The day Jane Kamanda, 31, decided to venture into photography, she knew one thing— it was an almost flooded field. She could count tens of names in the craft.
That was in 2017. She had walked away from a job as a receptionist and her academic background- quality management.
“I could not find a job after graduation. I got one as an office administrator and I was elated. My responsibility was to man the front desk for a photo studio.”
As the photographers walked past her desk, she would chat with them and occasionally, she would go into the studio on assignment.
“I became passionate about photography. As I clipped papers away and booked in clients, I would envision myself as a skilled and a well- regarded cameraman. Her thoughts would be cut by a request, a hello, or a good-bye from a client.”
After working at the studio for close to two years, she left with the dream of launching her own photography business. One of the photographers at her previous workplace offered to mentor her through the journey.
“It was not a smooth transition,” Jane says.
For one she did not have her equipment or clientele so whenever she wanted to take photos, she had to hire the tools. “To survive and save did the tools, I sold handbags,” she reveals.
From savings and a loan top-up from a few friends, Jane started her business with a capital of Sh 100,000.
Her photo studio, Kamanda Dynasty is today located in Westlands, Nairobi, and is equipped with various photographic accessories and a variety of backgrounds for her clients to choose from. She has four staff- two photo editors and camera assistants.
“My kind of photography leans more on family portraits and corporate events. For family and individual shoots, some clients prefer indoor photos so they come here while others opt for the outdoors. We have different packages depending on the services being rendered. For instance, an individual photoshoot at the studio starts from Sh4500 while a single shot goes for Sh350.”
A year after starting her business she noted that many clients shied away from her services because she lacked a physical location.
She teamed up with three other women, also visual artists, and set up a photo studio where they would bring in their clients.
“In 2018, the others left and I had to manage the studio by myself,” Jane says.
“Did you contemplate moving to a cheaper place…closing?”
“No, I decided to stay and market my business even more on social media. Anyone can take a photo, but a skilled photographer knows that there are stacks of technical and artistic styles and methods that come to play,” she confidently states.
Her zeal has paid off. “In a good month, I can make up to Sh 250,000,” she says.
But like many businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit her venture hard. “In the last months, we have barely had any booking. Luckily, we still had clients asking for services that didn’t require us meeting such as photo framing. There have been instances I have had to dig into my savings,” Jane shares.
Another challenge she had to face earlier on is the fact that many people use their phones to take their photos.
“I had to pull all shots literally. I am not an “okay, next pose” type of photographer. I am patient, I make my clients feel at ease and they know that I am intentional and eager to work with them. I got that from my job as a receptionist.”
In the last three years, her camera has made thousands of clicks and she has interacted with hundreds of clients, mostly from referrals and her social media pages, Kamanda Dynasty Photography.
“My family and friends were my models when I started then I would use the photos to market for my services online. While marketing, I had to sometimes cold pitch. That’s how I got my first referral,” she quips.
Being female has its perks, Jane says.
“Some people get awed that I’m the one behind the lens. This creates some genuine interest in my work. However, I have not had a client hire me because I’m a woman. My work has to sell,” she points out.
Jane notes that to stay on top of her game, she has to research current photography trends.
“I watch online videos and follow the works of photographers I look up to for inspiration especially on how to strike poses. I am a full-time photographer which means that my source of livelihood revolves around it,” she says.