TNC: First, let me congratulate you on your studio launch. We all know it is not easy to be a young entrepreneur. Tell us a bit about your personal life and photography journey.
MO:Thank you so much. My name is Moradeke Okupe, people call me Deke and I’m from Ogun state. Growing up, we shuttled between Lagos and Abuja because my dad is a politician. At the moment we are based in Abuja. I had my secondary education here in Nigeria and later moved to the UK for college and that is when the interest in photography started.
I think my passion for photography started with vanity. Back then when we travelled for holidays, I would take pictures of myself, family members, landscape and gardens with the family camera. I liked to do it for fun.
On my 18th birthday, I asked for a professional camera as a birthday gift. At that time, I just started college, so I used the camera to take pictures of my surroundings since my accommodation was right next to a garden. Occasionally, I would tell my friends to model for me so I could take pictures of them.
I started taking photography seriously when I was 20 years old. One summer holiday, my cousin who owns an Iro and Buba line suggested we should go to a park and do a photo shoot of her collection. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and therefore decided to do more research on photography.
When I went back to school for my second year, my friends would model in their winter coats and I would take pictures of them, it felt like a fashion shoot (laughs). I took photographs at parties and the clubs as well and started making some money from it. Every time I came back to Nigeria for summer; I took pictures of people who needed my services. At this time it had evolved into a part-time thing.
When I finished school, I had to come back for my NYSC. I studied Business Management and Marketing but I already knew I was never going to work in a field that is related to what I studied in the University, such as working in the banking sector. If I could go back in time, I would have done a media course. The passion for photography came later but unfortunately, it was too late to change my course as I was already in the second year.
TNC: Can you please elaborate a bit more about your journey into photography?
MO: As I mentioned earlier, my first exposure to photography was through my family. I took pictures of myself, family members, landscapes and flowers during the holidays. The photo shoot I did for my cousin is also part of my first exposure. It was after the photo shoot that I started doing part-time photography. By the time I was in my final year, it became obvious to me that somehow I would go into photography full time. Coming back to serve in Nigeria, I didn’t want to work in a sector that is directly related to what I studied such as the banking sector. I was trying to figure out a way to balance the course I studied, which is Business Management and Marketing with Photography, which is my passion…
At that time, Transcorp Hilton, Abuja was looking for someone that wouldn’t just be a photographer, but help out in the business aspect and luckily for me, I knew both, that is how I got employed as a Corper. I learnt a lot while working there. I helped out with the marketing and created content for their social media pages and events. They were going to retain me after my NYSC. But I felt I needed to focus on my passion, which is photography. Before you knew it, I was inviting people for my studio launch.
TNC: Were your parents supportive about you wanting to be a photographer?
MO: My parents encouraged me a lot. It was even my mom that discouraged me from taking the job at Hilton because she felt I would not thrive there as my main passion is photography. They encouraged and supported me to start early rather than having regrets after five years or so.
TNC: Was there anything specific that you can remember that made you want to be a photographer?
MO: That is a tricky question because I didn’t set out from the beginning to become a photographer (laughs). It just happened. I fought it off a lot. Sometimes I would leave my camera lying around for weeks. Everything changed after that summer holiday I took pictures of my cousin’s fashion line. She noticed how much I enjoyed every moment of it, so she advised me to take photography seriously. I love to portray fashion and beauty as well as help businesses in terms of content creation. I also love to do personal and family photo shoots.
TNC: You seem to have the ability to make the subject relax and reveal very special and candid angles in your photography. Do you have any tips on how you are able to achieve this?
MO: Honestly, I am just myself. Communication is key. When I do photo shoots of people I try to make them feel comfortable and relaxed. We don’t necessarily have to be friends, but I try to create that rapport by having conversations and making them laugh before the shoot starts. Not everyone is a natural model, so I try not to make it seem too professional or too serious because I feel creativity shouldn’t be in a box. I always make room for flexibility but obviously, there would still be respect and boundaries.
TNC: Do you still find photography challenging even after all this time?
MO: Everyone thinks photography is just to click the camera but it is more challenging than that. I would liken it to a mathematical equation. Certain things have to be put in place to make sure a picture comes out in a particular way. Everything I know about photography, I had to learn on my own since it wasn’t my course of study. It involved studying a lot of books, YouTube videos, trial and error and never giving up. After I finished serving and working full time, I had to brush up on my skills because photography is a profession that requires consistency. As a matter of fact, I had to meet someone to teach me the basics all over again.
Adding the studio and lighting is a whole different ball game compared to when you are shooting outside. The lighting has to be in sync with the camera, the subject and the background. So yes, I still find it difficult. There are a lot of technicalities involved, but the passion makes it easier.
When you get to a certain level, people expect certain things from you so one has to keep learning and doing research. The goal of every photographer is to get better each time. Editing is also not easy, but it is fun.
TNC: What is the biggest challenge for your photography genre?
MO: They are all different, in terms of business, people don’t think I can do a good job because I am young and again I’m a lady. People view photography as something just meant for the male folk. So I always have to work twice as hard to convince people that women can be as good too. Often, people try to downplay photography. I hear comments like, “is it not just to snap?” “Are you not just a photographer?” I don’t mind being called a photographer, but when it is said in a derogatory manner, I don’t appreciate it. I know my worth.
TNC: What was your first gig, how did you get it? And tell us about your memorable moments so far.
MO: While I was still with Transcorp Hilton, Wizkid had a concert here in Abuja where I got to take pictures that were used for the hotel’s website and social media pages.
I also had the opportunity of being a guest on a segment of AIT’s ‘the weekend show’ which discussed ’Creatives and their impact in the society’. It was a wonderful experience, and I was interviewed by Osasu Igbinedion of The Osasu Show.
There was a time Adekunle Gold reposted a picture I took of him at a concert in the U. K back in 2015; that was like a big break for me at that time because I just started taking photography seriously. I’ve also had the opportunity to photograph some other Nigerian celebrities.
TNC: Do you have any tips for an aspiring photographer who’s just picking up a camera for the first time?
MO: I do because I remember when I was just like that. I would say, don’t let the fear of what people might say stop you from pursuing your passion.
Always pray for guidance; believe in yourself even if no one else does, take it one step at a time. Figure out your niche and stick to it, be known for something and people would appreciate you for it.
Start with what you have. Photography is an expensive field especially with all the types of equipment involved but the good news is, it’s just a one-off cost. You can use the equipment for more than five years and within those years, you can earn back the money if you are dedicated and consistent, so don’t be scared to start from somewhere.
Do collaborations and even free photo shoots but at a certain point, you need to stop, realize your worth and start charging people for it.
Never compare yourself with anyone. The goal is always to be better and do better.
Moradeke Okupe, CEO, Dpk Studio can be reached on +2348183494680 or Dpkmediaa@gmail.com.
Facebook- DPK Mediaa