Product photos keep me busy in the advertising business

Mr Gibson Maina at his studio in Ruiru. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA
Mr Gibson Maina at his studio in Ruiru. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA 

Photographer Gibson Maina is a minimalist in his studio; he has a camera and makeshift whiteboards with lighting equipment.

Adjacent to this is a shelf with a number of products, including alcoholic drinks to nail polish. He is a product photographer.

Mr Maina is self-trained. The venture takes a lot of his time researching and acquiring knowledge and skill.

“My work is to make a product look as beautiful and as clear as possible through photography for advertising purposes,” he says, adding that consumers want to see the actual photo of the product they are purchasing from its colour, texture and shape. What requires keenness and relentlessness because getting the final photo can take up to three hours.

These qualities then translate to sales.

These images appear on to billboards, television and in newspaper adverts, websites, calendars, vehicle branding, and any other advertising medium.

Apart from the details, which are a requirement for a respected artist like Gibson, the reward is worth the effort.

After secondary school, Mr Maina bought a small digital camera and began practising photography within his estate to supplement his income while living with parents.

“I was a jack of all trades. Everywhere there was a gig I was there to offer my services. Whether it was a birthday, funeral, wedding or portraits, I did all that,” says Mr Maina, the proprietor of Gibs Photography.

Studio job

In the year 2000, he got a job in a studio, processing photos in the dark room. He worked there for nearly a decade before leaving and setting up his own studio in Kasarani in 2008.

He also got a few corporate event jobs from MoSound Events, assignments that helped him to establish his name in wedding photography.

His eureka moment with product photography came while shopping online and realised that most businesses posted low quality pictures on their websites, which, he thought, made it hard for customers to make right decision on buying.

He first approached a woman who sold jewellery online, took product photos and her sales improved.

Similar assignments came his way and decided to close his studio to concentrate on product photography and weddings, working from home but travelled to the premises of clients, creating a footprint that was noticed by big companies.

He now does factory visits for big product shoots and reopened his studio as business expanded. He needed where he could edit from.

It is a challenging venture, Mr Maina says about his business that demands a lot on photo quality and editing.

One of the products we find him working on is Legend, an alcoholic brand. He explains how challenging it is to get all the angles of the product from the bottle cap to the clarity of the label.

It takes him up to three hours to get the right photo; editing is a marathon of between five and seven hours.

It is also imperative that a good photographer invest in the right equipment, an area that takes lots of his time researching, not only to remain relevant but also to have an edge.

Pricing gap

Last year he shifted focus to product photography entirely, leaving what he says is the now flooded world of wedding photography.

Having studied the industry and company websites, he felt that there was a gap that he needed to fill as most companies could not afford to pay the hefty amounts that advertising agencies charge for a product shoot.

“Medium size companies shy away from agencies but they still need to invest in advertising and branding,” he says, adding he does direct marketing.

While most agencies charge for services per hour, Mr Maina charges per image, which is between Sh25,000 and Sh80,000.

Gibs Photography’s list of clients includes paint manufacturer Basco Paints, Africa Spirits Ltd, Media Edge Interactive, and Industrial Promotion Services (IPS). He has retained smaller clients whose work supplements his income.