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A popular question aspiring photographers ask is whether full-time photographers earn good money or not. We were also curious, and that’s why we had a chat with one of the most sought-after professional photographers in Nigeria.
In this conversation, Felix Crown shares his journey into full-time photography and how he transitioned from working for exposure to earning six figures even on a not-so-good month. He also offers tips on how to determine your rates as a photographer in Nigeria.
Towards my final year at UI, I knew I didn’t want to start looking for jobs. So, I looked out for things that interested me - which were a lot at the time and decided to start with photography. I joined a training organized by a church to learn a few things. After this, thanks to Youtube videos, I went on the self-study route. This was in 2015.
For my business name, I used my name - Felix, and my surname Adebayo which means crown. So, FelixCrown lol. It was a playful name I kept throwing around until it became a big thing.
Uhmm not professionally. It was more of a hobby. When I was younger, about 11 or so, I forced my mum to get me this analog camera. It was more of a toy then because I remember I never printed any of those images.
Then during my IT period, I was able to get a digital camera because I needed to document the events of my internship for a presentation. Plus, I didn’t have a smartphone to do this.
So when I wanted to start doing something with my life, I thought about all these experiences and chose photography.
Well, they were mostly collaborative jobs at first. What is known as ‘working for exposure’
I remember one was a shoot for Lamode magazine with other creatives. I shot for Beverly Osu and IK Ogbonna.
My first paid job as a photographer was a beauty shoot for a makeup artist that was trying to push her brand. The pay was N5000 and then it was a big deal because it felt like I could actually make money from this.
There was actually no breakout job. It was more of a progressive growth for me. The collaborative shoots I had for celebrities started putting my name out there.
Although there was a particular one I did for Toke Makinwa’s birthday shoot. That was her first birthday shoot so it went viral.
It's very tricky, especially with photographers. When people say don’t go for collaborative shoots, they never go in-depth. I’d say it’s like investing in yourself. Let me explain.
For every investment, there’s an ROI. So before taking on a collaborative project, I look at what the returns could be. Will it improve my craft? Will it help my visibility as a photographer? Sometimes it could even mean clients because a brand can come back to book you for a paid job.
I once did a collaborative job with Lady Vodka - Jennifer Oseh. We did a shoot that was very different from what I do. But after, I posted it on my page and it got me my first paid magazine shoot with Genevive magazine. Honestly, I didn’t even know how much to charge then.
The first shoot I did with Toke Makinwa was also a collaborative job. Then I looked into her fans, followers, and how her audience would help my brand at the time.
I did it and she even paid N40k for the shoot as a “thanks for coming”. She called me back for her birthday shoot and after that, I got a ton of calls. So the ROI from this collaborative job was a lot.
When people reach out to you, look at their brand, following, and engagements. You can’t always have that mentality of “I can’t work for free”. It’s an investment. Even lawyers take on pro bono cases for their portfolios. So do it for your portfolio and visibility.
There’s a time to do collaborative work. When I was starting out, it was exciting. But now I’m always booked busy. So there’s barely any time to even consider a collaborative shoot. There’s a time for everything and now, we thank God for where we are now.
My schedule is usually very packed. On a good month, I can be booked from Monday to Saturday for the first two weeks. It used to include Sundays but now I’ve taken out Sundays to rest.
For the remaining two weeks in the month, I add in Wednesdays to catch a break too.
In terms of finances, I get N6-8M returns in a good month from high-end brands like banks. If it’s for a typical month with regular clients, it’ll be N5-6m in returns.
I do investments on the side. Then I run photography training sessions. But 90% of it comes from shoots.
This was a major challenge when starting out - because how am I supposed to value myself?
But one method I use is checking my years of experience, skillset, and client category. These three things help me quantify my value.
Look at Kelechi Amadi. He charges N5M for a day’s rate and he has 20 years of experience with Coca-cola and other high-end clients. He’s charging what he should. This was able to challenge me.
So if I have five years of experience with clients like Toke Makinwa, Genevive magazine, and celebrities, I’m looking at 200-300k per look. If my clients are higher, I’d charge more, because they’d be able to afford a higher rate. So with brands like Union Bank and Zaron, I calculate it differently which could be N1.5 to 2M for a day’s rate.
I’m a practical person. So I try to stay within my means. For example, if my headset is serving me well, there’s no need to purchase a more expensive headset. There’s no need to prove to people that you have money. So I’d say don’t buy what you don’t need.
Then photographers have this habit of acquiring gear - even when it’s not necessary. Thankfully, I don’t have that.
I’m not trying to sound humble by the way. I still have things I spend money on and beat myself up for. For example, I have an iPhone 11, and there’s no need to upgrade because it serves me well.
But recently, I've been thinking about using my phone as a means to get Instagram reels for a behind-the-scenes shoot. Something unprofessional you know. So now I’m considering an iPhone 14.
I have a habit of saving too. Recently I've been saving in dollars because I don’t want inflation to affect my money. I invest as well although all Nigerian investments have been unfavorable. So now I'm considering investing also in dollars.
Haha, yes I do.
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