Today, I have Mr. Segun Aluko (Head of Business Development at Delon Apps Nigeria – owners of Nigeria’s top job website, jobs.delon.ng and #1 online marketplace in Nigeria, delon.ng) in my panel and together, we’ll be speaking with an important guest, Mr. Olanrewaju Lalude (CEO of LO Studios, a Film Making company based in Lagos, Nigeria).
Today, we’ll be talking about service business in Nigeria, with particular emphasis on photography business in Nigeria and we will as usual still talk about career development strategies for fresh graduates and professionals in Nigeria.
Thank you very much once again for joining us today Mr Lanre Lalude. Can you please tell us about your career experience right from your post-NYSC days till now?
Thank you very much for having me on this platform. I feel honoured. Well, it’s been almost a decade now that I completed the mandatory NYSC scheme and I can boldly say it’s been a journey. I searched for a job relating to what I studied in the university (Geography) for a while, and I was able to get one after some months, but truth be told, I wasn’t having that career fulfillment with the company. I noticed I was always reading and researching on things relating to films and photography instead of concentrating on the job at hand. The day finally came when I made up my mind to go for what I have been passionate about. A chance meeting with a film production crew was the extra push I needed. I was busy at work and noticed a film shoot happening quite close to my office. For some funny reason, I decided to go there after work hours. I went there after the close of work that day and got information on how I can start a career. I resigned a week after from the initial job, and then started making plans for the career that has now become mine right there.
Fast forward to a few years later, I decided to take a more professional approach to the whole thing; I enrolled for a short course at the Nigeria film institute in Jos, Plateau State. Jos was an experience I enjoyed thoroughly and lessons from there are still with me till date.
After film school, I decided to return n to Lagos and got into the music video industry as an intern. After some time, I decided to start shooting stuffs on my own. I was learning from my own mistakes, and then taking feedbacks from friends and colleagues, which to a large extent helped greatly. After a while, I started my brand in the year 2015 (formerly Squareface Media) and specialized in weddings. I must say it was really tough starting as a business entity, but consistency kept me growing, and here we are today as LO Studios.
I am aware you graduated with a degree in Urban and Regional Planning before going ahead to study film making at the Nigerian Film school in Jos, How did you develop your love for cinematography and what informed your decision to delve into it
My love for film making developed naturally out of curiosity since my childhood. Every time I watched anything on the television then, I wondered how scenes switched or how one person is talking and the next second, it’s the face of another. That curiosity grew with me into adulthood. At some point before I got into the university, I started a drama group in my church, I wrote drama scripts, and that was how the passion and love for filming grew. But then, I needed to be schooled. So, I enrolled myself into Nigerian Film Institute where I learnt the art of film making and finished as a certified Cinematographer. So, I can say the love for film making for me is in-born.
Can you tell us briefly what it takes to be a cinematographer?
Cinematography as a career is broad. A cinematographer is not just a cameraman as some believe to them to be. It’s way beyond just carrying a camera. As a cinematographer, it is important you know little about everything. Basically, and technically, you must be vast with the knowledge of camera operations, how to make use of various brands of cameras etc. There are uniform technical principles applicable to the use of cameras regardless the maker. Beyond camera operations, you must also understand lighting principles too. How can you make use of natural and artificial light to light your scenes? Or create moods? That is way beyond just being a cameraman. Then, a cinematographer must also know about sounds too. It doesn’t have to be too in-depth though. So, in other words and in simple definitive terms, a cinematographer simply makes use of a camera, light and sound to pass across visual messages.
Your photography and video business journey has been really fascinating, can you tell us why you decided to make this part of the film making business your core specialty
Very Simple. That is where my strength lies. I realized I can create more as a film maker. I always love to imagine stories and tell them with motion pictures. I also love to see the priceless expressions on people’s faces when they see my wedding clips or montage.
What does it take to be a sought after photographer
This depends on various factors. These factors could be the location where you operate from, your arsenal of photography equipment and also how sophisticated those equipments are. Your relationship with people also matters, and then most importantly, the richness in the taste of your work.
Below are two testimonials of people that got customers by posting free online ads in Nigeria. I believe you have also got some clients through online adverts, but what other strategies have helped you the most to get jobs?
Apart from online advertising, I have got majority of my clients through referrals from previous customers and friends. I work very hard to greatly satisfy my customers so that they will gladly recommend me to other people. And this has helped me a great deal.
Talking about my online advert experience, I have done both free and sponsored ads on classified ads websites and even newspapers. Putting your work out there online will not only get you jobs, you should also expect to read comments saluting or criticizing your work too. Some of the positive experience include strangers tagging potential clients on my page and these people message me directly for business transactions.
Can you please tell our readers about some of the challenges you have faced since you started your photography business. And how were you able to overcome them?
At the initial stage of my business, building a much-needed client database was a great challenge. Nobody wants to believe in you till they see you have done something substantial. So, to overcome this challenge, most of the jobs I did were almost free of charge or nearly free of charge. I was most just interested in putting my name out there; primarily to convince people that I have got what it takes & that I can get the job done at all times. It might interest you to know that the first wedding I shot was for a friend and it was totally for free and in my own terms though. The couple and the families involved on both sides loved the video and from there, there were referrals. This helped a great deal in gradually building a solid client database. Since then, we haven’t looked back.
Over time, there have come to be an enormous increase in competition in the photography business. It now seemed everyone is a photographer and almost everyone believing they can handle a camera. However, it is important to note that competition is inevitable in every business. The only sure and certain way to stay in business is to remain on top of your game. You need to learn to evolve and endeavor to always be up-to-date!
An aspect of cinematography/photography is technologically driven. The major challenge for me has to do with keeping abreast with the latest, sophisticated shooting gears operations. You really don’t want to use cameras used in the ‘80s to shoot weddings of today. Those were the days of analog. We live in the digital world now and you must be able to operate these gadgets as a professional. So, keep learning!
I would also say that dealing with some kinds of client can be challenging. They want it one way, but you understand it better from the angle of a professional and you want it the other way. But I usually apply wisdom by giving outcome scenarios for both options and politely engage them a lot to try to explain my point. Some customers don’t want it to seem that you’re teaching them, so I am extremely polite and most times I am able to convince them.
In your line of business, it is extremely important to hire the right kind of staff. Many companies struggle a lot to hire suitable job candidates in Nigeria in a timely and cost-effective way. Tell us about the processes you follow in hiring staff at your company.
Okay! There are times we have several projects lined up for several days/week, Lanre cannot be in all of these places simultaneously. So, it is important we hire staffs that can represent the company in best way possible. To get the best of all, the process is to see their archives, invite them over for interview, give them some tasks to do, and see how they can achieve them within a set time frame, and very key, also test their patience level- very important! Some photo/video projects can be so demanding and require a lot of patience to deal with clients or even some guests at events.
Tell us your typical expectations from anyone who would want to work in a company like yours. I also like you to please seize this opportunity to advise young Nigerians about best ways of getting jobs in Nigeria.
Diligence, professionalism, humility and patience. Those in my opinion are the core attributes that I am always looking out for. Generally, I advise young people trying to get jobs in Lagos to always be ready to start small. People always want to start big, forgetting that little beginnings can always grow into something big when we work very hard. Also, I encourage young people not to limit their job search to only one strategy. They must use both old school and modern strategies. Use the internet, word-of-mouth, whatsapp, walk-ins, family and friends, etc. And never give up. Always learn and improve yourself. Get help with your CV and interview preparation. Take all relationships seriously and be respectful to your bosses. Today’s small relationship can turn into something great in future. They should also use linkedin to find jobs in Nigeria and network, instead of just socializing.
Back in the days, photography wasn’t exactly rated as a viable career option; it has since proven to be untrue in these times. Can you tell us how viable a career option it is?
The fact is, it will always remain viable as long as there will always be social events, commercials, documentaries, modelling, and so many others. They will always be available. It is now up to you as an individual to harness the available opportunities from time to time.
For a budding enthusiastic person who is interested in training as a professional photographer and particularly making a career out of it, kindly let us know what it entails
First question I always ask anyone that approaches me with this same question is if he/she has a passion for it. Passion first! This for me is the most important factor.
It is passion that would keep you moving when you aren’t getting it right at the beginning or when it seems you will never have your first client after training. Once you have a lot in your passion bank for photography, then the next to do is to engage yourself in rigorous training. Train like a soldier. You might earn nothing while you train, but be focus and set a time target for yourself.
After training, take on jobs with little or no pay. This would certainly help you perfect your skills and learn from your mistakes. Over time, your photography skills become part of you.
Then, put your works out there on social media, Let people regularly see the beauty you created. From one job, you will get the next. Remember; keep training to better your skills. Also as time goes on, it is extremely important to set aside savings to start your business of photography proper. This will be a huge factor as you grow your brand and aim to be as big as big as possible.
Photography as a whole is very broad. For the sake of some of our readers interested in making a career out of it; mention three types that you feel is in high demand right now in Nigeria.
For me, this is quite straight-forward; wedding photography, photography for commercials, portrait photography. They are always in high demand.
So for someone starting out, can you tell us what kind of professional training is needed, what equipment do you need to acquire in the course of the training to aid one’s development
My advice when it comes to trainings is always the same; the best bet is to aim to train at already established studios with gadgets. You will need to enroll as an intern, and then learn the basics.
I always stress this; there is absolutely no reason to rush. If you can afford to buy the equipment, then get them. For starters, you will need a Camera, lights, backdrops, computer system for editing. It will fasten your learning time. But if you can’t afford them, then be ready to sacrifice more time at the studio where you are learning.
Corona Virus also known as COVID-19 has ravaged the world in the last few months. Sadly, it has not only claimed lives but greatly affected world economies and businesses. On a personal note, how has this affected your business
Well, greatly negative as no one was prepared for it. It has negative impact on our income, office rent, idle equipment; but it is also a time for businesses to reinforce, re-strategize and push boundaries with new ideas aimed at growth. I think maybe besides app development companies in Nigeria, digital marketing professionals and essential services providers like healthcare, telecom, and power solutions companies in Nigeria, most other companies have technically shut down. The truth is our world will never be the same post COVID-19; it is now up to us to find ingenious ways to keep improving.
Finally, can you tell us briefly, what is your business unique selling point. What stands you out from the competition in terms of what you offer and bring to the table
Unique Contents! When I shoot, I put myself in the shoes of my audience. What and how I feel after seeing my art work is exactly what they feel too most times. When you have some people waiting impatiently on the next wedding video clip, then we are on the right track. Bringing smiles to clients’ face is my business unique selling point.
Thank you very much for your time. I really enjoyed talking to you and believe that our readers must have learnt a lot from this interview.
It is a great pleasure.