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Snapping supermodels

Snap Harvest Studio or Panaito Photography is arguably Nairobi’s number one photo studio for socialites and models. It is famous for producing crisp pictures of supermodels and socialites some of which have lightened up the covers of Kenya’s fashion magazines.

A sneak-peak into Snap Harvest’s studio revealed pictures of the city’s curvaceous socialites such as Corazon Kwamboka and Vera Sidika.

When we visited, their lounge was filled with young ladies, most of them students waiting for their turn in front of the camera. And there were surprises too.

Introduced

There was 20-year-old Wako Hassan, the recently crowned Mr CBD.

“I was introduced here by a friend after being crowned Mr CBD. Since then I have returned here several times for my photos,” he said.

However, as much as the photographers who also double up as editors agreed that their studio attracted socialites and models, they said their clientele was varied.

They also denied claims that they enhanced images of some of the socialites using Photoshop.

“There are lies being peddled out there that the studio is exclusively for socialites and models. Actually, the pictures of the girls are less than 10 per cent of the photos that we work on,” said 22-year-old Mr Kevin Buo.

What about the images of some of the girls whose photos are doing rounds on social media — their bodies, especially the hips, look too exaggerated?

“I do not know if I should bring you the girls and their photos for comparison. We don’t Photoshop unless on request. Most of our work is editing,” said Mr Buo. He explains: “If a customer would like us to replicate a photo of herself sitting on a chair, we cannot refuse. After all we have the technology to do almost everything. Most of all, customer is the king,” he added.

His sentiments were echoed by his colleague, Mr Paul Mboya. “In photography we have what is known as post-production. At this stage, a photo is edited of any flaws, for instance part of the dress could have gone out of symmetry,” said 32-year-old Mboya.

The photos are not only for modelling. For instance, Mr Hassan said he would use the photo to apply for a job with an airline. Coincidentally, Brenda Ngunyu, a first timer at Snap Harvest, was also going to use hers to apply for an airline job.

Ms Ngunyu, unlike Mr Hassan who did not request make-up, paid an extra Sh500. Although Mr Hassan said it costs him Sh200 for every photo, Mr Buo said charges varied depending on the complexity of the job.

Technology

Snap Harvest was started by Mr James Panaito in 2011. He then co-opted Mr Mboya and Mr Buo into the business. The major problem, according to Mboya was ignorance. He recalled a time when Panaito bought the wrong equipment and they had to use extra money to get the right ones.

They said running a photo studio required a lot of determination and you had to perfect your editing skills.

They make a net profit of about Sh500,000 in a month. Mr Panaito said he used Sh1.5 million to buy the studio and another Sh1.5 million to equip it. Since then he has used approximately Sh10 million on equipping and running it.