There were days when commercial photographers were an indispensable part of every event. They were so important that ignoring them is always at the organisers’ peril.
Because they were very few, people had to book their services weeks and months ahead to avoid disappointment, but despite that, event organisers usually get disappointed by unscrupulous photographers.
Pictures are referred to as memory joggers, archived and preserved for generations to come. In the past, students spent money patronising photographers especially during matriculation, graduation or any social activities. There was competition on who had the largest album with the highest number hard copy photos.
But those good old days seem to have gone into oblivion. It is now threatened by the advent of affordable smartphones with inbuilt sophisticated cameras capable of producing high quality pictures. This advancement has slowed down or possibly nailed the coffin of the patronage of commercial photographers.
However, battling to remain relevance, many of them have resorted to gate-crashing at functions; be it birthdays, weddings, burials or naming ceremonies and at big event arenas to sustain themselves.But even their presence at events faces threats as many guests usually decline being photographed.
Little wonder, Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, once said that cameramen and photographers “snarl, they hiss, they deliver what they consider looks of withering contempt when they are politely requested to move a little to this or that side, just so that the rest of inferior humanity can share in the event.”
Soyinka added that “they shove their variegated bottoms right against the faces of others in some warped notion that this is what the rest of humanity has gathered to see – their backsides – rather than the unfolding event.”
To sustain themselves in the business, even as bad as it is, they risk losing more printing large numbers of photos and insert them in fancy frames to attract people to collect.
Instant pictures popularly known as ‘snap and take’ cost N300, while that which would take longer time costs N200. Then that which is inserted in a frame goes for N2,500 or N3000 depending on the bargaining power of the photographer.
One of the official photographers at Sheraton Hotel, Sunday Arinze, admitted that “Before the advent of smartphones, business was flourishing because there was no alternative for photography.
“First of all, we had analog cameras; people could not get pictures except through photographers. But since smartphones hit the market, people cover their birthdays with it and post it abroad which makes it very difficult for the business of photography to thrive.
“Sometimes, they rudely shun and tell us that they do not need our services that they need electronic copies which their phones can produce. And you know that photography cannot do without hard copies,” he quipped.
Speaking on the cost of printing pictures, he said: “For framed photographs, we sell for N3, 500. There is no way you will lose because the frames are very useful if they do not collect it. But there is no way you will print up to 200 copies without people collecting some.”
Aside corroborating Arinze’s point of view, another photographer, who spoke to Daily Sun at Millennium Park, Seun Femi, said he combines photography with video coverage to meet up.
“I have been in this business for years and I can tell you that things have changed. The manufacturing of these phones have disrupted our business. Now I had to learn video coverage and editing to meet up family needs. People can snub you, believing that they have phones that can snap better than Nikon cameras. No matter how hard you try to explain, they still do not accept,” he lamented.
A pictures freak, Udora Ike, said that she could not remember the last time she patronise commercial photographers because her phone could give her what she wants.
“The era where we spend money on hardcopy pictures is gone. With my phone, I can effortlessly take selfie or if need be, beg somebody to snap me. Going to a studio to snap is a waste of money. I will use it to buy data or do something else with it,” she said.
Another lady, Linda Odey, said the only time she patronises photographers is when celebrating her birthdays, admitting that she goes to a good studio to enhance her beauty.
“I only patronise them once a year, which is my birthday. Even at that, I go to a good studio for the enhancement of my beauty. If not, I use my phone instead of patronising professional photographers.” she said.
Notwithstanding the situation, a professional photographer, Abdulwahab Iyaji, who has a well-equipped studio at Galadimawa, has a different opinion. According to him, any photographers who complain of low patronage ‘is lazy’.
Iyaji advised his colleagues to move along with the time by acquiring sophisticated cameras to advance, advising them to learn video editing to make more money.
“No, I do not think so. This is one business that will stand the test of time. I believe that any photographer who is perturbed by the invention of smartphone is lazy. They should improve themselves. Times have change. And we must move with it. Business is all about strategy,” he summed up.