What Can Photographers Do During This Coronavirus Downtime?

What Can Photographers Do During This Coronavirus Downtime?

These are tough times, and they're likely to get tougher. The virus has been spreading quickly, affecting countries around the world and causing the cancellation of many events. This article isn’t intended to be doom and gloom or alarmist for the sake of it, but rather to help.

These are tough times, and the world will collectively get through this, but we still need to acknowledge it for what it is and act accordingly in our personal lives as well as our professional lives. In the midst of all of this, you have no choice but to try turning it into something positive. When life gives you lemons, right? 

Just because the industry is taking a hit due to the virus situation, it is not a reason to give up. If you take the time to pick up skills and prepare during this downtime, when things return to normal (and they will), you will be able to be the first out of the gate and immediately return to productivity.

There are many resources out there, such as podcasts, YouTube channels, and of course, Fstoppers tutorials where you can brush up on certain skills and learn new things. 

Learn

Marketing

You can’t be hired if people do not know you exist. Networking and contacts always help, but with social distancing being the name of the game today, you have to up your digital game as well. 

Is your website updated? Creating a website that is both beautiful and clean is incredibly simple now with services like Squarespace and Wix. Your website is your portfolio, and so, you need to make sure it shows off your work well. That said, though a website can be gorgeous, if no one knows it exists, that doesn’t accomplish much. Web traffic, web traffic, web traffic! Learning SEO can be one of the ways to help with that.

My website

Social media is also incredibly important for a photographer, especially Instagram. Make sure your account is visually beautiful and kept up to date. There are also both Facebook and Instagram ads that could be very helpful in pushing your work out there once you learn how to use them properly.

Business

Running a business is hard. Running a business as a creative is even harder. Yes, this might not be your strong point, and yes, it is difficult, but if you don’t start to learn how to make wise financial choices, you can be the best photographer in the world and still have nothing left in your bank accounts. This is strong advice in general and especially when the industry is experiencing difficulties.  

One good tutorial on the business of commercial photography is Making Real Money with Monte Isom. This has been on my list of tutorials to watch for a while, what better time than now to do it! 

Video 

Times are changing and people are starting to pay attention to moving images more than stills. More clients are looking for photographers who are able to do both. The learning curve is steep, but now that there is time available, this might be something you would like to consider learning. Don’t be left behind!

Retouching

Retouching is an incredibly useful skill to have as a photographer. It’s an extension of your creativity and really helps you have control of the image from start to finish. And even if you would rather outsource the post-production work, knowing the extent of what Photoshop can do will help you make better decisions during the photoshoot itself. 

Color Grading

As with retouching, color grading is something that can be part of your own personal creative vision. A good color grade can really improve your image and push it to the next level. The tools I like to color grade with are Capture One, Infinite Color Panel, and Retouching Toolkit. 

Lighting

“Lighting?! How am I supposed to practice lighting at home,” you ask. To which I say, good point, unless you have space and all your lighting gear at home, in which case your lighting skills better improve then! Other than that, you can play with lamps and LEDs: there are plenty of creative ways to push yourself, and you start to learn what you can do in a restricted scenario.

Another option I have for you is to use technology. Yay, year 2020! Set.a.light 3D is great software that you can use to play with lighting. It allows you to try out different modifiers and lighting setups that can honestly be a huge pain to do in real life. With this software, you can start figuring out how different modifiers affect the lighting output and come up with lighting setups of your own.

Accounting and Bookkeeping

I outsource mine, because I was taking too long to figure it out and was still doing it wrong. However, if you don’t, it’s probably good for you to take some time to make sure you’re doing everything right. Maybe it’s a good idea to start getting your books in order. There are plenty of free and paid online services that can help with this. For my invoices, I use Quickbooks.

Something New

Just like learning a new language, there are huge benefits to expanding your skills, one that you do not have to depend on to pay your bills and you can just enjoy without having to worry about being bad at it. Learn something you’ve always wanted to learn but never had the time to: music, coding, baking, or painting, or even crochet. I’m planning to pick up crocheting again and make a house for my cat! Learning how to write can also come in handy in many different areas in our business. The blog you’ve always thought about? Time to do something about it. Don’t overthink it; the content just has to be engaging and coherent.

I've also started following certain YouTube channels like Crash Course, where they have loads of educational material that is explained in layman terms and have educators that make the seemingly boring subjects really interesting to learn about. Have other sites that you enjoy learning from? Please suggest them in the comments below!

Prepare

Client Research

Do you know who your target clients are in your area? Do you have their email contacts? Take this time to build an Excel sheet list of clients to email once every few months. Use LinkedIn to find the right person in charge and then use email finder tools to look for their emails. You might not be able to find every single email address of the people you want to, but the more, the better. Just as an example, I have approximately 2,000 emails in my Excel list, categorized into magazines, brands, and creative agencies, etc.

As mentioned above, you cannot be hired if people do not know you exist, so after you create your list, you have to contact them. Some people like to use newsletters services like Mailchimp but I personally use GMass for my emails.

GMass is a Gmail plugin that allows you to send out mass emails straight from your Gmail account. As these emails are not newsletters that can feel impersonal but emails greeting people by their name, I find the open and reply rate to be much higher than when using newsletters. Scheduling auto follow-ups is also incredibly easy (I schedule at least three follow-up emails for five days later, two weeks after, and one month after).

Creative Connection and Networking

Talk to the creatives in your area. Consider joining your local photography association. Send an email to that photographer you’ve always admired or that make-up artist you could only dream of working with. The worst-case scenario is they say no, but you’ll never know if you never ask! 

Personal Projects

Personal projects are so important to a creative. When things get busy, unpaid work like personal projects gets easily pushed aside. However, this is the time to start sitting down and really thinking about what sort of work you would like to do. Plan out personal projects that you can immediately begin once the virus calms down. Look through magazines, websites, and photo books. Find ways to get inspired and come up with a project that you truly believe in.

Checking in With Clients

Have clients you that you have not been in contact with for a really long time? Drop them a message to say hi. Perhaps they have forgotten about you or the person who usually chose you has left the company. It is never a bad thing to appear on your client's radar again.

Gear Maintenance

Take the time to do a thorough cleaning of your gear. The better you care for your equipment, the longer it will last. Take this time to get it cleaned and your lenses calibrated!

Practice

No one really knows how long this will take to calm down. Don’t put your camera away, keep up the practice. Photograph your cat, your food, yourself. Anything that requires you to push your creativity to your limits is a great way to practice.

Other

Take a New Profile Photo

When was the last time you updated your own profile photo? Clients want to know who they are hiring, and a good profile photo helps create trust. First impressions do matter, after all. Besides, spending some time in front of the camera will help you relate to the people you shoot.

Spend More Time With Family and Friends

I don’t think I have to state the importance of it. Now that there is downtime, make use of it by spending some quality time with your family. If you don’t live with them, take the time to Skype with them.

Help

Have a fantastic computer with powerful graphics? Now, you can lend your computer’s power to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak! Check out Folding at Home. Other creative businesses are also suffering right now. Are you able to help? Support them by buying their stuff or even just sharing their work.

Culture

Bored? These museums offer virtual tours that you can take while at home. Get inspired by other artists and works of art out there. The Metropolitan Opera is also streaming its performances live, so now is a good time to check it out.

Expenses

Given the situation, our economy will likely be affected for an extended period of time. If your bank account is at risk, saving on whatever you can and putting off any big expenses would probably be a good idea for now.

Rest

It seems like a lot of photographers I know are usually overworked human beings with broken bodies and aches and pains everywhere. Now that this break has been forced upon you, don’t end up finding other ways to overwork yourself, if not for your health and sanity, at least for your creativity!

Closing

Have any more ideas on what photographers should work on or good tutorials to recommend? Share below! Most importantly, stay safe everybody!

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28 Comments

Barry Strawbridge's picture

Double post

Barry Strawbridge's picture

Another suggestion would be if you've worked with a model, photographer, HMAU, or stylist recently or in the past, check up on them for humanitarian reasons. See how they are doing and if they are healthy. This a global crisis. The next time you decide to have a shoot, they might not be alive.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Oof, that got dark quickly. You're not wrong though! I'm here in Singapore where the situation is not exactly great but definitely better than most. Was just scrolling through Instagram stories and had left well wishes to the people I've worked with in Spain and NYC.
Saw that you're in NYC too, stay safe!

Barry Strawbridge's picture

I didn't mean to make it grim (or fake wokeness - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o7V1f7lbk4). I'm doing alright, but things need to improve greatly on a national scale. I might have edited more past projects in the recent days than I have before.

Up until this point, I traveled and shot a lot internationally. Particularly in the hardest hit areas. I'm just letting people know that someone cares. I just hope everyone on this site can stay safe, healthy, make it through this dark period, and get back to shooting/ filming.

KEYWORDING

chris bryant's picture

Watch a movie or five. Crack open that nice bottle of Merlot, order a Chinese, watch the end of the world.

Tony Stoffle's picture

Better order an indian m8

David Pavlich's picture

A lot of places that I shoot would be pretty much me, myself, and I. Even the downtown area is way down on foot traffic. As long as you don't get into confined spaces with a bunch of people and you follow good hygiene, there's no reason that you can't continue to photograph. Heck, it would be a good time to explore around your home.

Tom Reichner's picture

As a wildlife photographer, the reaction to COVID-19 and the related restrictions haven't affected me yet. I've still been getting down to the marsh to shoot migratory birds each day, as I normally do during early and mid March.

Next on the schedule is a road trip down to the Klamath Falls, Oregon area to photograph waterfowl at the end of the month. I don't think that will be affected much, and can't see any reason why I would need to cancel the trip.

My photography doesn't involve people, and I photograph out in nature where there are usually no other people, so I can't really see where things would change much for me. I keep a tent and camping gear with me, as well as a goodly supply of "car food", so my travel doesn't really rely on the availability of public services such as restaurants and motels.

My sales are all done online, mostly via stock agencies, so there is never any need to meet with clients or partners ..... or anyone, really.

The whole COVID-19 thing is pretty much a non-factor, inasmuch as having an effect on my photographic plans and endeavors. I feel for those who do a type of photography that relies on in-person meetings with models, clients, etc.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Must be nice to be unaffected! Nature would likely bloom as people start to take a step back. May you take beautiful pictures during this period!

Motti Bembaron's picture

I thought of practicing more retouching or something else but somehow I do not feel like doing anything related to photography. Have not touched my gear for a while and I am fine with it.

I am reading investment books and picking up stocks at discount. Mind you they still manage to go down but I am in for the long run. Not that I did not invest before but now it seems even more important than ever.

Let's be honest, the way things are looking, we might feel the financial burden long after things get back to normal. Disposable income will be short and our services will be the first to be dropped.

No daycare or family photography for a while so I hope to read many books. Wife is working from home now so at least I have company during the day.

Cheers everyone and keep healthy!!

Shavonne Wong's picture

Ooh I wish I had enough interest in investment to get through that sort of book. Right now I'm trying to learn economics off Crashcourse on youtube. You're probably right in that the future economy is gonna be pretty screwed for quite an extended period of time!

I've been working from home with my husband too and I'm really thankful that in the event of quarantine, I would not have to be completely alone. Company can really make all the difference!

Motti Bembaron's picture

Very true regarding companion. We know two people who live alone but quite a distance from us.We are on the phone often to keep them company.

I started a course in investment just for fun and got hooked. I also tried accounting course and man, that was just not for me. I almost fell asleep. I dropped out after two classes.

If you can study economics you can study anything. And if you can take an investment class, take it!! Even if you have a money manager, learn as much as you can.

We all watch hundreds of Youtube videos and blog articles about how we should charge, how to up-sale our products and how to manage our business, but what we all also need is a good knowledge at what to do with the precious money we receive.

It's not easy those days and down right scary but it is probably the best time to invest in some good companies, they are all on fire sale now.

But most importantly, keep well!!

Owain Shaw's picture

In Spain we've been on lockdown since 00:00 Sunday. I may not be able to go outside but I've tried to stay creative ... I made a short film, in which (spoiler) nothing really happens, of my observations during our first day under confinement at home. If you are also under confinement and have nothing to do for the next quarter of an hour, you can watch it here:
https://youtu.be/5WQySO6gqIs

I'm not a working photographer, but Photography is very important to me. Staying creative, even if through the slightly different medium of video, is going to help pass the time during the coming weeks (and possibly months).

Shavonne Wong's picture

I'm glad you've been able to find some way to express creativity during this time! Take care of yourself (:

Owain Shaw's picture

Thank you. You too. These are fairly unprecedented times, and we're all going to have to look after ourselves (and one another where applicable) to get through them. All the best.

Retouching yup! Home for two weeks allows me to take on extra Ecomm retouching. This will be the bread and butter for a while.

I also created a new website for my portfolio on Sunday via squarespace which only took a morning. What inspired me to do this was getting out and shooting on Saturday so I was keen to edit the new work and display it nicely.

Im now inspired to do something which I've always wanted to do and that is start selling fine art photography. I've been reading a lot about how to do this online so who knows.

Barry Strawbridge's picture

Instead of using Wix or SquareSpace, people should have time to learn how to create a Linux web server with Apache (or Nginx), MySQL, Php on a VPS. You'll have greater control over the platform you're hosting on.

"learn how to create a Linux web server with Apache (or Nginx), MySQL, Php on a VPS"

Yes great although most people reading that have absolutely no idea what that even means. We are photographers, not computer engineers. The learning curve for that is measured in years. MySQL, Php? You seriously think a photographer should bother to learn this? There is absolutely no point, mate.

Motti Bembaron's picture

A few years ago I got really sick and to keep myself busy, I learned CSS and HTML in one weekend. I got hooked. When I purchased a template to create my site, I worked on it on my own and I really enjoy it.

Mind you, MySql, PHP sand VPN are a bit more complex but it is always good to know some basics. Even with WIX you can do more if you know some basics.

And, learning should never be a burden if you like the subject.

Barry Strawbridge's picture

Excluding the technical side, my point is using it just another level of creativity and another potential revenue stream. If you're a wedding photographer, saying I can design your wedding invitations, take your photos, and design/ host your wedding site. Depending on how long some countries are locked down, you might have that type of time.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Good point. However, we all hope all this madness is over as quickly as possible. We are making the best of the situation but hopefully it does not get more dire than that.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Haha yeah to be honest, too much control might not be a good thing for someone who just wants a simpler, idiot-proof template to work off and make a great website!

Alan C's picture

I had thought my photography had been a rut for a while doing the same thing over and over again. Being largely unoccupied and pretty much restricted to the same 500 by 500 m square for the last two months, I have been experimenting with many techniques, I have not really tried before and have completed many different projects doing absolutely everything on my own including being the model or models. I now feel a much more complete photographer and have even lost some weight.

There is always something positive to do. Even doing nothing is positive sometimes. However, I am lucky in that I am being paid to do nothing. When things get back to normal, unfortunately I will probably have little time for photography.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Pushing creativity in a small space must be difficult and I'm glad you were able to come up with something positive to do!

Susan Maunders-Olson's picture

I hate to say this because probably you all are much better at this than I am, but I get behind in ORGANIZING MY PHOTOS, so I'm spending some serious time looking at what I have and figuring out new ways to make them easier to find and use. With over 12K professional shots to my name, I'm always up for organization tips. I shoot houses, inside and out, so the content is the same over and over. :)

Tom Reichner's picture

Organizing your images is a great way to make use of the extra time.

But only 12,000 photos? Really? My goodness - I can't even imagine how easy it would be to organize all my images if I only had 12K of them. You are very fortunate to have so few to sort out. I would suspect that most of the folks who frequent this website have a few hundred thousand image files in their archives that need organizing.