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  • Writer's pictureStephen Nderitu

Photographers are an Endangered Species in an Era of Massive Content Creation

Updated: Mar 2

Around 2012-2014, my photography career was on the career expressway, I could do 30-40 weddings a year, and dozens of other corporate and studio jobs. There was no Tiktok, no ChatGPT, no Midjourney, Mirrorless cameras were where again? Hata photographers hatukuwa wengi hivo. Guys were importing gear from B&H, Amazon and others. Bloggers wrote blogs and we read, not weird posts on social media platforms. 

Fast forward 2024, and we are all photographers now. But the content creation space has changed drastically. Clients demand multiple skills. I remember in June of 2022, I was in Mt. Elgon with a US-based team collecting stories from the Ogiek community. I was ‘Rambo’ shooting 2 cameras, video and photo, drone, and getting detailed captions. That was my last major field assignment- I am currently on a break. 

I started photography back in 2007, when I bought my first Sony Apha 100 camera.

In today's digital era, photography has transitioned from being a specialized skill to a widespread pastime. Just walking through Nairobi’s CBD on a weekend and the swarm of photographers alongside Tiktokers is overwhelming. Beyond that, the advent of smartphones and technological advancements has made it possible for anyone to capture moments with just a simple screen tap. But does this imply that traditional photographers are an endangered species?

The arrival of smartphones has made photography accessible to everyone. The days of needing a bulky camera and a deep understanding of technical settings like aperture and shutter speed to capture a good photo are behind us. Nowadays, smartphones are equipped with high-quality cameras and user-friendly interfaces, enabling even beginners to take share-worthy pictures. This accessibility has led to a surge in photography enthusiasts, making it harder to distinguish between professional photographers and amateurs.

Better days from our association and the community of Kenyan photographers with Vincent Njuguna, Eric Kiambati, David macharia, Gibson Maina. This must have been Kenya Photo Awards more than 10 years ago!! Even this competition has been hard to sustain.

Technological advancements, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), have significantly altered the photography landscape. Cameras equipped with AI can now automatically adjust settings, recognize faces, do HDR effects and even suggest optimal composition. We have seen corporations such as Posta Kenya, Safaricom, KENHA and many others utilize AI to create advertising images that take 60 seconds to generate. Before that, that was a tedious ad agency exercise with a huge budget!

Additionally, editing software has become more advanced, allowing users to quickly enhance their photos with a few simple clicks. While these advancements have made photography more accessible, they also prompt questions about the importance of technical skills and the photographer's role in the process. 

To survive in this changing landscape in Kenya and beyond, photographers must adapt. They need to leverage their unique artistic vision and storytelling abilities, skills that cannot be replicated by AI or a smartphone. Building a personal brand and specializing in a niche can help photographers distinguish themselves. Embracing new and unique technologies such as AR/VR and using them creatively can also provide a competitive edge.

Some years back with my then students Antony Trivet and George Nyagechi. By the way I have been criticized by some of my fellow photographers for 'flooding' the market with students.

In addition, my advice for upcoming videographers, photographers and visual designers, gather 2 or 3 skill sets, sharpen your edge and present yourself as a combined package. Few clients want to hire 3 people when they know they can get one person to sort them all. Ukweli tu. Most of all, learn to write and express yourself, and present your ideas. DO NOT call yourself a photographer, or a graphic designer, or a videographer, you will be boxing yourself.

The essence of photography lies in the ability to capture and convey emotions, stories, and perspectives—a feat that goes beyond just clicking a button. As long as there are stories to be told and moments to be captured, there will be a need for photographers who can see the world through a unique lens.


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