By Madalitso Kateta:
Dressed in trendy clothes, they form a parade at the car park of a game complex in Lilongwe.
Snap, snap, snap, the hungry cameras of freelance photographers capture them posing in different fashions.
But, then, where do all these pictures end? In fashion magazines?
“No. These pictures are for uploads on the social network,” one of the women, 23-year-old Mary Henderson, who stays in Likuni, Lilongwe, says.
The blossoming of social networking sites has revived fortunes of the photographic industry in the City of Lilongwe, where girls that do not want to be outsmarted by colleagues with fancy photographs have started engaging the services of professional photographers who ply their trade at the complex.
At as early as 10 in the morning, young ladies in all forms of trendy wear are seen moving around the place, followed by a group of photographers such that, to the first onlooker, the scenario seems like a dress rehearsal for a fashion contest.
The photographers that we talked to at the complex indicated that the social network addicts have now provided them with a new business avenue as the demand to have appealing status updates becomes so tempting that many girls cannot resist.
According to Bauleni Kalima, a photographer that I interviewed, High Definition (HD) pictures are exciting, such that serious social networking addicts wishing to build an appealing photo gallery are in search of the HD pictures.
“What happens is that photography changes with time. Photography can’t just die; instead, it only changes as technology changes,” Kalima says.
He says the most exciting part about photography is that it entertains as well as educates.
“We have pictures that can tell a story about certain practices in society and these pictures offer memories of moments that can’t just be forgotten,” he said.
Zamkathi Mziza, another photographer found at the complex, concurs with Kalima, saying the coming of HD cameras has pushed their business to another level.
“Most of us started using HD cameras years back and, since then, we have seen that our business has been blossoming,” Mziza says.
He says while most smartphones have high pixel cameras, most of their clients use the phone cameras for social status updates.
“You see, girls would usually want to outsmart each other on what they post on their social media accounts and they feel at home with HD pictures, which are very clear and have high resolution,” he says.
However, Mziza says there are no advance bookings for the photo shoots, making the business very unpredictable.
He, however, says, on average, a photographer can take around 30 to 50 pictures on a working day.
Kalima says the majority of clients are the youthful trendy generation who are in line with current social trends.
He, however, says the most exciting part with the new generation of clients is that they do not bother to have printed versions of their photographs.
“This is a good business, although it is, somehow, risky in the sense that one cannot plan ahead of the clients because there is no way one would know the number of clients he will deal with in a day.
“That said, we are assured that we are going to have clients at the end of each business day,” he says.
But, while one would think the photographers do the business without any challenges, Kalima is quick to point out that there are challenges.
Kalima says HD cameras are too expensive, yet most of the clients choose not to appreciate the quality which these gadgets offer by complaining of picture prices which stand at between K500 and K2,000 per picture.
In Blantyre, according to photographer Micheal Ben Malimba, they take photos at venues such as Njamba Freedom Park, Mudi Park, among others.
“In the past, people used to pose along Henderson Street, Victoria Avenue, Hannover Street in Blantyre Central Business District, but that is no longer the case because these scenes have been used and used and used. In other words, these are recycled scenes.
“These days, photographers in Blantyre have ventured into the production of passport photos, which are processed within five minutes. Such photographs are the in-thing and most photographers have trekked to the Southern Region Immigration offices, where customers are readily available. Of course, the Immigration Department has a room where they take pictures and people pay about K500, but our pictures are still in high demand because of HD quality. You can also find photographers outside studios, where they are handy to those who want snap shots used for business purposes,” Malimba says.
Whatever the case, with each click of the camera, the camera seems to be embracing changes— a pre-requisite for success to those who embrace it.