Achieving success in today’s world is easier said than done, especially in a competitive field such as photography. Photography is one of the most captivating forms of expression today; it’s beautiful, it captures a moment in our history, it tells a story and it stores a piece of our legacy. With the speed and bustle of today’s world, photography has never been more important, and to succeed in such an important field you need to be exceptional.
Today, Lucas Ugo – a renowned and critically acclaimed Nigerian photographer – tells BuzzNigeria his story and how he got to the top of such a competitive field. His talent and work ethic are simply ‘exceptional’. Keep reading if you want to learn a thing or two.
BuzzNigeria: Tell us a little about yourself…
Lucas Ugo: Well, my name is Ugonna Chidera Ugwuoti. I’m from Ogbozalla Opi Nsukka Local Government in Enugu. I was born on the 15th of May, 1994. I’m the youngest of 4 men.
BuzzNigeria: What made you decide to become a photographer?
Lucas Ugo: Because I was broke. At some point in my life, I couldn’t afford the transport fare to visit a friend and I had no choice but to think of something I had to do to earn money.
BuzzNigeria: So why did you choose photography?
Lucas Ugo: Because I had a passion for it. Back in secondary school, I used to edit photos for people. I wasn’t very good at it back then, I just did it for fun.
BuzzNigeria: What would you say is your biggest motivation?
Lucas Ugo: Money. Money. Money.
BuzzNigeria: Was there ever a time you almost gave up?
Lucas Ugo: Yes. I didn’t think I could go on because it was quite stressful, especially trekking from my house to the place of training.
BuzzNigeria: Can you tell us what got you through it?
Lucas Ugo: I was motivated by my father who helped me a lot with the money he paid for my training.
BuzzNigeria: What is your dad saying about your career now?
Lucas Ugo: He’s very proud. He was a photographer himself, so he understands.
Behind The Scenes
BuzzNigeria: What’s it like working with models, as opposed to working with ‘real people’?
Lucas Ugo: Models can strike a pose without being told what to do. They give you the right attitude and the right poses. But with normal people, you have direct them; the common questions among normal people are “What should I do next?” or “How should I pose?”
BuzzNigeria: Do you ever get shy people in front of your camera?
Lucas Ugo: Yeah, often.
BuzzNigeria: How do you get them to feel more comfortable?
Lucas Ugo: I usually tell a joke. When you make them laugh, they feel more comfortable. I also try not to be too serious, I try to make them happy – it makes them more comfortable.
BuzzNigeria: If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
Lucas Ugo: A footballer, I guess.
BuzzNigeria: Why a footballer?
Lucas Ugo: I used to play football but things didn’t work out. I was supposed to travel out and play but I was duped so when I gained admission to ESUT (Enugu State University of Science and Technology), I decided to drop that dream.
BuzzNigeria: What are some of your other hobbies?
Lucas Ugo: Playing video games, watching movies, hanging out with friends and playing football still.
BuzzNigeria: You mentioned that you studied at ESUT? Did you study photography or a related course?
Lucas Ugo: No, I studied Marketing. So you can always call me to market your goods for you (laughs).
BuzzNigeria: Was it difficult to learn something very different from what you studied in school?
Lucas Ugo: No, I wouldn’t say it was difficult.
BuzzNigeria: What was it like balancing school and photography?
Lucas Ugo: It was actually quite difficult. I definitely missed out on a lot of school activities, that’s why I haven’t gone for service yet. But even though it was tough, I kept my eye on the prize because even though you finish from school, you won’t get a job in Nigeria now so you need to have something to do, which I already have going.
BuzzNigeria: And now? How do you balance your business with your everyday life – your social life and your family time as well?
Lucas Ugo: It’s certainly not easy. For now, I have had sacrificed my love life. But it is okay, I just deal with it. Finding the right people to deal with my hectic schedule is not easy. Usually, the people I’ve met don’t seem to understand. I try but it usually doesn’t work out so I just focus on my business instead.
BuzzNigeria: Do you ever get worn out by the constant travelling required in your line of work?
Lucas Ugo: Maybe before but now I’ve gotten used to it.
Surviving Our Economy
BuzzNigeria: Has the current economic state of the country – the recession – affected your business?
Lucas Ugo: Definitely. The cost of equipment has gone up, so has the cost of production. A camera lens that used to be N70,000 is now N90,000 while cameras that used to go for N300,000 are now going for N700,000 to N800,000.
BuzzNigeria: With the constant evolution of smartphones and the rising cost of photography equipment, do you think the future of photography is in danger of becoming obsolete?
Lucas Ugo: No, I don’t think so, because you can’t compare a smartphone camera with a professional DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera. For excellent photography, you need to get the aperture and the speed just right and you can’t do that with a smartphone.
Also, to get a lens is very expensive and you can’t just put a lens on any smartphone; so the future of photography can never be in danger.
Do It All Over Again?
BuzzNigeria: What do you wish someone had warned you about when you first started?
Lucas Ugo: The expenses. I wish someone had warned me about the cost of equipment and everything else, you actually spend a lot.
BuzzNigeria: Would that have deterred you?
Lucas Ugo: Maybe, because back then I never thought I’d be able to make enough money to be able to afford the equipment.
BuzzNigeria: What type of photography do you do mainly?
Lucas Ugo: I do wedding shoots, portraits, food photography; but weddings pay more so I always look forward to that (laughs).
BuzzNigeria: How do you handle irrational brides or grooms?
Lucas Ugo: The same way I handle shy people, I just try to make them laugh, make them comfortable.
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BuzzNigeria: What are some of the challenges you face as a photographer in Nigeria?
Lucas Ugo: When people ask me for a free photo shoot in return for promotion.
BuzzNigeria: Why is that particularly annoying?
Lucas Ugo: Because they don’t care about what it would cost me. The cost of equipment, the cost of production, the time it takes to edit the pictures. If they really want to promote someone, they’ll pay them…and then spread the word.
BuzzNigeria: What has been your most embarrassing experience as a photographer?
Lucas Ugo: I did a pre-wedding shoot – last year, I think – but I lost all the photos because of a virus on my system. So I had to pay for the location again and beg the couple to come again but they weren’t so trusting of me doing the wedding and they wanted to call another photographer.
BuzzNigeria: What happened?
Lucas Ugo: I begged them to give me a chance. And I’m glad to say, they were not disappointed.
BuzzNigeria: What advice would you give to upcoming photographers?
Lucas Ugo: Be creative. Be passionate. Be focused. Don’t always go for the money. If you want to be successful, you need to have passion before you go into it. While I didn’t have passion when I first started, I eventually grew into it.
Not just photography, if you want to be successful in anything you do in life – you need passion to succeed.
BuzzNigeria: Thank you for your time.
For more information, you can follow Lucas Ugo on Instagram here.