The pandemic has been one of the most defining events in the lives of most who are alive today. It was singular and brutal, affecting people, businesses and infrastructure. Whether you are a professional or amateur photographer, it has undoubtedly changed the status quo for you, but how?
A conversation sparked two long articles from me, and you’re reading one of them. This conversation was with an acquaintance who was curious about how my business survived COVID-19. That wasn’t explicitly what they said, but I suspect that’s what prompted the questions and I don’t blame them for wondering: I wonder how many small and medium businesses have survived a loss of such brutal and unexpected activity.
Photographers were more affected than most, unfortunately. Various studies and questionnaires have indicated that up to 99% of photographers surveyed have been negatively affected, with some stopping working altogether, such as newborn photographers. This slowdown has been reflected in the camera industry, with major manufacturers acknowledging “extraordinary losses” and sales of mirrorless cameras taking up 75% at worst. Whether you’re a hobbyist who enjoys creating portraits of friends and family, or one of the biggest camera manufacturers in the world, no one is unscathed. I want to focus on photographers, though.
As much as the pandemic has been a test of a company’s disaster preparedness (to a truly unrealistic degree), it has been a period of forced reflection in which many of us have had to reassess our positions and our craft. . In this article, I will explain how the pandemic has affected my approach to photography as a business, but also as a craft that I enjoy.
The impact on my photography business
There’s no getting around the fact that my business has suffered a lot. How could he not? The problem was twofold: first, I couldn’t do most of the filming due to the lockdown and restrictions. Second, most businesses were negatively affected and couldn’t afford to prioritize photography. For most businesses, photography isn’t a necessity, and in times of crisis or declining revenue, it will fall to the bottom of the priority list.
So what really happened? Getting new clients into a conversation has become significantly more difficult, and as a result, my pipeline has become more sparse. What was already in my pipeline put work on the back burner for the foreseeable future, except for a handful who continued work as before. (The latter group was hiring me for shoots that could be done in my home studio.) Finally, my regular clients—those I was shooting on location for—had to keep pushing the scheduled date back 4-6 weeks until that it was doable. It lasted a year. Direct revenue from photography declined significantly and suddenly, and to make matters worse – if only psychologically – it happened following a period of strong growth. Luckily for me – very fortunately – I’ve always been interested in developing multiple streams of income for peace of mind, and it has helped me.
So how has this changed my approach to my photography business? The most expected way is that I knew I had to cultivate multiple sources of income. While preparing for a global catastrophe is difficult, a personal catastrophe is much more likely and can have many of the same effects. The least expected way is that I changed my approach to the clients I work with. I no longer take any work that comes close to my rates, and I no longer take clients who are clearly going to be difficult. Most importantly, I prioritize clients who are fun to work with and who don’t give me headaches with paying bills or moving goal posts.
The impact on my photography
In all honesty, I didn’t expect much impact on my photography, by which I mean my profession. I never imagined that multiple lockdowns, travel restrictions and a change in financial circumstances would affect how or what I photograph, but it does. I’m not sure I fully understand why I changed my approach to photography, but there are a few key ways I do.
The first and most impactful change was my interest in filming everything I love. I had spent a lot of time trying to focus and specialize in areas, despite having a great love for photography and its many genres. In a working capacity, there’s no doubt that it’s a smart move, but outside of your wallet, I’m not so sure. Perhaps it was the arrival of a drone in my arsenal that made me realize that I love taking all kinds of photos and that I should lean into it more. Anyway, since the pandemic and not being able to shoot my usual subjects, I took on the widest possible range of subjects.
Conversely, I also stopped taking my camera absolutely everywhere. I used to make sure I had her with me even on trips, I knew it wouldn’t hurt me and it became a tiresome relationship. I felt compelled to lug my camera around “just in case”, and besides, I would be sorry that I didn’t take any pictures. Or, I would force myself to take pictures on dull days just to try and improve my craft, and I’m not sure the feedback was worth it. So, rather unexpectedly, I now only take my camera with me when I want to photograph something. Do whatever you want with it.
What impact has the pandemic had on your photography or business?
I’ve heard of many ways the past few years have changed photographers, their photography, and their businesses. Some have earned the time to put more effort into their craft and are now shooting much more frequently, especially as amateurs. Some, unfortunately, closed their businesses and had to look for other ways to make ends meet. For many it’s somewhere in between, and whether you’re professional, semi-professional, or hobbyist, I want to hear how the pandemic has changed the photography side of your life. Share your experience in the comments section below.
Main image by Alena Darmel via Pexels.