Is it safe to re-open your photography business once the lockdown in your area is lifted? How are you going to make it safe?
Around the world, lock downs are being lifted one-by-one and some of the earliest cities to do so are paying the price with the emergence of a second wave of COVID-19 cases. The undeniable truth is that even if the lockdown in your area gets lifted, that doesn’t mean that there is no more coronavirus going around. Also, even if a second wave does not happen in your city, it also does not mean that the coronavirus has been eradicated. Based on a bit of knowledge on how vaccines and medications are developed, for one to be commercially available, it goes through a series of trials and the last of which usually involves observing for long term side effects. And until that time comes when we either have a vaccine or a widely-available standard cure to the point of virtually de-scaling the implications of COVID-19, the so-called “New Normal” is one where there should be strict implications of preventive measures across all industries. That obviously includes photographers, videographers, studios, and production houses. So what can you do to shield yourself and your clients once the lockdown in your area has been lifted?
These general recommendations are based on the WHO material on preventing transmission of the coronavirus, with a mix of personal knowledge backed by medical education applied to the routine of photographers. It would be best however, to inquire with your local work safety authorities and local disease control authorities on their recommendations as well.
First would of course have to be a regular disinfection routine. Your gear and support accessories, when exposed to crowds, may come in contact with respiratory droplets of an asymptomatic carrier. Regular disinfection before and after any kind of shoot should be done along with thorough hand washing, of course. Wearing a protective face mask definitely has a lot of value especially if it involves being in a crowd. It is also important to always do self-checks in case you start developing any symptoms, go on quarantine if needed, and promptly seek to consult with a doctor to prevent yourself from spreading the virus. Lastly, as experience may have taught many of us, it is important to have health insurance and build an emergency fund because whether it is just you who would have to go on quarantine or if your city has to go on lockdown again, it is going to be bad for business.
Photojournalists, who are those most at risk, are the ones who should take extra precaution. As many of them do now, photojournalists should invest in medical-grade personal protective equipment such as N95 masks or medical grade reusable respirators. Pieces of clothing that are resistant to fluids are also helpful, along with washable footwear that can be soaked in disinfecting solutions.
Wedding, Events, and Concert Photographers
These three will obviously be the ones most affected by the new normal. Generally, prudent governments would prohibit any mass gatherings until COVID-19 has truly been controlled and if some gatherings push through, they will definitely be much smaller than what they would originally have been. Expect and hope that if these do happen, social distancing will be observed and face masks will be in the way of your photos. It would be wise to wear at least a medical-grade face mask while shooting events and of course, a strict disinfection routine of all your exposed equipment and pieces of clothing should be implemented. Many wedding photography and videography teams have been preparing to make a live-stream service available for their clients especially those who would minimize the number of guests in actual attendance to their events. Remember that the bigger the size of the crowd gets, the higher your chances of getting infected by an asymptomatic carrier also get.
If you mainly work inside the studio, you might want to invest on some disinfection equipment like a steady supply of disinfection solutions and an industrial sprayer that can cover the surfaces in your studio. It would be best to minimize the number of people present during the shoot and trim it down to only those who are actually part of the production. If you shoot products or food, it may be wise to only involve yourself, the stylist, and the art director while possibly having other non-physically involved people on a video conference as the shoot happens. Basic personal protective equipment would have a lot of benefit, especially if your shoot involves dealing with props and effects that produce aerosols. A seemingly extreme but beneficial move would be to require any involved person to obtain some form of clearance from a doctor.
In addition to the general recommendations for any photographer, those who shoot in specific locations whether you’re working with models or shooting the location itself, it would be good to coordinate with the client on making sure that any involved party has low probability of having the virus. Real estate photographers would be wise to coordinate with the client to prepare the location by disinfecting the area before the shoot and to minimize the number of people present in the location.
Tours and photo-walks may be the least likely to happen among all photography related activities simply because it is expected that there will be a lot of restrictions on traveling throughout the year. If in case they do happen, it would be wise to require participants to secure medical clearance and fill out a form declaring any possibility of exposure to COVID-19 patients and/or carriers. Amidst that, social distancing and wearing protective masks will definitely be of help.
All these may seem absurd to many and there are still a lot of people who don’t believe that what’s going on is actually that bad and believe me, for the good of everyone, I hope they are right. However, with all the uncertainty that this pandemic is imposing on us, the only way that anyone could continue making a living is by being able to do it while protecting themselves from any untoward event that could either keep them from actually working, or worse, ending their lives.