Pulse of the Street: Freezing city life through the lens

Photo credit: Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • This is a generation of young people who, armed with amateur equipment and towering determination, set up their cameras in various Nairobi streets ready to freeze urban life through their skills.
  • We explore their motivations and creative processes as they talk about the legacy they seek to leave. 

In the hustle and bustle of the city, where ambition collides with disappointment, there exists a group of silent observers – street photographers.

This is a generation of young people who, armed with amateur equipment and towering determination, set up their cameras in various Nairobi streets ready to freeze urban life through their skills. We explore their motivations and creative processes as they talk about the legacy they seek to leave. 

Dennis Oiche Rayori is a photographer and videographer at KakaShots.
Photo credit: Pool

Dennis Rayori, 25                  
Kakashots Photography

I am a student at the University of Nairobi pursuing a degree in environmental and biosystems engineering, but my dream is to build a career in music and theatre.

I started KAKASHOTS photography in 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic as a company that offered graphics design services, but in the process, I learnt a lot about photography and videography.

Initially, my main motive for diving into photography was to create content. My very first video, which I produced without spending much money, received positive feedback from my social media followers. That encouraged me and fueled my passion for photography, and eventually, I turned it into a source of income.

After the coronavirus pandemic, my interest in photography blossomed. As an artist, I decided to start doing my own projects. Armed with determination, I turned to YouTube for guidance. I learned how to set up a camera, record footage, and edit it. My first video received positive response from viewers, and this marked the beginning of my photography journey. 

In my trade, I prioritise speed and unique colours. I like vibrant hues and use various techniques to set my work apart. Above all, I strive for client satisfaction by delivering both speed and quality.

As a videographer and photographer, my work begins on set. I visualise the desired outcome and focus on specific images. In every shoot, I choose props that yield the best results with minimal post-processing work. This approach ensures that I provide excellent services to each client without compromising on quality.

One thing that fascinates me about working in Nairobi city is the vibrant scenery of the streets. It is an experience unique to Nairobi, and I appreciate the city’s beauty. Recently, a Tanzanian friend who was visiting for the first time marveled at Nairobi's aesthetics, and this reinforced my desire to capture its full essence through photography.

Despite challenges like weather and security concerns, street photography thrives here.

I earn about Sh60,000 from my hustle, which is not enough to cater for all my needs. I charge between Sh300 and Sh2,000 per photo depending on the package a client chooses.

I see about five clients a day and work six days a week from Tuesday to Sunday. I normally set up my camera along Muindi Mbingu Street. On the streets, I approach clients who have nice outfits or those with creative and unique tastes and interest them in my services.

To thrive as a street photographer, you must have the right type of lenses. You have to consider the subject of your photos.
While at work, I often plan a photograph’s composition before I snap. However, if someone requests a photo with the entire building in the background, we do that during the post-editing process where we also remove unwanted individuals from the frame to maintain privacy. Many dislike being photographed without their consent, and it is also illegal to do that, so before taking a photo on the streets, we approach the subject politely and ask for permission. Most agree, and their happiness becomes our joy.

Thankfully, in Nairobi and many towns in Kenya, street photographers like me are free to do their jobs and put their talent to use. I like that through quality images, we help preserve our clients’ memories. It is a profession that indeed empowers young people.

Felix Onyango owns Felz Shots Photography, and is a media and communication student at Egerton University.
Photo credit: Pool

Felix Onyango, 21 
Felz shots Photography

I am a student at Egerton University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in communication and mass media. My dream is to become a journalist. To me, photography is about more than capturing images. It is about preserving memories. Photography is my passion, and it is a skill I have honed alongside my media studies.

It's all about storytelling, and I find it effortless to express myself through photography. Cameras have my heart, I can't explain why. With a year of photography experience, my greatest challenge is affording the lenses I need. For now, I'm using the basic ones where I have fun zooming in and playing with exposure. 

Capturing high-quality photos begins with understanding your camera. Cameras offer various settings. The resolution, measured in pixels, affects image size. When exporting images for editing, consider the software's requirements. Some software sometimes automatically adjusts images, depending on settings.

Personally, I lean toward Lightroom because it allows me to focus on any subject, whether a person or an object.

Third-party photography apps have revolutionised the way we capture moments. Consider connecting your camera to your phone wirelessly…the AI, (Artificial intelligence) makes it seamless. It's like having a knowledgeable companion behind the lens, ensuring optimal results. 

I charge Sh100 for edited photos and Sh50 for non-edited photos.

I can’t say how much I earn on average because at times I don’t get clients. Because I have to go to school, I don’t do this on fulltime basis. I don't have specific days considered for working, but I always avail myself when I am not burdened with schoolwork. I move from place to place. While on school holiday I set base in Kisumu, while the rest of the time I am in Nakuru.

Ultimately, my goal is to keep growing as a photographer, to continue exploring the world through my lens, and to share meaningful images that resonate with viewers. Whether that’s primarily through street photography or branching out into other genres down the line, I’ll let my passion and creative instincts guide me. Journalism is what excites me most. 

Irene Jeptoo Kimosop is a former model and a professional photographer.
Photo credit: Pool

Irene Kimosop, 26            
I.K Pixel Studios

I graduated with a Diploma in Project Management from Kenya Institute of Project Management (KIPM) in year 2019. Initially my dream was to be a journalist, but I am still happy being a photographer.

With two years of experience, I've majored in capturing and editing images that tell compelling stories.

Each day brings new learning opportunities, and I always strive for creativity. I got training in editing from a professional photographer, Mr K Conlon in 2022, although I relied more on my passion and the skills I learned on the job.

I focused on refining my editing skills, and used the skills I had learned as a former model to create impactful images.

I enjoy outdoor shoots, and portrait photography because of its ability to capture the essence of a person’s character and emotions. I work alongside a talented team of makeup artists and hairstylists. It's about teamwork, drawing inspiration from others, and having a keen eye for details. It's not just about capturing moments but also crafting them through meticulous editing.

Understanding your subjects is key. Even if their vision differs from yours, adapt and find common ground.

The toughest project I've ever handled was when I had to take up a wedding assignment at the last minute. The experience was both exhilarating and demanding, as there was little time to plan. I stepped in when their previous photographer fell through, so I was more of a backup.

Despite facing traffic delays on the very day and missing some vital equipment, I delivered my best work. The challenge I had was balancing the client's expectations. Originally it was supposed to be a five-hour shoot, but I had to extend my time as the client kept coming up with different requests throughout the day. It was difficult, but I had to deliver.

Navigating client requests and discerning genuine projects can be challenging. Sometimes, last-minute shoots or projects can come with unexpected twists. Imagine agreeing to an outdoor shoot, only to have the location change abruptly. I was once booked by two men for an outdoor shoot in an unfamiliar location. I was with a group of men and as we approached the location, I felt uncomfortable.

Being the only woman, without security, and with two unknown male clients leading me to a strange location, I knew I had to find a way out. Relying on my instincts, I waited for the perfect moment, took a motorbike and escaped from the questionable shoot. Ours is an unpredictable yet rewarding craft.

I earn Sh80,000 a month on average. I have different charges depending on the package a client picks. Wedding and birthday coverage ranges between Sh10,000 and Sh140,000 depending on a client's demands.

A photo costs Sh150 while an outdoor photo session costs a minimum of Sh7,000. I.K Pixel Studios is located in Tassia estate and I work every day except Tuesdays.

I use social media and referrals to get clients.

Reagan Ochieng, the founder of Stavi Arts Photography, is taking a course in Education Geography at the University of Eldoret.
Photo credit: Pool

Reagan Ochieng, 24 
Stavi Arts Photography

I am a final year student at the University of Eldoret pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education, but my passion is in photography and videography.

I have been in this business for four years, and my expertise lies in editing, camera setting, and picture retouching. My tools include the camera itself, a sturdy stand, a speedlight for controlling light, and a softbox which modifies the quality of light.
As an outdoor photographer, I focus on capturing natural scenes, and I rely on Photoshop for editing.

To ensure a successful client experience, establishing a good rapport is crucial. Light-hearted humour can put clients at ease and encourage genuine smiles during shoots. Before starting my work, I spend time asking my client questions and getting to know them to make them comfortable.

If for any reason a client expresses dissatisfaction with my work and seeks a refund, I follow a systematic approach. First, I inquire about the specific issue. If it relates to lighting or other technical aspects, I address it promptly. If the concern can’t be resolved through editing, I propose a re-shoot.

Balancing academic commitments with my creative pursuits can be demanding, so to strike that equilibrium I deliberately schedule photo sessions on weekends. This allows me to focus on my studies during the week.

Mwiti Victor Lee is the founder of Bleev Creations Photography in Nairobi.
Photo credit: Pool

Mwiti Victor Lee, 23
Bleev Creations Photography

I'm a medical student at The University of Nairobi, pursuing Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees. My dream career is to become a doctor, but passion led me to photography.

I initially experimented with a friend's camera, and gradually learned the ropes in my leisure time. Eventually, I bought my own equipment. I focus primarily on outdoor and street photography, as indoor clients are scarce.

My debut event was a dinner party for nurses held at Swiss Lenana Mount Hotel. The photos I captured exceeded my own expectations. Even though it was my first time to take professional photos, the results spoke volumes. Seeing people genuinely happy with my work fueled my passion.

In street photography, I often receive requests from clients to capture their portraits. I scout for suitable locations, often around the central business district (CBD) or other outdoor spots. However, not all clients are pleasant. Some doubt the quality of my work. Also, approaching strangers to request them to take photos for a fee can be quite a daunting task.

When buying equipment, I consider the lighting of my main locations and the environment. Considering power sources to keep the equipment fully charged and having the right lenses is highly important. For example, wide-angle lenses are best for outdoor shoots as they can capture expansive scenes. Narrow-angle lenses suit indoor settings. It's a delicate dance between vision and gear.

To successfully capture a client’s natural expressions, I ensure they feel comfortable and at ease during the shoot. In the editing process, I aim to make the pictures stand out and leave a lasting impression on the client. I don’t just go for ordinary snapshots. I also strive to maintain a natural aesthetic in my edits, and to capture emotions clearly. 

How much I earn depends on the number of clients I get in a given duration. Just like any other business, there are high and low seasons. However, what I get is enough for my current lifestyle.

I charge Sh200 per photo and I work every day. To get new clients, I advertise my work on my social media accounts.