How I Work: Henry Oji, Lead Photographer at Big H Studios


Henry Oji is one of the most well-known photographers in Nigeria because to his extensive portfolio and years of experience. His clients have ranged from top celebrities to world leaders, and he has photographed both. In this episode of How I Work, discusses his path into the world of photography as well as the tools and processes he uses to produce quality work on a continuous basis.

Currently, I serve as the Head Photographer and Mentor at Big H Studios, and my location is Abuja, Nigeria. Currently, I'm using an iMac. Current mobile device: iPhone X One statement should be enough to describe your working style: Developing and maintaining connections

Give us a quick rundown of how things got started for you and how you got to where you are now.

2012 was the year I first picked up a camera. After my wedding, my wife and I took a trip for our honeymoon, and while we were on our way back home, I purchased my very first DSLR camera. I've always had this fantasy of being the guy who goes to friends' weddings armed with a good camera — not necessarily a professional one, but I've never been a big lover of taking pictures with iPads and other such devices. For some reason, I believe that something that started out as an interest developed into a strong interest, and from there, it evolved into a passion.

I wouldn't say that the path has been particularly simple, but I do believe that God has been incredibly faithful throughout it all. Over the course of the past decade, there have been occasions when it has been exhilarating, challenging, and inexplicably challenging. But in the end, it has been a worthwhile trip since every step of it, from the fun parts to the challenging ones, has contributed to making me into the person that I am today. And even if I could have it even better than I have, I wouldn't wish for it.

What exactly do you do for a living? Walk us through an ordinary day at the office.

At Big H Studios, I serve as the principal photographer. There are also associate photographers and intern photographers in addition to the main photographers. It is my responsibility to ensure that the work is coordinated across all departments and that we provide the service that customers are paying for. Therefore, whenever someone visits the studio or has been scheduled for a photo shoot, we want to make sure that the entire experience is a positive one, from the very first moment until the very last.

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There is somebody who books the clients from the moment that they either provide a call or send an email to the business. After that, we have consultations to get to know the client better and also to discuss our imaginative concepts for the shoot. Following that, on the day of the shoot, we will have assistants who will assist us with the shoot. After the shoot is over, we give off the photographs to the team in charge of editing, but before that happens, I take care of the color work and what many people refer to as the color grade. And once that was finished, I would forward the photographs to the editing team so that they could complete the skin work. After that step is complete, the photographs are resent to me so that I can perform the final proofing. It's just a quality control measure to make sure all of the pictures are up to snuff with what's expected of them.

My usual day at work consists of coordinating and making sure that everyone who is responsible for a unique or specific task is performing that role to the best of their abilities.

In addition to that, there is also the aspect of being mentored. When we have courses, there is also a shift in role where I become not just a convener of the class but also a facilitator, and I teach in this class. Our academy is called the Follow The Light class, and when we have classes, there is also a change in role.

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Which applications, devices, or tools can you not live without?

In my opinion, being a photographer is impossible without having good eyesight. It's also important to note that when I say "eyes," I'm not necessarily talking to your capacity to see with both of your eyeballs. I'm aware of the fact that some photographers are legally blind. I am referring to your capacity to see images in your head when I say "eyes." That is the very first step that we take in order to be able to think of these pictures.

After that, we will discuss the actual instruments that I use in my line of work, which include my camera, my lights, Capture One, Photoshop, and my iMac computer. That sums up the majority of it.

What is your go-to method or trick for completing tasks quickly and efficiently?

To tell you the truth, I believe that the only way to get around the task is to simply do it. I'm not sure if we were successful in developing a particular exploit or not. If there is a way to get things done more quickly, my advice would be to put in the effort yourself and delegate tasks wherever it is possible to reduce the amount of work you have to do on your own.

What task(s) do you detest yet nevertheless complete?

The part of the process that involves having to think of an idea, meet with the client, photograph the client, and edit the pictures that I dislike the most is the part where I have to select the pictures, particularly the wedding pictures. The typical wedding will have over 2,000 photographs taken during the day. Therefore, you are required to profile 2,000 photographs, but in some instances, out of 2,000 images, you will only need to select 200 or 300 of those images.

This procedure can be time-consuming since you need to ensure that the options you've chosen represent the very best of what's available.

It's not that I can't do it; it's simply that none of the other activities that we carry out are quite as thrilling as this one.

How can you make sure that you don't forget anything that you have to do?

My work involves collaborating with a group of people. We have a studio manager that handles the activities of the studio: payment of bills, purchasing of equipment, and all the other stuff. We have an administrative assistant who handles the day-to-day activities and the personnel working in the studio. This individual is responsible for practically all aspects of human resources. In addition to this, we have a creative director whose responsibilities include the creation of creative mood boards, the planning and execution of shoots, and the administration of people.

Everyone fulfills a specific duty, and in my opinion, things run most efficiently when everybody is doing their job to the best of their ability. Therefore, I have to rely on my team, and if my team is functioning properly, then everything is operating properly.

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How do you take a break or replenish your batteries?

Sadly, I have not yet succeeded in locating that. I am not the most skilled person when it comes to pausing my work. But usually speaking, if I want to take a break, I would travel or do something that is not immediately related to photography.

I wouldn't say that it's a regular part of my routine. I have gone previously; in 2018, I was experiencing a creative block, so I decided to go to a very far place for a conference. When I got back, I felt incredibly rejuvenated and ready to move forward with my life.

If you are currently participating in a system that is generating burn out or adding to levels of stress, then the suggestion that I would give you is to disengage from the system for a little while and engage in activities that are not necessarily related to the system.

Since we've been doing most of our work from home as of late, I've made it a point to set aside more time for rest. Once upon a time, I worked very late, sometimes into the next day; other times, I slept in the studio. However, I eventually came to the realization that no matter how hard you work, there would always be more work to do. Therefore, you need to approach the process of making time for rest with a very deliberate attitude.

What are you listening to, what are you watching, and what are you reading right now?

I don't spend a lot of time watching television shows or movies. It doesn't necessarily make me more mature than anyone else; it's just that sometimes I look at things from the perspective of time, and for the kind of work that we do, you can't give two hours to watch a movie if you're owing clients pictures. In other words, I look at things from the point of view of time. Due to the fact that you have not been able to deliver, you will not be able to watch it with a clear conscience.

But on the rare occasion that I do watch, my preferred genres are comedies and films about martial arts. I like to watch humor a lot since laughing is really vital in any form of employment. So even now, I watch a lot of Instagram skits - the humorous ones. Aside from that, I'm a big admirer of Marvel, the Avengers, and anything else associated with the company.

For music, I’m always listening to instrumentals. It is helpful to me in maintaining my composure because there is, at times, a temptation to want to push oneself to the limit with the task. Maverick City was once one of my favorite bands, but I haven't given any of their more recent music a chance. My go-to person at the moment is a guy I found on YouTube who goes by the name DappyTKeys. Aside from that, I listen to a variety of Christian music, and if I'm in the mood for something energizing when I'm working out, I'll put on some Nigerian songs that feature an Afrobeat beat.

What are you reading right now, and are there any books or articles that you may recommend to me?

I want to spend a lot more time reading from the Bible. I have not been doing a good job with that. I used to read quite a bit, and I even have a library, but, if I'm being completely forthright, I haven't really gotten back into it in the previous four years. I suppose I just need to be able to discipline myself to create time and read.

Tell me about the most useful piece of guidance that somebody has ever given you.

When my brother was still alive, he would often give me advice like "never discuss your view of other people with other people because you don't know who you're talking to." He passed away several years ago.

When it comes to money and friends, one of my late father's bits of advice was one of my favorites. He said, "do not give a friend money that you cannot forego because at some point you will have to pick between the money and your friend."

If you are a creative person or a photographer and are listening to this, my advise would be to simply keep shooting, keep practicing, and keep becoming better, and to remember that success is a journey, not a destination.

The final piece of guidance would be to remember that every blessing that God offers us centers on other people. Therefore, it is not just up to you to declare, "Oh, I have been blessed; please allow me to enjoy the results of my effort." When God gives you something, whether it's a gift, finances, or anything else, it's because he wants you to be a channel through which he can benefit other people. This is true regardless of what it is.

Which aspect of the problem are you still working to find a solution for?

I've always maintained that one of my goals is to start a podcast, and this year was the one I set as a goal for myself, but I'm not even close to being able to do it. I began this year with a lot of enthusiasm, spoke to somebody about it, obtained the equipment that I required, and made the area ready; but, the month of July is almost over, and nothing sensible has come out of that.

I have always thought that it would be fun to start a podcast channel where I could just talk about my experiences in life and welcome other people to do the same with their own personal stories.

Who is the one person you want would respond to these questions?

Beyonce, because of her dedication to her career. I'm not a huge fan of her music or anything else that she stands for, but there was something that she said once that really struck a chord with me, and it's stuck with me to this day. When she was preparing for a performance and wanted something done, the organizers and the individuals who were helping her with the performance told her, "Beyonce, this is totally impossible, nobody has ever done this before, it can't be done." After that, she stated that this is the justification for why we are going to do it.

That has really just resonated with me because success does not come easily, you need to put in the work, and you need to be insane in some way. I have the impression that if she were to respond to these questions, she would touch on a handful of topics that would inspire a large number of individuals, including myself included.

Also, Barack Obama. Simply put, I have a great deal of admiration for him and the way that he carries himself, both in terms of his manner of speech and the activities that he participates in. Nevertheless, there are some aspects of him that I do not particularly like.

I have a lot of respect for Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) as a political figure and leader. Although I'm aware that a lot of people don't like him, it'll still be intriguing to hear what he has to say.

And last, in the area of photography, I would have to choose TY Bello and Kelechi Amadi as two of the most influential people. It would be beneficial to gain an understanding of who they are, what makes them tick, and what keeps them modest despite the great success that they have attained.