Coronavirus is everywhere (figuratively, if not yet literally).
The spread of novel coronavirus (or COVID-19 as it’s now known more specifically) is affecting many aspects of our lives. Travel plans. Conferences. Supplies such as hand sanitizer and masks.
But let’s talk about the Coronavirus impact on photographers specifically.
Scott Kelby wrote a good article last week that did a good job addressing the manufacturing challenges for companies such as Nikon, Sony, Apple, and others. The spread of the disease in Asia is certainly having a significant impact on the supply chain. When nearly all of our consumer electronics are made in China, a big disruption in China means a big disruption across all these companies. Devices will be harder to obtain, whether we’re talking about camera bodies, lenses, or accessories like Apple’s AirPods Pro which were already in short supply. Lower production and distribution will mean lower revenue, which will have impacts throughout these organizations.
Let’s look beyond the big companies though. Let’s look at individual photographers. What might the spread of COVID-19 mean for you?
Coronavirus and Event Photographers
Gatherings of all sizes are being canceled. In the Portland area, small startup events scheduled for later this month have already been wiped off the calendar. The giant SXSW festival (which drew over 400,000 attendees in 2019) in Austin was canceled last week. There’s a website that has been set up just for folks who are losing money due to the SXSW cancellation.
Conferences, trade shows, and other gatherings are pulling the plug. Without the event, there’s no event photography. Without event photography, event photographers don’t get paid.
Not being able to get paid can be rather problematic. Your rent is still due. You still need groceries.
As an event photographer myself (who is quite thankful the large event I photographed earlier this week happened as planned), this has me thinking about contracts. On one hand, event photographers can update contract language such that they still receive some (or all) of their fee even when an event is canceled, but event organizers are also thinking about these same considerations. Organizers will be very reluctant to take on the risk of paying for unused photography services.
Coronavirus and Photo Booths
Do you offer photo booths as one of your services?
Do those photo booths feature fun props that everyone touches? Do they hold those props in front of their face or put them on their head? I hope you have plans on how to keep those props clean so they don’t become easy carriers for germs of all sorts…
Coronavirus and Travel
Regardless of your genre of photography, if it involves travel, things are in flux. Travel photographers, destination wedding photographers, or commercial photographers who routinely fly to their clients are seeing flight cancellations and increased health measures at airports and on airplanes.
Some of these practices are things that have always been good ideas but become more important. Things such as wiping down your airplane tray with a disinfectant wipe. We also see practices that are more about paranoia than facts, such as a healthy person wearing a mask while flying.
Consider your destination. If you’re in an area with a high concentration of cases (such as China or northern Italy internationally, or the Seattle area in the US), you’re going to feel the impact much more than if you’re traveling somewhere that hasn’t (yet) seen a major impact from the virus.
Uncertainty is Certain
While we know of the Coronavirus impact to photographers discussed above, what’s uncertain is how long this will last, and how widespread the impacts of the virus will become. As of this article, the US government is testing far fewer folks than other countries have done, so it’s hard to say quite how bad (or less bad) things are.
Buckle up, photographers, it’s going to be a ride. Consider short- and medium-term adjustments to your photography businesses to account for the fact that many events are being canceled and folks are going to be concerned about touching things in public spaces. Now is a great time to warm up your email list if it’s grown a bit stale, and make sure folks know you’re still in this.
Drop a comment below with your thoughts on Coronavirus and your photo ventures.
As a sports photographer, I’m preparing for the NCAA tournament and the possibility that I’ll be working in empty arenas. I was scheduled to shoot the Arnold Sports Festival in Ohio this weekend, but much of it was cancelled. I am a bit concerned about working in environments where so many people from so many places are brought together. I do have the benefit of being on the field/court and not packed with the fans. So, I just keep aware of my situation. Fingers crossed.