Elom Ayayee never thought photography would be a part of her life. Her career path was in international relations, policy, linguistics, and publishing. But her love for beautiful images in magazines ignited her desire to pursue a career in photography.
She wanted to recreate these looks which seemed limited to only models for the everyday woman who could be a wife, mother, entrepreneur / employee, believer, citizen and role model.
Elom started with no knowledge of photography. She didn’t know how to take photos and had no clients. But with time, constant practice and determination, she opened her photo studio Elom Ayayee Portraiture where she takes magazine-worthy images of women to remember for the rest of their lives.
How did you start your photography career?
Photography was a very fortunate accident and I fall in love with it more and more every day. It’s all about meeting someone for the first time and finally creating a timeless piece of art that speaks to the essence of who they are or who they want to be in the moment it was created.
To me, that is the amazing power of portraiture. Photography for me is the power to exist in time. It’s a way to say “I was here. I lived, I loved, I hurt, I suffered, I rejoiced, I was silent, I was loud. I held this space”.
Why do you focus on women?
I started photographing family and friends and before I knew it I had a client base. My move to photograph women was not just a great business plan. But, it was also a way to highlight these women who are sometimes invisible in the roles they play. Women often get lost in their responsibilities and forget to appreciate themselves.
My initial desire was to give women just one day off. A day to get pampered and remember and document who she is outside of all the hustle.
To get her hair and makeup done and the most beautiful images of herself that would be loved and cherished and appreciated for all time.
What were some of the hurdles you encountered and how did you solve them?
Marketing has been the biggest hurdle. I’m naturally a very private person and 90% of my client base is from referrals. Putting myself out there is still a very uncomfortable experience for me.
That being said, my target market is small and very specific so that tends to minimize the effort I would otherwise have to make in marketing myself. It’s a lazy way of marketing I guess; give great service and let happy clients do the talking for you.
How do you get your photographs to spread your messages?
I don’t create my photographs for the general public. I create images for my clients to hang on their walls in their homes – this is very intimate and private. Images that hopefully their great great great grandchildren will see and talk about.
My images are about time, legacy and emotion. All of my images say different things in the different homes they live in. I can usually tell by spending enough time with a woman who she wants to see when she looks at an image of herself. I pull on every resource within me during a shoot to be able to give her that.
How do you improve your photography and get inspired?
I do this every way that I can. I enjoy constructive criticism from people I look up to in the industry and my clients. I’m always on the internet trying to figure out how to get what I see in my head right.
My clients are all the inspiration I need. I’ve met such incredible people. Every woman has a story, every child has incredible potential. One day what I create for this person will be a timeless treasure to someone else.
Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?
Yes! I’m doing a series for women that I’m very excited about. It’s easy to promise to take the most amazing picture a woman has ever seen of herself when she’s been pampered and dolled up and looks like the jackpot.
Can I take the most beautiful picture of a woman make-up free? This is my challenge to myself and all my clients. So far, it’s been amazing. Women are so deep and they carry so much behind their eyes.
Each of my clients who have trusted me enough to put themselves in this vulnerable place has been won over. It’s literally the most powerful image you could ever take.
What photography gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best?
I started with a Nikon D3300 and I’ve always used natural light. My first studio was robbed and all my gear was stolen, that’s when I switched to Canon. I’m now shooting on a 5DMark iii.
I own a 50mm lens which I shoot 80% of my shots with and a 70-200 for my outdoor portraits. I use Adobe Photoshop for my editing.
What advice would you give young photographers who want to make it in this industry?
I really don’t feel like I’m qualified to speak for the whole industry, but I would say you need solid people skills and know the basic fundamentals of how to run a business. There’s a huge difference between a business and a hustle.
Also, advise often depends on what area of photography you venture in. So, the first thing I would say is, find your niche, and contrary to popular belief, the smaller your niche the better. Too many photographers are doing too many things. You can’t have it all. Give great service. Master your craft.
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