She spends her days making her clients feel like high-fashion models, captures their most treasured moments, travels to amazing locations… oh and she gets paid to do all of this. Wedding and lifestyle portrait photographer Wani Olatunde may be living her dream now, but just five years ago she was stuck in a corporate banking job she had no love for. Here’s how she changed careers and became a photographer.
Name: Wani Olatunde
Job title: Wedding and Portrait Photographer
Years since changing career: 5+
Town/city: Lagos, Nigeria (formerly London, UK)
TAP: You started your career working as an investment banker in London. Tell us about how that led you to work as a photographer today.
WO: I had a master’s degree in electronic engineering but soon realised a future in engineering wasn’t right for me. I was fortunate enough to get an internship in the City, which led to a full-time job as an investment banker. The role took me across three countries – London, South Africa and Nigeria – over a period of six years, but when I had my first child, I began to realise just how much of my time was taken up by my job.
Banking had lost its shine for me and I wanted to leave but had no idea what I’d do next. Photography was just a hobby I enjoyed. However, when senior colleagues at the bank told me that I would sometimes have to choose work over my kids, I did some soul-searching and decided if I was going to be sacrificing time with my kid, it had to be for something I believed in and loved. So I left the bank and decided to pursue my passion while figuring out the whole motherhood thing. The rest, as they say, is history.
TAP: How did you know that moving into photography was right for you?
WO: To be honest I didn’t know for sure. It seemed like a crazy idea at the time because I wasn’t sure if I could actually earn a decent living from photography. So I gave myself 6 months. If it didn’t work out – I was going to go back to the corporate sector, but find a job with better hours. Fortunately, my husband was very supportive, which made all the difference. However, to be perfectly honest, I’m very risk-averse. I’m pretty sure I would never have made the leap if I hadn’t become a mother. Thankfully I did.
TAP: What would you say was the most important thing you did/didn’t do to succeed?
WO: Success is always a tough one for me because I never quite feel like I’ve succeeded – it’s a work in progress. If I had to pick three words that have contributed to my “success”, they would be commitment, persistence and resilience. Entrepreneurship, especially in a more hostile work environment like Nigeria (where I now live), is tough. You’re constantly frustrated by one thing after another. There are many times I have longed for the comfort of a consistent paycheck but I constantly remind myself of the reason why I started on this path in the first place. Every time I have a setback I lick my wounds, learn from it and keep moving forward.
TAP: Did you ever feel at a disadvantage and how did you overcome that?
WO: Not really. There are no barriers to entry in my space – anyone with a camera or even a phone can call themselves a photographer. My biggest struggle is similar to that faced by other professional photographers: educating clients that there is skill involved in capturing great pictures consistently and that there is value in paying well for great photography.
TAP: What piece of advice were you given that you wish you’d ignored?
WO: “Don’t do it. You can’t make a living playing with a camera.”
The truth is that anything is possible once you believe in yourself, but you have to be sure and probably a little stubborn. People can only advise you based on their experiences, so I would advise anyone looking to change to a different career to reach out to people who are walking a similar path to you. Learn what you can from them, but remember that there are many lessons you’ll have to learn from your own experience.
TAP: What’s the one thing anyone wishing to break into professional photography from another field should do?
WO: Shoot, shoot, shoot. Invest in your education – learn the basics. Learn the rules so you know how and why to break them. Make sure it’s something you love to do.
TAP: Can you share three resources that you think are invaluable for breaking into photography?
- An online portal called Sue Bryce Education – I’m obsessed with Sue. It’s perfect for anyone interested in photographing women and beauty.
- The Simple Wedding Photography ebook by Photography Concentrate. This helped me set up the foundation for my wedding business when I first started.
- CreativeLive – there’s a class for every single genre. I learnt a lot from this platform.
TAP: What is the biggest misconception about working as a professional photographer?
WO: That all it involves is holding a camera and clicking a button. When I started out, I was a professional photographer trying to run a business. But over time I have had to evolve into a business person who owns a photography business. I started setting money goals, paying more attention to my margins etc. This has helped the business go from strength to strength each year. I hope I have a couple decades of photography still ahead of me, so I’m excited about all that’s to come. #watchthisspace
Find out more about Wani at her website: www.waniolatunde.com.
Want to break into photography? Start here:
- Take a photography course relevant to your level of experience to further develop your skills. A full degree is not essential unless you have the time and money to spare. Try short courses, such as the British Academy of Photography’s fully accredited courses.
- Fine-tune your craft by volunteering (or charging a low fee) for events relevant to your niche e.g. weddings, parties, PR events
- Develop an online portfolio (including social media accounts) – potential employers or clients need to find your work with ease
- Contact smaller monthly magazines (big publishers will already have their own in-house photographer or an established pool of freelancers) in your niche and ask to freelance for them at a reduced rate in exchange for credited images. Having your images in their image library almost definitely guarantees repeated free promotion from the magazine as your name will be run with the pictures every time they are shown.
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