Picture This (Episode 1): Starting out in Photography (TRANSCRIPT)

Great day, everyone and welcome to the show that we have been talking about for many months now. Finally, it has arrived! I’m Seun Akisanmi and I’m going to be your host along the way. I want you guys to stay tuned to this channel every Tuesdays and Fridays as we bring to you a fresh and inspiring episode of this show.

First of all, our goal is to raise the standard of professionalism in the photography industry. A few years back, I realized that there were a lot of photographers coming into the industry that don’t know how to start or what to do especially with regards to the business of photography. It is one thing to have a camera and it is another thing to run a photography business; hence the reason why we started a show like this.

The second goal (reason) for this show is actually to increase awareness and appreciation of photography in our society. Gone are the days that a child would tell his dad or mum that “Dad, I want to be a photographer“ and the dad or mum would slap the child. I want by the end of 2012, a three year-old child could tell his dad or mum, “Daddy,mom, i want to be a photographer like Seun or Shola or Kike or Lara…. & the parents won’t scold him/her for that. The goal is to increase the awareness of photography, so with the episode that will be showcasing as time goes on, these are areas that we will be addressing. Stay tuned.

Welcome back! At this junction, I feel it is important to explain that not every episode would contain all the segments that we have planned. In a previous upload, i explained that we would be having, for example, a segment we call, “PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE WEEK“, “PHOTO OF THE WEEK“, “PHOTO FACTS“ and different segments. You need to know that because we are trying to make it a short program, not all the segments will be packed into one episode. For example, we will be having on Friday, “The photographer of the week“ section and whatever else we need to discuss. I am just trying to let us know in advance so that you know you are ready. So stay tuned.

So, in this episode, we will be talking about what we titled, “STARTING OUT IN PHOTOGRAPHY“ and I will be giving some tips for a lot of photographers that are coming afresh into the industry.

My first and foremost tip for every new and fresh photographer in this industry is this; DO NOT GET A CAMERA. Yes You heard me right, I said “don’t buy a camera yet”. This is the one of the first major mistakes that I feel a lot of photographers make. They feel that once they have gotten a camera (at this stage we are in the revolution of photography, a camera is easy to get, it is affordable especially the digital camera, it is affordable and easily to get) they feel “now i know everything about photography“, “now let me conquer the world!“ But they are about to find out that what they thought was a “stepping stone” actually becomes stumbling block.

This is so because most of us were not taught in the University how to actually run a successfully business, how much more a photography business. So, if you ask me, I would rather you get a mentor first before you buy a camera. It is important you get a mentor i.e., somebody that is already a photographer in this industry. If you are talking about the photography industry in Nigeria, there are at least 20 to 30 great photographers that we could reckon with, & I’m sure you have heard of their names. So, if it means writing them, talking to them on the phone, associating with them, applying for an internship program even if it is for one day, one week, one month. If you ask me, I usually recommend a minimum of 3 to 6 months.

Associate with someone you consider a mentor before you buy that camera. Besides, considering the fact that this is an industry you know little or nothing about, don’t assume that even the camera you are getting is actually what you need, you never can tell at the end of the day after buying that camera, you realize you have actually wasted resources. So take my word for it, don’t buy a camera yet. Now you might be wondering what if you have already gotten a camera, “WHAT CAN I DO?“ Well, my advice to you is this, just sell the camera to me…….. I’m just kidding. But really, it is still important you look for a mentor because what it takes to make it in this industry is way beyond just getting a camera.

So, the next advice I will give those that are coming afresh into the industry is this, (and this is should in case you don’t happen to find a mentor or somebody that you can talk to or work with on an internship basis or learn from): GET BOOKS ON PHOTOGRAPHY.

I had this challenge when I was starting out in 2006. There were little and very few people that I could actually call my mentors. I was fortunate to find about two people then: Tony Makati (thank you Makati for showing me the way) and Yomi Siffre, the lead photographer at Siffre studios. Thank God for these two guys and mentors that really helped me out there but beyond what they offered me, beyond the tutelage they provided for me, i still got some books on photography that helped me to better lay a solid foundation.
If you don’t have access to getting the hard cover books, get eBooks. One of the challenges we face in Nigeria is the fact that there are few bookshops that actually sell books on photography. In a way, you can’t really blame them because a lot of us (i.e. photographers in Nigeria) are more likely to spend N300,000 or $5000 to buy a camera than to buy a $20 dollar book. I’m sure there are a lot of places you can get a lot of e-books to download. Even if you have to “Goggle“ the keywords. Try search phrases like “I’m new at photography“, or “learning photography“ and the resources that will come up would amaze you: at least 100,000 results will show up.

At this point, there are at least 4 books that I feel you must do whatever you can to get (preferably before buying a camera). In fact, if you don’t have any money to get these books, sell your camera and buy these books and you will be glad you did.

The first and foremost of all the books is a book that has transformed my life. Interestingly enough, this book has nothing to do with the topic of photography. The title is “Outliers“ and it is written by Malcom Gladwell. It is the number 1 book I would recommend, not just for people starting out, but for every business professional.. Every professional, every business owner needs this book, “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.

The second book I would recommend is a book titled “Teach yourself photography” and it is written by Lee Frost. It is a very good book and it comes with a companion DVD. Especially if you are someone that learns very well when you read on your own, this is a good guide to help you even if you have a mentor. By the way you can get all these books from AMAZON.com.

The third book is a guy that has really been a blessing to me, John Harrington. Although I have not met him in person, he’s a mentor of thousands of photographers. The title of his book is “BEST BUSINESS PRACTICES FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS“. I got this book about 4 years ago and it is one of the books that helped me to lay a very solid foundation in my photography business. Do your best to get this book.

The last but not the least is a book written by one of the oldest photographers of our age (come to think of it, I’m not sure if the guy is still alive). His name is Tom McDonald and the title of the book is “THE BUSINESS OF PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY”. It is a great book that showcases the top 10 to 15 portrait photographer (a few years ago). It gives us an idea of their business models, how they run their businesses & how they do their marketing. Do whatever you can to get this book. The book is written by a photographer that has been in the business for over 40 years. Can you imagine? The guy has been running a photography business even before i was born. So learn from his mistakes and don’t repeat them all over again. Tom McDonald’s “THE BUSINESS OF PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY“.

Once again, all these books can be gotten on AMAZON.com. So sell your camera, do whatever you can to get these books and that will help you on your way to becoming a true professional photographer.

So by now, once you have gotten a mentor (& you’ve been trained) and these photography books, the next step is to get a camera. I’m saying this because by the time you read some of these books, you will have an idea of the type of camera that will fit the type of photography that you actually want to specialize in.

Once you’ve been trained, you’ll realize it was a good thing you didn’t buy the camera in the first place because that is when you’ll learn that some of these cameras have prices that are more than your university school fees or annual rent or mortgage payment. It is really important you know what you’re really dealing with here. Even for the students that come through our training program, at the end of the training, we still give them books to read because with the rate at which new information is coming into this industry, you really never can know everything. So it’s important you keep yourself up to date.

And at this junction, this is where people ask me “which camera should I get?“ That is a very good question. Which camera should you get? That is the question of the century. When i started out, I asked my mentors (Yomi Siffre & Makati) which camera they would recommend for me. And guess what? They gave me different answers.

Take Yomi Siffre, for example. The guy is a fan , a great lover of Nikon products. That was over five years old! The guy is still in love with Nikon. He told me, “Seun, if you are really serious with photography and you really want to make it, make sure you get a Nikon camera.” I listened to him, noted down his answer and went over to my other mentor.

So I asked Mr. Tony Makati,”which camera do you think I should get?” He told me,’’Seun if you really,really want to make it in this photography industry, make sure you get a Canon camera.” Come to think of it, Canon was his favorite camera then. And I can still remember when I was talking to him about getting a camera then; he was actually cleaning about three of his Canon cameras. So the question of which camera to get was an easy answer for him.

Makati told me to get a Canon camera. Siffre told me to get a Nikon camera. Then, I sat down and thought to myself,”is it true that the camera that people use (Canon or Nikon) is what determines how successful they’ll become?” Knowing the type of person that I was, I decided to go against their advice. I can be stubborn sometimes. I wanted to prove to these people that”If I don’t use Canon or Nikon, I would still make it in Photography”.

So I settled for a camera that none of them recommended for me: Olympus. And I think if Olympus were to come to Nigeria right now,they will consider me as one of their Ambassadors. (Considering the amount of Olympus cameras I own). The point I’m trying to bring out of this is the answer to that question,”Which camera should I get?”

And the answer to that question is: IT DEPENDS. It depends on your taste, it depends on the camera manufacturer that you are in love with. And my main suggestion is for you to visit a site like www.DPreview.com. The site provides independent, non-biased reviews of every camera that has been manufactured for the past 6 to 10 years. And sometimes even for Canon manufacturers, you could place two cameras side by side and compare. It is a site that gives you more technical information than you would ever need! That might be a good place to start. But I won’t come here and tell you,”Canon is the best, Olympus is the best or Nikon is the best!”

I know some people that could kill for Canon and they will tell you,”look if you are not taking pictures with Canon,you have not started your photography business”. But I tell them many times if pictures are seen as great pictures, how many people look at the picture and say ”Wow! I bet you used a Canon camera,” or “I bet you used a Nikon camera.” Most people just appreciate the beauty & care less which camera you use.

So if you are trying to settle on a camera to choose, go to www.Dpreview.com & do a research depending on your style of photography or what you want to specialize in. And whatever you conclude, whatever is comfortable by you is the right camera to get. Especially the camera that fits your budget, it’s really important it fits your budget.

One other thing you should consider when getting a camera: it is really important to get a camera that you know your colleagues or your mentors have. For example, it was not necessarily a wise thing thing that I decided to choose Olympus then because as at that point in time (2006), I was about the only person that I knew was using Olympus cameras. We had people in Nigeria repairing all these digital cameras and most of them specialized in the repairs of Canon and Nikon equipment. So I placed myself in a hot spot; I put myself in a corner. When I had any issues with the cameras, I was left alone to resolve it myself.

So if you are going for a Canon camera, it’s important you decide that it is because you know one or two people that have Canon cameras. So if you encounter a challenge with your Canon you could ask them for help. Same thing goes for any other camera choice. Of course, by now a lot of people decide to choose Olympus camera because they know someone like me that has Olympus cameras. Presently,we have Olympus and Nikon cameras & we are considering getting a few Canon cameras because I like getting used to all the different cameras.

So there goes the answer to that question,”Which camera should you get?” Whichever one fits your budget ,whichever one most of your friends are using and whichever one is comfortable with you.

So that is it for today’s episode of PICTURE THIS. Stayed tuned till Friday when we continue on what it takes to start out in photography. Until then if you have any questions whatsoever, feel free to send us an e-mail at picturethis@elophtos.com. We will not only incorporate it into the show somehow but we will get back to you as soon as possible.

One more thing that you will do for me is this: visit www.youtube.com/elophotos to subscribe to this channel. The “subscribe” button is right at the top of the channel. By subscribing, you become one of the first few people who get a notification once we upload an episode. So subscribe to the channel, share the program with your friends, “like” it if its ok. And if you feel we are not really doing well, please email me at picturethis@elophotos.com
Tell us what you feel we could do better & any help whatsoever you could offer would be appreciated. Let this be a partnership like I mentioned earlier and together we would help to build a better photography industry. Stay tuned and keep taking those pictures

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