The wedding photography and videography industry, just like many others, has taken a massive hit during the pandemic. Are you going to persist through this, or are you thinking of giving yourself a change of direction?
Just yesterday, my last remaining 2020 wedding booking rescheduled their October wedding to fall next year. When I read the e-mail, I wasn’t surprised, nor did it really affect me that much, because I had already written this year off for anything related to wedding or event bookings. Although their wedding is five months away yet, my clients did not feel comfortable putting any of their guests’ health at risk. In retrospect, I can completely understand the need to have a solid date confirmed that is unlikely to have any worldwide pandemic risk concerns tied with it. After all, weddings are celebrations of life and relationships between loved ones, families, and friends. So, what’s a wedding without being able to hug your grandparents or dance with your friends?
Some photographers have lost the majority of their livelihood this year, forcing them to re-evaluate their next steps to secure survival not just for their business throughout this but also for their families if they are the main earners in the household. Every individual has a different business setup, which means some have maintained a somewhat steady income by requesting their couples pay a part of the remaining balance this year and the rest next year prior to their postponed date. Others have put emphasis on putting print products at the forefront to bring in payments from past clients, while some have been working hard to bring in new clients for 2021 and beyond. Understandably so, some have also taken up a completely different type of employment or change of career direction to return to some financial and mental stability.
Alongside my postponement e-mail, I also saw an emotional post by a fellow wedding photographer. She had just lost yet another wedding to a future date she is unable to do, thus losing that part of income that she had relied on for this year. This, coupled with not being able to see her mum after a death in the family, caused her to break down in front of the camera but allowed her to capture this moment of helplessness in her personal and professional life as part of her visual diary. Many are experiencing the feeling of their hard work, effort, money, and passion crumbling away the same way bookings are disappearing one after the other. Although the industry will bounce back in one way or another, it doesn’t mean that everyone will be able to or want to last through this, though.
Many bills are still coming in, yet our bookings, similar to those of other vendors, such as florists, wedding planners, entertainers, DJs, bands, and more, are being postponed or canceled. On the one hand, we are used to doing everything we can to help our clients fulfill their dreams, but on the other hand, our livings are at stake. This industry has always been heavily reliant on the good social rapport between ourselves and our clients, and this year, that is being put to the ultimate test. Some of us are seeing understanding clients who are willing to pay a part of their balance this year, while others are requesting refunds. Legal advice is being given out left and right in the photography community, with many photographers and filmmakers taking a financial hit and cutting their losses instead of pursuing any legal action against clients. It’s understandable if many are left feeling bitter after seeing no other option than to return full or partial fees paid.
It is unknown how the wedding industry will look like in practical terms following the lifting of restrictions, with Huffington Post speculating that it might have a negative impact on how guests and the couple can engage with one another, especially when it comes to exchanging hugs and kisses, or perhaps the guests will be asked to wear face masks. Neither of the scenarios sounds appealing, but we have yet to see what the consequences of the pandemic will look like for weddings.
The question is not whether our businesses will survive through this anymore; the question is whether we still want to be a part of this industry. Although it can be lucrative and rewarding, it is also heavily unpredictable, especially in regards to destination bookings. What once seemed an exciting balance of business and leisure has become a complex situation causing problems and headaches for those who are unable to travel while the wedding itself might be able to go ahead, albeit with minimal numbers of attendees. The marketing and advertisement alone can be a mine field without clear guidance on how international travel is impacted.
The current unknowns are enough for some of us to rethink whether we want to re-enter this line of work or whether we want to pursue a more (arguably) stable change of career. This is a question that we need to ask ourselves, and we need to be honest about our intentions and motivations. It’s completely understandable if the current situation has made you question your future goals and your way of life, which is something you perhaps didn’t slow down for before.
Photography still offers a variety of opportunities that can be pursued and built upon during the lockdown. These can be combined with other creative fields or industries related to our current knowledge or interests, such as design, marketing, copywriting, sales of industry-related items or accessories, skilled trades, IT, and many more. If you have built a good social skillset from your wedding business, you shouldn’t underestimate it, as it can be applied in different jobs or businesses. The same goes for using your current client list and rapport when considering building another business that would allow you to serve your clients in a different way.
Have you reconsidered your future plans during the lockdown? Has it given you a strong ambition to continue pursuing your current business, or has it given you time to rethink your next steps?