Who can do the business?
Any creative and self-disciplined person can successfully explore the industry and make cool money, literally catching his fun.
You can actually start photography without a dime, or with little, even with millions of naira, as you can borrow or rent camera, then print at commercial digital laboratory.
You can start the business with N150,000. You can get a good camera between N50,000 and N70,000; 18-55mm lens for about N20,000 and a used laptop with a high RAM for N70,000. With this, you can take photographs of your clients, edit them on your laptop and print at a commercial digital laboratory.
If you plan to start big (with a fully-equipped studio) then you need a million naira and above, to get an office space and buy the necessary equipment, which include: cameras and tripods; lenses; studio props; studio lights and light stands; light modifiers; reflectors and diffusers; backgrounds and background supports systems; laptops; printer and a generating set, just to mention a few.
Your success as a photographer is determined by the extent of knowledge you have on the subject and equipment you will be working with. There is so much to learn, some of which is light, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance and photo editing, among others.
I suggest you learn from a professional photographer. However, the internet is a good resource tool as you can read articles, download free ebooks and do free online courses on photography.
Planning and research
Speak to professionals in the field: Speaking to the right professionals will enable you know the likely pitfalls and upsides right from the start.
Explore different types of photography: Professional photographers tend to fare best when they’re not spreading their talent too widely. Look into different possible areas of photography, such as photojournalism, documentary photography, commercial photography, fine art photography, portrait taking, among others.
Some photography may seem mundane, such as taking school photographs, but it can be a steady stream of income.
Putting together quality gear: Decide what type of camera you’re going to rely on most. These days, most professionals use digital SLR cameras at the high end of price and quality. However, the type of camera you start out with doesn’t need to be pricey or even digital; it all depends on the style of photography you want to get involved with. As you improve and get a bigger client base, you will continue to upgrade your cameras and may even amass various kinds for different styles of photography.
Understand that your biggest investment should be your lens: The lens should be the removable kind that you can put on another camera body if you decide to upgrade later.
Practice to get experience: Shoot, shoot, shoot. Always having your camera handy will enable you to take photos in different places and of different subjects.
Be business savvy: As a professional photographer, unless you’re employed by a newspaper or publishing firm, you’ll be working freelance. And that means you’re running your own business, a fact that requires you to know how to make a success of the invoicing, accounting, profit and loss statements, etc.
Finding and displaying your own unique style: To achieve this, you must strive for originality; endeavour to give an old subject a fresh look. Evaluate each photograph you take by asking others to critique your work.
Learn from others: Look at magazines/photo websites/the work of professionals constantly. Don’t copy but do learn from their examples. It’s not the photo equipment, but your “eye” (really, your creativity and mind), that makes for a great photographer.
Explore the computer: Programmes like Photoshop and/or Corel Photo Paint will always be handy when making a good photo great.
Cost and potential earning
The money spent on getting your camera and computer are the constant cost of producing photographs, as you can use the camera and computer for millions of pictures. While you can earn about 85 per cent profit on every shot you take.
You can generate an average income of N20,000 weekly and about N130,000 monthly just taking shots at occasions; wedding, naming, burials, campaigns, conferences/seminars and religious programmes, among others.
Reputation and marketing
You can start as a roving photographer, moving from one event to the other, making money to take shots. Wonderfully, no one rejects a good picture of himself. After taking some good number of shot, quickly go and print them, come back to sell to those you snapped.
Make sure that you put it in your customised photo jacket. This is to enable them patronise you the more, once they are satisfied with your expertise and quality.
Build a quality portfolio: Buy good quality leather or quality cardboard ring binder for holding your photographs. Select a handful of your best prints and put them inside acid-free plastic sleeves. Label each one with your name, address and phone number, so when a client asks to see samples, you’re prepared.
Maintain a good online portfolio: This will allow you to send potential clients to your website, blog or social media pages, to see the full range of your abilities. Put client testimonials there as well; as soon as you start getting them (remember to ask for some at the outset).
Consider having digital copies ready to email to potential clients: Always include a watermark to prevent copying without your permission.
Enter photography contests: This is an excellent way to start building a resume of credits, especially if you win.
I wanted to be a pilot, now I pilot people’s images
—Olowolafe Akinola, CEO, Laphy Photography, Lagos
OLOWOLAFE Akinola, Chief Executive Officer, Laphy Photography, Lagos wanted to become an aircraft pilot, but probably because God wanted him to pilot people’s image instead, the Nigeria’s academic system did not favour him.
“Due to the condition of Nigeria’s educational system and the cost implications of attending a private university, I could not gain admission into the university, to realise my childhood dream of becoming an aircraft pilot.
“After I tried my best but could not get through, I decided to go into photo editing. After six months of my training, I discovered that being an editor will only sell away my ideas, visions and creativity to someone else, so I moved into photography to showcase my talent to the world. Though I could not become an aircraft pilot, I thank God, I eventually became a pilot of images, and that alone is my joy,” Akinola said.
The Laphy Photography boss said: “I can’t discuss my monetary proceeds from the business, but sincerely, photography is worth doing to have something worthwhile in life.”
The Broadfield International Technology-trained photo editor who revealed that he has a lot of great cream de la cream of the society on his clientele list, while he is the toast of practitioners in the entertainment world, said: “I taught myself photography with my photo editing experience.”
Success Nugget: A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him. —David Brinkley