To find inspiration as a photographer, I like solitude when I need to think. So I take a lot of time, sometimes days on my own just thinking and writing ~ Annie Sakkab
These words from award-winning photojournalist and social documentary photographer explain why the Toronto based Jordanian continues to excel in a profession that has seen her travelling back and forth in several countries.
Photography is a wonderful art form loved by millions of people around the world. A picture they say is worth a thousand words, a photographer can depict the beauty of mankind, nature or memorable moments in history with just a shot. Ironically, the works or subjects of photographers are often more famous than the creators themselves. For instance, her Disney Dream Portrait Series and some Vanity Fair cover images appear to be more famous than Annie Leibovitz herself. However, the joy of every creator is for their work to surpass their imagination.
Sadly the development of this beautiful career has been somewhat stunted in Africa. Except for a certain period in history when photography witnessed some international popularity in countries like Niger and Cote d’Ivoire much of what we have now is predominantly wildlife photography. So I decided to put together a short piece to encourage budding and potential photographers.
Now, if you are considering a career in photography it is important to know that it is one hell of a hectic profession. It requires a lot of energy and time often spent in transit. The next job after a routine photo shoot in your home studio could involve travelling thousands of kilometres to a far-flung location, so if are not the travelling type the profession may not be for you.
Again, a career in photography like every other endeavour requires passion to be successful but it is one that you can only stand out in with creativity. Formal education is increasingly becoming a requirement for a job as a photographer. This is expected as the world has gone digital but don’t worry, as a freelancer you can learn on the job even if you have no degree or diploma. Passion will get you far and if you decide to work for a firm later, some might be willing to consider experience as your credentials.
A few skills are essential, however.
- Attention To Details: Photographers are often meticulous people. They worry about some of the things we wave off. You must have an eye for the tiniest of details, they may just be the cornerstone, the outstanding item.
- Artistic Ability: As I mentioned earlier, you must be creative. The profession is perhaps 90% about your creativity. Your ability to bring your best imaginations to life using a combination of position, colour and composition. You can borrow a leaf from Annie Sakkab’s quote above.
- Communication And Interpersonal Skills: As well as being a good communicator, you should also be a good listener, be patient and proactive to be able to understand clients’ needs. A good customer relationship engenders patronage. Computer literacy, especially in editing software programs and applications, is an added advantage in this internet age.
- Commercial Skills: Naturally, for any venture to be profitable some business skills are required. Photographers should at least know how to keep financial records; know a bit of marketing and understand copyright laws to protect their work. Your work is your intellectual property and should fetch you whatever it is worth in the market.
To cap the aforementioned will be to have a mentor, an experienced hand in the industry that will assist you with tips and helpful feedback. Always challenge your mentor to critique your work so that you can learn and grow. Jason Ogbazi, an experienced photo artist based in Lagos completely agrees, “that is why I squeeze out time from my busy schedule to mentor kids, they stand to gain a lot from my wealth of experience” he said.
Most importantly you have to find a balance between your imaginative and productive periods. If you spend most of your time imagining the perfect shot then you’ll get little done and your career would have been all but a dream. On the other hand, if you work round the clock without adequate time to draw inspiration you may end up as just another photographer. Like I said earlier, your creative ability will make you stand out.
Finally, don’t wait till you have everything rather start with what you have, after all, the most important tool is your imagination. You can always hire a camera till you save up to buy one.
Start small and grow big. Good luck!
Photo credit: Jason Ogbazi