The Positive Effect Of Lockdown On My Photography
Christopher James Hall – Focus On What Matters Most
COVID-19 Lockdown For Me As A Photographer?
For me as a photographer the lockdown, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been hard. It has been an endless struggle of loneliness, stress and worry. It has had me, at times, almost in tears not wanting to get out of bed. I lost my creativity and didn’t know what was happening with the business that I had struggled to start from literally nothing just over five years ago.
Living in a rented flat by myself I could only sit and read the reports on the internet, social media and the news. People were out in their gardens enjoying the wonderful weather that we have had. The VE Day celebrations where local residents got together and enjoyed the socially distanced celebrations. I followed on Facebook and Instagram other photographers who were outside learning new skills. Photographers who were able to use family members to practice new techniques on. I would sit there enduring the pain as I forced myself to see the great images that were displayed on my screen.
For me my creativity and the vision of my role as a photographer was ebbing away fast and I felt that I couldn’t do a thing about it.
Each day I would dread opening my emails or answering my phone. I didn’t want to hear about another wedding photography session that had been rescheduled to next year. I didn’t want to find out that another headshot photography session had been cancelled.
The initial three weeks of lockdown were fine as I had enough savings to survive on. Time passed by and those three weeks slowly went to six. Now eight weeks later we are still in some sort of limbo stage. As photographers in general we still don’t know when we can start working again. Some have already made a start offering photography sessions outdoors. Others are waiting for advice from the photography associations that we belong to. Then there is also the challenge that if we do work does our insurance cover us if anything happens during those photography sessions.
For many who work in a photography studio it could be another month or so before they can start back. The wedding photographers may not even see this situation ease until August or September at the latest. Even then weddings will also be affected in such a way that the weddings that are in the diary still get rescheduled until next year.
Many photographers are like me and I am not alone. The savings have dried up and the government funding for self-employed people doesn’t even cover the bills. 80% of the profits, why not the turnover? We still have to pay the same bills, photographers have to pay for insurance, marketing, equipment, subscriptions, administration, the list goes on. For many like me that 80% doesn’t even cover the cost of running the business. For a photographer, like me who wants to keep their business going, we have to now fund these costs out of our personal finances, money which is also used to pay the household bills.
Christopher James Hall – I Am Not Alone
This Is Reality Isn’t Just Mine
Don’t get me wrong this reality isn’t just mine. This is a battle that is being fought by hundreds of other photographers, not only in this country but around the world. It’s also not something that I have told you to make me feel sorry for me. It’s the background to something much better than a tale of sorrow.
This reality that I am living in now has been a make or break moment. It is one that has really made me think about what is important in my life.
For one it has made me realise just how much I miss having people around me. I have even found myself going to the shop just so that I can have a conversation with the person on the till.
“Would you like a bag?” the shopkeeper would ask.
“Not today thank you. I have remembered to bring my own” I would reply.
If the isolation isn’t enough I MISS BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER!
I miss getting up early to pack the car and get to a venue (although I don’t miss having to carry is down 2 flights of stairs). I miss being on my feet all day as my eyes scan a room waiting for signs of the next memory to be captured. I miss looking at the clock to see it show 23:34 and I’m still editing the images from the day, eager to get my client’s photographs to them. Bring back the sleepless nights as I work out how to create the image that has come to mind.
I miss waking up in the morning and remembering that I AM A PHOTOGRAPHER.
Christopher James Hall – What We Think Of The Lockdown
This Is My Fight And I’m Not Giving Up
Photography isn’t just a job though. Photography is a way of life. Just knowing how much I miss being a photographer though doesn’t help to keep my photography business going.
There have been times when I did think it would just be easier to give up my photography business and find a another job. COVID-19 had become not only a mental but also a financial strain, one that I was struggling to find a way out of. I know that there are other photographers out there who have had to accept this as their reality. In fact almost 20% of photographers have considered giving up photography and taking another job. Laying in bed and hiding under the duvet wasn’t going to help.
As I sat thinking that the only option that I could take was to give up my mind wouldn’t accept this as failure. This was the point at which I started to change my view about what I needed to do. I now had a back up plan which was to find another job. Even if this did happen, and to those photographers who have taken this decision, this is not a failure. If nothing else worked and I had to give in I could still hold my head high and say, “I didn’t fail”.
I know that being a photographer is so much more that simply holding a box in front of your face and making it go click. Many photographers know that taking photographs is only about 10%, if that, of what we do. A professional photographer also means doing the paperwork, book-keeping, marketing, ordering, research, training the list could go on.
Just to become a photographer we have all achieved so much. It’s all experience and if you have gained experience and learned from it you have not failed. The only way that you can fail is to not try something at all.
“Even after the worst storms
the sun will shine again.”
Christopher James Hall – The Storm Will Clear
A New Beginning
COVID-19, Coronavirus, the lockdown, this does not mean the end for me as a photographer. These hard times, the struggles, the pain, they don’t mean it is over. This was the storm. I look around and I can see so many boats all being tossed around by the waves and wind. Other photographers battling the elements that have been brought against them.
It was time for me to learn to survive the storm. There is a tactic for sailing in a storm… approach the waves head on. Simply floundering around and letting the waves batter you will only make things worse and increase the chance of being capsized. You need to pick a spot, wait for the right time and then go for it full throttle.
Realising this storm was a hidden opportunity for a fresh start i was ready for a new beginning. I didn’t want to be a small dinghy being tossed around by the waves. I wanted to be the lifeboat going out to rescue my clients in their time of need. Even people who aren’t clients are still looking for a photographer, I wanted to be there for them too. This is personal. This is my fight and I am not giving in.
Over that last 5 years my photography business has been more than just taking photographs. It has taken me on a journey of doing things that I didn’t even think I was capable of. I started my photography business from nothing. All I had was a secondhand camera that I was given by a friend. I didn’t even have a computer to edit the images on. Even if I didn’t have any income, and I did have to take another job before starting again, one thing kept me going. I have done this before and I CAN DO IT AGAIN. This time though I wouldn’t be starting from scratch.
I would have all of the equipment that I have built up over the years. More importantly though I have the experience that I have gained not only in photography but in the business that is behind every photographer.
Photography has also been a personal journey. It has allowed me to see everything in a different way. I can appreciate the details in everything that I see. I can see an image when others can just see chaos.
I see love, happiness, sorrow and hope. I see dreams that can come true.
Christopher James Hall – Seeing Light In The Darkness
I See The Positive In The Lockdown
Right now I am in the position where I may have to give up the flat where I live. COVID-19 has struck me financially in a way that I can hardly afford to pay the bills. I am facing becoming one of the statistic of forty-somethings who live at home with their parents. Even with the threat of losing the flat that I have spent the last 5 years renting and making it my home I can still see the positive effect of COVID-19.
Photography has become so much of a passion for me that I would rather give up my flat than give up photography. I would rather continue to look after my clients than have them left looking for another photographer.
This is also an amazing opportunity that stands before me. This is an opportunity to make another one of my dreams come true.
On a personal level the lockdown has forced me to do something that I have only dreamed of before. It has forced me to start thinking about not renting but being able to save to buy my own property.
During the lockdown I have had the time to learn new genres of photography. COVID-19 has taken me back on a journey of new discovery. It’s made me learn new photography techniques. I have had to learn to adapt to the surrounding around me. I use the space that I have to help me gain a new knowledge of the equipment that I already own.
Living through the lockdown has made me into, not a better photographer, but a more determined photographer. One that is keen to learn and to expend on the services that I can off to my clients.
The lockdown has made me look at my finances and save costs where I can. I have had to learn new ways of doing things, ways that save me money and keep my prices realistic for my clients.
All of this hardship has given me the opportunity to look at starting a new part of my journey, one that will strengthen and compliment the services that I already offer (more on this in another post when I have more information to share).
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
What Is The Future Of Photography For Me
I don’t know the future holds. At the time of writing this I don’t even know how long it will be before I can start working with my clients again. I don’t know if the government will be giving further support to those who are self employed. I don’t know when my next pay cheque will come in.
What I do know is that I am looking forward to that day with excitement. The moment I can go out and continue to capture not simply a photograph but a memory for my clients.
Photography is a wonderful exciting journey. Now isn’t the time for me to sit down and hide. Now is the time for me to pick up my bag and go on that adventure.