N141 per litre of fuel and the effect on the Nigerian Photographer

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Fuel subsidy removal, occupy Nigeria, coalition against fuel subsidy removal, how to download fuel, fuel price increase, Goodluck Jonathan, Most Cursed President……… just a few of the recent top google searches that brings up results that are associated with the Nigerian economy and people.

However, very few have thought about the effect it will have on the Nigerian photographer. Well here’s my take on that. I’ve already started feeling the impact. The pure water I bought for N5 on December 31st, 2011 has suddenly become N10 yesterday. The Maltina I bought on Jan 1 for N100 is now N130. My transportation to church has increased by 40% (now I’m considering attending church services on the internet). Thank God the price of my N50 gala has not changed (you see, there’s always something to thank God for).

With all of these increase in prices happening simultaneously, I began pondering if the key photography vendors would follow suit (i.e. print labs, frames, graphic artists, etc). I decided to call the MD/CEO of one of the top printing labs in Lagos, 5D Imagery. I asked if his organization was considering increasing the price of prints to photographers. All I heard was “OFCOURSE” before the line went dead. I tried calling back but my call was no longer being picked up.

MAYBE HE THOUGHT I WAS FROM CNN. Maybe the gsm network was busy. Maybe he was about saying “OFCOURSE NOT” before the line dropped dead. Maybe….. All I know is that I couldn’t reach him again. I started quizzing myself on the possible grounds they could have for increasing the price of their prints. I assumed that the generators they use at their facilities use diesel and not petrol. I assumed that the fuel subsidy was only on petrol. I assumed that they probably make about N1 million+ in sales daily and spend N20,000 in diesel daily. I assumed that a 120% increase in the cost of their fuel shouldn’t translate into a 100% increase in the price of their prints. Do the maths. I assumed that he’s a very reasonable man who wouldn’t increase his rates by more than 5% considering my calculations except for the sole reason of increasing the salaries of his staff that will be grossly affected by the fuel price hike. All these are assumptions. Time will tell what the final decision will be.

I proceeded to call another print lab to make the same inquiry. The staff at Replica studios was glad to tell me that they won’t be increasing their price at the moment. I was glad on behalf of the hundreds of photographers that patronize them. Please note that I’m not a fan of Replica studios; neither did I receive any compensation from them. We do most of our printing in-house and this report is a result of the journalistic tendencies lurking under my skin.

Another top printing outfit in Lagos, Fotospeed (located in Victoria Island), had not decided to increase their rates yet. So that settles the printing side.

As many of us are already aware that the cost of printing pictures is not the only cost we bear, there are still other areas (e.g. Frames, album designers/graphic artists, album binders, etc) that will be affected. The following are a few tips that I believe could be of help to those that care enough about their business to have read thus far.

1. Have a comprehensive website. In this day & age, a websiteless professional photographer is a unserious photographer. In fact such photographers should remove the word “professional” whenever they’re referring to who they are. The only reason for you not having a website should be because you’ve not taken any pictures and have not “launched” your photography business (and if you fall under this class of photographers, its ok to stop reading this piece now because the rest of the tips might not be as important).
One of the major advantage of having a website now is a reduction in your cost of transportation. Most clients that call me now already have an idea of the quality I bring to the table because they’ve seen my job online. Consequently, the major issue we usually discuss is how & when I’ll be getting a deposit. Even if they ask to see what the final album looks like, there’s a 90% chance that we’ve already sealed the deal. I can’t imagine going to Lekki from Ogba just to show a potential client my collections only to end up not getting the job. Not only would I have wasted over 4 hours for the trip, my transport fare (toll gate fee + fuel) will not be refunded. So be smart, develop your website TODAY.
N.B. You can still register for the forthcoming workshop on website development (Fire your web designer) by the end of January 🙂

2. Don’t give your clients any discount. If you’re a business person in Nigeria, you know what the normal buying protocol is: you ask seller for price of product, seller gives you her price, you ask for the “last price”, seller gives you a discount, you act as if you’re not buying anymore and further ask for a “final price”, seller is almost angry (in some cases, seller curses you & your father’s house) but finally agrees to your last price, you seal the deal with seller. Kapish.
Chances are you’ve given discounts to almost all the clients you had last year (don’t tell anyone but I’m guilty of that too). In other to cope with the increase in your “cost of production”, you’ll be better off not giving any discounts than to increase your price. Just tell your potential client “You know the current subsidy situation….you’re still getting a great deal because I have chosen not to be like everyone else by increasing my price.” I have a funny feeling that it will work.

3. Create other streams of income. Until now, all you did was take the pictures; you contracted every other aspect out and finally get a photo book a few weeks later. Well, maybe its time to consider contracting out those other aspects to yourself. Yes, YOU. If you pay someone else to design your albums, start designing yourself. Though it can be tedious, consider binding the albums and creating albums boxes for yourself. Better yet, start marketing to your fellow colleagues that might need your NEW services. You’ll be surprised the extra money you’ll save and make.

4. Sharpen your Unique Selling Point (USP): this is the time you need to seriously market yourself based on your USP. If you’re known to arrive early for events, deliver promptly to clients, design creatively or a good communicator, these are selling points that could help stand you out beyond the price you charge. Focus on them and bring the clients’ attention to the fact that it will be their loss if they don’t hire you.

5. Build a team. Building a team of photography assistants will go a long way in easing your burden. There are jobs that many photographers turn down because they are not paying what you charge. However if you present an alternative for the client that entails having your “accredited & reliable” assistant cover the photography assignment, you could charge lesser than your standard fee and still increase your income. If my assistants or colleagues are assigned to a job, usually the client saves between 20% & 50% in fees. Many photographers may not agree with me on this but with the right associates, you’re likely to increase your chances of going for a vacation earlier than you planned.

6. Choose your friends wisely. Yes, I know things might be difficult at the moment but it is times like this that I’m conscious of associating myself with people that have a plan for a future. I’m likely to be closer to someone who believes he stands a very good chance of getting a photography job (even if it seems the “market” is saturated) than someone who complains and moans about how its hard to make it in life. Yes, they might not be perfect but at least I’ll learn from them that which will help take me to the next level. That’s why I love photographers like Jide Alakija, Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Shola Animashaun & Leke Adenuga to mention just a few; they share what they know with you and are not afraid of you ending up more successful than them.

7. Develop a long-term business plan. The situation presently is a temporary one. If you focus too much on it without a long-term business plan, you’re likely to end up with a 9-5(sorry 8am – 8pm in most cases) job sooner than you think. Infact, you should be thinking of incoperating the present fuel price hike as a strategy for taking your business to the next level. You may ask, HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? Trust me, this is a season of unprecedented opportunities for Nigerian photographers. If only you can see it…….if only

8. Take advantage of social media. If you’re not presently utilizing the potentials of social media (facebook, youtube, twitter, google + etc) you’re seriously short-changing yourself. I’ve made over N2 million in the past 18 months as a result of my “business” presence on these social media. Anyway whichever way you look at it, the extra income will be worth it. TRUST ME.

9. Be financially prudent. More than ever before, this is the time to be more prudent in financial matters. I’ve recently had to give up my love for a daily consumption of 100-150cl of Pepsi. Apart from having a negative impact on my health, it had an impact on my finances too. So far, I’ve not drank a drop of Pepsi this year. SO FAR. I had it replaced with a cheaper & healthier alternative: WATER. You might have to reduce your expenses (although some would consider some of these to be an investment) in chocolate, movies, partying, phone calls, & ………….. well you know what else you spend. It is high time you reduce or remove the SUBSIDIES on such items; it will leave you with more resources to invest in your business. Trust me, I’ve already saved over N1200 this year alone as a result of removal of the subsidy I previously allocated to Pepsi. Do the maths & you’ll discover how richer I’ll be by the end of 2012

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One comment

  1. Chi-chi · January 8, 2012

    we’re already paying 4 subsidy at N65/L, so we dnt need any removal of subsidy now. They should cut down on their allowances and put themselves on minimum wage like every govt worker they say,they are.


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