What it takes to shoot on the streets of Nairobi
Nairobi’s beauty has many people – especially photographers – wanting to click away at every junction. Nowadays, it isn’t unusual to see a photographer or two taking long exposures of the city after dark, or posing newly weds on a median over the weekend. Just like any activity held in a public space in Nairobi, permissions should be obtained for commercial photography on the streets of our city, and here’s how to get them.
1. Obtain a Permit from the Department of Filming Services.
They are located at the Kenya School of Mass Communications in Nairobi’s South B suburb. You however can’t just walk in and get one; government rules state you have to go through a filming agent. There’s a list of filming agents here. It’s not current though. I requested an updated one from the DFS and more than a week later, I’m yet to receive it. You’ll also need to fill this form and pay Kshs5,000/- per day for commercial photography, plus Kshs1,000/- application fee, and whatever the filming agent’s fees will be for the service.
2. Visit the Central Police Station.
This is the Police Station at the corner of University Way and Harry Thuku Road. You’ll need to present a written letter to the OCPD stating what you’ll be shooting, when you’ll be shooting it with specific dates and times, and where you’ll be shooting, naming streets and roads you’ll be on. If you intend to block off some roads or interfere with the flow of human or vehicular traffic, then extra permissions will be needed. The Police will advise you on what you’ll need for this. Once the OCPD approves your request, you’ll then take your stamped and signed approval letter to…
3. City Hall Annex, 4th floor.
This is where the Department of Urban Planning seat. You’ll take to them the letter signed and stamped by the Central Police Station bosses and they’ll issue you with an invoice of Kshs3,640/- per day of photography which you’ll pay at the City Hall Cash Office.
Once your payment is received, you will be good to go ahead and shoot on the streets of Nairobi CBD within the parameters stated in your approval letter. Make sure you have all your documents on you when shooting – preferably the originals – so that when the Police or County Askaris stop you, you can prove to them you are shooting legally.
It is quite a tedious process but in a country where photography is associated with terrorism, it’s better to stay on the right side of the law than take risks.