George Okoro is an award-winning wedding photographer and the Editor-in-chief and publisher of the recently launched George Okoro Wedding Lifestyle Magazine; his work as a wedding photographer has seen him capture some of the most breath-taking and captivating nuptial moments in the Nigerian events industry. George Okoro is also a young entrepreneur whose determination to go beyond the norm has not only birth a lucrative business, but also a top photography brand in Nigeria.
Speaking to Whoot Africa’s Inspiration Africa at his Abuja office; the Economics graduate turned wedding photographer shares his journey to the George Okoro brand, his creative muse and how he stays ahead of the game in the photography industry.
About George Okoro?
First, I’d like to describe myself as a businessman and a passionate photographer. I am a simple person, and I love to share knowledge; my work with the George Okoro brand has helped me carve a niche as one of Nigeria’s top wedding photographers. Photography is also a big part of my life, and an opportunity for me to impact my world and also share knowledge every time I am opportune to.
Photography is my gift to the world; it is an opportunity to tell stories and capture moments that last a lifetime. My passion and gift has opened doors to me I never thought I’d be able to walk through, and it is my life’s duty and motivation to motivate and inspire people to pursue their dreams.
The Journey to Photography?
My interest in photography started from a very young age, I was fascinated with cameras and just the beauty of capturing moments. I had no clue my interest in cameras would one day become a business. When I finished my National Youth service in Abuja, I joined a microfinance bank and later went on to join one of Nigeria’s top telecommunications firm; while I worked my 9-5 job, I saved up for a bit and then bought my first set of cameras just for the fun of owning one. I started to take pictures for fun, and just the idea of capturing these lovely moments at parties and social gatherings aroused my interest in taking it a bit further.
At some point, boredom set in with my day job and I knew it was time to take the step of faith. I reached out to award winning photographer, Obi Somto and he encouraged me to go for it and that was how my journey to professional photography kicked off.
I went on to do my research and realized Abuja was an untapped photography market. But unfortunately, as with any new business platform, people weren’t forthcoming with paying for services, so I set up a birthday website where people could share pictures I had taken of them with their friends. The Blackberry phone was very popular at the time with birthday display pictures and somehow it became a hit, people started to pay to have special pictures taken for their birthdays, I had created a demand and people started to notice the George Okoro brand.
However, my big break in wedding photography came when a friend asked me to take pictures for his wedding even though I had told him I wasn’t confident enough to dabble into wedding photography. I had no clue how much wedding photography cost and he was my friend and I knew I couldn’t charge him. After his wedding, he handed me an envelope with seventy thousand Naira, I thought to myself, if I could earn this much with little to no expertise in photography, imagine how much I could earn with proper training. I went online, took a few courses, packaged my business and took it on professionally.
What inspires a man like George Okoro?
I started from nothing; in fact, I came into Abuja with very little and not knowing anyone. I started doing this from a place of passion that turned into a business, and today, parents come to me to share about their sons and daughters wanting to pursue photography because of me, and they take the time to meet me just to understand how this young man can influence their children so much?
I get dozens of emails from people telling me my work has inspired them to chase their passion and that if George Okoro could make it, they believe they can too. These things drive and inspire me, and I said to myself that what I am doing now, I don’t want it to end when I am gone, I want this passion of mine and my work to live after me, I want to build a business that will outlive me. I can only achieve this dream of mine by teaching others what I know. This is why my theme for this year, is Impact and Harvest.
Creative Muse? What inspires your creativity when you are capturing moments?
It comes differently; especially for weddings. My creativity for weddings comes with connecting with people, if I don’t connect, I can’t click. I ensure to understand my clients, I ask them questions about their lives, and that gets them excited and talking, that way, on the wedding day taking pictures would be like me capturing my best friend’s special moments.
Looking at the journey so far; the George Okoro (now) and who you used to be, what words comes mind?
My story is a miracle. In Abuja here, I used to walk to work; I lived with friends when my life’s journey didn’t make sense, I look at my life today and I am amazed at how far God has brought me. When I quit my job to go into full time photography, I didn’t tell my parents because I was afraid of the disappointment they would feel; they gave me all that education, only to give it up to be a so-called photographer at the time. I have been denied entry to certain places before because they didn’t know and they didn’t care who I was, but today, those same doors are held open for me and people now pay me to use my name on projects. I know for a fact, that couldn’t have been me alone, yes, I played my part by believing in myself and working hard, but in all of these, my life is a miracle and I couldn’t have done this alone. This is my fourth year in business, and I know the future will be bigger and better. I refuse to get carried away by the noise and hype, I want to continue to remain humble and let my craft and dedication to it continue to speak for me and my team. I remain a miracle story unfolding. But most importantly, to have my parents share my work with others and how proud of their son they are, will always remain one of my biggest joys and achievement in this journey of mine.
How do you stay ahead of the game?
My secret is simple, I put relationship before money. If you walk into my office and we are to discuss your wedding, I don’t talk about photography, I make you my friend and help you connect with every single one of the vendors who will make your special day unforgettable and memorable in a great way. That way, you win their hearts before you even talk about money, nobody will pay for what they don’t like, when you like something or someone, putting your hand in your pocket won’t be difficult. First, they come to us because they like our work, but I make them fall in love with our personalities and what we do at George Okoro and as they say, love is blind, when they walk out, it will be almost impossible to take our business to someone else. We are so blessed to have people believe in George Okoro photography so much so that they were willing to reschedule to accommodate our busy calendar, as well as the relationships with the other vendors we work with, when you build a good network, people bring you jobs by default.
Giving back; how important is giving back and teaching to you right now?
Part of why I have decided to give back in terms of knowledge and everything I have learnt is simple, if this industry doesn’t grow, my business will not grow. When I am out there encouraging people to understand the value of what to do and how to price and grow their business, I am overall helping to build a solid photography industry and people get to respect the industry better. Before, photographers were looked at as drop outs, but now you have the likes of Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Aisha Augie-Kuta, TY Bello et.al people whose names you can call and be proud to say they inspire you and they are part of the industry, there is even more respect for us, these are some of the many things I factor in when I am giving back because I know it would help us build a stronger industry.
I see a very strong brand that would be recognised not just in Nigeria, but it would become an export brand. I have done a bit of work outside Nigeria already, and I have quite a following outside the shores of Nigeria as well. In 5 years, we are looking to build a very strong wedding photography brand.
What would you want to be remembered for when all is said and done?
I want to have inspired as many, helped create business giants and to be remembered that George Okoro made a deliberate effort to push, motivate and inspire others to greatness via the power of the lens.
Visit George Okoro’s official website