Lyadda picks money from photography

Lyadda picks money from photography

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By Roland D. Nasasira

When I meet Joseph Lyadda at his home in Lubowa, he is shooting photos of a baby of one of his clients in his compound.
He positions a teddy bear in front of the baby so that she looks into the camera for a clear shot.
When the baby turns and looks away, Lyadda also changes his position and that of the teddy bear to the desired position.
It is an endless cat-and-mouse game where the baby dictates which position Lyadda takes, until he gets a clear shot.

Career journey
Lyadda’s photography career is one that saw the light of day in 2012 when he was in Senior Six at Lubiri Secondary School in Kampala.
It was a venture that started in what he recalls as an amateurish and joking way. As time went by, he developed the passion for the field after borrowing one of his friend’s digital cameras. It was at that time that he fell in love with shooting photos.
In the same year, Lubiri Secondary School participated in the East Africa games in Burundi where Lyadda was also a player. He could not forget one gadget- the borrowed camera that he used to shoot his colleague’s photos whenever he did not participate in any game.
“When I came back, I used my hostel fees of Shs250,000 to print the photos I had shot in Burundi. I sold them and earned Shs1m. It was then that I made up my mind to take photography seriously and bought my first Panasonic camera at Shs500,000,” Lyadda says.
When vacation started, Lyadda was confused about two things; carrying on with photography and pursuing another career at university. He made up his mind and embarked on research about the course to study at university but with an element of photography. He was advised by one of his aunties to study journalism, advice he heeded to and later joined UMCAT School of journalism and mass communication in 2013.
“When I joined UMCAT, I discovered my talent at photography. I became more committed and dedicated to do photography as a business. Lecturers and friends saw the passion in me and advised that I specialise in photography. By end of 2013, I started going professional by taking photos for money,” Lyadda recalls.
At UMCAT, Lyadda kept communicating with his sponsor about what he was doing. His sponsor was happy for him and bought Lyadda his first professional camera, a Nikon D7000 in 2014. His elder brother in Germany also complimented on his efforts and supported Lyadda with some other equipment such as a camera stand to help him improve his photo quality. The Nikon D7000 camera would later endear him many friends who recommended him to different people that later turned out to be his clients.

Unlike other businesses such as retail shops, Lyadda opines that the photography and videography business is all about producing good work and networking that determines your growth and success. Friends helped him build his first clientele. One of them was a Rwandan who appreciated some of the work he had done.
“He (Rwandan friend) advised that I should not take photography for granted. He also advised that I go professional and promised to connect me to other people he knew around his circles,” Lyadda recalls.
True to his word, Lyadda’s Rwandan friend also introduced him to his Kenyan friends. When they looked at samples of Lyadda’s work, the Kenyans commented that it was lacking a classic touch. He felt bad but at the same time thought the comments were sincere. After some time, the Kenyans contacted Lyadda again but they maintained their stand- he had not become perfect yet.

Lydda shakes hand with Prime Minister Ruhakana

Lydda shakes hand with Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda after winning an award.

On one of the last contacts with the Kenyans, someone from Base Valley Media gave Lyadda a photo shoot test but promised that if he did a good job, he would be employed by the company.
The first project he worked on was an introduction function where he was the only photographer working with no pay. Later in the evening as the owner of the function dropped Lyadda home, he gave him Shs70,000, money he thought was an appreciation.
“When he looked at the work I had done, he recommended me to one of his friends where I travelled with Power Riders riding motorbikes from Uganda to Burundi. I travelled shooting photos and videos along the way for one week. I was paid Shs1m. I worked with the same group when they rode from Uganda to Kenya and it was then that I realised photography was a fruitful business,” he says. Since then, Lyadda has been receiving recommendation after another. In 2014, he was contacted by one of his friends to take photos for Miss Tourism Ankole, to which he accepted. He worked with the parent organisers and was paid Shs100,000 for two weeks. He has since then worked with the organisers since 2016 to date.

The trick
Rather than specialise in one line of photography, Lyadda prides in being an all-rounder who does not specialise in a particular type of photos, say ceremonial.
“There are times when photographers have a specific field such as weddings and introductions but I do not take this trend. I try as hard as I can to balance and shoot photos and videos across all functions. The disadvantage with not specialising is that you have to give something time to learn. Photos you shoot at a wedding differ from those you shoot during documentaries. Sometimes weddings are seasonal. A time comes when you do not have business yet bills such as rent have to be paid. When you specialise, you limit your room of making more money,” Lyadda advises.


Under his brand name L. Joe Films, with studios in Namasuba, approximately 300 metres off Entebbe Road opposite Freedom City Mall, Lyadda has spent about five years in the photography and videography business. He is happy that he has worked for a number of tour and travel companies and also shot photos and videos of personalities such as Ali Alibhai.
The highlight of his photography and videography five-year journey was when he was voted the best supporting tourism photographer 2016/2017 in Uganda during the Ekkula awards.

Training others
What gives Lyadda joy is that he has also trained young people on how to take quality photos and shoot quality videos. Some of them have since moved on to establish businesses of their own and are doing well. Trainees who have so far experienced Lyadda’s touch are approximately 20. One of them is Allan Mutebi. When Lyadda set up a studio, Mutebi was the first trainee. In one month, he had learnt how to shoot photos and edit them well.
“When I opened the studio, I never charged trainees but when I realised they leave to start businesses of their own, I started charging them Shs250,000 per month. The studio has five cameras and a personal camera I use at home,” Lyadda says.

Since he went professional, Lyadda says he has so far lost three cameras to thugs. He believes people have understood that cameras are expensive and are taking advantage of photographers with quality cameras.
“You need to be careful to avoid losing client’s photos and videos. You need to have external storage discs or with memory cards to back up your work immediately after taking photos at an event. Anything can happen along the way or with memory cards. After the event, remove the memory cards immediately from the camera because it might be stolen,” Lyadda adds. He recalls an incident after his graduation when someone entered his studio and stole a camera as he cleaned the studio. Since that day, his eyes landing on his graduation photos became a mystery.

As L. Joe Films, on a weekend, Lyadda gives himself a maximum of covering two events to avoid messing up with client’s work. There are some clients that book service providers verbally, something he believes in not enough.
“At the last minute, a client phones to let you know that they cancelled the booking yet you have a team of people you work with, whom you had already informed. I also sometimes talk to them with a commitment fee. So, when you call to cancel the booking, I make losses that you may not know about. In this business, it is all about trusting each other,” Lyadda says.
“Some clients never understand that the photography and videography business has grown over the years and we use expensive equipment. For example, I use a Canon 6D mark two camera I bought at Shs12m and other camera lights and labour for workers, with minimum Shs250,000 per professional photographer. With these, I make sure I produce quality work that will leave you satisfied,” he adds. On average, Lyadda says he makes between Shs2m and Shs5m per job. However, this depends on the season and timing of the year. The second half of the year is his busiest period. He also employs five people that help in covering client’s events.

Future plans
With his brand L. Joe, Lydda plans to specialise in wildlife photography by 2022.

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