These are tough times, and they're likely to get tougher. The virus has been spreading quickly, affecting countries around the world and causing the cancellation of many events. This article isn’t intended to be doom and gloom or alarmist for the sake of it, but rather to help.
These are tough times, and the world will collectively get through this, but we still need to acknowledge it for what it is and act accordingly in our personal lives as well as our professional lives. In the midst of all of this, you have no choice but to try turning it into something positive. When life gives you lemons, right?
Just because the industry is taking a hit due to the virus situation, it is not a reason to give up. If you take the time to pick up skills and prepare during this downtime, when things return to normal (and they will), you will be able to be the first out of the gate and immediately return to productivity.
There are many resources out there, such as podcasts, YouTube channels, and of course, Fstoppers tutorials where you can brush up on certain skills and learn new things.
You can’t be hired if people do not know you exist. Networking and contacts always help, but with social distancing being the name of the game today, you have to up your digital game as well.
Is your website updated? Creating a website that is both beautiful and clean is incredibly simple now with services like Squarespace and Wix. Your website is your portfolio, and so, you need to make sure it shows off your work well. That said, though a website can be gorgeous, if no one knows it exists, that doesn’t accomplish much. Web traffic, web traffic, web traffic! Learning SEO can be one of the ways to help with that.
Social media is also incredibly important for a photographer, especially Instagram. Make sure your account is visually beautiful and kept up to date. There are also both Facebook and Instagram ads that could be very helpful in pushing your work out there once you learn how to use them properly.
Running a business is hard. Running a business as a creative is even harder. Yes, this might not be your strong point, and yes, it is difficult, but if you don’t start to learn how to make wise financial choices, you can be the best photographer in the world and still have nothing left in your bank accounts. This is strong advice in general and especially when the industry is experiencing difficulties.
One good tutorial on the business of commercial photography is Making Real Money with Monte Isom. This has been on my list of tutorials to watch for a while, what better time than now to do it!
Times are changing and people are starting to pay attention to moving images more than stills. More clients are looking for photographers who are able to do both. The learning curve is steep, but now that there is time available, this might be something you would like to consider learning. Don’t be left behind!
Retouching is an incredibly useful skill to have as a photographer. It’s an extension of your creativity and really helps you have control of the image from start to finish. And even if you would rather outsource the post-production work, knowing the extent of what Photoshop can do will help you make better decisions during the photoshoot itself.
As with retouching, color grading is something that can be part of your own personal creative vision. A good color grade can really improve your image and push it to the next level. The tools I like to color grade with are Capture One, Infinite Color Panel, and Retouching Toolkit.
“Lighting?! How am I supposed to practice lighting at home,” you ask. To which I say, good point, unless you have space and all your lighting gear at home, in which case your lighting skills better improve then! Other than that, you can play with lamps and LEDs: there are plenty of creative ways to push yourself, and you start to learn what you can do in a restricted scenario.
Another option I have for you is to use technology. Yay, year 2020! Set.a.light 3D is great software that you can use to play with lighting. It allows you to try out different modifiers and lighting setups that can honestly be a huge pain to do in real life. With this software, you can start figuring out how different modifiers affect the lighting output and come up with lighting setups of your own.
Accounting and Bookkeeping
I outsource mine, because I was taking too long to figure it out and was still doing it wrong. However, if you don’t, it’s probably good for you to take some time to make sure you’re doing everything right. Maybe it’s a good idea to start getting your books in order. There are plenty of free and paid online services that can help with this. For my invoices, I use Quickbooks.
Just like learning a new language, there are huge benefits to expanding your skills, one that you do not have to depend on to pay your bills and you can just enjoy without having to worry about being bad at it. Learn something you’ve always wanted to learn but never had the time to: music, coding, baking, or painting, or even crochet. I’m planning to pick up crocheting again and make a house for my cat! Learning how to write can also come in handy in many different areas in our business. The blog you’ve always thought about? Time to do something about it. Don’t overthink it; the content just has to be engaging and coherent.
I've also started following certain YouTube channels like Crash Course, where they have loads of educational material that is explained in layman terms and have educators that make the seemingly boring subjects really interesting to learn about. Have other sites that you enjoy learning from? Please suggest them in the comments below!
Do you know who your target clients are in your area? Do you have their email contacts? Take this time to build an Excel sheet list of clients to email once every few months. Use LinkedIn to find the right person in charge and then use email finder tools to look for their emails. You might not be able to find every single email address of the people you want to, but the more, the better. Just as an example, I have approximately 2,000 emails in my Excel list, categorized into magazines, brands, and creative agencies, etc.
As mentioned above, you cannot be hired if people do not know you exist, so after you create your list, you have to contact them. Some people like to use newsletters services like Mailchimp but I personally use GMass for my emails.
GMass is a Gmail plugin that allows you to send out mass emails straight from your Gmail account. As these emails are not newsletters that can feel impersonal but emails greeting people by their name, I find the open and reply rate to be much higher than when using newsletters. Scheduling auto follow-ups is also incredibly easy (I schedule at least three follow-up emails for five days later, two weeks after, and one month after).
Creative Connection and Networking
Talk to the creatives in your area. Consider joining your local photography association. Send an email to that photographer you’ve always admired or that make-up artist you could only dream of working with. The worst-case scenario is they say no, but you’ll never know if you never ask!
Personal projects are so important to a creative. When things get busy, unpaid work like personal projects gets easily pushed aside. However, this is the time to start sitting down and really thinking about what sort of work you would like to do. Plan out personal projects that you can immediately begin once the virus calms down. Look through magazines, websites, and photo books. Find ways to get inspired and come up with a project that you truly believe in.
Checking in With Clients
Have clients you that you have not been in contact with for a really long time? Drop them a message to say hi. Perhaps they have forgotten about you or the person who usually chose you has left the company. It is never a bad thing to appear on your client's radar again.
Take the time to do a thorough cleaning of your gear. The better you care for your equipment, the longer it will last. Take this time to get it cleaned and your lenses calibrated!
No one really knows how long this will take to calm down. Don’t put your camera away, keep up the practice. Photograph your cat, your food, yourself. Anything that requires you to push your creativity to your limits is a great way to practice.
Take a New Profile Photo
When was the last time you updated your own profile photo? Clients want to know who they are hiring, and a good profile photo helps create trust. First impressions do matter, after all. Besides, spending some time in front of the camera will help you relate to the people you shoot.
Spend More Time With Family and Friends
I don’t think I have to state the importance of it. Now that there is downtime, make use of it by spending some quality time with your family. If you don’t live with them, take the time to Skype with them.
Have a fantastic computer with powerful graphics? Now, you can lend your computer’s power to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak! Check out Folding at Home. Other creative businesses are also suffering right now. Are you able to help? Support them by buying their stuff or even just sharing their work.
Bored? These museums offer virtual tours that you can take while at home. Get inspired by other artists and works of art out there. The Metropolitan Opera is also streaming its performances live, so now is a good time to check it out.
Given the situation, our economy will likely be affected for an extended period of time. If your bank account is at risk, saving on whatever you can and putting off any big expenses would probably be a good idea for now.
It seems like a lot of photographers I know are usually overworked human beings with broken bodies and aches and pains everywhere. Now that this break has been forced upon you, don’t end up finding other ways to overwork yourself, if not for your health and sanity, at least for your creativity!
Have any more ideas on what photographers should work on or good tutorials to recommend? Share below! Most importantly, stay safe everybody!