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Bunmi Ajakaiye: In Lagos Photography, Bigger Lens = Bigger Swag!

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I arrived the city of Lagos in December of 2013 and fell right into the cutthroat world of media photography and sometimes I can’t believe I’m here…in the centre of it all. Allow me to start at the very beginning. Like every bright-eyed-bushy-tailed returnee, I came back home to serve my fatherland and was hoping to be posted to the Centre of Excellence, alas… I was thrust into the far away hinterlands of Oyo State where inspiration has gone to live its last days, or so I thought.

After painstakingly obeying the clarion call for twelve months, I was finally set free, the khaki shackles had been taken off and I journeyed to Lagos to begin my career as a runway and media photographer.

Let me be clear, I had no idea how I was going to achieve this, all I knew was that I was good with my camera, I love the runway and I was going to capture some interesting images. Nothing prepared me for the reality of the rigors of fashion and media photography! It’s harsh, challenging and most of all it’s a lot of fun. I am learning something new every day; first thing I learned was:

SIZE DOES MATTER! A LOT

It doesn’t matter whether it’s your sheer body size or the size of your lens or the size of your camera or the size of your camera bag or if your flash has that extension that looks like telephone wire or even the size of your “swag”….BIG! BIG!! BIG!!! The bigger the better.

People assume you know what you are doing when you carry around the bulkiest lenses and have the most unnecessarily complicated camera straps on your body! Wash!

I was slightly annoyed when at one of the many events I covered, there was a photographer with a giant lens and external flash trying to capture people that were barely two feet away from him under perfectly decent light. I won’t even front like I was not intimidated; I began to wonder what it is he was trying to achieve. Everyone kept posing for just that one photographer and I with my humble machinery would say the customary “look here please” and you could see the underwhelming look in their eyes when you are not wielding a flash in their faces and bending and moving back and forth like you’ve got ants in your pants. I looked through my camera and took my shot just once, no flash, just an adjustment of the exposure and a slight zoom. I was about to reach for my flash in my camera bag and just hoist it on there even if I won’t use it just to get these people to focus for a moment. All of a sudden, my trusty camera was looking like a faded piece of equipment without all the extra trapping. After tossing the idea around, I remembered what great images my camera and I had captured together and decided I wasn’t going to be bullied into attaching a useless external flash onto my camera, mind you, those suckers can be heavy and I’m pretty small so it can be tiring.

As the evening wore on I went off to take my detailed shots and found the other guy following me about(that’s not too strange as we all tend to stick together eventually at events), then he asked me to take a picture of him by the pool, he handed me his camera and it turns out homeboy had been shooting on auto mode all evening!
Sacre bleu! What kind of photographer shoots on auto with a very good quality DSL? Do you know what great things you can do on your manual mode? As if I wasn’t dumbfounded enough, he asked me to “set” the camera for him so that he could get the same shots I got at the pool! He might as well have banged my face in with a pan(like in the cartoons)I couldn’t believe this had me intimidated a few moments before.

I was flabbergasted but I had to comport (I also learned that people in Lagos never lose their cool, you gotta be calm and act like the sky isn’t blue)

I politely asked why he was shooting with a flash and such a huge lens and he smiled and said “it’s all effizy”!
I am done! I am so done! But then I realized something, this guy caught on faster than I did, you have to dazzle them with razzmatazz especially when you are in this town. It’s what they know, it’s what they love, it’s what makes them happy!
Lagos I salute, Eko o ni baje o!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Sam74100

My name is Bunmi and I am a photographer and writer in this crazy, ridiculous and absolutely exhilarating city of Lagos! I feel like I am on a wild rollercoaster ride as I keep learning new things and seeing some “American wonder” type stuff along the way. Your girl is a learner! Read more at:  http://www.fashionfinancials.blogspot.co.uk

21 Comments

  1. Berry Dakara

    November 3, 2014 at 8:06 am

    LOL!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m no photographer and barely know how to shoot in Manual mode, but this just made me realize why a lot of “professional” photos of red carpet events on entertainment blogs are just there or crappy.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      November 3, 2014 at 11:25 am

      I just had an “aha” moment, reading your comment. Truly, this article explains a lot about the quality of photos which emerge on BN’s red-carpet posts.

      As for the article, well written, Bunmi. Very enjoyable to read. 🙂

  2. brilliant piece. Thanks so much.

    mytestimonys.blogspot.com/2014/09/folasayo-and-biodun-woman-lover-friend.html

  3. Sir Farouk

    November 3, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Lol! Its the showmanship that matters more in Nigeria. It’s all about the polish. Sad but true.

  4. elsa

    November 3, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Me first! Yaay!! I’m loving your article.

  5. tutu

    November 3, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Nicie post. Got me smiling.

  6. www.phatymah.blogspot.com

    November 3, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Everything in Lagos is in one way or the other intimidating. Infact you must intimidate to feel satisfied even if the stuff you have to intimidate with keeps you on bed rest ate the end of the day. I remember when the I-pad craze started. Gosh, if you are not holding it, den you aren’t existing. And don’t let me start with the Dr Dre headphones that some wore to the wedding….

    The extreme is in Lagos.

    • baboushka

      November 3, 2014 at 10:58 am

      Wait as in regular guests NOT the DJ wore Dre headphones to a wedding? I can’t with Lagosians hahahahaha

    • makeupbyebi

      November 3, 2014 at 11:59 am

      Oh friend u best believe that 🙂

    • nene

      November 3, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      lagos na wa! lmao

  7. Stella

    November 3, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Love,love,love this article,u just said my mind. Even under harsh sunlight,u still see Lagos photographers using flash because of “ezifzy” or one of the photographers i saw recently carrying reflectors everywhere over his head in an event just to show off o and when you see the pictures ,people look so white like they were covered in snow. Would really like to meet u though.

  8. Tobiloba

    November 3, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Wow,the bigger the better,great piece.

  9. Tosin

    November 3, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Lagos kinda sucks that way, just roll with it or go somewhere funner!
    Fun article. 🙂

  10. photog

    November 3, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Lol! I wish I had read this article 4 years ago when I began my photography hobby in earnest. I could have saved myself a tonne of cash in lens investments. Yeah its all efizi. I have done some wedding shots for a couple of friends moonlighting as guest photographer and always my pics seem to beat the hired professional photogs. You could die from intimidation just seeing their gadgets. They’re armed with lights, grips and all what not and you find yourself trying to remember all those tips in the books on how to grip your camera, how to improvise with still objects as makeshift tripods.

  11. Solar

    November 3, 2014 at 10:52 am

    lol, this cracked me up. I was at a photoshoot where the cameraman came with the whole intimidating gear beyond the ones you just described and when I saw the end result, trust me a simple Canon would have done a better job.

  12. baboushka

    November 3, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Bunmi do you have a blog? I would love to read more or better still keep submitting more “effizy stories to BN:)

  13. Bunmi aj

    November 3, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Oh hey everyone. Thanks for the cool responses! I’m just trying to adapt.
    Thanks for reading!

  14. adefemi davies

    November 3, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Positioning a brand in media comes with a lotta headaches: choice of colours, what to wear, equipment to use, which events to attend and many other “hard-to-fathom” reveries. Brand in this context refers to the character who hopes to be a frontrunner in a few years. Learning the skills of photography goes alongside presenting oneself well. That’s the key to becoming a successful in a competitive market. This is a very interesting read.

  15. soso

    November 3, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    This is the reason my dad says “Eko for show!!”. My dear for this city everything na packaging

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