As a photography studio in NYC who specializes in all things in the corporate realm, we first started to see the ripple effects of the Coronavirus in early February when one of our clients cancelled a large global conference less than 5 days before it was supposed to take place. We recognized that things were going to get much worse before they got better. For a few weeks most of our business carried on but slowly, we started seeing our bookings slow down and a spike in cancellations and postponements. On March 12th we made the call. We would photograph the last 2 appointments still in our Calendar for the morning of the 13th and then suspend operations until further notice. It was only a few days later that all of New York City was essentially shut down.
The foreseeable future will be a very unique time, where without revenue, sets levels will be at their highest, but also a time when we can get all of the little projects done. The building out our marketing plans, organization of everything, rainy day projects and of course try to enjoy our personal lives a little bit extra. Below is the list of things I plan on doing in the down time, if you have some ideas throw them in the comments and let’s stay productive!
1. Work on your marketing
Marketing always falls to the bottom of our rainy day list. We have a good list of corporate accounts and return business, most of our new clients happen through word of mouth. With this downtime I am working on content creation to both show our existing clients our expertise and reach out to potential future clients and markets that we can serve. One thing I did after we realized things were shutting down was brain storm topics and ended up writing a solid blog post targeting realtors on how to prepare for real estate headshots. Have a list of keywords you have been trying to rank for? Go in and optimize the pages where you are hoping people land if they search them. Unfortunately solid work and great galleries of images doesn’t cut it anymore, to drive business it’s time to start writing and giving people as much information as possible.
2. Do some personal work
The first time I was paid for photography work, I was 16 years old, my first two paying clients were a local school that I did some group photos for and a BMX magazine where I did some editorial work(got a cover!) In the time between then and now I have photographed pretty much anything that anyone wanted me to shoot, paid or unpaid. Now I am 18 years into my career as a photographer and I grasp at straws to get motivated to go out and shoot for fun. I don’t mind that photography has become a job, I am an expert in my field and love the work, but over the next few weeks I am going to work on some personal projects that have been floating around in my head and also make it a goal to go find some unique things to photograph that would never have any monetary value. Just for the pure pleasure of making something interesting happen by playing with light.
3. Organize your files and archives
We all try our best to stay up to date with our file organization, when a busy week turns into a busy month turns into a busy year, it falls pretty quickly by the wayside. We will be sorting through our recent work and archiving it accordingly. If you do not have a solid backup system in place, this is a perfect time to dig into the research for what you can do better in the future. Our studio has been using a setup of Drobo’s to keep our files safe for well over a decade with very few complaints and no lost files. If you do have a system in place, take the time to do a deep dive into your old work, make sure things are sorted in a way that is easy to find and that everything follows the numbering convention that you use.
4. Spend time with family
On a normal weekday, I am gone from 6:30am-6:30pm, it’s the New York working man grind. Our clients are corporations, we work bankers hours. I am looking forward to spending extra time with my wife and kids. We happen to homeschool, school closures won’t have much of an effect on my wife and kids day to day rhythm, for me it will be wonderful to be more active in day to day life. It will be an excellent time to reconnect and connect deeper with my wife and children. Though we won’t be able to visit any museums or take a trip somewhere new, we will spend a lot of our time in the forest behind our house and see what new things we discover.
5. Update your website and portfolio
While doing that deep dive into your old work, this is the perfect time to update your website and portfolio. It’s sometimes amazing and sometimes eye opening to go back through your old work and see what you may have missed. There are a lot of gems that fall through the cracks. Sometimes revisiting a shoot that is just a year or two old will give you some solid fresh content for your website.
6. Practice some techniques in the studio
Do you use the same lighting setup 75% of the time? We have a very consistent look for each of our clients and get stuck in a rut of a very simple 2-3 light set in the studio. When you are photographing for an organization that has hundreds or thousands of people, rebrands do not happen often so consistency day to day and year to year is key. Doing the same thing day in and out gets a bit stale after so long. Take advantage of the empty studio, move your lights around, shoot some extra self portraits while testing your light, have some fun while doing it! It’s a perfect time to update your LinkedIn or bio with a new photo that people will be asking you to emulate.
7. Write a blog post that will help your clients be better prepared for their shoot
Pretty much everyone who is preparing to have their photo taken would like a few pointers. Take this time to go above and beyond and let your clients know how they can best prepare for the photography portion of their wedding, engagement, elopement or furthering their career and personal brand. Start out with a list and then just build each bullet point up little by little, at the end of the exercise(which doesn’t have to all be in one sitting) you will have a substantial resource to share with your potential clients that will help them be prepared and also make your life a bit easier because they will have a better idea of what they are getting into.
8. Spend time in nature
If I am not doing something work or family related, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you will find me outside, riding bikes – and if I am with he family, we are probably out for a hike too. As an avid mountain biker, most of my free time is spent in the forest, what better place to self isolate that a nice trail somewhere? It could be the mountains or even somewhere as simple as a local park. Let the gears in your mind revolve around something as simple as the frogs that are coming out for spring, the various colors of sand in the desert or the freshly bloomed trees.
9. Learn some new photoshop skills
I have been consistently using photoshop in one for or another since 1999. In that 21 years I have learned a ton and am very fluent in the platform. I find that I still learn a solid, long lasting trick or two every year. The one that has always gotten away from me is efficiently silhouetting hair from a background. I’ve tried a dozen techniques, it doesn’t matter if it’s on white, grey, blue or green, I can never get it done both perfectly and efficiently. This week I am going to dedicate a handful of hours just working on developing my way of getting hair to look perfect while not letting it be a huge time suck.
10. Put together a list of clients to reach out to
This is a pretty straight forward exercise that I think will work across the spectrum of photographers. Build up a list of people who you haven’t heard from in a while and reach out to them. I don’t mean a mailchimp campaign, I mean a direct personal email(we have plenty of time.) If you shoot weddings but also shoot kids, you might want to reach out to all of the couples who were married a couple of years ago. Don’t try and sell them anything, just a hello, how are you, please let me know if you two would like any other photography work done in the future etc. In the corporate and commercial world it would mean reaching out to touch base with a marketing person you’ve worked with in the past, or bulking up your LinkedIn profile and seeing what clients you aren’t connected with. It’s hard for someone to hire you if they haven’t seen you in a while and don’t have you on their mind.
11 Embrace the forced downtime
There are very few times that you will be out of work for a long period of time. Aside from having children, most of the other reasons are bad ones. I guess this is a bad one too, but you can still make the most of it. Take a walk around the neighborhood or though the woods. Catchup on sleep. Binge watch some TV. Take the time to just enjoy life. We are all going through this together and we can all come out the other side of this refreshed, recharged and ready to tackle the mountain of postponed work that is piling up that will be waiting for us when society begins functioning again. So just hold on, it’s going to turn around eventually!
About the Author
Patrick Nugent is a New York-based photographer and a member of Camera 1’s New York City photography team. Before joining the team in 2007, Patrick worked with a high volume photo studio in Sarasota, Florida where he managed the digital production end of a high volume portrait studio.