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More Thoughts on How to Survive as a Photographer


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As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, photographers will continue to see a decrease in revenue following Covid-19, even as the Circuit Breaker is lifted and as the economy slowly reopens.

Small and medium-sized businesses, no matter the industry, will take the hardest hit from the economic impact following Covid-19 because they have less cash on hand and reserves to tap on, and the longer you take to let go of your pride and romanticised notion of business returning to normalcy immediately, the longer you will take to enter survival mode and make the necessary changes to get things going.

If you are already feeling the economic impact from Covid-19 and you are still sitting around waiting for things to get better, consider this: If the Circuit Breaker can be extended for another month, who is to say it wouldn’t be extended for another month?

And who is to say that there wouldn’t be a Covid-20 right after we thought Covid-19 is over, right?

So what can you do as a photographer?

Instead of sitting around and feeding your anxiety, some of the common advice during this period include using this time to invest back in your business, working on your website’s SEO to improve your search rankings, catching up on admin work, reevaluating your digital marketing strategies, revamping your portfolio, learning new skills that complement your existing ones, finding new ways to speed up your workflow and eliminating unnecessary subscriptions and expenses.

Well-meaning advice. Better than sitting around and waiting for things to happen. But there’s a lot more involved in order to survive as a photographer.

We’re talking about a pandemic right now. And an economic impact that is said to be worse than SARS.

If you’re not a big brand, chances are any income right now is better than no income, since there is only that much expenses and cost of running a business that you can cut down on and you need the money. But no matter how tempting it is, never try to go on a price war.

During one of the photography talks that I attended in Hong Kong, a commercial photographer mentioned how he had refused to lower his rates during SARS, even when the other photographers in the industry were going on a price war. He had no business for months, but it paid off in the end as the photographers who went on a price war couldn’t sustain their businesses. He highlighted why going on a price war isn’t a solution that you should be considering. It is a short-term solution and doesn’t do anything beneficial in the long run.

But those were the days before the advent of smartphone cameras. It is going to be a lot more challenging to stay in business these days.

You have to be more creative in your ways of bringing in money.

As people are forced to stay home, social media has seen a change from highly curated accounts to showing a more honest reflection of life as it should be. And people are finding comfort in that. That might also mean a shift in the demand for photography and the type of aesthetics that we’ve been seeing in recent years.

To stay in business, you will have to be prepared to make changes and be prepared to let go if you have to, no matter how much time and money you have invested in your business. Branch out into non-related fields if necessary, like I have talked about in my post on being antifragile. If Fujifilm can do it, so can you.

You don’t have to give up your art. Neither do you have to starve for your craft.