Everyone has a creative niche in this day and age, but only a few people make a living out of it.
Aisha Ife (Aì) is a thriving creative that we have always found inspiring, her business branches into several aspects of the creative industry, from photography to illustration to creative stationeries.
We had a chat with Aì, focusing on her photography business. She painted us a birds-eye view of what it takes to run a creative niche business, some of her challenges, business strategies, and aspirations.
Who is (Aì) Aisha Ife
I am a portrait and product photographer, a business owner, and a hobbyist illustrator.
How long have you been a photographer?
Officially, it's been almost 4 years.
Run me through a day in your life as your photographer
Depending on my schedule for the day, a constant task I do is shoot and edit; Usually, I start my morning off by replying to emails and other booking requests. And during my deserved breaks, I either watch tv, read books, or Paint. And on hectic days, I spend many hours shooting.
What does your work entail as a photographer?
My work is both mental and physical. The mental part entails conceptualizing shoots and creating creative sets; the physical part entails bringing the sets to life, shooting, and editing. Product photography is particularly hectic because they're inanimate, and I do all the moving. On average, I spend a minimum of 5 hours a day shooting products, and that doesn't guarantee completion of the task.
What is your least favourite part of your photography business?
The hours. Especially when you don't have an assistant to help you. Also, sometimes feeling underappreciated and undervalued because photographers are not appreciated enough for their work.
What has been your inspiration as a photographer?
As a Portrait Photographer, the core of my work revolves around creating images with my subjects feeling and looking like "home". The images I create are inspired by home, my culture as a Yorùbá woman, and my experiences.
My work is also greatly influenced by colour and my love for design. Therefore, I plan my creative sets using colour theory and elements of composition such as texture and form.
Who has been your biggest supporter?
My friends, my family, and people on the internet.
What advice would you give people that want to pursue photography?
First of all, feed your mind and treat learning photography like a school; these in particular have worked for me. It's essential to also put yourself out there and share your work. People are only able to recommend you when they know what you do. A support system is also very important. There are days you'll doubt your abilities or need external validation; you need people in your corner that truly believe in you and will remind you of how amazing you are.
How much would you say it cost you to start a photography business?
I can't provide a round figure because initially, it was just a hobby and I've just continued to buy more gear along the way. So that makes it hard to put a figure together.
What will you say counts as income and expenses for your business?
For my stationery business: expenses are mostly administrative costs, production, marketing, packaging. Income includes sales of books, custom orders.
For photography: administrative costs, gear, learning, props are most of my expenses
Income includes what I charge for product and portrait photography and sales from my print store. And for photography: gear, internet cost, electricity cost, rent, cost of hosting my website, and learning. Income is what people pay for my services counts as income.
As a business owner, how do you manage your finances?
My photography is an entity on its own as well as my other business, so they never get mixed up. I have different business accounts, and I pay myself a particular percentage and invest some percentages.
What are your unique experiences and challenges as a photographer?
Before I start, I should mention that I don’t often find myself in these situations.
People often reach out to me and immediately address me as "sir," I think people assume most photographers are men; I find it funny. There have also been times when I get to shoots, and my clients are surprised that they had been addressing a woman as "sir" all along.
One of my prominent experiences was when I was accused of not smiling at a shoot. It was particularly upsetting, I knew it was because I’m a woman; no one would tell a male photographer he's not smiling. It was even more irritating because I was wearing a mask so the comment was out of place.
What do you define as success and growth as a photographer?
Success to me is creating work I truly resonate with and admire. I want to look at my work and be a fan of myself.
Would you say being a female has helped your business in any way?
Yes, being a woman has helped me photograph women better. Also, most women are more comfortable shooting with women.
What relevant business strategies do you think a small photographer can try out?
A strategy that has particularly worked for me is to reach out to people I want to work with. I mail them my portfolio and relevant links to my work, tell them about myself and what I can do for them. Another thing is to share your work constantly. For someone like me who doesn't go out or meet people much, sharing my work online is how I get found.
Finally, how do we book a session with Aisha Ife?
The first step is to reach out to me via my social media pages, email, or contact form on my website, and I'll send you a rate card.
For portrait photography, I'll also request other details like the purpose of the shoot, the number of outfits you'll like, your preferred location, your creative direction if you have one, your proposed date.
For product photography, details are brief for the project, number of products, etc. With product photography, the process is a bit longer.