The COVID-19 crisis is serious and we’ve all got to do our part to flatten the curve. I came back from WPPI about three weeks ago with cold-like symptoms, so I have been laying low. I feel a lot better, but if it wasn’t for that, I’d still self-isolate because I want to look out for people like my mom, who is 76 and still works full-time. After some nagging, she started working from home about three days ago.
We will get through this. Many of us experienced something similar to this from 2008 to 2010, during the Great Recession. Before that time, I was mostly working as a photojournalist and infrequently I would shoot portraits of people in the news, business leaders, athletes and the occasional famous person. Things really changed for me in 2007, when a friend asked me to teach him lighting, because he wanted to be a fashion photographer. The first time we practiced, I was the model and he was the photographer. The pictures were okay, but after a few shoots with aspiring models, they got a lot better. After maybe the third photoshoot he came to me and said, “I don’t need to know all of that technical stuff—that’s something you need to know [for your job]. I just want to feel the pictures.: Then he added that he was going “to Paris and find” himself.
That was pretty much the end of our relationship together, but I realized that I really loved working with models because I could develop the shot and perfect my lighting. Over the next two years I kept practicing. Because of the recession, about half of my business disappeared, so I began to fill my time by doing unpaid test photoshoots with models. I’d shoot two models a week and then spend one to two days editing and retouching.
After putting in the work for a couple of years, my skills really grew. I thought that I was pretty good in 2007, but I really wasn’t; I was just better at lighting than all the other photojournalists, who were only occasionally lighting portraits.
I still did test shoots with models after the recession, but mostly I focused on learning video production.
When Instagram came along, I needed more content, so I started vigilantly doing more model shoots and, because I was practicing again, my skills were taken to a new level.
I would’ve never have been asked to speak before groups of photographers at photo conventions if I hadn’t put in the work.
So, I would encourage everyone during this downtime to tackle all of the things that you’ve been putting off. Like revamping your website or working on your portrait lighting — for the day when we’re again allowed to be closer than six feet of one another. The possibilities are endless. I’m going to focus on making YouTube videos, and I’m going to get certified as a drone pilot, not because I think it will be a great avenue for making money, but because I’ve been meaning to do it, and putting off because I was “too busy.”