Photography today isn’t just about capturing pretty pictures. It is an art with value added, and a combination of skill and the right equipment to produce a flawless work. This interview encompasses how passion, hard work and drive can get one to a desired end in pursuing professional photography as a career. We met with George Okoro, the man behind the lenses and George Okoro Photography, and he gave us details on how he started his career as a banker and ended up in photography.
What was life like before photography and how did you get into photography?
Well, I started my career working in a micro finance bank after my youth service. I got bored and moved to MTN where I worked for three years as a sales and marketing person. While at MTN, I developed my passion for photography and I applied the marketing skills I learnt on the job to push my brand. I quit MTN eventually and I only started taking pictures professionally for about a year now.
How did you turn your passion into a business?
Photography is a passion for me and I never thought of it as something that would yield me income. It has always been something I do for fun. When I attend friends’ events, I am sure to carry my camera along and take loads of pictures. When I get home, I edit them and send to all my friends after much harassment. At a point, I had to question myself with the help of a mentor, a professional photographer who advised me to learn the art of photography and turn my passion into a business. So I began taking online courses at New York Institute of Photography while I was still working with MTN. I needed to take various advanced level courses to enable me distinct my work from that of other photographers.
Tell us about your typical workday and what it entails
You know, when people approach me to cover their events, they don’t understand what it takes to come out with a pretty picture. Besides taking pictures at events, the main work is when I edit and produce these pictures. Most photographers will tell you that this is the part of the job they fancy the least because it is extremely time consuming. On a typical day when I am not covering an event, I wake up, say my prayers and then edit pictures. I try to complete at least two jobs a day to deliver to my clients. In the evenings, I usually schedule meetings with clients as well as ensure the printing and albums for the photos, which I usually outsource. In between all of these, I reply all my emails.
What have been your greatest challenges since you started photography?
What I will consider as a challenge in my profession is satisfying my clients and myself. If I do a job that I am not satisfied with, it kills my motivation because of the high expectations from clients. When clients don’t put in effort to make their pictures come out great, it makes my job difficult in terms of producing an amazing shoot – although we have the help of photo-editing tools. Another challenge I face is in the financing. As a result of desiring the best lenses for the export brand I am building to compete globally, I constantly have to invest my money in very pricey lenses to help me deliver on different kinds of jobs.
Who are your clients and how do you target them?
First of all, I am a bit selective with the clients I work with and this is because of the brand and recognition I want for George Okoro Photography. I usually target the middle and upper class members of the society, and pretty much anyone who is willing to pay good money for the value I deliver in my pictures. I usually shoot weddings, social events like concerts and comedy shows, corporate events, launches and even non-profit events. I also shoot fashion shows, landscape and still life and I can say I am quite dynamic with the type of pictures I shoot.
What makes your art stand out?
First of all, I ensure that the quality of my work stands out. I put in a lot of time to come up with amazing images. There is a strict workflow I follow to enable me come out with the quality I produce. Another thing that gave me recognition was my online birthday magazine where we celebrate people on their special days. From doing that, people got to hear about my work and contracted me to cover their events. I also don’t take any job for granted, no matter how unserious the event is.
What is your vision for George Okoro photography and what is your goal for the next 5 years?
I see George Okoro as an export brand, one of the best photography brands to be talked about from Nigeria. Between now and a few years to come, I want to ensure that the brand is a household name that people want to identify with. Additionally, I want to eventually set up an institute where interns can come and be mentored on professional photography, an institute where I can invite international photographers to do seminars on the art. Here in northern Nigeria, I also want to pioneer a photography hub where photographers can meet and share ideas. Additionally, I want to build up the online birthday magazine to the point where all Nigerians across the globe can share their birthday pictures for us to celebrate with them on the website.
What is your advice to those who are professionals but harbor the intention to venture into entrepreneurship in Nigeria?
It takes a lot of courage to venture into entrepreneurship and anyone who desires it must ensure that their product or service is of excellent quality. With Nigeria as an emerging economy, there will always be a market for anyone who has a good product or service to sell. If you can sit down and come up with a good idea, work towards it and get the necessary guidance and encouragement. You must also be dedicated and focused in what you want to achieve. Good product, good market, drive and focus, and in no time the results will start coming.
Can you comment on the high unemployment rate and how it affects thousands of graduates churned out every year from our universities?
Unemployment in Nigeria has always been a problem for graduates for years now. Even when I finished my youth service, it took me a while to get a job. Most people will say if you cant get a job, then why not start a business on your own, however financing is often a challenge. But my answer to that is if you can identify an opportunity anywhere, and you know what your goals are, it will pay off to start something small. If you can think of a great idea, you can achieve it. By thinking you have already started making progress, and then you can implement. It is wrong for youth to get involved in fraud and illegal means of income, which also have their repercussions. It is always best to find something you are passionate about. Everyone has a gift and you can say unemployment in the country has resulted in people finding their talents. For example, many of the comedians in the country today started out from being hungry and forcefully became creative (laughs)
Below are some of George Okoro’s work and you can check out his portfolio here