COVID-19: Read How Some Of The Best Wedding Photographers Reacted
For the wedding industry staying in business during the worldwide corona pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges. With many countries putting in place restrictions for weddings and other gatherings, a great source of income ran dry for many.
We already created a blogpost about what you can do during the corona crisis to keep busy and to find new sources of income for photographers of all kinds of industries.
This time, we reached out to some of the top-rated wedding photographers around the world to find out what they currently do to get through this situation. They responded to the following question and shared their experiences and ideas they had during the last couple of months:
How are you dealing with the Corona situation?
Some countries banned weddings and other gatherings completely, others put strict restrictions in place and only allowed weddings to be held in small groups. What about your area?
Photography is not an industry that governments care a lot about when it comes to financial aid and support. How do you manage to stay in business? If you can’t shoot weddings what do you do instead to stay busy and earn your living? Workshops? Update your website?
We all hope that this pandemic will soon be overcome and our lives can go back to a somewhat “normal” state and we can celebrate these wonderful days again together.
Irene Abdou, USA
Covid is a tough situation for wedding photographers. Many of the wedding photographers I know have lost 85% or so of their 2020 income with most weddings being pushed to 2021. What that means is that wedding photographers will not be able to take on as much in 2021, which translates to more loss of income in 2021.
Back in 2015, I was actually diagnosed with cancer. At the time, wedding photography was about 30% of my business revenue, with the remaining 70% coming from a mix of family photography, professional headshots, newborn photography, and boudoir photography. It was tough continuing to work weddings throughout my cancer treatment, but I did it. I didn’t miss a single wedding. However, what that ordeal brought me to understand was that wedding photography was a risky business. If something happens and you miss/refund a wedding, you can never get that income back. Had 100% of my income came from weddings, I would not have made it through the year with the cancer treatment. While wedding photography was 30% of my business at the time, it was after that experience that I decided that I would never seek to work solely in weddings.
Now, in the current crisis, I look at the situation that wedding photographers face, and I know I made the right decision 5 years ago. While almost all professional photographers are suffering, despite their area of photography with even employed people saving money at record rates and with many people not yet comfortable with being photographed in-studio, we family photographers and headshot photographers don’t have it quite as bad as the photographers whose business is solely weddings. Normally, business advisors tell us to specialize, specialize, specialize. But during COVID, I think that diversification has been key.
For me, one segment of my business that has been blooming is dating portraits. I’ve been offering online dating photos since 2014, and my dating photography business has grown 7-fold since then, with most of that growth coming in the past 1.5 years. In addition, while I’ve been teaching photography for the past 10 years, COVID spurred me to launch a separate arm of the business with a separate website called “Irene’s Photo Workshops,” together with an online photography class for beginners called “The 7 Keys to Exceptional Photography.” I’m very excited about this new endeavor! COVID has also given me time to focus on the business – going through an in-depth website upgrade of the main website, adding new heirloom-quality print products including studio samples of hand-painted-paintings, designing and creating a new portrait photography client guide, and, something I’m working on at this very moment – a new headshot/branding guide. And finally, I am also about to launch a new project – “50 Over 50 and Fabulous” – to photograph 50 women over the age of 50 with a fine art exhibit at the end.
Many new things, much excitement!
Alex Bramall, UK
Corona Virus has hit our industry hard.
I am primarily a fashion and portrait photographer. I have been very lucky to have such supportive clients.They were all very quick to create safe working environments so we could continue shooting. Each job post-COVID has been conducted within strict COVID Guidelines, so everyone can feel safe.
I, like a few other photographers I know, have also developed a technique of shooting portraits via FACETIME. I have been all around the world meeting new people and photographing them from the comfort of my home!
This has been a new and exciting experience, one I am thankful for. It is also totally sustainable and leaves zero carbon footprint, which is extremely important to me. I hope this is something I can continue as the Lockdown is lifted.
Weddings have obviously not been possible, however, a few clients who had to postpone events over the summer are now keen to move forward with their plans despite the limitations of the virus.
So I am looking forward to getting back to a form of my job that I really love, despite the fact there may only be 20 people at the party!
In the meantime, this period of Lockdown has given me a wonderful opportunity to concentrate on my family. I managed to shoot a few editorials featuring my wife. It helped me to be more creative. I had the time to stop, rest (without the anxieties of the rest of the world working when I was not).
I also had the time to reflect upon my career so far and I now feel re-energised for the next chapter post COVID!
Stephan Debelle, Bora-Bora
We live in Bora Bora, the territory closed its border to all visitors (including residents) in March. Our photography work revolves 90% around tourism, photographing weddings (elopement) and conducting photo sessions for couples staying at any of the resorts in Bora Bora. We basically were on an extended vacation with nowhere to go as there were no flights in or out of French Polynesia and even the inter island flights were suspended.
Our cases of Covid-19 were low, around 60 if i recall and no hospitalization nor death. During that period, we were confined for 2 weeks, only allowed to go food shopping, the beach was closed and we even had a corfu in place! It was very odd to not see any tourists / visitors during these few months!
During this slow time, we worked on a few personal print projects, worked on learning new techniques with photoshoot to improve our skills. We also practiced doing night shootings in a pool. The intent is to create surrealistic images with the participants floating in the dark water.
We also took the opportunity to re-design our web sites and add more contents, this had been long due so the opportunity to be home was nice.
French Polynesia re-opened to tourism on July 15th, we slowly resumed working which was nice but it is still much slower than of the previous years. Working may be more challenging, we have to wear a mask and exercise caution, we today have 5 times the amount of cases than prior to our borders being closed!
Being an independent photographer, not having a physical studio means we have a very low overhead. We have been established for over 7 years that means we have no credits on any equipment so we have been able to get past these challenging times – We also received some support from the local & French Government.
We are not out of the woodworks, we expect the next few months to remain challenging while we have much fewer visitors. Much of the work that had been scheduled months ago is being postponed as many couples are moving their trip into 2021.
Taro Ebihara, Austria
Through Covid-19 98% of my orders were almost completely cancelled. This applies to all portrait shootings from baby, family to business portraits as well as weddings and events. Most of my bridal couples have postponed until next year. Those weddings that took place this year have been largely cut back. The Austrian government has granted subsidies, but most of the individual companies get almost nothing. If i were not more broadly based, I would have to close down my business. Besides photography I organize the wedding fair and produce my own Salzburg kola drink with a business partner. This situation saves me a little bit at the moment. New business fields do not make sense, as they all have to do with lead times. It is important to keep the photographic quality high, customers will always prefer the quality.
Dominique Shaw, UK
The Covid-19 situation has been difficult for all small businesses but we have tried to use the extra time we have as a positive and use the opportunity to expand and work on elements of the business that we normally don’t really have time for.
We work across the UK and currently weddings can happen with 30 people but there are local lockdowns happening where particular areas are more restricted. We feel fortunate that we have had the opportunity to photograph 3 small weddings recently. In September looks set to go ahead too, although the rules can change overnight at the moment so we’re offering as much flexibility to our couples as we possibly can.
Whilst the circumstances have been hugely challenging this is really the first time since we started that we’ve had the time to really go through the business side of being a photographer and fully analyse the areas that we could easily improve upon and so we’ve done a lot of work to maximise the potential of the tools that were already available to us.
We have created a Fine Art Gallery to sell our street photography prints which was something that we always wanted to make time for. You can find them on our website.
We initially updated our family photography page but then we expanded to make a completely new website for our family photography, events and portraits: https://www.yorkplace.co/
We have completely overhauled our business management system and are now using the amazing Lightblue Software to its full potential for all elements of our business.
We made wedding albums for all our past couples. It takes less than an hour to make an album our couples can enjoy interactively which means they are much more likely to purchase it and we have had great success with this – something we were massively under-utilising before.
Rocio Vega, Spain
After the main lockdown, where all my work little by little started falling apart in front of my eyes, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it, as a destination wedding photographer this crisis hit me double. While others could slowly start to work locally after some time, I was not allowed to travel. Which is a big problem as most of my weddings are in different countries. I started to think about what to do next.
And I put in action a plan I had been thinking about for long time but I never had time to do…. I started to work on my own academy where i had to learn everything from scratch. I watched videos on Youtube, had online conferences and did a lot of research for the best fitting platform. And it has been an interesting learning curve. After trying my own platform, finally after 6 months I’ve decided to go back to Patreon, which seems easier and more universal.
Beside this project I started something complete new: dog photography.
I thought this can’t be too hard but then reality hit me. It was really tough because the dog is not interested in what you do so you can’t do this for hours. You need to learn to be quick and spot on. Now I offer quick sessions with max. 30 minutes.
I created an own brand for this which works pretty well. It’s called “Momenticos perrunos“.
Familyshootings in documentary style is also a big thing I did. But these days no one hires a photographer to spend a day with their family. So I created the same setting and offer quick photo sessions with max. 20 minutes. (The kids can’t concentrate longer anyway.)
During this session I also record a video.
Now my clients get a short video plus their pictures and they love it.
Hardest part was to find a booking software that people can book their time slot which is very efficient. And the system works really well! at the end of the afternoon I work the same hours as I would in a normal session, but I have worked with 6 families instead of 1, and I multiply the opportunities to upsell after the session.
The next step is to bring this service to companies to tell their story. A short video + pictures.
We will see how this turns out.
Jeffrey Wang, Australia
I’m based in Sydney (Australia), weddings are still allowed here but with quite a lot of restrictions, most couples are postponing their wedding to next year because they want a dream wedding that they can really celebrate with their family and friends, one of my clients recently canceled their wedding this year.
I’m still getting new bookings for next year, but most couples are only inquiring for some pricing ideas because there are too many uncertainties every day. With the financial support from Australian government, also the income from a few new bookings each month, I’m still surviving and getting ready for when everything gets back to normal. Now I have a lot of free time, so I’m updating my website and portfolio, are also trying some new marketing strategies. I have also started a new business with my business partner.
Yaneck Wasiek, USA
1. Most of our 2020 weddings for postponed to 2021. We had couple of smaller weddings and also some outdoor weddings for larger number of guest (up to 150)
2. Our business slowed down drastically in April & May. In June it started to slowly come back but we are far from being at the numbers we were before the pandemic. I was always rather conservative financially and we always have savings for at least 6 months of operations. Those savings allow us to stay in business
3. Luckily we were already diversified before the pandemic. We photograph families, products, and mainly headshots. Currently headshots are our main revenue source. We also started to do 360 virtual tours of business and local real estate. We also offered a few webinars and workshops.
Please visit our participants website or Instagram account and have a look at their awesome work!
What do you think? What is your experience? How did you get through these times? Tell us your story in the comments!