Emmanuel Oyeleke

A woman wearing an embroidered hat and dress uses an old-fashioned sewing machine.

Canon Ambassador and lifestyle photographer Emmanuel Oyeleke is renowned for his beautifully lit and richly detailed fine art-style portraits. This image of a woman in an intricately embroidered dress was shot in Lagos, Nigeria as part of his This is Us series. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 24mm, 1/160 sec, f/2.8 and ISO250. © Emmanuel Oyeleke

A love of words paved the way for Canon Ambassador Emmanuel Oyeleke to unlock his passion for photography.

Possessing a portfolio bursting with iconic fashion and beauty images, Nigerian lifestyle photographer Emmanuel is one of the most in-demand photographers in his country. Yet his journey into the industry was less than conventional.

"I used to play Scrabble professionally and fell in love with photography when I started travelling around the world for tournaments," he explains. "I wanted to bring back memories from trips I had taken, and to portray this in my pictures – different countries, experiences and cultures. Finding this profession was actually down to chance."

After attending a two-week photography workshop in Lagos in 2011, multi-talented Emmanuel quit his job as a computer programmer and began working as a freelance photographer. Today, he has cultivated a skill for creating breathtaking posed imagery.

"I am largely self-taught; I dedicated myself to learning the techniques and I mastered as much as possible," he says. "I shot a lot of weddings at the start of my career. Weddings in Nigeria are huge jamborees: a typical Nigerian wedding has 2,000 to 3,000 guests, so it's quite hectic!"

Headshot of Canon Ambassador and lifestyle photographer Emmanuel Oyeleke.
Location: Lagos, Nigeria

Specialist areas: Fashion, beauty, weddings

Favourite kit:

Canon EOS R5
Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM
A model wearing a tulle dress with a sequinned bodice reclines on a sofa. Flames appear to be climbing the wall behind her.

"You have to dedicate yourself to learning your craft," says Emmanuel. "I enjoy creating beauty from nothing – that's what inspires me." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 28mm, 1/125 sec, f/4.5 and ISO160. © Emmanuel Oyeleke

Emmanuel's beautiful style went on to attract the attention of major commercial and fashion brands. "At some point, I was able to start choosing what kind of work I did and what kind of portfolio I wanted to build," he explains. "It's been continuous learning ever since and I'm still a work in progress – I still learn every single day."

Whether capturing a high-fashion shoot in the studio or out on location, Emmanuel has garnered a reputation for never repeating the same image. "I get bored very easily, so it's important to make sure whatever I do, every single time I do things in a different way," he says. "If I want to get the result of four, for me it could be two plus two or six minus two. Creativity has many routes, not just one path."

Today, his spectacular images are regularly featured in Nigeria's most prominent magazines, and he has worked on beauty and lifestyle campaigns for several international brands. His advice for photographers wishing to follow in his footsteps is simple: always value what you do. "You also have to understand that you're not for everyone," he explains. "Creativity can vary hugely from person to person, so stick to doing what you're doing. You must be fulfilled and remember why you do what you do, otherwise it's a waste of time."

A model draped in shiny, dark blue fabric with red netting tied around her face and a gold crown on her head. She holds a fan in her raised hand.

"When it comes to my photographic style, I don't follow a specific process as such – things vary depending on my mood," Emmanuel says. "I get bored very easily, so it's very important for me to always take a different approach." Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/500 sec, f/3.2 and ISO160. © Emmanuel Oyeleke

A side profile from the waist up of a woman with her head turned towards the camera. She is holding a large bouquet of white and pink flowers, which conceals the top half of her body.

This image formed part of a personal project by Emmanuel titled Humanity and shot in 2020. "This was a simple studio shoot with two lights," he says. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/2.8 and ISO250. © Emmanuel Oyeleke

As for future ambitions, Emmanuel is keen to help the next generation of photographers stepping up behind him. "My goal would be to make my studio into a full photography agency in Nigeria that can fulfil any assignment anywhere in the world. I would like to build capacity and train people too, and become a brand that people want to work for and with. That would make me so happy.

"To know that someone somewhere is inspired by what I've done is very humbling. When I look at where I started and where I am now, I hope it makes people realise they can achieve whatever they want to."

Your portfolio is very versatile. What drives your creative ideas?

"I get inspiration from everything – from the books I read, my wild imagination, my cultural background, nature, the work of other artists, movies I watch and things I think about. I like to see the beautiful side of everything and take the positives out of every situation; creating beauty from nothing. I am inspired by the sociopolitical movements around me and history – I'm inspired by so many things! I don't want to be confined to a box. I want to express myself, and I do that through my photography."

What would you say are the key elements to successful lifestyle photography?

"Firstly, I would say to always be prepared. Make sure you are equipped with the relevant knowledge. Once you're prepared, it's important to be open to ideas and different creative options. Don't be stuck in the way things have always been done. Be creative in your approach and be open."

What's been the most valuable lesson you've learnt during your career?

"Learning to value myself. Humility is also very important. We're just here for a short time and it's important to keep working hard and to remember that things will come to you in due time."

You've been to some amazing locations. What's the most exciting shoot you've ever done?

"I like to challenge myself every single time – I like to think my next shoot is going to be my most exciting yet. I've been lucky to work on lots of exciting projects. I love shooting outdoors – the bigger the challenge, the more exciting I find the shoot. It gives me the chance to showcase my creativity."

One thing I know

Emmanuel Oyeleke

"Learn everything and show what you love. If you don't learn everything, you miss out. In Nigeria, often if you shoot a wedding, that client will call you when they have their first child, when they have family birthdays, when they want family portraits, if they need photography as part of their job. Essentially, you miss out on a lot if you don't do it all. Show what you love, because then people will gravitate towards you as you're showing them what you're passionate about."

Emmanuel Oyeleke's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Emmanuel Oyeleke's kitbag containing Canon cameras and lenses.


Canon EOS R5

A professional full frame mirrorless flagship camera offering photographers and filmmakers high resolution stills and 8K video. "Essentially, I don't have to think too much about the technical side of things – the camera does that for me," explains Emmanuel. "It's fast and responsive; it's everything we dream of in a camera. It's such a great tool in a small package, and the quality of the images is incredible."

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

The latest version of the EOS-1D X Mark II camera that Emmanuel uses helps you to capture more of life's moments and tell your visual story to the world. "I love this camera for my fast-paced fashion shoots," Emmanuel says. "It's a very strong camera; it withstands everything."

Canon EOS R

This pioneering full-frame mirrorless camera set new standards for photographers and filmmakers when it was launched. "At the time it came out, this camera was perfect for me to just take out on the street without attracting attention," says Emmanuel. "It was the perfect tool for me to execute my shoots. I also love the compressed roll. At some weddings, I was shooting up to 10,000 files, so the advent of the compressed roll saved me from keeping so many hard drives and requiring so much storage."


Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

This lens is known for its supreme sharpness, as well as its remarkable low-light performance. "I use this for fashion, lifestyle, portraits – it's my go-to lens that is very versatile," Emmanuel says. "It's also really sharp; it's a no-brainer to have this in my kitbag."

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM

Favoured by many, this new version of the classic wide zoom offers stunning sharpness throughout the zoom range. Emmanuel says: "This is a magic lens. It enables me to capture my action. Sometimes with fashion photography I want to have some really interesting wide-angles, and this lens has helped me achieve such compositions."

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

This versatile lens gives great results in portrait work because of its ability to achieve a shallow depth of field with beautiful bokeh. "It's one of the best I've ever used," says Emmanuel. "I love the sharpness. I can get so close to my subjects, and I use this a lot in beauty photography."

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM

The successor to the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM that Emmanuel favours is a go-to telephoto zoom lens for photographers. "This is one of my oldest lenses and it's so strong. I've used it in some challenging conditions and it never fails me," he says. "I use it a lot for my wedding photography; you can get a great close-up and capture the action perfectly."

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