I met Tosin Olateru at work. He was that videographer my boss called to handle a huge content development project my firm was taking on at the time. I had been a part of the project, so I got the opportunity to work closely with Tosin, giving me the exclusive privileges, I have now to call his work ‘badass’.
While working with Tosin I noticed plenty things – his reliability, his hard work, his willingness to go any length to help get work done, his heart for teaching others and his niceness (if allowing me to eat out of his snacks or buying me parfait during work hours would count as being nice). Beyond all these attributes, however, three things particularly struck me about Tosin. They were: (i) his level of expertise when it comes to his work (ii) his humility. I mean getting to realise that Tosin was no small photographer; that this small guy with whom I had eaten roasted potatoes and boli a few times was, in fact, the CEO of a Nigerian based premium photography and cinematography studio called Couvercle Media and that they had worked with individuals and renowned brands in Nigeria, telling beautiful stories and making plenty of money while at it, shocked me a little. And (iii) his resilience at getting himself taught to be the best at his work with or without a formal university education.
I thought Tosin was inspiring. I still do, which is why I asked him to spend a day with us today and share a few things on working as a photog or cinematographer in Nigeria. I enjoyed this interview with him and I hope that you, whether or not you are working as a creative in the media space, would enjoy it too. Ready?
1. Why did you choose to go into photography and filmmaking?
Art has pretty much been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember. Growing up, I used to paint, draw, mold clay and carve wood, but my initial dream was to be a Chartered Accountant. Along the way, I discovered IT and Photography, and I became obsessed with the latter. Photography became a passion. I love telling stories but more amazing is telling it with still or motion pictures! Since I’m not a writer, I use photography & cinematic to communicate the plots.
2. What is the best part of being a filmmaker and a photographer?
The best part of filmmaking for me is how constantly the job changes. From pre-production to post-production, everything is different. You get to work with different crews with different temperaments and skill sets and at different paces. The only real constant thing about the job is the project itself, and even that looks incredibly different from one week to the next. It’s a job that never stays the same.
3. What is the worst part of being a filmmaker and a photographer?
First, there is the time. Being a filmmaker can be so time-consuming and I don’t like that I never get to spend as much time as I would have loved with my family. Then, there are some politics in the field, which can be frustrating. To add to that, there is also the place of dealing with bad reviews when they come in about my work. Sometimes, when these reviews come in, I would suddenly begin to see all the things I could have done better and then, I’d beat myself up for it.
4. You are big cinematographer & photographer, having shot for several renowned brands, have there been times on your journey that things got so hard you thought to quit? If yes, what drove you to keep on pushing?
Well, today, people could say I’m a big cinematographer and photographer; but there were times at the earlier stages of the business when I wanted to quit. This was due to a number of reasons. First, it was hard to get traction. Secondly, I was completely overwhelmed with all the contents out there. It felt like I often found myself in a rabbit hole, running on a hamster wheel without any real progress to show for my hard work and time when I try to navigate all the content out there. Lastly, I didn’t have enough to sustain my business but through all of this, the one thing that kept me going was staying consistent and reminding myself of why I started in the first place.
Since you started, what has been the most absolute highlight of your career?
Ooh, one of the most absolute highlights of my career would be when one of the short-movies I filmed won two awards in the AGM 2017 Best Concept and Best Picture categories.
What’s that one dream you have for Couvercle Media that makes your heart beat faster?
To be a part of the top 10 media firms in the world.
If there was one tool you can’t joke with when it comes to your work as a photographer, what would it be?
For me, it would be my eyes.
Since you didn’t study what you currently do in school or anything, what do you have to say about educating oneself beyond the classroom?
Whether on not you get to obtain a formal education or you finished from school with a grade you are not pleased with, always strive to learn more than you currently know. There is so much you can do, if only you’d bring yourself to learn.
There is so much you can do, if only you’d bring yourself to learn.Tosin Olateru, 2019.
What is the most important skill every photographer should learn?
As a photographer, I’d tell you to learn to capture light. Photography is, after all, the art of capturing light, so it’s no surprise that learning to effectively use light in an image is a necessary step to creating beautiful imagery. I assume the next question would then be, ‘how do you read light?’ Study it and practice. Observe light as you go through your day and take note of how the light and shadows might fall on a subject and how the camera might capture them. Practice shooting in all different lighting situations and then analyze your images, your settings and how you could change them to create the desired images.
What is the most important skill every filmmaker should learn?
Learn to use composition and design elements in your imagery. Learning to use strong composition and design elements such as symmetry, movement, color or lines, to name a few, will take your cinematic to the next level and make them more powerful to the viewer. I would also tell you to study the masters of photography and art. Take note of how they use design elements to create powerful imagery. Then look for such elements in your everyday work and try to incorporate all the different types to strengthen your images.
Mention two photographers/filmmakers (Nigerian or foreign) whose works inspire you to dream big.
There are a lot o. There is Niyi Akinmolayan, Mo Abudu, Kunle Afolayan, and Ben Ope-Johnson.
Of all these people, if you could be one person for one day, who would it be and why?
I would just rather be myself, to be honest.
What would you most likely be caught always wearing at work?
If you were not into the media, what else would you be doing?
I would be practicing Accounting.
So, you recently produced an amazing short film called EYES. What would you say inspired the film?
Well, I just observed how addictively people were starting to use the internet. Creatives, especially, were spending a lot of time on the internet, consuming content rather than creating. So, I created Eyes, with the goal of nudging people to invest more time doing the things that they are supposed to be doing – exploring the world, looking out for inspiration to be more creative and creating their own content – rather than just watching, so that they too can have something impactful to put out there.
How did it feel being the one in front of the camera acting?
It was soooooo cool! I’m always the one behind the camera, you know?
Besides Eyes, we’ve seen other documentaries you’ve put out there and they are also good. Which would you prefer to cover – Documentaries or weddings?
I’m extremely passionate about documentaries. That’s not to say I don’t love photographing weddings, fashion, portrait, or even filmmaking. Storytelling is just a big part of me and I love whatever platform allows me to do just that.
Is there any brand you would one day love to work with?
Any event you’d someday like to cover and why?
Any last words to a new photographer or filmmaker reading this?
Well, I’d tell anyone who is just starting a career in photography and filmmaking to keep learning about it and stick with it. I’d almost even tell you not to build any other marketable skill, just so you can stick with it. Whatever happens, just keep learning. You don’t have to intern with anyone but do have a mentor, who would help you enhance your abilities to become a professional like him or her.
Honestly, I can’t thank Tosin enough for this. I learnt quite a lot today, especially on creating your own work and putting something impactful out there. I mean, it’s so easy to just scroll away on social media, looking through other people’s work. It’s also so easy to hold back and let intimidation, fear or our present circumstances limit us, but until we start creating our own work, we would only be wasting talent and potentials that could have been utilized for better.
I hope you learnt a few things from this too? Which part of this interview personally resonated with you? Are there more questions you’d like to ask Tosin? You can share everything with me in the comments below. You know I really love to hear from you too.
Till later, with love,
New post: A Day With Tosin Olateru; on Working as a Creative Photographer and Filmmaker in Nigeria. Click To Tweet
Amen. Thank you, Felix. I promise I’m going to find some answers to your questions and share them with you…
Amen. Thank you Felix.
Laughing out at your ‘complaintlessly’. Which one is that again? On a side note, I’m happy you took out something…
Hmmmm…. What’s life all about that we can’t just let go of everything that has happened, even the current…
To be honest and sincere with myself, It’s not by mistake I met you on the 3/7/19. I have read…