The Economy Of Roving Photography

A photographer in action

A photographer in action

BEFORE the advent of digital photography, it was common for event organisers to hire a professional photographer to take shots of event. Then, the photographer would arrange the shots carefully in an album for onward delivery to the owner.

But today, the practice has changed. You now see a handful of uninvited photographers gatecrashing at events to take unsolicited shots, after which they vanish, only to resurface a moment later to dangle photographs to dignitaries for collection.

In the photo world, they are referred to as “pa pa pa” or sharp sharp. They literally roam from one occasion to the other, without invitation, take pictures of guests without their asking and then flaunt the pictures at guests, to solicit a purchase.

Anyone who has attended events would probably have had his or her shots taken unsolicited, and probably paid for it too. Roving photographers ply their trade by moving from one occasion to another, taking shots of people whether they requested for it or not, and with great hope that they will eventually like it and pay for it.

The life of a roving photographer is risky and adventurous, according to Ojo Solomon of Orbit Photography, “especially when you are new in the business. You don’t, know where you are headed, you can find yourself anywhere at any time, once the signal of an open event beckons.”

According to Ojo, “the roving photography business is lucrative, depending on the photographer and how he or she starts the business, because roving photography is usually a personal business.”

Ojo said “access to information is what the roaming photography is hinged on. Roaming photographers have taken their business up a notch to source for information on events and which ones are open to freelance photographers.”

These photographers lobby event managers, security men at event halls, for information. They also gather information from television adverts of events, colleagues, and street informants but majorly by working around event places on weekends. Ojo added, “every event is an opportunity for your job to take you places beyond your imagination.”

Roving photography according to Christian Douglas of Divine photos ” is lucrative and economical in the sense that it does not require having an office or a shop, which is why I enjoy the profession.”

Modern technology has made it possible for roaming photographers to print pictures almost immediately as the image is captured. “life is easier now, unlike some years ago where you had to take pictures at an event, run to a print laboratory, where you might be delayed and then hurry back to the event, and by then, some of the guests would have left. The modern day photography works faster, but the equipment is more expensive. Although it is still cheaper to go to the lab to print than having your own printer, some guests would have gone and you will have a shortage,” said Douglas.

But Osaro Shadrach of Heritage photo is not as lucky as other freelance photographers who are making a living from the profession. He tried his hands on it but eventually ended up as a studio photographer. Giving his reasons, he said, “ I would rather be invited to an event as the official photographer, because roving photographers are sometimes embarrassed by event organisers, when they are not invited. There is also the possibility of two to three photographers at an event capturing the same shot, and God helps you, if the guest chooses yours or decides to negotiate for N50 instead of N150, so he or she can accept from all three photographers, if the guest really likes the picture.”

Continuing, he said “ some guests would tear the picture immediately and won’t pay the photographer because they don’t like the picture, while other guests will take advantage of the fact that the photographer won’t see them again to negotiate for lower prices. At the end of the day, you don’t get to sell all the pictures taken, but the lab has made its money off each picture, which is a loss as far as I am concerned.”

But to Solomon, all businesses have their attendant challenges, adding that the success or failure of the individual depends on the handling of the situation. “The day of good business, I can sell all pictures taken, while on other days, I sell between 50 to 80 percent, which is not a loss when I calculate my cost of production and transportation to the event. However, if I still have a lot of unsold, I discount it for the buyers just to encourage them to buy the pictures, and then I discard what is left, since it is my loss.”

Christian Douglas said, “a roving photographer must be friendly and know how to cajole a guest or client to pay more, especially women”

Roving photographers are usually seen as quacks and opportunists who use the trade to satisfy their immediate need.

The Media Director of Nigeria Photography awards, Lanre Elegbede said, “the unique side of the quack or roving photography is only the name people call them ‘’photographer.’’

According to him, “Professional photographers make more money than roving photographers because they have studios. They have more knowledge of the profession, which makes them charge more with well packaged materials like photo book and very expensive camera, which brings out the best of the event or occasions.”

Some roving photographers they are quacks. “ I don’t believe roving photographers are quacks. First, the economy of Nigeria makes certain that not all photographers will own a studio. Getting the modern equipment is expensive, and not all photographers can afford it. There are roving photographers that are better than those in the studio. Mind you, there are also photographers who own studios, but also roam because of the fast cash it brings.”

Douglas, in his argument said, “you need to get connected before you can go into studio photography, you can’t sit in the studio and expect clients to come. You need to go out to meet them, especially when you are just starting the business. From events, you can even get a job that is studio inclined or you move the studio to the client’s house. Even studio photographers have realised that, and now own potable equipment that can replicate studio effects in the clients’ home.”

On the future of the business, Douglas maintained that although, smart phones might affect the business, it is incapable of falling the business out because roving photography is hinged on current happenings and there will always be events.

Photography expert Lanre Elegbede said, “the future of roving photographers lies in the hands of three major bodies; the roving photographers, the professional photographers and the government. Reasons are that if roving photographers could rev their skills and be professional, by taking their business to a respectable and more lucrative side; secondly, if the Nigeria professional photographer Association can educate and enlighten the quacks or roving photographer by organising seminars and advertising the importance of turning professional and lastly, the government can formulate laws prohibiting roving photography, this might end or reduce the incident of roving photography.

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