Are Photographers Taking the Biggest Economic Hit During the Global Pandemic?

Are Photographers Taking the Biggest Economic Hit During the Global Pandemic?

A survey of more than 600 people in the U.K. suggests that photographers have been among the hardest-hit workers in the creative industry. The income of 67% of photographers has dropped by 80% or more.

The findings were published by theprintspace, a highly-regarded print lab based in London, U.K. Reaching out to their clients and beyond, the survey sought to discover the impact of the global pandemic on the creative industries. While 46% of creatives report that their incomes have fallen by more than four-fifths, that figure rises to 67% when filtered to only include photographers. 

As you might expect, some of the figures in the report make for worrying reading. 56% of creatives currently have no work booked, not just for the coming month, but in general. A meager 8.59% have work lined up for June when the lockdown in the U.K. is expected to end. Perhaps one promising result is that 64% of respondents believe that their income will recover within three months of confinement being eased.

The survey also asked people to detail what they’ve been doing during the lockdown. 55.7% have been educating themselves, while more than 50% have been working on new projects.

Have photographers been affected more adversely than other creative industry professionals? Do you share respondents' optimism that earnings will be back to pre-coronavirus levels within three months? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Maybe they could ask some restaurant workers or cruise line employees. Musicians, theater workers, amusement park employees also may have some opinions.

Matt Williams's picture

I mean 1) no, I think the people who are 100% out of work, like restaurant servers, are taking a bigger hit - though they may be eligible for unemployment that photographers might not be (in the USA anyway) 2) in the creative industry, many jobs in the film industry have taken just as big, if not bigger, hit. Crew members (DPs, PAs, grips, etc) aren't working at all.

You’re spot on about the film industry, theater too. Other than a couple editing houses both industries basically don’t exist right now

Matt Williams's picture

Some writers are able to work still via Zoom meetings, but yeah, most of the industry is just shut down. Anyone who works in a theatre too - as well as actual stage theatre, like you say.

I’m in London, as an interior photographer I’ve lost 100% of my income over last 40days. However, the chat around is that the projects/bookings are going to explode. I’ve pitched and booked jobs for next couple of weeks and some into June. It’s been tough, and arguably it’s going to be tougher as there’s a lot of photographers now all pitching for same jobs (last two I was up against 6 and 15 photographers) but I’m optimistic it’s going to bounce back reasonably fast.

Dan Howell's picture

Considering that still life photographers can still work in isolation, it is disingenuous to ask if photographers suffered more than other creative pursuits. I am still booked on fashion shoots as soon as isolation ends. However, I have already been informed that there will be no make up artists on the projects to avoid close contact. Models will do their own make up. Other make up artists are telling me that they are being booked to Skype in make up instructions to models and talent even on major tv commercials. Seems like they are having it worse than photographers.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Yes I know of makeup artists that are benched at the moment.

However, it is possible to have makeup services with safety. Along with particular techniques for brush cleaning, the individual powders can be easily disinfected between clients / uses, with a few sprays of 70% isopropyl alcohol, and it evaporates speedily enough for a decent workflow. Primers and the like can be applied with sponges that never touch the tube, and brushes should be assigned to individuals and kept separate from the main kit before rigorous cleaning.

I've been doing a little makeup for one of the football TV studios, (of course not since COVID), but when we return I've a plan for very careful sterilisation that in my case isn't hard to implement. (Although I usually only have about 1 presenter and a couple of guests to worry about).

But there do need to be very specific requirements for MUAs at this time. Cleaning brushes isn't going to be enough.

(Some of our on-screen talents are looking quite ropey at the moment, although a few seem to be getting better at doing their makeup as we watch subsequent programmes... :) )

Dan Howell's picture

You're brushing over the whole lack of social distance aspect of make up and hair. I believe that union make up artists are not yet working here except via distance. That might expire on 5/15. It has absolutely nothing to do with cleaning your freaking brushes and disposable sponges. That should have been done anyway.

Lee Christiansen's picture

For me, all work stopped early / mid March. (I'm based in the UK).

I shoot a variety of things but of course the events side has all stopped and even when restrictions are lifted, it is going to be some time before events actually happen.

I shoot product work, but again this has stopped. My clients can't ship in new products that need photographing, or they can't get components to make an entire shoot happen. Or they've simply closed down the factories where the products live, and so nothing is coming out to me. And I've had some tell me that with the resulting downturn in business, they'll be holding back on new product shoots.

Headshot work has of course stopped. So my studio sits quietly, maybe just (another) self portrait...?

I'm sitting on final approvals for big private event album work - but can't get to my clients to show them and have everything signed off. (There is NO way I'm trusting a final approval on a screen that isn't calibrated and trusted - and besides, I'll lose out on vital up-sells that I get at these meetings). So there are quite a few £1000's waiting to be collected - grrr...

And my TV work as DoP has stopped too. A whole (almost solid) month of broadcast programming was cancelled for June, and these projects have a habit of not returning because they are time sensitive.

There is a lot of PR that says our government is bailing out self employed to the tune of 80% of their average income - but this isn't really happening. "Oops you fell through the system" they say when I find my bailout is almost not worth collecting.

I would love to be positive and say that the industry will be fighting to make up for lost time and we'll all be inundated with work - I'm sure some will... But I suspect there will be a much slower curve ahead, with companies taking stock of their position and waiting until the dust has settled - with many licking their wounds and cutting back on our services.

Certainly people in the creative sector have been hit very hard. Most are self employed and the safety nets for us aren't very good.

But from a financial perspective, I think we're only looking at the tip of the iceberg.

For the moment at least, our government is supporting staff workers with a guaranteed 80% wage (which is working well for most), but the second restrictions are lifted, the support will stop - only to find companies left with empty hotels, quiet shopping malls and a public holding on to their money for now.

So I'm guessing the big hit will come shortly after restrictions are lifted, and when people don't spend, companies don't spend, and so it continues...

I hope I'm wrong, but the financial light is at the end of a very long tunnel.