A couple of years ago, probably in my most assuming and uninformed manner, I did not expect taking on the standards of running photography business to be any more challenging or thoroughly tasking than anything I had already tried my hands on. I mean, I had already experienced running an online magazine where we paid for the services of a few photographers. I had even accompanied some of them on field jobs and was even present at photo shoots. Photography? it was all fun and just a breeze-through, I thought.
More than one thing was skewed about this thinking as I was soon to find out. Although I was paying photographers to do what they knew how to do best, I never really gave much thought to what it entailed. At that time, there was little to nothing to guide me into the that intangible yet indispensable entrepreneurial thinking that seemed to reverberate through all the interactions I had with photographers like it was some unmapped code in their DNA.
Fast forward to today. It was no less than 4 months ago my enlightenment journey was about to commence and in no better place than eloPhotos. I had walked in sure-footedly that day in November. So confident that after the two weeks in Daystar Skill Acquisition Programme that I participated in a month before, I had what it took to have it made as a photographer. What I discovered has made me more than a little wiser! In summary I found the following truths:
1. An entrepreneur can never do away with the priceless leverage that mentorship from those who have gone ahead provides. By the day mentorship was never in short supply neither was the opportunity to put into immediate practice what needed to be actualised for it to have its maximum impact. We were not just ‘hearers’ but ‘doers’ of the insightful instruction we had benefited from. By so doing we had accelerated learning that, though it was not exclusive of mistakes, (and mistakes are part of learning) but they certainly were not doomed to be the kind of mistakes that wise counsel from those who had threaded the path before us can seriously help to avoid.
2. There were the reminders that apart from your technical skill (and mind you a lot of that is required at the next level of photography), your stamina and physical ability is not left out either. As ‘gladiators’ in the photographic arena, even if you had the know-how, you still needed to know how to be up and doing if you were going to get great work done and achieve great results. It did not let up as the standards of client satisfaction and the accompanying demands for levels of service grew. You did what had to be done and like I once said, we don’t give up, we go on!
3. Equipment handling? Oh piece of cake right? Wrong! If you had the privilege of being in the midst of this calibre of photographic equipment, you had to take time to know the rules of their care, appropriate usage and storage. Clearly I learnt how lenses and lights are more than just that; the are like your eyes and how well you treasure your eyes is how well you treasure the equipment. So neither they nor their environment could afford to be dirty! Nor could areas for handling workflows from all aspects to the ‘digital darkroom’. What about client-accessed areas? You probably guessed! So well it’s cut and dry that maintenance culture and cleanliness standards will improve (and they did) even if you have managed the British Monarchy’s royal cars in your previous life.
4. You are your own best marketer. The point is your persona is very much part of your unique selling point. If you didn’t know, the emphasis on adequate personal “best” dressing and the occasional use of stylized costumes on some outings would convince you. At least on one occasion the costume did make the job easy for an introvert like myself to introduce concepts in conversation with persons I would otherwise have not had the temerity to approach.
Then of course, there was and still is the impact of engaging the cyberspace and as a lot of blogging skills and social media marketing is required, we found ourselves inundated with trainings and opportunities for training in both! Did I mention that my erstwhile magazine publishing days was in cyberspace? Well I rapidly discovered how little I knew including how foolish I had been to be conned by a web designer who did little above what I now learnt by myself in the process of marketing my photography.
Ah, on a lighter yet important note, I learnt one more thing about brand consistency – from ensuring to always type eloPhotos with a small case “e” and a capital case ‘P’
5. I did not know how making youtube videos could literally be an asset to your photography or any business and not only did I get involved in making them more professionally, I learnt from Google (yes – youtube came to Nigeria and courtesy of eloPhotos, I was at the launch-out event) the ways and tips to ensuring that they get seen, engaged with and possibly yield the kind of results (leads) my business needs.
6. Outings, outings, outings – what is a photography training (or trainee) without the outings to go get some good practice on? Ok so I have quite a number under my belt (courtesy of my stay at eloPhotos) like wedding photography, event photography (like When I shot Wizkid and Banky W), sports photography, even children photography, naming ceremony, and environmental portraiture and fashion/model shoots. The list is endless.
7. If you thought you had printing locked down, you really need to see it done to know what it takes. And so I am already hoping one day to still undergo even more training still. But the foundation was made solid at eloPhotos. Everything made sense and all came together to form this crystal thought, ‘what you think you see is what you think you edit, but may not be what you see in print’. And so I have learnt to be even more discriminatory when using a print lab. I also ensure that I use monitors with best color renditions for my editing & not to let inexperienced hands even at (reputedly) great print labs handle my print jobs anyhow.
8. The commandments of Client Satisfaction are all summed up thus: “the client is the one who pays the money”. And doing everything to satisfy, delight and retain a client (who in turn will be my best marketer) has become my ultimate goal. Working on that part of me is still in progress because anything I do should be of the highest possible quality. I wont stop at satisfaction, my goal is to delight & retain the client even if it means taking certifiable courses on Interpersonal Interaction Psychology. Buttom line is I don’t mind becoming like my boss at eloPhotos who seems a master of this science (or art)
So in nutshell, I can’t finish telling you all I have been able to do in just four months at eloPhotos, but if you meet me outside on the streets please stop me and ask me for more!
Plan to attend the next session of Basic Course in Photography
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