Most, if not all, photographers in Singapore should have seen a drop in revenue since February. More so since the safe distancing measures were put in place in March. And even more so after the Circuit Breaker was introduced in April. The only photographers that are still making some sort of money seem to be photojournalists and product photographers with home studios.
Commercial photographers are mostly paid enough per project to last for a long time, but photographers who depend on multiple bookings per month to make a living are struggling. These include event photographers, wedding photographers and sports photographers. Some of them are not afraid to be open about their worries on social media. And some of them are clearly on survival mode and trying to adapt as quickly as possible, pushing out affordable video call photo sessions and contactless home studio product shoots as alternative solutions. Anything to ensure that the cashflow keeps flowing.
Many are hopeful that after the Circuit Breaker is lifted, things will return to normalcy. But that is quite unlikely.
Non-commercial photography is not a necessity since it does not bring in more money. It’s a luxury. Most people who would have spent money on such luxury goods and services pre-pandemic would be willing to settle for less in a period of uncertainty, since a decent smartphone camera can get the job done.
Are couples going to book overseas prewedding photo sessions, when they don’t even know when travel restrictions will be eased? Unlikely. Are couples going to rush into booking photographers for their wedding plans next year, when they’re not sure what measures will be in place next? Not likely either.
Many couples are already trying to cancel or postpone their plans this year, and potential clients for the next year would likely have less budget for their weddings and take on a see-how-it-goes approach without committing to anything. Parents will also likely tighten their wallets and spend less on family and newborn pictures, especially since you never know who you might get the virus from.
As the economy shrinks, so will the demand for photography.
Many industries are already affected and businesses have begun to tighten their budgets. When small retail companies run out of business, so do the photographers that work with them.
Safe distancing measures will quite likely still be in place even after the CB is lifted and large events will not be allowed for a while, which means business will still not pick up for event photographers. Travel photographers? We’ll talk about them when it’s safe to travel again.
At the same time, there will be even more students (who have little liabilities) who will be willing to shoot for free or for much less during this period of time just to build up a portfolio of work, since they will unlikely be able to find a job anyway given the job market. Photographers may then be tempted to go on a price war and reduce prices to keep the business going, but that will mean photography will no longer be a lucrative business and it would be hard to survive on photography alone.
The way I see it, the companies and photographers that will survive the recession are not the ones who are quick to adapt and/or lower their prices. The ones who will stay in business are the ones who branch out into other non-photography fields, or the ones that go hyper expensive because big companies and the rich will still be able to afford it.
But sadly, that can only happen if you already have a strong brand to begin with.