ENTREPRENEUR: 34-year-old Khaleel Danladi Yakubu is an Abuja-based professional Photographer with a knack for capturing his subjects on camera to tell a story. He hails from Kwara state, graduated as an Architect from Ahmadu Bello University(ABU) Zaria and loves creativity. TakeMyGist speaks to him about the world of photography, what heights he intends to take Khaleegraphy to and other future plans.
TMG> What pushed you into photography?
Khaleegraphy> I’ve always been a creative person. As well as Architecture, I also did music for a while when I was a bit younger. Recently, having decided to quit that scene, I needed something to fill the creative void, so I picked up photography. At first it was a hobby but it has since become a career for me.
TMG> What was your career path? How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to actually doing it full time, for a living?
Khaleegraphy> I used to take photographs with my camera phone and people would give positive feedback on them. After a while, it pushed me to buy a camera, which I initially planned to shoot landscapes, architecture and travel images with. But very quickly I found that quite a few people liked my work and wanted me to make images of them, and were willing to pay for it. I did my research and realised that I could make a pretty decent living from creating images for people and brands.
TMG> Where and how were you trained? Did you go to professional school to learn photography & What credentials did you earn through the program?
Khaleegraphy> When I first started, I just went out and took shots of anything and everything. I learnt from my experiences and mostly from the university of YouTube (Laughs). I watched a lot of videos online and experimented. Eventually, I joined a photography course taught by the very talented and well respected Henry Nwaeze of Big H Studios. It’s a fantastic course that holds only once a year and it immediately raised my status in the industry for being one of the few lucky enough to attend it.
TMG> What other positions have you previously held before going into photography?
Khaleegraphy> I’ve always worked in design and construction, and still do. But these days, creating images takes most of my time.
TMG> What motivates you to continue taking pictures- economically, politically, intellectually or emotionally?
Khaleegraphy> There’s economic motivation to keep making images because like I said earlier, I found that you can make a decent living from it and I have a family to feed. But my biggest motivation is the love to create art that will be meaningful, that will outlive me, images that will resonate internationally.
TMG> Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
Khaleegraphy> On the Nigerian scene, my biggest influence has been Henry Nwaeze aka Big H. From his class I learnt that the best photographers don’t ‘take images’, they ‘make images’. Rather than just point at and shoot what they see, they evoke emotion from the viewer by manipulating light, telling stories, posing effectively etc. Other photogs like Bayo Omoboriowo (The President’s official photographer) & Ahmed Attah (The Cannon5) have been great influences too. Their stories, their tutelage and guidance has been massive for me. I have so many international photogs that I look up too, too many to mention here.
TMG> Exactly what is it you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?
Khaleegraphy> It depends on what I’m shooting. For example, when I shoot weddings, one of my favourite themes is ’emotion’. These occasions are often very emotional and I want my images to show that. But most people tend to freeze in front of the camera and their emotions temporarily disappear as their concern becomes how they will look in the image. So I tend to shoot candidly, without my subjects being fully aware I’m taking their picture. That way, I get so many images of pure laughter, tears, joy and dance moves, and I love those kinds of images.
TMG> How do you get the person, place or thing that is in front of the camera onto the film, chip or paper in just the way you want?
Khaleegraphy> The best photographers pre visualize the images they want to create, so before they press the shutter they already know what the image should look like. I try to do that when I shoot as well; I dream of my image, decide the best way to achieve it, then prepare and practice the techniques needed to bring my vision to life.
TMG> How many employees report to you and how efficient are they? If you work alone, how do you manage?
Khaleegraphy> For now, I hire people to work for me on a job by job basis so I have no permanent staff. There are many photogs out there willing to work as a 2nd shooter, as well as editors looking to take that burden off you, so it’s sort of like working alone but within a team.
TMG> In case of problems, how do you manage? Do you seek for help from another professional?
Khaleegraphy> I always seek help from God first, because that is the best help one can get. But I definitely reach out to other pros because photographers are a very helpful society- there’s always someone willing to help with whatever issues you may have.
TMG> What is the volume/revenue your establishment has gained in a year? Any profit?
Khaleegraphy> I’m in my 1st 10 months of running Khaleegraphy, so I haven’t completed a full year yet. But I’m hopeful of breaking even and maybe even posting a small profit at the end, that would make a good 1st year for me.
TMG> What do you do to stay educated about new trends?
Khaleegraphy> The university of YouTube is a good place to stay informed. I also sign up for newsletters from photography’s biggest names and always network and share information with fellow photogs.
TMG> What are your challenges and how do you intend to handle them?
Khaleegraphy> One of my biggest challenges is teaching myself how important it is to think like a business man also and not only as a creative artist. A major problem for people in creative fields is that all we tend to care about is the art and see business as something foreign to us. But that shouldn’t be the case, things like marketing, budgeting, accounting, investing and establishing proper financial structures are vital if I want to succeed.
TMG> Give us an example of someone you have trained or mentored. Where did they start and where are they now?
Khaleegraphy> I’m always open to pass on whatever knowledge or information I have, whenever I can, but it’s not enough for me to say I’ve mentored such and such. Maybe in the future there’ll be a long list of Khaleegraphy’s protégés
TMG> Tell us about an accomplishment that you are most proud of in your career.
Khaleegraphy> In my short career, I’ve been fortunate to shoot a few high profile Nigerians. I’ve had an image published on a foreign website, one of my images inspired a person who saw it to write an article about his love for football. But my proudest moment so far was having my work critiqued by some photographers I look up to and having them say mostly positive things about it. For someone at my level to have world class photogs speak well about my images was truly uplifting.
TMG> Describe to us a problem you had with any customer and how you handled it.
Khaleegraphy> A client once decided they didn’t want to pay the fee we originally agreed after I had already done the work. They didn’t have any problem with my work, their reason was that the economy was bad. Since then, written contracts signed by both parties have become a part of how I work.
TMG> Tell us about your management style and how you handle your Customers?
Khaleegraphy> I try to be as friendly and accommodating as I can with my clients because I’ve learnt recently that how they feel after working with me is even more important than the quality of my work.
TMG> Tell us 3 things that you consider to be your strengths in photography?
Khaleegraphy> I’ll name 2. Creativity and people skills.
TMG> Tell us something you would like to learn or improve upon as a photographer?
Khaleegraphy> My understanding of light.
TMG> How do you manage cost? If your labour is running high with low profit, what measures do you take to control it?
Khaleegraphy> There are different measures that can be taken, the best one being, not to take jobs that are high cost and low profit in the first place. But if I did take such jobs, then I’ll try and find vendors (printers, 2nd shooters etc) that will provide their services for cheaper, hopefully reducing cost in the process. Or, if the cost goes higher than originally planned because of something the client wanted or changed, then I’ll have them foot the bill.
TMG> How do you manage risk, in terms of damages or loss?
Khaleegraphy> There are now many insurance companies that offer packages for photographers and their equipment.
TMG> What way can you encourage other youths not to depend on government for jobs but to be self dependent?
Khaleegraphy> Most of the richest people in the world don’t work normal 9-5 jobs. Isn’t that enough motivation to not rely on government for employment? Also, some of the biggest companies in the world now started off small (Google started from a garage). So be humble and start with what you have.
TMG> Do you socialise and when?
Khaleegraphy> I don’t socialize as much as I used to these days. I’m usually too busy with work and family. Besides, going out less saves me a lot of money that I can put into my business instead.