What you need to know:
- She charges 75 per cent of the agreed amount upfront and the rest is paid when she delivers the prints.
- For the best photo shoot experience, Irene says that one must invest in good cameras, artificial light and lenses.
- “Invest in a good camera and know which lenses are suitable for which shoots, be it indoor, portrait or outdoor. Also, good lighting is everything.”
Irene Kitavi, 27, began as an amateur photographer who took pictures as a hobby. She never knew that she would someday quit employment and become a professional photographer covering events like weddings, corporate functions, funerals and baby showers. For the last five years, she has been running her outfit, Ivy Photography, which is based in Nairobi.
“I started doing photography long before I secured a job as a secretary at a law firm in Nairobi. I worked there for four years before calling it quits to pursue my passion – photography,” Irene says.
Before quitting her job, she had to polish her photography skills, so while still working, she enrolled for evening classes at Technical University of Kenya for a diploma in creative media.
“I paid my school fees using my salary from the secretarial job,” she says.
Her journey hasn’t been a walk in the park. She has had to establish a niche in order to stay in the game. Even so, she doesn’t regret leaving employment and turning her passion into a career.
“I find the world of photography to be so satisfying. I enjoy capturing special moments and intense emotions. Photography is the only thing that allows you to freeze and store such moments for years.
“Photography has greatly evolved. The current generation may never know of the days when parents used to take their children to the local studio or when photographers used to visit homes during special occasions like Christmas, weddings, or funerals to take pictures, which would take days before getting printed,” she says.
At Ivy Photography, the charges vary depending on events. For events, you can part with between Sh15, 000 and Sh70, 000 and between Sh5, 000 and Sh15, 000 for mini-shoots. State events, corporate, weddings, burials, birthday parties, baby showers, individual shoots and projects are priced differently. And if the photo shoot is a big event, she subcontracts others who are in the same industry to lessen the burden.
She charges 75 per cent of the agreed amount upfront and the rest is paid when she delivers the prints.
For the best photo shoot experience, Irene says that one must invest in good cameras, artificial light and lenses.
“Invest in a good camera and know which lenses are suitable for which shoots, be it indoor, portrait or outdoor. Also, good lighting is everything.”
Other than the competitive nature of the business, Irene’s other big challenge is acquiring photography equipment.
“They are too expensive and that is why I still use studios to print. However, I’ve set goals and one is to have a well-equipped photography studio with the best camera lenses. Nothing is impossible for those who dare to dream big.”
Building a good network matters in any career, and Irene’s network of clients have helped her get new clients through referrals. She also uses her social media platforms to market her work.
The best moments in her photography journey was between the months of May and June 2022 when she handled the photography for the Vision 2030 government projects.
“I was subcontracted and toured different countries taking photos of government projects such as the Standard Gauge Railways, Thiba Dam and Mau Mau road construction,” she says.
In March last year, she was subcontracted by a local photography studio to do a wedding shoot in South Sudan.
That said, Irene reveals that not every camera click elicits a smile.
“I would say the pandemic was the most challenging moment in my photography career. I did funeral shoots and live streamed them so that the bereaved families, friends and relatives could participate virtually because there were restrictions on the number of mourners allowed in such events,” she says.
During that lockdown period, she did lots of food photography for hotels so that they could market their products and services to attract customers since the hospitality sector was badly hit. She says thinking outside the box is what helped her stay afloat during the pandemic.
Although she doesn’t regret pursuing her passion, Irene has seen the importance of spreading her risks, and she recently opened a clothing company by name Outwit Closet. She makes and sells men’s bespoke suits, wedding gowns and travel bags. She has employed three tailors who custom make ready to wear outfits.
“We have retail shops in Pipeline, Embakasi and Fedha estates. That is where I spend my time when I’m not doing photography,” she says.
She advices aspiring entrepreneurs to always conduct market research before embarking on any business to avoid losses.
Her pastime is adrenaline outdoor activities. “I love speed thrills and speed bikes are my toys. I am a petrol head. Taking long rides helps me calm down. Mondays are my days on the road, to refresh and prepare for the week ahead.”