Gregory Adedayo Akinlotan, who is the community leader of the Nigerian Photographer’s Hub community on Facebook in this interview with BusinessDay’s Frank Eleanya shares how grew one of the largest photographers’ communities in Africa.
The photography business in Nigeria is a promising one, especially with the growth of the creative industry. How would you describe the significance of this growth?
It is a good thing for the present and coming generations. For a long time, creative professionals have suffered significantly from being poorly recognized for what they do. However, current happenings are showing the opposite, that is why many young, brilliant and talented people are joining the industry. Another significance of this is that our narratives are changing, we are now telling our stories the way it truly is. The outside world is now seeing how beautiful Nigeria and Africa are.
You seem to have amassed an amazing number of members on your platform. Can you tell us about how the Nigerian Photographer’s Hub community started on Facebook? What was the objective or motivation behind its establishment?
I was very job-lonely the day I created the group, I felt like having someone to relate with, share my experience and also learn from another professional. At the time, I belonged to some other photography groups which are not Nigerian, but the experiences they shared apart from the technical aspects are not necessarily relatable in our region. So, I thought to myself that it would be good to have a group of Nigerians and for Nigerians, where we can share and benefit from common ideas. And that is why the aims and objectives of the group are very simple: “Here is the meeting point for Nigerian Photographers, to share and discuss ideas. To share and appreciate our works. To foster collaborations towards improving our economy.”
How would you describe the growth of the Nigerian Photographer’s Hub community in the last year?
Tremendously incredible. We went from 46,000 members to 130,000 members. It is a huge thing for me. It shows that members are deriving value from the group. I am very happy about it, though it comes with a lot of challenges.
What has been the impact of the Nigerian Photographer’s Hub online community so far?
The impact has been very huge. We have seen many beginners improve their skills due to easy access to professionals in the group. We have seen many talents relate and exchange through conversations, a whole lot of brainstorms, and sharing of ideas. We get very quick answers to questions and many people are also cashing out from selling short courses, equipment, and other related services. It has really helped some members to improve their businesses.
What kind of opportunities are available to young photographers who are members of this community?
There are lots of opportunities for everyone: mentorship, easy access to top professionals, free tutorials, free post-processing resources, cheap equipment purchases, free reviews and corrections, exposure… these and many more are the available opportunities.
How has your online community helped train members in the aspects of creativity and innovation?
We have organised different training programs at different times. We had live sessions with some top professionals during World Photography Day on August 19, 2021. Many individuals have also done the same with training being organised for small groups on WhatsApp. We constantly share ideas and information that has seen many people improve their skills.
How big of a role would you say that Facebook has played in empowering communities such as the Nigeria Photographer’s Hub?
Facebook is doing well by connecting the world to remote villages. Without Facebook, it would have been extremely expensive to build such a magnificent group. The assertion that Facebook gives for free is really empowering communities to become better than they were in the past.
Running a community on Facebook with over 120,000 members is quite a task. Can you tell us about your experience managing the group?
Maintaining sanity within the group is quite important for a Facebook group like ours. Sometimes, members drop content that is irrelevant and can bring down the group score. To curb this, we subject every post to approval, and we have also added some keywords to the watch centre to be prompted immediately if any negative posts are posted in the comment sections so that we can immediately remove them.
Are there any memorable experience(s) about being the leader of the community that you’d love to share?
There have been a few of them, with many people sending me messages or calls to testify about how the group has helped them grow. That really gives me joy because that is the primary aim. Also, someone once recharged my phone line to thank me for creating the group. He also informed me that he has made commendable sales in the group. He also sponsored last year’s World Photography Day with N10,000.
What are the essential skills for young aspiring photographers and how does this drive social change in the long run?
Well, we no longer want to talk about basic skills, because that is the reason why we are not really recognised in society for the marvelous works we are doing. We want every young aspiring photographer to get the core skills before starting their career. Everybody with a phone camera can call themselves a photographer, but to do this as a profession, you need more than the basics. So, my advice would be that they should seek proper training to acquire technical skills and business skills if they really want to succeed as a Professional Photographer.
To what extent do you think the Facebook community has gone in connecting young photographers with Industry experts?
I would say more than 85 percent. Facebook is all about connecting people and we are not left behind, except for the older folks who are struggling to keep up with the current technologies.
Any advice you would like to give young photographers out there who are yet to leverage Facebook and the community?
I will encourage them to join Facebook communities because that is the only place where they can get free or cheap access to the professionals who can mentor and train them. Photography classes can be costly, but as a community member, most of these classes are subsidised to a very low amount.