COVID-19 Photography Business Survival Guide Part 3: Reopening

May 14, 2020 | Business Tutorials

Jen Bilodeau Photography

In most areas, COID-19 restrictions are starting to lift.  Every state is in a different place, but most are easing restrictions on some level. So what does that mean for your photography business?  How do you reopen and what will be different about your business now?

Creating Your Reopening Plan

First I would start by asking yourself some questions.  Your answers will help you form your reopening plan:

Does your state/community have a mask requirement that you and your clients will have to abide by?

Some states and communities have very strict mask requirements.  In communities near me they are required at all times or there is a $1,000 fine.  And of course, as the photographer we will always have to wear a mask but what does this mean for the client?

What locations will you shoot in?  Which parks are open? 

Many areas still have parks and beaches that are closed or have strict mask requirements.  Areas you may usually use for shooting may not be available to you for some time.

Will you be taking sessions in your client’s homes this year? (newborn, lifestyle family, etc)

This is a question all newborn and in-home lifestyle photographers are asking themselves right now.  And the hard truth is that in most areas we probably won’t be able to safely get into client’s homes at any time soon.  So what does this mean?  Will you offer outdoor newborn session?  How will you pose the babies?  Does this mean certain more-posed shots are just not possible?   For example, you won’t be able to prop and position the babies.  Posing and shots will be much more baby lead.  It is important that this is communicated with your client.

Do you need to change the way you shoot and create?

Maintaining social distancing requirements may mean you have to create differently than you have in the past.  For example, if you usually shoot with a 35mm,  and you now have to switch to longer lens your work is going to take on a slightly different look and feel. Do you need to try a few portfolio building sessions?

Will you have to make any changes in the way you collect payment or paperwork?

Most likely you will no longer be able to accept cash and checks will have to be mailed.  In addition, you may want to consider offering payment plans for those who are on a tight budget.  And if you don’t have a program for accepting electronic signatures on paperwork, this is something you will definitely want to invest in.

What safety notifications and instructions do you have to provide to your clients prior to the session? And how will you conduct the session to ensure your own safety?

For example, sanitizing your gear, wearing a mask, keeping 6+ ft distance, clients bring their own blanket, etc.  And the more clearly you communicate all of this with your clients ahead of time, the better.

Do you need to change your contract to include language about COVID-19 liability?

What happens if one of your clients gets COVID-19 and it is traced back to you?  Do you have a clause in your contract address this liability.

Do you have to make any changes in the products you sell , the way you sell or the way you deliver?

If you sold using IPS in the past, you will likely have to move to Zoom sales sessions or online sales for the near future.  If you hand deliver products, you will want to communicate with your client how this will be done with zero contact.


Communicating Your Reopening Plan With Your Clients

Once you have worked through these questions it’s time communicate with your clients. Think about how will you announce to your clients that you are open for business.  How will you reconnect with them?


It’s important to remember that your clients are in a different place than when you last worked with them. Meet your clients where they are.  Many are full of fear.  Many are feeling money is a little tight.  Be sensitive to that.  Maybe start with front porch or window sessions at a mini session price.  (And remember – a good run of thumb when pricing mini sessions is 1/2 the price for 1/4 of the value of a full paying session.)
In your initial communication I would include the following:
  • The steps you are taking to ensure both your safety and theirs during your shoots.
  • Changes that you will need to make in the art you create.  For example, I love to get in close with my 35mm and I love to hold the camera up high and shoot down.  All of these shots are going to be pretty much impossible if I’m standing back with a 135mm.
  • Promotion of an specials you are offering upon reopening

Thinking Beyond Day 1

Then you need to think about your next marketing step beyond this initial communication.  How will you stay connected to your target clients?  What other specials and promotions can you plan?   Consider having multiple marketing activities running concurrently so that you are not putting too much hope in one activity. There is a lot of uncertainty right now so it may take a little trial and error to see what works.
And finally, you need to think big picture.  Is there a way you can diversify or reinvent your business to make up for lost earnings (both prior and future) do to the new state of the world? (e.x. adding a new revenue stream such as headshots, adding mentoring or learning opportunities)
There’s a lot of uncertainty right now.  Every state is in a different state of operation and we all have our own levels of risk.  It’s important to find what will work for you and for your business.  And take care of your clients – let them know how much they mean to you.  Communicate with them, stay on their minds.  This new landscape is something we will all figure out together.


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