Stephen Kariuki Kamau, the proprietor of Light in Captivity a professional photography business and a Bsc. Telecommunications and Information Technology graduate has come along way. His love for the arts channeled his creativity into the successful business that it is today.
He spoke to us about it.
GW: Why photography?
I didn’t make a conscious decision to start, I ended up in the field through slow progression. I have always liked the Arts – as a consumer of art for the larger part of my life – and only after high school did I try my hand at drawing. That changed me.
” It made me very happy to explore the creative freedom that came with drawing and I tried everything from pastels, water-colours, acrylic paints to oil paints.”
After joining the job market it was very hard for me to get the time needed to further pursue the artistic expression that I was so used to.
It became even harder when I became a network engineer as the hours were long and it involved a lot of travelling. Since the job involved taking photographs of the working sites that we surveyed, I slowly found myself liking photography as an artistic medium. I then purchased my own professional DSLR camera for my personal use on assignments. The sharp contrast between the dreary, highly repetitive day job and my dynamic hobby finally led me to quit my job and I used my last salary to stock on new camera accessories and photography books. For me then, photography was the only way that I could enjoy both the intellectual stimulation and the artistic freedom that came with covering various subjects.
GW: Is your line of work related in any way to what you studied?
Photography has shifted over time and imaging technologies have slowly evolved from their reliance on classical Physics and Chemistry into highly complex electrical and electronic systems. Cameras have become smarter and more efficient by leveraging on today’s scientific advances. From an end-user’s perspective, this change simply means that it is easier to achieve good results with fewer challenges than it was previously possible.
However, my academic training has taught me to have a healthy distrust of automated processes as they are never perfect. I now understand the inner workings of my equipment so that I can anticipate its performance under challenging conditions and to manually override the imaging process at any stage. I have customized software commands to help me be more creative and to ensure that I get the best out of my equipment.
GW: Tell us a little bit about your business?
We do on-location photography. Our clients contact us when they need professional photographic coverage of an event or portraits to mark life milestones such as a pregnancy, a birthday, a wedding or an engagement. Due to the sentimental and archival value that such photos hold, we always aim to make photographs that can stand the test of time. At Light in Captivity we always ensure that we make classic, timeless photos by avoiding popular photography clichés and fads. We reserve our creativity to composing, lighting and editing – always insist on photographing people acting naturally and posing in classic, theme-relevant and elegant poses. The pitfall of commercializing art, however, is that
” you have to sometimes pander to the demands of the market at the time and compromises have to made.”
GW: Is the business sustainable?
We have been on an expansion program recently and we have added two new camera systems for wedding coverage as well as embarked on a marketing campaign. This has strained our resources though we anticipate good dividends from our investment from the wedding photography services. The bookings we have are really encouraging and if the feedback we are getting from our clients is anything to go by, we will be here for a long time to come.
GW: Something you wish you knew before you started up your business?
I wish I knew how important it is to have appropriate strategic planning and also the financial planning to ensure that my business aspirations materialize. I waited too long to legitimize the business in a way that made it possible for me to have easy access to financing from institutional lenders.
GW: How do you unwind?
I’m a big fan of calisthenics to the extent that I envy lizards since they can do push-ups all day. I am currently stuck at just 300 push-ups. I also write poems.
GW: What advice would you give to youth just starting out?
Timing is everything and strength is nothing more than knowing your weaknesses. While passion guarantees a good product, it makes for poor business sense as it can cloud your judgement and lead to over commitment. When you’re too passionate, the work becomes its own reward and you fail to ask for compensation that is commensurate to the effort you put in. You may also invest too much to better a product that is already near-perfect to make changes that no one cares about.
I believe that’s why there are so many starving artists. Acknowledging that you can’t always handle all aspects of your business singlehandedly is a very important step to accomplishing growth and sustainability. Delegate to people who are better placed to help you achieve your goals. Let an accountant do the books and don’t be too confident in your business ability to ask for advice from a qualified professional.
By Grace Waithira
Edited by Gathoni
Has this interview shed light on entrepreneurship tips that you are likely to use in your start-up? Let me know by commenting below 🙂 🙂