Why I left banking for photography – Blessing Afolabi

Blessing Isaac Afolabi is the owner of Blessmas Media, a photography studio located in Fate Tanke, Ilorin, Kwara State. In this interview, the Accounting graduate from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Oyo State, who also holds a Masters in Human Resources, talks about his accidental journey into photography and why he would prefer it to banking, among other topics of interest.

BLessing Isaac Afolabi is the owner of Blessmas Media, a photography studio located in Fate Tanke, Ilorin, Kwara State. In this interview, the Accounting graduate from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Oyo State, who also holds a Masters in Human Resources, talks about his accidental journey into photography and why he would prefer it to banking, among other topics of interest.

What does an accountant do in photography?

I have always had a passion for photography but in 2010 after graduating from the Federal Polytechnic in Kwara State, I went for my industrial (IT) training at the Audit Unit from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso. My passion for photos grew and I used to take photos with my phone. I also take great pictures of the staff with their phones and they will ask me to do the impression. That’s how I kept doing it until I decided to learn it in 2013. I love the job and I’m doing so well so far.

How was it when you started?

When I started, it was fun and easy because some LAUTECH staff sponsored me. Later, when I was employed at the defunct Skye Bank, I carried on. Bankers love photos because they rarely go out for the holidays. So they “dress to kill” and we take their images there. So, while I was working in the bank, I was earning money through photography as a side business.

How was the transition for you?

It was seamless because of the passion. The pulling force was pretty amazing. Just as photography has gone from analog to digital, there is always the possibility of change in life and it is not just avoidable. We must accept change, grow, face challenges and move forward.

Who would you describe as role model(s)?

When I started, my first boss was Rex Photography in Ogbomoso – a family friend who is like a father to me, and I owe him a lot. Later, as more creative people came into the field, I now also crave creative thinkers like Amazing Clef, Tolani Alli, TY Bello, Big H, Baba Kelechi Amadi and others. It is natural for someone to grow and look higher to see those who do much better than them in any chosen profession.

How has the challenge been so far?

The basic challenge in photography is capital. Now, with innovation, new and better gadgets are being produced. Although we work with whatever we have and get the best result but it is better with relevant digital gadgets which are quite expensive. You have to constantly question yourself by going through the work of other photographers to get ideas and broaden your creative horizon. Photography is one of the professions that cannot disappear. Memories last forever, records must be taken, and events must be documented. But it is necessary to stay strategic and up-to-date in the business or risk being forgotten.

How lucrative is the photography business?

Photography is lucrative, though competitive. Someone’s production will determine how marketable they are. Packaging and branding go a long way in determining who will be attracted to it. It’s like the cliché “the way you dress is the way you will be addressed”.

Have you had a bad experience?

Well, I create a standard for myself and I don’t work for clients who devalue photography or photographers. It saves me from all kinds of unpleasant experiences.

How would you like to be remembered in this profession?

I consider myself one of the best photographers in Nigeria, Africa and the world in a not too distinct era and that is achievable. The photograph is worth making and durable too. The key is to get the right clients, links, and networks, and then you’re good to go. Taking great photos is getting better every day and everyone comes with a lot of experience. Now our customer base is growing and we are getting referrals upon referrals. It was an amazing trip. Ok, there were challenges and hiccups here and there, but they were met with incredible passion, zeal and determination to succeed and create a niche for my brand. We’ll get there.

As someone who has experienced banking and photography at professional levels, which would you prefer?

I would rather be a photographer than a banker. I agree that people think otherwise and believe that banking is more lucrative than photography, but that’s not the case for me. Banking work is full of uncertainties and less secure but in photography the work is more secure and there are more opportunities in photography than for a banker. You have more time for yourself, which you can translate into highly productive projects.

What does it take to start a photography business?

It takes capital to buy equipment like a camera, light, backdrops and other gadgets and to secure an attractive desk, among other things. You also need to have knowledge of the trade. Additionally, it’s important to know the type of photography you’re going into, whether it’s still, event or documentary photography. This will also determine what and what is needed.

What inspires your photos?

I think quickly as soon as I see my subject and think quickly about what mood is best for a photo, where is the best outfit, etc., but photographing nature inspires me a lot.

What was your best moment(s) in photography?

When I’m outdoors with models or for a documentary. I always appreciate the moments.

How did you manage to reconcile your business and your home?

Business is what helps maintain a happy home. If food cannot be brought to the table, there may be problems at home. But it is important to balance it.

If you had a choice to change one thing in photography, what would it be?

It’s about the perception there. Many people view photography as irrelevant. For example, when planning a wedding or an event, they prefer to pay high prices for hotels, event centers and food, but insist that they cannot afford to pay only 200,000 naira for a photographer. Photographers are the people who will document the memories of such events or ceremonies. This mentality must change, we must appreciate photographers more.

What do you have to say to other photographers?

In everything we do, we must be focused and determined and believe that tough times never last, only tough people do. And for those who have the money to start their business but lack the knowledge, I would say employing professionals can work but with proper follow-up. Even at that, trust is key because you don’t know the intent of the people you’ve employed. It’s not the best idea for me. In such cases, there should be a structure. Someone will oversee the business, and there will be review from time to time and proper accountability.

Stewart C. Hartline