Few years ago, Abisola Ijalana did not know that her decision to take a photography training during the Daystar Skill Acquisition Programme would set her on the path to becoming a sought after and an award-winning photographer. A graduate of the University of Ilorin with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry. 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 and since then the Founder and creative director of M12 photography have been unstoppable. Bisola has impacted lives through her craft and supported several social causes .. The 2016 reciepient of the Eloy Awards Female photographer of the year shares her inspiring story with us in this interview.
Growing up I did not know I was going to have a career in photography. However I have always loved the works of art and anything that shows creativity. I also loved taking pictures of myself growing up. I worked briefly in a marketing communications company before my university graduation and this exposed me to the creative industry. After I graduated from the university, and I needed a career as an entrepreneur, photography easily appealed to me, since it is part of the creative industry.
I am Abisola Ijalana, a young Nigerian female entrepreneur from Ogun State in Nigeria. I run M12 Photography (@m12photography), a maternity, newborn, baby & children photography specialty brand in Nigeria. My photography journey started when I enrolled for the Daystar Skill Acquisition Programme (D-SAP) in 2010. At the end of the programme, I underwent further training in photography with Quartz Fotography, run by Mr. Leke Adenuga. I hold a Bachelor of Science (B.sc) degree in Biochemistry from the University of Ilorin. I am a graduate of the British Council, Creative Enterprise Programme. I am also a graduate of a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management (CEM) from the Pan-Atlantic University. I was one of the 12 female photographers selected for a one month training workshop for female photographers in Nigeria in 2011, organized by the German Gothe Institut and Camara Studios. The workshop was aimed at developing the photography skills of female photographers in Nigeria. I was also a participant in Women in Management & Business (WIMBIZ) Mentoring Training Programme in 2012. I am an award winning photographer, Female Photographer of the Year (ELOY Awards 2016) in Nigeria. I am married with two boys.
Inspiration behind M12 Photography
When I finished my foundational photography training in 2010, I decided to start my photography career. I and my husband decided to choose the name M12 Photography for the business name. M12 Photography was formed with the intent to provide qualitative and customer-driven photography services. It initially was not a photography specialty business. I covered different photography assignments from corporate to social events. With time, M12 Photography has evolved into a photography specialty brand focusing on maternity, newborn, baby & children photography.
Being a recipient of Goldman sachs 10,000 women scholarship
The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Scholarship programme is to empower 10,000 women in developing economies. The Pan-Atlantic University is the partner in Nigeria and it is being run by the Enterprise Development Centre of the university. To qualify for the scholarship, I went through a screening process at the university. At the end of the exercise I was chosen together with some other women entrepreneurs & awarded a scholarship to undergo a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management (CEM) programme.
Passion for Child Photography & its Profitability
The funny thing is that I did not start my photography career as a baby & children photography specialist. I started my career shooting weddings, parties, corporate & other social events. With time I discovered I had a passion for shooting babies. I recall when I had my first child, early in 2011, I was new in photography then, I was taking my child to another studio to have a photo shoot like 1months, 2 months shoot etc. I wanted to create a mile stone photography of him. I gradually began to develop interest in this field of photography. I also noticed that no one was serving the baby/children photography market as a specialty like it is being done in the USA and in some parts of Europe, and I decided to carve a niche for myself by focusing on this market segment. While it is okay as a photographer to be a generalist, shooting different photography jobs, I feel it is better to be known as a specialist in a particular field of photography. You must be known for something.
Children photography requires a lot of skill and patience. I have trained myself to be an expert in this field. I have also learnt from renowned baby & children photographers outside Nigeria. In terms of profitability, I will say it has been profitable. People will pay you if you provide value. I put in my best to provide value for my clients. I get a lot of business referrals from satisfied clients.
Being the Recipient of ELOY Awards Best Female In Photography In 2016
I am very happy with the award. It tells me that everything we do in business and in our personal lives, there are people who are watching. It means we need to put in our best into anything we find ourselves doing. I am inspired to continue to improve on the quality of my work and my service to my clients, my fans and my community. The award also shows that female photographers are being recognized in Nigeria. I want to thank the judges and everyone who voted for finding me worthy of the award.
I will say the Female Photographer of the Year Award at Eloy Awards 2016. It is my first award and I appreciate it. My clients, fans & followers had the opportunity to participate in the process with their votes. It is heartwarming when you know that people appreciate your work and your contributions to the photography industry.
Challenges of Being A Child Photographer
Shooting babies & children comes with its own challenges. Majorly, especially when I started the specialty was making them stay calm for a photo shoot. Some babies tend to be cranky and uncooperative. Some older children can be hyperactive during a photo session, so getting them to stay calm and focused can be challenging. It requires a lot of patience on the part of the photographer to shoot babies and children. Depending on the child, in some few hours I am done with the photo shoot, but in some cases it will take much longer hours. Sometimes I have had to reschedule a shoot because the child was cranky and uncooperative throughout the session. As a specialist in this field, with training, re-training, practice, patience, dedication I have mastered the art of posing and shooting babies & children.
What stands me out!
I will say the creativity I put into my work and my chosen photography specialty. M12 Photography is a reference brand for baby & children photography in Nigeria. Sometimes I get referrals from my fellow photographers who refer their clients to me, because they have recognized my expertise in this field of photography. Baby & children photography has given me a unique identity which has made me stand out of the pool of photographers in Nigeria.
Other Activities & Giveback Projects
I am a facilitator on ‘Newborn Photography’ at the annual edition of the Nigeria Photography Conference & Expo (NIPHEC) and also a contributor for Bella Naija Living on www.bellanaija.com, a leading blog in Nigeria. I have also trained some young women who have shown interest in learning photography under our internship programme. I have been part of some social causes. My photography works were on display at a public exhibition in Lagos in 2014 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. M12 Photography has also supported some other social cause programmes in Nigeria as part of our social responsibilities.
Do Nigerians Appreciate Female Photographers Enough?
Female photographers in Nigeria are making giant strides in the industry. Growing up, photography was a male dominated industry, but now we have quite a good number of females in photography. This means we are beginning to appreciate female photographers in Nigeria. There is no gender discrimination in terms of getting photography jobs in Nigeria. The successes recorded by some of the female photographers in Nigeria has been a source of inspiration and motivation to a lot of aspiring and current photographers and the general public.
One Person I Wish To Capture with My Lens
My Passion Makes Me a Woman of Rubies
I have passion for what I do. I have been able to project female photographers in Nigeria positively through my work. I have excelled in my chosen career and I am a role model to some young women. I believe what I do has inspired a lot of current and aspiring women entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
Final word for women all over the world
Let us continue to do great things. Let us make great impacts in our chosen professions. Let us continue to support each other (#women supporting women). We need to support to each other before we can effectively reach out to the government and other institutions to support women. Let us continue to create platforms that showcase and celebrate women doing great things in our society.