Q & A: Abisola Ijalana – You cannot be all things to everyone… There is always a need set yourself apart.

Abisola Olufunmilayo Ijalana is a Maternity, Newborn, Baby & Children photographer, based in Lagos, Nigeria.  She is the founder & Creative Director of M12 PHOTOGRAPHY @m12photography and an award winning photographer. In 2016, Bisola was awarded ‘Female Photographer of the Year’ at the 2016 edition of the Exquisite Ladies of the Year (ELOY) Awards.

Abisola is a graduate of the University of Ilorin with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry. In 2010 I enrolled and completed the Daystar Skill Acquisition Programme (D-SAP) in Photography, organized by Daystar Christian Center which marked the beginning of her journey into professional photography.

You cannot be all things to everyone. There is always a need set yourself apart – Abisola Ijalana

During one of her several trainings in the United States of America (USA) on Newborn, Baby, Children & Maternity photography. Abisola  had the privilege to receive training by U.S based, world renowned baby & maternity photographer, Kelly Brown & Susy Martinez.

Using photography, she has have helped to impact lives positively through a number of social causes. Her works were on display in March 2014 at a public exhibition titled ‘Battle Scars’ organized by Sebeccly Cancer Care and Support Centre, Goethe Institut and Camara Studios. The event was aimed at raising awareness about cancer and raise funds for the treatment of cancer patients. The proceeds from the sales of the exhibits were donated to support cancer patients’ treatment.

Abisola is also actively involved in the ‘Photograph a Child’ project, an annual event celebrated on Children’s Day in Nigeria , to document photographically the stories of less privileged kids in their rural areas and give them hope for a brighter future.

Abisola, who is married and an amazing mother to two boys, is currently a contributor for Bella Naija Living on bellanaija.com, a leading Nigerian blog where she writes on Maternity, Newborn, Baby & Children photography.

Did you always want to become a Photographer… tell us more about M12 Photography?
M12 Photography is a Maternity, Newborn, Baby, Children & Family Photography brand, based in Lagos, Nigeria. Over the years we have established ourselves as a reference brand for this genre of photography. We offer studio, outdoor and client- location photography services.

I must say I came into photography at a time I needed to decide if I wanted a 9am- 5am paid job or be an entrepreneur after my National Youth Service Programme (NYSC) programme in 2009. Naturally as a young graduate I wanted to work at a corporate organization after my NYSC though I had done some entrepreneurship ventures while in school. My husband (then my fiancée) did not like the idea of my looking for a paid job. He wanted me to be an entrepreneur, though not decided on a line of business. I got married in April 2010 and became pregnant after a few months. It seemed to mark the end of my job search at least temporarily, since an employer might be unwilling to employ a new employee who is pregnant or if employed, will be requesting for maternity leave so soon after resuming employment.

I recall one morning sometime in 2010, when I received a call from the HR of a financial institution to attend a final interview with the MD of the company. At that time my pregnancy had become obvious, my husband I decided that I should not proceed with the process. At that point I was left with the options of starting a business or waiting till my baby was delivered if I still wanted a paid employment.

My journey into photography started one morning when I attended Daystar Christian Center Sunday service with my husband in 2010. I saw in the bulletin that they were organizing a vocational skills training programme called Daystar Skills Acquisition Programme (D-SAP). There were various programmes ranging from photography, website design, make-up artistry, etc. I opted for photography since it appealed to me. I am naturally a creative person. I completed the programme in May 2010. At the end of programme, enrolled for further training with Leke Adenuga of Quartz Photography brand for about 2 months. This laid the foundation to my career as a professional photographer.

What inspired the decision to carve a niche for yourself as a maternity, newborn, baby & children photographer?
I have always believed that “You cannot be all things to everyone”. There is always a need set yourself apart. You have to be known for something. I started my photography career shooting weddings and events. With time I discovered my passion for maternity, baby & children photography. I saw a niche market and decided to capture. Photographers generally were looking for weddings, events and parties to photograph. I saw a need to serve the maternity, newborn, baby and children photography market as a specialty. I am glad that today M12 Photography is a reference brand for this genre of photography.

While it is good for a photographer to be able to undertake different photography assignments, it is also necessary to be known as an authority in a particular field of photography. In America and Europe we have photographers that are known majorly as children photographers, some as school photographers, some as fashion photographers, some as travel photographers etc. These are their specialties.

Some of my clients are surprised when I tell them I have covered weddings in my early photography career. They have always known me as a baby & children photographer. I no longer get wedding photography briefs, because M12 Photography is synonymous with shooting babies & children. It is close to 4 years I covered a wedding. That is the level the M12 Photography brand has been built.

Asides photography, what else are you passionate about and why?
I am passionate about maternity and children wears. I hope to start sewing soon some of the wears I use for my photoshoots. I currently order for them online or when I travel out of the country. I also get some of them from Nigerian stores or suppliers.

Also I am passionate about agriculture. I hope to start something in this line of business soon.

There are a lot of young women out there who love the idea of being a photographer but do not know how or where to start. What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Passion: You must have a passion for taking pictures. You must have passion for photography to want to make it as a career. Passion is what you need to inspire yourself, encourage yourself especially at the start of the business, when you are still trying to grow a client base, when patronage is still low because you are new in the market.

Creativity: Photography is a creative industry. You will need to be creative in your photography jobs to stand out from the pack.

Training: This is very essential to succeed as a photographer. Register for photography classes to master the art & business of photography. Read books on photography and watch photography training videos. Attend photography conferences, workshops etc to keep yourself abreast with developments in the industry.

Find a mentor: To succeed in this career, you need a mentor. A mentor will guide you to limit the mistakes usually associated with start-up businesses. A mentor will guide you on equipment needs, registering your business, branding your business, getting clients etc.

Budget: Understand that you don’t need to have all the funds, photography gadgets and accessories to start your career. Buy only what is essential for you start. With time as you get jobs, grow your client base, generate income, you can add to or upgrade what you have.

What are the challenges faced so far and how do you overcome them?
I faced some challenges like every new entrant would when I first started my career as a photographer. One needed people who will believe you can do the job. I did not have too much portfolio of jobs done to show to some clients. I started out covering weddings and as a newbie then, some prospects will not want to commit their wedding photography to someone who just finished learning.

With time I was able to overcome this challenge. I covered more weddings and events and had people who believed in me and who were ready to give me referrals.

Also when I ventured into newborn, baby & children photography, the initial challenge was getting that age bracket to be calm, or stay still to be photographed. With determination, learning & practice I have mastered the art.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
I have learnt that “if you focus on your focus, you will soon become the focus”. People are watching what you do in your business and in your personal life. Be consistent in what you are doing. Stand for something. Your hard work, time, creativity, consistency, skill, customer service will be rewarded soon.

Also I learnt that not everyone will believe in the service you have to offer or patronize your business at the beginning, but for those who do, provide them the best of service and watch your business grow with repeat patronage and referrals.

Which is your take on “women supporting women”?
There is a general belief that women do not support other women. I must say that it is very important for us to support one another as women before we can expect men and the government to support us. I will like to thank various individuals and organizations who are using various platforms to support women.

What is your favourite Quote?
“ If the plan doesn’t work change the plan, but never the goal.”

Time travel or teleportation?
Teleportation. If I can teleport to where there will be lots of babies & children to photograph.

If you could work with two female photographers (Living or dead) to dinner, who would they be?
Outside Nigeria, I will say Kelly Brown & Anne Geddes. They are world renowned maternity & baby photographers. In Nigeria, I will say T.Y Bello & Aisha Augie-Kuta

What would you like to be remembered for?
A female photographer who had passion and loved photographing babies & children. A role model to existing and aspiring female photographers. A source of pride to women in business.

Connect with Abisola Online via
+Bisola Ijalana 

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