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How to Start a Photography Studio in Nigeria

Maybe you’re the type of person who loves the art of photography. You get your vibes from viewing awesome sights and capturing colourful scenes, and can instantly tell what’s photogenic from what isn’t. The camera is your favourite tool, and taking fabulous shots is your life’s passion. And you’re wondering whether becoming a professional photographer is something you should pursue.

The business of photography is as much about skillful art as it is hard enterprise management. If you’re mulling a career in this area, you need to be ready to make tough decisions, track cash flows, network a lot and put in the extra hours to make it work. That’s what the best photography entrepreneurs have done. It’s what you’ll have to do too.

However, there are benefits to opening your own studio. Apart from being your own boss and making a living from doing what you love, there’s also a chance that you’ll earn a good deal from it if you get your business model right and take the proper steps to grow your enterprise. Expert photographers are well sought after, and you can join their league with a lot of learning and practice.

If you’re up for the challenge but aren’t sure how to proceed with making it happen, this article should help fill you in on the things you should know. Here, we’ll cover the basics of setting up, from getting prepared to sourcing funds and attracting clients.

The Steps You Should Take

1. Get Trained

In the age of high-resolution smartphones and instant selfies, it’s easy to think that learning to do photography is no big deal. But top-notch photography is seldom produced by rookies. Best picture awards aren’t usually handed to random persons with very little training in the art of capturing life’s moments. They’re mostly won by people with a honed skill of taking or making impressive pictures.

You have the option of either working with an established studio or attending a photography school. For best results, you may want to take courses and get an apprenticeship under your belt. While doing courses can give you a grasp of such things as camera angles, lighting and photo editing, the experience of working in an actual studio lets you know what it takes to run a photography business.

Whichever of these you go for, be sure to take as much learning from it as you can. You’ll gain invaluable knowledge by doing so.

2. Research the Market

Before diving into your own thing, try to get a feel of the market you’re looking to enter. An apprenticeship at an existing studio may do this for you, but you may still need to get some more information to determine the best locations and ideal clientele for your business.

This may require a bit of looking around and interacting with other photographers. Ask them about their own practice. What kind of customers bring in the most revenue? What types of requests come in most frequently? Where are the hot spots for the photography business in your town or city? What are the current trends in the practice?

3. Decide What Services You Will Offer

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to go all out and run an all purpose studio catering to corporate, social events and private photoshoot needs. If you’re convinced that you’ve got what it takes, you may go on with it. Some studios even include cinematography and other additional services to their list of offerings.

But if you’re starting off with limited funds and would like to begin with a few services instead, that’s fine as well. What’s important is that you’re able to deliver value for your customers and make them happy enough to keep coming back.

You may decide to specialize further (if you want to offer higher priced premium service) in the future or expand beyond your initial scope. Having an accurate understanding of your resource constraints and the market you’ll be operating in will be crucial to making the right decision here.

4. Draw Up a Budget

Better still, write a business plan explaining what your business is and aims to achieve in the short and long term, what opportunities and challenges lie on its way, and how you intend to achieve the aims you’ve set out for it. Your business plan will include a section dealing with cost issues, proposed expenditure and expected revenues from the business over the next few months.

Before drawing up your budget, write a comprehensive list of the things you’ll need to start the business: a camera, tripod, laptop, photo editing software, lighting, a studio space, power, etc. Find out how much all these things will cost, and sum up the figures. Will you be able to pay for them? Will you be able to spread payment out, if you want to? How would you go about doing this?

More on finance next.

5. Secure Financing for the Business

If you’ve saved up for the business, good for you! But it’s likely that you don’t have enough to cover basic costs, especially if you want to do high-quality photography. How do you go about financing it?

There’s the family-and-friends option, which is usually the first go to for venture funding in these parts, besides your own savings. A third option may include loans from financial institutions, although you’ll be more likely to get this if you’ve already been in business for a while.

6. Register With the CAC

The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is the body mandated by law to oversee the registration of businesses in Nigeria as legal entities. You should register with them if you’d want your business to be legally recognized by regulatory authorities in the country.

7. Find a Location and Purchase Equipment

The ideal location for a photography studio would be one that’s accessible- i.e. not too far from a major route. It should also be situated in a decent environment, just so visiting clients will feel comfortable being around there.

Here’s a rundown of things you’ll want in your business location.

We have already noted a few equipment you may want to get for your studio. A little bit of consultation with working photographers and studio owners may help you avoid the misfortune of purchasing subpar material for your business. Here are a number of other tips to help you choose the right equipment to buy.

8. Kick Off and Start Marketing

After you’ve secured a location and gotten your equipment, you’ll be ready to begin operations. Your sights will turn to attracting customers.

Tell your family and friends about the new business you’re launching. They (or someone they’re acquainted with) could be your very first clients. Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to market business services. Never fail to mention what you’re up to when the chance presents itself. Network. Build your contacts list. This works.

These days, businesses are also expected to have a strong online presence. Set up great social media pages for your photography studio where some of your works will be showcased. Have an online portfolio, preferably on a simple website with a theme that’s good for photos, and share your best and most prominent projects there. Your next client could be someone who sees them while surfing online and likes them.

Featured image source: PhotoUno

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Ikenna Nwachukwu

Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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