PHOTOGRAPHY: ART OR BUSINESS?

Several Individuals have delved into one or two endeavours in their lives. Kelechi – Amadi Obi, a lawyer by profession took to photography to not just survive but express art in its uttermost reality, Funmi Iyanda, a graduate of Geography from the University of Ibadan is today an award winning Talk – show host and was named one of Forbes 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa, Mai Atafo, a bespoke fashion designer holds a first degree in Agricultural Economics and Extension from Edo State University, Ekpoma, and then obtained a Post graduate degree in Information Technology from City University of London, England. These are all vivid examples of individuals who have delved into various entrepreneurship endeavours irrespective of their profession. One thing is common to all; they all delved into the arts! For me, it’s PHOTOGRAPHY

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Let’s start by understanding what photography is – ‘Drawing with Light’. Back when I was a kid, I struggled with fine art as a subject, I did the theoretical aspects very well but always flopped when it comes to drawing with our pencils but my elder sister is the direct opposite. She could draw you with her eyes closed. So there was the drive, the passion to challenge my elder sister made me fall in love with photography back in 2008. Some weeks ago, I was with a fellow student of the premier university, The University of Ibadan, she wanted me to tutor her and I asked ‘What’s driving you?’ She couldn’t give a straight – forward answer. I gave her a list of options, and when I said ‘Maybe you are driven by the personality of another photographer’ she gave a big grin!
The big question now rises: Is Photography an Art or Business? Let me start by letting you understand that a business is any meaningful engagement that involves the transfer of services or goods in exchange for an acceptable means of payment (money, cowries and items of high value). It is without doubt that as a photographer, you would have to charge your clients to survive in business but one must understand the fact that in aiming at profit, art mustn’t suffer.
A friend asked me sometimes ago if I was willing to work on a project that would accrue a good sum of money but then I declined. You must feel ire right now wondering why on earth I would decline!!! I didn’t take up the project because it wasn’t my main field as a photographer and I knew little to nothing about that aspect of photography (Photography has got over 125 genres) and because I didn’t want to flop, I decided not to work on such project.
Art as you know has got to evoke emotions, speak out and pass out a message. Every work of photography that has art as its main backing has these embedded in it. National Geography Wild photographers spend days on dangerous routes capturing lives of endangered animals and how the world can be a better place if we all take an extra care of the best friends we’ve had since Adam was made, Fashion photographers depict art at its best quality whilst showing unmatched brilliance in the props used, a wedding photographer engraves memories that are priceless with the single click of the shutter button. We all need to understand that we must define a certain aspect of photography we want to go into or maybe 2 but not 8!
How do we now merge arts to business? Your individual approach to work will definitely show which you are more interested in. When my elder sister was getting married, I made her understand that I wouldn’t shoot her wedding if she didn’t put into place the logistics I needed to have a good shoot. She brought the idea of having her make – up done at home, I inclined, she booked a 4 – star hotel room few days before the wedding. This same stiffness is applied to my clients, I even had a client telling me I was too strict and I replied, ‘I am doing all this because I want to give you the best.’

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DO NOT LET ART SUFFER FOR THE MONEY
How do we now strike a balance between these two forces? We have to understand that the phenomenon ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ is actually true. Define what genre of photography you want to go into. Broadly we have Human and Non – Human / Still life Photography. These two broad categories are then divided to several sub – classes. As an individual, I’ve taken up portrait photography as the main genre with a little feel for event photography. I wouldn’t wake up tomorrow and jump into macro photography or architecture because an individual is willing to pay a good amount of money. I just won’t find it fun shooting non – living things such as houses as much as Body Lawson does because I’m a walkie – talkie and so I love to communicate with my subject when I shoot – only humans can speak!
The next thing is to always attach a theme to every shoot you are working on. A friend called me and requested we have a shoot and she said she just wants to shoot and change her attires. No theme for the shoot? Then I have no message to pass on. Love, Death, Christian and Islamic themed ideas, a gothic themed pre – wedding etc are all themes you can work with when shooting with your client. You just have to let them understand what you want to do well ahead so you don’t seem too confusing and obtrusive on the day of the shoot. At the end of the day, they will love what you’ve given them because your image won’t be just bland. I’ve had shoots where I do all the spending, put the crew together all because I want to create a certain art I have in my head and these artworks end up attracting clients. I’ve been in a situation when I was called by a certain potential client whom I was referred to and he requested for my Instagram I.D to check my images and he later called back and we had a good working experience. What do you think he was doing on my instagram account??? He wanted to check the beauty of the images I’ve shot in the past.
Don’t be tempted by the prospects of good cash. You must understand that your client is not concerned about what genre you shoot, all they need to be convinced of hiring you is the fact that your pictures they’ve seen are crisp, clear and wowing. (Clients get into this trap mostly when planning an event) So endeavour you don’t take a job you know you won’t be able to give your maximum output quality. I’m a portrait photography but I don’t shoot kids often (I love new-born’s though) this is because new-born’s are calm and don’t even know what’s going on but a child of 9 months can be troublesome dude. If you don’t have the patience like I don’t, then run for your business.
All these seems to be useless advice in a country where survival is more or less from mouth to hand but then you must take deep breath, relax and look at the long term dangers of allowing thr nerve of making profit over the nerve of making art. When you take up a job that you know little about and you didn’t go out with an assistant who knows it very well, you will end up flopping. The client would get the impression ‘He’s a bad photographer’ they want say you are a bad architectural photographer and a good portrait photographer because they know little to nothing about these and this results into them not referring you potential customers who actually need the service you offer best. As a professional, irrespective of what genre you are, there will be a demand for you because people will understand that will deliver the quality they want.
In my last words, “aim at making beautiful images and the business will survive” When people see how beautiful works are they would be tempted to give jobs to you. So let art drive you in all you do and let the money be a side attraction.

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