How Tope of Horpload went from graphic designing to photographing Nigeria’s 1%.
When it comes to attaining business success, skill and passion can only get you started; in order to go all the way, you have to “stop making excuses, put in hard work and be consistent.”
This is an Interview with Tope Adenola, a Lifestyle and portrait photographer based in Lagos, Nigeria and the founder/Ceo of Horpload Photography, that briefly covers his journey as a photographer and how he got to work with some of Africa's big names.
Who is Tope, and how did you get started?
I am just like every other person. I started out as a graphics designer many years ago, and at some point, I realized that I wanted something different, something more intense, so I decided to try photography.
I understand that you wanted something different and challenging when you decided to try photography, but at what point did you decide to take it seriously enough to build a career around it?
I had a friend who was a makeup artist, and so we decided to collaborate and organize a free photoshoot; I just posted a flier online inviting about 20 models; I wanted to challenge myself and also build my portfolio; however, since it was a free shoot, I didn’t have a lot of money to book a location, and the venue I planned to used early on was no longer available.
I met this guy in my estate and spoke to him about the photo shoot, and he offered us his compound for the shoot; I was very surprised because I didn’t really know this person before this day. I checked out the location, and it was good, so we set up for the shoot, and I was amazed at the turn up of models; some of them came from Ondo - the shoot was in Lagos, but it was at this point that I realized that I need to take photography more seriously.
You have worked with renowned personalities; Aliko Dangote, Nancy Isime, Sharon Ooja, Ric Hassani, actress Dakore, and have been featured on respected blogs like Bella Naija; how did you make this happen?
It's all about having a direction and being known for something good so that opportunities can easily come your way. For me, it was about consistency, and as I started doing what I loved doing over and over again, I kept getting referrals from clients and other people I didn’t even know were watching, and that’s the thing, you just never know who is watching.
I am also not very social, but jobs keep coming even when I’m not necessarily pushing anything. Consistency is going to get you the attention you need and open doors for you because people are watching.
What was that one action, job or move that skyrocketed your career as a photographer?
I wouldn’t say there’s any one thing, but I covered the AMVCA one time, and before the event ended, I started posting pictures from the event, which got reposted by all the prominent people I shot. Multiple blogs started reaching out to me, requesting to repost these pictures, and it gave me a lot of attention, especially because of how fast my pictures came out - I was the first photographer to have images roll out, and so it prompted a lot of reposts and tags. At the end of the day, it’s not just about the skill; having an advantage helps.
You were selected for the 2019 presidential campaign shoot. Can you tell us how that impacted your career and what your overall experience was like?
Practically, there wasn’t much difference from other shoots I'd done, but it was a big deal to sit down with the President and have him listen to my directives (as I am the professional photographer, lol). It was such a big privilege, and I thank my very good friend, Bayo Omoboriowo, for making that happen.
At what point in your career did you feel like you made it?
Lol, I don’t think I’ve made it yet; once you think that you’ve done enough, there’s this tendency to relax and not push yourself as hard, so it’s always at the back of my head that I can do so much more, I mean, there’s a lot of people out there with much more impressive portfolios, and I still have a very long way to go. I have a purpose of being better than yesterday, and I keep pushing myself towards that every day.
How do you handle difficult celebrity clients?
I don't really get difficult clients. As a photographer, the job is not just to take pictures; you must also learn people management skills. If you can manage people well, make them feel their best, feel relevant and very important, then they will reciprocate that emotion. A lot of psychology goes into it so that my clients can feel their best when they come for shoots. It takes a whole lot, and you have to always work on your own energy to reflect what vibe you want to get from your clients.
You might not always know what your clients are going through, but you should try to make them happy and excited because that’s the only way you can get the best of them; otherwise, you will be shooting emotionless images. I really love my clients so much, and they are the kindest.
What is your typical process of planning a shoot, and how do you prepare your clients?
It’s very straightforward; I don’t personally take my bookings as I’m introverted and not very good at communicating with people, so I got someone to manage my bookings, and she does a very good job.
What I do is try to understand what the client really wants; it’s about making the client happy, comfortable and exceeding their expectations - not just about taking pictures. I typically create a group with my clients to determine if they have a mood board they want to work with, their priorities, what they want the picture to communicate, etc. For certain clients, like couples for wedding shoots, I try to meet them early on and discuss their expectations.
Is there any recent project that you're very proud of?
Yes. I did a photography exhibition last year basically around African Women; Prior to this exhibition, I travelled to four African countries: Tanzania, Cotonou, Ghana and Abidjan, where I was teaching photography for free. At the time, I was feeling down and wanted to do something that could challenge me.
Abidjan was quite an experience for me; before my trip there, I went on Instagram and searched for hashtags that mentioned Abidjan, then I started reaching out to the people I found through these hashtags and let them know of my plans to come to Abidjan to teach a free photography class, they don’t even speak English, they speak French, so it was not looking easy. One of the guys I reached out to responded, and that's how I set out to Abidjan.
I met the guy I'd reached out to online; He introduced me to a bar owner, hoping I would get to host my class there for free. He said that if I wanted to use his space for free, I would have to take his picture, so I did because, I mean, this is what I do. I also got connected to an interpreter who helped us interpret English to French and vice versa for free, so everything just worked out. A month after, the bar owner hired me to shoot his wedding, and we have done other shoots together across Africa - just like that, I had built a long-time valuable client from that experience, and I am excited to do more.
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