Name: Makena Murungi
Occupation: Baby Photographer
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Creative Life-cycle / Bio
Growing up I was always curious about gadgets, especially cameras, so naturally I took over any new camera that was bought in our house. I would be the one who kept them safe and whenever there was something to be photographed I took it upon myself to take pictures. Over time I became my family’s ‘official photographer’, extended relatives would call me “paparazzi” (a title I hated) because whenever they saw me I had a camera around my neck.
When I was in class 8 i bought myself my first camera, it was a film kodak that I bought for KES 999/- so that I could photograph my friends as we finished primary school. I carried the camera with me to high school and would take silly photos of my friends, and family during the holidays and then I would take them to be developed at a studio. When I completed high school my mum bought me my first DSLR camera, I started watching Youtube videos, reading online articles and actual books that I bought to understand exposure and how to use my camera to get images like the ones I saw on the internet.
I would practice what I learnt on my little sister but over time she grew bored of posing for me so I started practicing on my dog, but keeping him still became difficult, so I settled on taking pictures of flowers in the back yard and still objects that I would set up and landscapes occasionally when I traveled.
A friend of mine was Thandiwe Muriu’s assistant at the time and told me he wouldn’t be available for a particular shoot, so he asked if I would be interested in stepping in for him. I was so amazed by her work so I was very excited to see how she did it. I assisted her on a few shoots before her regular assistant become available again and I was very inspired, her set up was so simple and her work was just amazing. I decided to push myself beyond the flowers in the backyard.
I was lucky to get a few jobs photographing events from family and a few family friends and I saved what I got paid and slowly started investing in more equipment. Before long I had a basic set up and I started inviting over friends to practice my lighting on and then would use the photos to learn editing with photoshop off youtube. Before long I had opened a Facebook page to post my work and would now walk up to random strangers and ask to photograph them.
At this point I knew photography was something I wanted to do seriously, and I had started getting a few paid jobs from people other than my family and family friends, so my equipment had also increased.
One day I came across an Australian newborn photographer called Kelly Brown and I was amazed at her work, I didn’t know newborn and baby photography was a thing. A few of my relatives were expecting babies, and I wanted to give them beautiful photos like Kelly’s, but after the first baby shoot I did I was so discouraged my images looked nothing close to what I expected. I realised there is a lot more to photographing babies than adults and challenged myself to learn. Once again I started accumulating and learning from online resources and then I started practising on babies of relatives.
I fell in love with photographing babies, especially newborns, and I decided that is what I wanted to focus all my time doing. After I was done with my studies, convincing my parents that I wasn’t going to get a job but instead making a living off not just photography but, baby photography only was a challenge, I don’t think they thought it was a good idea and they tried to convince me to get a job for a few years but when I was very persistent they eventually supported me.
I have been focusing on newborn, baby and maternity photography since and I love it, this course has taught me so much, it has helped me reflect deeper on what direction I want to take in the future, and pointed out to me something I need to do if I want to continue making a living off of what I do, I am so glad to be participating in it.
My vision is to give every parent who walks through my studio an incredible experience and the most beautiful pictures of their baby’s first few days that will stay with them long after their baby has grown, and always remind them of their adorable tiny feet and toothless smiles.
My mission is to build professional newborn photography in the country, to the point that is something almost everyone has, like graduation and wedding photos, through building my own skill and teaching.
18 Month Plan
In the next 18 months I would like to achieve the following:
-Streamline my business structures
-Experiment with different poses, set-ups and locations to get more creative images
-Improve my networking and build my customer base
-Teach in a workshop