Our high-flying photographer of the week is a proper professional who has built himself from the ground up. He has crashed the skies which people set as their limits and is shooting for the stars in space. For this feature, I spent a day with Sylvester a.k.a. Slie, at his Meaches Photography studios in Yaba, Lagos.
Slie is a portrait and events photographer who has photographed some of the biggest events and personalities in the country, in just two years as a career photographer. I observed how he worked, learnt how he got into photography and picked his brain on the business side of photography.
Here’s my conversation with Slie of Meaches Photography.
Big man, kindly tell our audience about yourself
Okay…Hi guys, my name is Sylvester. But the brand name is Meaches Productions. We do a lot of things, but for now, we’re growing the brand through photography. For me, outside photography, I don’t do any other thing. Photography is all I do. Photography is a big part of my life because it pays my bills. I’ve also met a lot of people through my work. So that’s it. I remember someone saying to another person about me, “What is Meaches without a camera?” And that’s true. I’m just Meaches photography, but with my camera, I’m something more.
Awesome stuff. How did you get into photography?
My love for photography has its roots in my spiritual adherence. Growing up, I never wanted to work for anybody. I didn’t like white-collar jobs. And I have an eye for creativity too, so it was easy to pursue a path in the creative scene. But two things pushed me to photography. One was when I went to my aunt’s wedding a long time ago. The photographer at the wedding was covering both the photo and the video. I was like, “what’s this guy actually doing?”
When the photos came out, it was disappointing. And this guy was paid a lot of money. That gingered me to think more seriously about photography as a career. The other thing that finally pushed me into photography full time was a chat I had with my spiritual director. At that time, I was working with Samsung. I saved ₦250,000 at that time. So, I went to him and asked him to help me make a decision whether to buy a camera or open a barbershop and employ a barber while I continued my 9-5. That time, I just wanted a camera. I hadn’t settled yet on a photography career.
So, he spoke with me and prayed with me, which helped put things into a better perspective. From there, God kept directing me towards photography. I got the camera and then a week after, Buhari came into power. Soon after, Samsung shut down our branch. After staying at home for a month and submitting CVs, I picked up my camera, went in search of a photographer to train under, and two years after, I have my own space, clientele and have done well for myself.
That’s quite the story boss man. Good to see that your hustle has paid off.
It’s all thanks to God, bro.
Okay, let’s talk photography. What are the things every photographer or aspiring photographer must have?
Your camera. No matter how big, or how small. Your camera is your friend in this business. The second thing is a laptop. You need certain software to work as a photographer. If you don’t have a laptop to store them, there’s no point. These are the two major tools of the trade. You also need the internet, obviously.
Good stuff. How did you decide on portrait and events photography as your niches?
I also shoot for commercial brands – product launches, adverts, and all that. But my mainstay is the portrait scene because I get steady jobs from there, which helps to pay my bills. I’ll also go into other niches – I have a documentary gig coming up soon too. But as I said, I needed a steady income. Portrait and events photography bring that steady income. That’s why they’re my main niches.
Are the skillsets for each niche different? Does anybody need special equipment, editor software, or anything to go into any of the niches?
Okay, let’s take documentary photography for instance. As far as I know, there’s no particular style of editing or shooting. However, the lenses you use in that niche matter. There are some lenses that are a must-have if you’re a documentary photographer. You should also have a wide range camera too for that niche.
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So, you’re saying everything basically depends on your gear?
Exactly. Study is also important. Learn as much as possible about the niche you want to go into.
Great stuff. Now, let’s talk about the business side of photography.
Here, people like to use competition and crowd as excuses. But packaging matters a lot. Limits too are also very important. My personal rule is to never offer a free shoot to anybody, even if we’re related. I can only give you a discount, but you must pay for the shoot. Marketing is important – relating with customers and potential leads.
Self-esteem also plays a big role as a photographer. It helps you to set prices that will not rubbish your brand. Imagine charging a certain price for your shoot, and then you accept any price because you’re desperate. It’ll kill your value. So, marketing, good customer relationship, and self-esteem are key to running a good photography business. Especially the self-esteem part because it helps you maintain value.
Thank you for that insight boss man. Now, tell us: what does a good studio setup look like?
Any standard studio should have at least three light set-ups. You can play around with them, but for a standard studio, it must have at least three light set-ups. Then have backdrops, props, and things to spice up the background when you have a shoot.
Slie is on Instagram as @meaches_photography_