5 Ways Photographers Can Use Social Distancing as an Opportunity

I want to start by saying that if you or your family and friends are impacted by the current events of COVID-19, I send my sincerest condolences. The tragedy, pain and suffering that the world is going through is immensely saddening and should not be taken lightly, so we should all be taking the necessary precautions to help prevent the spread through social distancing.

I personally haven't left my home in over 10 days. To some, staying home this long can be depressing, stressful, and make you feel powerless. This tragedy has kept us at home, physically away from our families, our jobs, our clients, and the things that bring us joy. But this provides us with an immense opportunity that many of us usually don't have. Time.

This extra time gives us the opportunity to learn and grow... to come out of this tragedy with a plan in place to move forward to try new creative techniques, gain more clients, and beat your goals going into 2021.

Firstly, I'll be honest, I'm not a full-time wedding photographer, even though I would like to be. I'm very lucky during this time to be a Creative Director at a small marketing agency in Los Angeles which has kept me busy working from home for the past three weeks. This means I typically have a bit less time on my hands than many freelance photographers due to looming projects & deadlines for work clients. The difference now that social distancing is in place is that I'm not stuck in traffic for two hours every day, and I'm not taking a traditional lunch break. That's almost an extra three hours per day that I've never had before.

Here's what I've been doing with all the extra time that I've come across and some ideas of how you can use your extra time as opportunity, not waste.


1) Learn something new about photography every day.

I know this sounds obvious, but hear me out. We're living in the age of information. There's no reason to not take advantage of these resources while you're stuck at home. There are literally hundreds of thousands of incredible courses and tutorials available for you to take from the comfort of your couch via LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com), Patreon, and even from YouTube. The fact that you’re reading blog posts about photography is a good sign! Find photographers that inspire you and see if they have a Youtube, Patreon or other learning service to watch and learn from.

For me, I've subscribed to Sam Hurd's Patreon account to learn a bunch of awesome things. He's been teaching creative techniques, posing techniques & how to run a successful wedding photography business. This has provided an excellent opportunity for me to grow my skills from Sam's teachings.

I've also been watching a ton of LinkedIn Learning. If you've been to college recently, see if your college provides a LinkedIn Learning account via your college email login credentials. Mine still works and I graduated almost six years ago! If yours doesn't, just grab a free month  on their LinkedIn Learning page and start watching! Top tip: LinkedIn Learning has an app that lets you cast to your TV! I did this for their FAA Part 107 Training, which made it super easy for me to take notes & study for the FAA Part 107 test.



2) Test & play around with different ways to process your photos.

I say this because many of us are stuck in our ways when it comes to editing. Go back to photos you've taken and try to re-edit them in ways you normally wouldn't. Especially try new techniques if it's something you’ve learned from taking a course or watching a tutorial. Get inspired by other photographers and try to copy their editing style. Through experimentation, you get to learn how to edit beyond your favorite one-click-edit preset in Lightroom. Practicing editing without presets will teach you how to face editing different lighting situations in the future. In this process, you may just come across something new and different that you absolutely love.

This is also a great time to try other editing solutions. Affinity Photo is having a 50% off sale, while Adobe is giving 2 months of Creative Cloud away for free and Luminar by Skylum software is donating $5 towards the fight of coronavirus for every license sold.



3) Set goals for what you want to accomplish over the next weeks, months, and year. Start with small, easy-to-accomplish goals that work up to larger goals.

To give you an example, this week, my goal was to develop a plan to rank higher on Google. Next week, I'm going to focus on my website speed and website content, following this week's plan. My goal for the month is to have a finalized advertising and business strategy to help boost my social media and gain clients moving forward. My overall goal for the next year is to book ten clients just through my social media presence & search engine rankings.

Set goals that are easily accomplished on a daily and weekly basis, but have these goals all build up to one large goal. For instance, changing the entire strategy for your website isn't going to take a day, it's probably going to take a considerable number of tasks of a considerable number of days. Set your goals in relation to your daily tasks and goals. Once you make your goals for the next few weeks, month, and year, don't forget to keep setting these weekly goals once this month passes. Keep your goals up-to-date, and mark them off as you go. The key to success is repetition and steadfastness. You'll get there.



4) Find ways to help your business online through research.

Research what your competitors are doing during this time. If they aren’t doing anything to boost their online presence, now is an especially good time for you to swoop in and take their business.

What are your competitors doing online that you aren’t? Are there any opportunities that you're taking advantage of that they aren't? In what ways can you improve your online experience to provide more value to your potential customers? How can you improve your current processes to help gain more customers?

These are all really important questions to be asking yourself and figuring out during this time. Whatever you aren’t doing that your competitors are and vice versa, are opportunities to be taken advantage of.

The first thing that I did when comparing my own website to my competitors was an audit. Use free tools like Google Lighthouse, WooRank, and The Hoth to find opportunities and gaps on both your own site, and your competitor’s for things like website load times and SEO. Dig deep into their websites to see what services that your competitor offers that you don’t and try to gauge how much they charge for those services.

Remember, where your competitor has a gap, you have an opportunity. Do a ton of research and make changes to give you an edge in quality & cost over your competitors.



5) Connect with people and build your network.

Even though you can't meet with people in person, doesn't mean that you can't reach out and start conversations to build your business. Hop on LinkedIn and start reaching out to people relevant to your industry.  Connect with them and see how they're handling this pandemic. As photographers, we don't have to be alone during this time.

Since I'm in the wedding industry, I've spent my time connecting with wedding coordinators, event designers, bridal boutiques, dress designers and more through LinkedIn and email to help build my network of industry professionals. Building this network will help me connect with people for referrals and partnership opportunities. No matter what kind of photographer you are, you can reach out to brands to build connections and give a vision of how you help capture their brand’s story. It's a no-brainer to build your network and authority, which will undoubtedly lead to jobs in your future.

In conclusion...

These are just a few ideas of steps you can take to prepare for when this is blows over.  Remember that today is a day of opportunity, so don't just sit in bed scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Netflix. Now is an awesome time to learn and grow as an individual and as a business! All the information in the world is at your fingertips. Now go get it!


BedJet Photoshoot

Here are a few shots from a recent photoshoot with BedJet. As you may know, I am the lead photographer and videographer at Hawke Media. This was an incredible opportunity to challenge myself and learn a lot about creative corporate photography with larger products.

We shot the setup on an 18'x18' cyclorama backdrop at Apex Studios in DTLA. My process involved using four Profoto strobes; one large 24"x36" source as a key light, one strip box source as a hair light, another strip box source as a highlight for the BedJet product, and another bare bulb strobe to the white ceiling for even spread (fill) over the bed and model. The easiest way I found to ensure even spread while still keeping the products and model from becoming over and under exposed was by using my trusty light meter. I use the Sekonic L-758C, as an incident meter to judge the light all over the bed. My meter read a solid f8 aperture over the entire bed, which means I was getting close to what I wanted. After some tweaking, I managed to figure out that the missing component was the strip box ensuring that the BedJet was being highlighted well. I moved the strip box in closer and bam, we were good to go.

For post production, quite a bit of work was done to ensure that the products were depicted as modern and trendy. I used the healing brush tool on the backdrop's floor, then desaturated the parts of the image that don't have colorful components to -70. This helped bring out an even more minimal and clean feel. Some compositing was necessary to fix art-direction mistakes on set, such as the pillows not being centered or creases in the materials. After this, I decided to do a complete backdrop replacement. I selected the bed, bedside table and accents, and put them on a separate layer. On a layer below I added a gradient to help further emphasize the clean and minimal feel.


Rosa & Juan's Elysian Park Engagement Session

Rosa & Juan are a big step in my business career. I say this because they are my first clients to solely find me through digital advertising. After discussing their wedding and learning more about their wants and needs, we met up for coffee to discuss more. They are absolutely incredible people with hearts of gold. I wish them so much luck and love in their life, for they deserve it all.

My Engagement & Trip to Death Valley National Park

After a grueling 5 hour car-ride and many curse words thrown at me by my then-girlfriend, now-fiance, we are now ENGAGED! I set up my camera on a tripod and told her I just wanted to have cute pictures of us together for our adventure out to the desert, but surprised her with a ring while my camera kept snapping away! The photos were taken at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park. Enjoy!

Urban Revival with Kristo

While getting home from work today, I bumped into my awesome neighbor, Kristo from the group Drop City Yacht Club. After talking a few minutes we decided to try and get a shoot going before sunset. Not wanting to go anywhere, we decided to jump our balconies and get onto our apartment complex's roof to take some rooftop shots. This is result. If you have any questions on how any of the photos were shot or edited, be sure to shoot me a message on Facebook or Instagram, comment on this post, or drop me an email. Thanks for your support!