Technology And Changing Face Of Photography Business
UNTIL recently, it was common to find a photography shop at a street corner of major cities, even some villages in Nigeria. These shops were equipped with fanciful chairs, studio with camera that are well positioned, lighting facilities, and a curtain to separate the studio from the dark room, where the films were processed into a clear photograph.
Then, it was a matter of ego and prestige for the photographer, the owner of the photo shop to have apprentices, the number of which defined and determined his level of professionalism.
They produced pictures aimed at preserving memories and people could stroll to the nearest shop to take their photograph, even when it was neither their birthday nor special event, not minding that they had to wait for days to get their pictures.
Photography then, involved taking a picture, using a film-loaded camera, processing them in a dark room, using a chemical solution manually and trimming. A photographer could be in the dark room all night, because exposing film to light was a taboo.
Then the Polaroid came, when the pictures were printed faster, but were not colour fast, then digital photography came and changed the game. The advent of digital revolution in photography has swept most of the analogue studios away. With the digital era, it is possible for people to take their own shots at events, using camera phones and other electronic devices.
These pictures often look like they were taken by professionally trained experts, but a professional will tell you that most of those plying the trade never had any form of professional training in photography.
A good number of people, irrespective of their educational or vocational backgrounds now see photography as a means of livelihood. Nowadays, it is commonplace for individuals that follow some shots posted by Nigerians on Instagram or other popular photo sites to be served with breath taking pictures taken at wedding ceremonies or other social events.
The new era has sent the small photo shops that used to be around the corner into extinction. A few others who remained have long stories to tell. Muritala Shomoyi, a photographer said, “due to development, digital era came and everybody became a photographer; using their phone sets to take photograph.
The bus volume became low and the electricity distribution companies are not helping matters. I didn’t have an option than to pack up all branches and hand over the houses to their owners.”
Shomoyi was the Managing Director of Mosco Photos, which had branches in the entire southwest region, before he decided to retire. The Creative Director of Muyek Concept, Olumuyiwa Dairo, who spoke on the trend, attributed the extinction of photo shops and declining population to the introduction of modern technology.
According to him, “ there are different kinds of photography now and the usage depends on the need for it. Some of them are expensive and the common man may not be able to afford it,” he said. To Dairo, today’s photography is more lucrative than before, because it has advanced from just taking some shots at the studio and covering weddings, parties and birthdays and special events.
“The use of modern day phones is now a challenge for upcoming photographers who are just starting up their careers, because a photographer’s career begins at the studio,” he said However, Adesanmi Oguntade of Snaptures photography said: “I do not believe the camera phones are killing the photography business; rather, it has separated the professionals from the quacks.”
The new trend he said has given phone users the opportunity to appreciate the professionals, adding that the modern photography is a fusion of photography, technology and fine arts.
“The reason why we do not have so many studio as we used to is that building a modern day studio is capital intensive, and some photographers may not be able to afford it.”
A photography lecturer at Yaba College of Technology, Sola Akeredolu, said technology is the reason for the changing face of photography business in Nigeria.
According to him, “ the wide acceptance of digital photography has birthed lazy photographers, who get everything in a click. Analogue is loosing its grip in Nigeria, yet it is patronized in countries like Berlin, Germany, Russia, and some others, what should encompass a studio is not here, what we are used to having is one shop that you call a studio, that once you open the door, you are on the main road, but these days people need their privacy, they want a changing room to do their powdering.”
He continued, “we don’t have film developers, laboratories are dying, 70 percent of the films sold in Nigeria are produced in Germany, while 80 percent of chemicals in Nigeria have expired.
The return of analogue is dependent on these things, what should encompass what we call a studio is not here. The mastery of light and equipment are key things that separate the professionals from the amateurs.”
Akeredolu agreed photography business is actually changing; “you don’t have to wait for days to get your photo, a modern photo studio is expensive, and we don’t have so much of them around.
This has birthed mobile photographers who move around with their generator, camera and lighting equipment to clients homes. Photographers can now sell pictures on the Internet and even do project assignment.
People using their phones cannot drive the profession out of existence because photography will evolve as technology evolves. Besides people who use their phones to take pictures only create events, they don’t print them, but photographers do,” he said. Event photography has also taken a new shape with pre-wedding shots as the latest trend.
He said most photographers are turning to events because it brings instant gratification. Head Of Department, Arts and Graphics, Mr Kunle Adeyemi said the little studios will always exist, though they might not be many, the same for apprenticeship form of learning, which institutions that offer photography courses need, to enable students perfect the art, like their counterpart in medicine who do their residency.
John Ebota, a photojournalist said, “ photography is not what it used to be, so it is important for those in the business to evolve as the profession and its equipment evolve because digitally advanced cameras are produced every year and people who can’t handle them will be swept side.”
”We want to also move from point and shot photography to more internationally recognized creative photography, getting featured in National Geographic Channels and other international journals,” said Isaac Esimaje, a professional photographer.
But Yusuf Hassan believes that although the future is interesting, many Nigerians will miss out considering the impending threat to the industry as a result of the advancement in technology.
“It is an interesting future, but many Nigerians will miss out because of mobile phone photography, Ipad photography that will challenge the market.” While the future remains uncertain about for the profession, as competition has become fierce, some Nigerian photographers are already positioning themselves to remain relevant.