To have an impact on someone’s life in some way is a precious gift that gives me tremendous pride.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Soon after the fortuitous walk in Boston Common in December 2001, I remembered a woman who gave a presentation at a Small Business Administration seminar. She started her own food tour business in the North End. I called her and asked if she could meet with me and a close friend. She didn’t even know me, but agreed to meet us at Caffe Graffiti on Hanover St.

I had a list of questions for Michele and she answered every one of them honestly. She said, “Don’t let anybody tell you your idea won’t work.” She has encouraged me and supported me emotionally when things were tough. I don’t know how I would have navigated entering the tour business without Michele to count on for advice. We have been friends ever since our first meeting.

Pricing:

  • Adults: $40
  • Youth: (10-17): $20(with paying adult)
  • 2-hour Workshops start at $50

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
©2017 Saba K. Alhadi/PhotoWalks

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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