Getting Through Tough Times as a Photographer

Any photographer who specializes in portraits and advertising shoots, like myself, will be used to having occasional downtime – it’s all part of the mix. Add to that the uncertainty that comes along with photography shoots, which can get postponed, delayed or cancelled at any time and you’ll find that uncertainty is something every professional photographer has already had to embrace.

portrait of a man on bike in hanoi

Hanoi fish-man; photo by Jon Enoch

That’s not to undermine the seriousness of the current situation – most will have found all of their work simply vanished overnight.

As a photographer, not all of my time is spent behind the camera taking photographs. A very large chunk of my job consists of planning and organizing shoots, pitching for work and ongoing marketing. My overall advice is work out what you can do now that will help your business the most over the long-term.

Market Ahead

It’s definitely a good idea to spend some time on marketing your business, as this is often what gets left behind when we’re really busy. Plan out what needs doing and look at what you’ve been meaning to do for the last few months but haven’t got around to.

street photography portrait

Hanoi ball-man; photo by Jon Enoch

However, it’s important not to become a busy fool. Don’t tinker with your website endlessly. It’s easy to get sucked into making changes for the sake of change and the drain on your time will not be rewarded.

I would suggest that it’s better to be planning ahead rather than pushing out current material. The possibility of sounding out of step is omnipresent if you’re pushing your pictures of footballers while the world convulses; so be careful about your tone of voice.

You could spend some time writing out newsletters, designing print mail outs and writing blog posts to schedule over the coming few months. Get it all drafted out now and then when work does pick up again and normality slowly returns, it’s all ready to go.

portrait photography client

Footballer Peter Crouch; photo by Jon Enoch

Diversify?

Many photographers right now will be thinking about diversifying, but I would urge them to think cautiously. If you’re well-known for portrait photography, then your portfolio would look a little strange to suddenly incorporate still-life images. There are many creatives that manage to span different disciplines but be wary of turning your attention to subject areas just because it’s the only thing you can do.

portrait of a serious man in glasses

Jaime Velez; photo by Jon Enoch

Although the current situation can seem overwhelming, we will get back to business as usual at some point. If this is the point you abandon all your new diversification plans, then it will have been wasted time. Think about your offering over the long-term, not just for the next few months.

Of course, if you want to use the time to unleash some creativity at home, then go for it! Keeping the creative brain active is vital. I have a one-year-old daughter, so will be working on a different type of portrait photography than I would usually produce…. and the dog has some long modeling days ahead of him too.

Revenue

I would ensure everything you have previously shot – that’s out of the exclusivity period – is placed with appropriate syndication agencies. There will be demand for images and no one will be out shooting new ones. Keeping some much needed revenue coming in will be vital.

portrait of model with wolf tattoo

Model portrait; photo by Jon Enoch

Keep the Lights on

It’s important to keep your business ticking over. Remember that advertising and marketing agencies will all still be working, albeit from home and possibly on skeleton staff.

Keep your social media up to date. Those creatives who are usually run off their feet might have a little more time to look out for new talent.

You can even fill your social media with ‘this time last year’ posts if you have nothing current to add. There is a danger that you will burn through all your pipeline of things to talk about, so don’t go too heavy too fast. You will need to keep something back so you have something to talk about when you start booking more work again.

portrait of man sipping beer

Philadelphia bar; photo by Jon Enoch

Do Something Good

It’s a good idea to check in with regular contacts and associates by email or phone every now and again and just see how they are doing. It’s always nice just to drop someone a note and wish them well in these rather strange times. Alongside this you may have some time on your hands to learn or brush up on skills. In a world of online tutorials the possibilities are endless.

The local group of photographers who I regularly meet up with to bounce ideas around at the local bar? Well, that’s still going ahead but via video call instead.

Alongside my agent we have also been holding a number of online portfolio appraisals for photographers from around the world who are in lockdown. Do something good and every one will feel the benefits.

portrait of man playing tuba

Rehearsal Room project; photo by Jon Enoch

Don’t just switch off completely. Always think long-term – what can you do now that will positively affect your business this time next year? And above all, wash your hands.

About the Author:
Jon Enoch is an award-winning London-based lifestyle and portrait photographer with a bold, uncomplicated approach to his images. His commercial photography work sees him shooting in the advertising, lifestyle, editorial and corporate sectors for NGOs, design firms and advertising agencies, as well as directly for brands.

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