My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially to tech.
Making a career switch is not a decision that is easy to make, sometimes. The move could be daunting for some, while others may find it adventurous and fun all the way. For Victory Otubor, switching from his administrative role in a big medical supplies outfit in Lagos to photography was an adventure worth his risks. Something he never regrets as he savours all the moments each click brings.
How it started
My journey as a professional began after my graduation from Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State in 2014. I studied Business Administration and was very optimistic about what the future held for me. Especially with the fact that I was going to be serving my one-year NYSC in Lagos, the land of many big dreams. *Chuckles*
I moved to Lagos in 2015 and served in a secondary school for one year. The teaching experience was not as difficult for me ‘cause I love to teach. Thereafter, in 2016, I got a job as an Inventory officer with Layojat Nigeria Ltd, a medical services company. We supplied medical and laboratory equipment to hospitals across the country.
The job was very interesting and really stressful. My start salary was N85,000 then. It was a huge amount in the beginning. But in the course of time, the pay was no longer meeting my needs. That made working less exciting and living in Lagos became harder.
I have some musical skills. I can play the piano and bass guitar effortlessly. So, I took to some side gigs in music to augment my salary. Most of the gigs came from church contacts because I played in church. Sometimes I could get as much as N5,000 to N10,000 per show, depending on who is paying. These gigs were not frequent so it made me live on the edge.
But then I met Ms Grace, a lady photographer in my former church. I mean, I have never seen a female photographer before, who had the kind of grip and confidence on the gear that she did. That piqued my interest. In Edo State where I come from, photography was a man’s job. You could count the number of female photographers back then. “What could make a woman venture into photography in this Lagos and be so good at it,” I asked myself.
Curiosity got the better part of me. So I approached her, learnt of her journey and how much she made per month. Ms Grace was counting 6 digits per month taking photos. Ah! That was all the convincing I needed to get. Not long, I enrolled to intern with her on a weekend basis because of my job. That was in 2019, before COVID-19.
When I started my journey, it was fun at firts but became challenging as time went on. I had to learn the various types of camera brands and gears there were and what makes each outstanding. Knowing the cost of cameras back then was really discouraging because I could not afford to buy them unless I planned to save up for them. Which I eventually did.
Then came Adobe Photoshop, the photographer’s magic tool. It was tough learning how to edit with it at first but I pushed myself and eventually got a hang of it. Those days were crazy. My internship lasted for four months. There were days when I could not even afford to pay for my transport fare to hers. But I scaled through.
After that period with Ms Grace, I went on to buy my own camera and started to snap family and friends for free- initially. It was a Nikon Camera. I bought it for N300,000 in 2020. I enjoyed every click and thought I was doing good but many people were not willing to pay so much for my work at the time. Then, one of my cousins, Victor Opapa of Vee Imagery International, called me aside and took me on a more advanced journey. I was still doing my 9 to 5-job at the time.
I became my cousin’s mentee in 2021. Victor taught me more advanced techniques and exposed me to more editing tools and opportunities to learn. The best part was when I got to represent him in photographer conferences, expos and training. I met new people and also judged my work with what others were doing. Then, I understood why no one was willing to pay so much for my work. Not discouraged, I pushed further and learnt all I could. And when the time was right, I resigned from my paid job in 2021 to focus full-time on my new career path- Photography.
How it’s going
Today, I have my own photography outfit, Victory Otubor Studios in Surulere Lagos. We started in 2022. Some days are very good because we get jobs and clients back-to-back. Other days feel like there is a drought of customers but such days don’t last for long.
We do not have permanent staff yet. But I get to use trusted freelancers sometimes when I need people on set. Sometimes, when big jobs like weddings and other large ceremonies come, I collaborate with other reliable colleagues to pull off the gig. The outcomes are usually great. No one is an Island, you know.
In terms of gear, I have been able to save up to buy higher cameras and lights. I now use a Fujifilm camera which cost me over N1 million.
Switching to a new field is not always easy. But when you make up your mind, move. And when you encounter challenges along the way, that is not a time to quit, but to step back, re-strategise and move forward.