Transcript of the interview with Olamide Bakare of Alore Photography
How did you get into photography?
My name is Olamide Bakare, a graduate of computer science, Lagos State University. I am a photographer and also a web-designer. I love creativity. My journey into photography is a funny story. I was just going to study computer science, make money, marry and have kids and that was it. But in the course of my being a web – designer, I discovered that my clients needed certain types of pictures some of them could not afford. I could not get them online and I thought I could take stock pictures and sell and make money. I had a whole bunch of friends who were into photography and they were doing fantastic. I got one of them to take pictures of a clients office for the website. When it was done, I had to pay him for the pictures. So I thought “why not do this too and sell stock pictures and make money”. I also found that many people were taking the same kind of pictures. The same smiles and so on. I felt I could do it differently.
The day I finally went for the photography [training] course, I didn’t even plan it. It was way after the deadline. It had occurred to me that this course was almost free, and I said why not, instead of waiting another six months[by which time]I could have changed my mind.
I did the course at DSAP – Daystar Skill Acquisition Program). It was a fantastic experience! A whole lot was taught and imparted in the ten days and we had people like Leke Adenuga, Seun Akisanmi, Dipo Odetoyinbo and a whole lot of other professionals [come over]. I had my own camera (borrowed from a friend) and took pictures with the last settings he had used and they came out nice. But I didn’t know what the whole thing was about the settings.
Within three days, I could handle the camera myself and decided what settings I wanted.
It’s been good, but when you learn things like this you have to go back and practice and research. Funny, I even had some video tutorial [in my possession] even before I went for the photography course. But after the course I went back to watch them, and I understood them better.
Would you say it’s been worthwhile financially?
When it comes to money-making part of this business, if you know what you are doing, you will be glad you are in the business. This is because when you are starting out in the business, you don’t expect a million bucks overnight unless you are seated next to God or you doing something fraudulent. But I tell you, 3-4 weeks after the course, I did a wedding job and I was paid. It was tiny but it felt good to do a job as a fresher and get cash from it. But in a very short time, I can command prices close to what some of my mentors charge.
In some cases I have had mentors who asked me how much they should charge, and I would be like, but I just started out, and you [the forbearers] ask me? So it’s been fantastic. When you do jobs that come out well, you won’t have to talk too much (because they speak for themselves) to get a new one. Some jobs I did entirely free when nobody knew me, but it helped to let people know what I can do. I still love the business, because apart from the money, I like the fun, the creative side, and I can do a lot of magic and it comes out nice! Forget editing, if you didn’t take it [the picture], it never happened!
Any Photographer you aspire to be like?
Internationally: from my small research, I was referred to the website of a Nigerian guy in the US, Dotun (can’t remember his last name) while trying to bid for a job. He is fantastic! I would like to do the kind of things that he does. Also, Jeremy, a white guy who takes a lot of celebrity pictures, does it in a way that every detail tells you something.
Nigeria, Africa: there are a whole bunch of people here. African photographers do a lot of arts and fashion in addition to the events like weddings. On the whole we have top notch people like the Kelechis [Amadi-Obi], eloPhotos and others who should be watching out right now because I am really gunning for their jobs. (laughs)
Could you share with us one of your most fulfilling moments in photography?
I had an encounter in Ilorin Nigeria where I was a supporting photographer for a boss at a wedding job, and after the reception the groom (whom I was assigned to) told me, ‘’I wish I had met you earlier!’’ I wondered, he had not even seen the pictures and I would have done it for free. He was a good straight up kind of guy with a bunch of nasty friends. But I made him come out of his shell because I needed good pictures. I cracked jokes and all that and he laughed and even danced better at the reception. It made be happy, because as a photographer you can be a friend to your client. What you give your clients they give back to you a hundredfold.
What will distinguish you from other photographers a few years from now?
Couple of years from now, the Ogas should be scared. I am a goal-getter and I do a lot of things differently from people. I don’t want to do what you are already doing. So I feel if my ogas don’t change what they do, in the next 20 years, Alore photos will be the place where you come to and your innermost desires come to life. Apart from taking regular pictures, the creative shoots and going the extra mile, making the client very happy is where we are heading.
Your worst experience so far?
I had a very funny experience. I had a Nikon camera to use for this wedding. Even though I am Canon person, but where I was trained, I know you don’t restrict yourself to one camera. On the journey to the location outside Lagos, the camera seemed fine. But on getting to the venue, on this camera that a professional uses, the menu button was stuck and not working. I was like ‘Heck no! I am not going to [have to] shoot this thing in auto [mode]. We tried to use all sorts of tools to free the menu button. Then it developed a mind of its own and the camera started cranking up my ISO. I was like “Oh my God!”
I didn’t let it get to me so I switched off mentally and thought, “just take the pictures”. The worst that will happen will be for me to use the “grainy” pictures as backgrounds when designing the photobook. So I started taking pictures. But when I got in to the room it would turn bright so I knew it was a fake. When the pictures came out, they were good! The guy designing the photobook ended up using a lot of my pictures. So at the wedding, if I had let it take over my mind I would have gone to a corner to start crying!
The deal is to learn to work with what you have around, and see what you can achieve with it. Be able to improvise. Don’t become too streamlined to any particular camera. What if you don’t have a fantastic lens? Thank God everything still came out well and we got paid for the job.
Any advice to people just starting out in photography?
If you are starting out, you have to be focussed: know what you want and take your teacher/mentor seriously, because he is speaking from experience. Even if you have to raise cash to start out by doing different stuff, know the kind (out of the different areas) of photography you want!
Secondly, move around with “good” heads. You may not have money to buy or even rent equipment, you might be lucky to get someone who will lend you very expensive equipment for free.
Then again, even if it is a one day training take it seriously if it is what you really gonna do. If you going to do the course like I did (at DSAP), I tell you, I know only a few of us from my set who eventually took it [photography] up. So think about it now, what is it you wanna do, maybe its another trade, maybe fashion, go and learn that one and don’t waste your time. But if you going to do this, take it seriously.
I have covered quite a few weddings, basically a lot of events and a lot of model shoots. Studio shoots and outdoor stuff, It’s been a fantastic experience as you meet a lot of different people who , some of them give you funny expressions, some want different things but cant do what it takes. When I was going through the course (DSAP) I had a different mindset. I wanted to do stock pictures, landscape because a lot of people around here were not doing that. I wanted to get into travel too, but in my research I found travel to be quite expensive, because you might have to wake up one morning and have to travel to Kenya, etc. Now who is going to pay for that? I will still try it out, from landscape to a whole bunch of creative stuff other people around here are not doing.
Final words to every one “watching” (or reading)
If you have to come out from the crowd, and be at the centre stage, be creative, be determined and follow your dreams!! You will be fine!
Plan to attend the next session of Basic Course in Photography
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