For wedding photographers, the pandemic was a massive blow to their businesses. Even though large weddings have started to rebound in recent years, the COVID still has a significant impact on the landscape of the wedding photographer business.
The pandemic decimated the wedding industry. Recent studies show that most people believe the industry has returned to normal. However, COVID’s effects on wedding photography and event photography are hard to overlook and far from over.
San Diego-based Sara France is an extremely successful wedding photographer, is a Sony Artisan of Imagery, and is a mentor in the company’s Alpha Female program. She spoke to PetaPixel about the challenges of navigating her wedding business since COVID, but because she also works as an educator and instructor, France is uniquely positioned to also explain how other wedding photographers are adapting to the changes that the pandemic brought to the wedding industry.
One huge difference between the wedding industry of 2019 and the one of 2022 is who is still shooting.
“There has been a huge turnover of photographers. So many photographers decided they wanted to do something else while new photographers came into the industry,” she says.
France explains that those who decided to keep their businesses through the pandemic have experienced a business landscape that keeps shifting. The pandemic brought on a new challenge for photographers. They had to deal with clients’ postponements, as well as finding ways to live without weddings. Now they have to battle to keep their businesses thriving under the pressure of an influx of work.
“It was a huge amount of adjustment and many are still trying to figure out the new normal. For our businesses, they have hopefully emerged stronger, with better practices and solidified relationships,” she says.
Those who fought through the pandemic still have to deal with it.
“Last year we did twice the work with all the postponements [from clients] that paid in 2020 but did not get to have their wedding till 2021 or 2022. So photographers are feeling overworked and, in a lot of cases, underpaid,” she says.
“Many photographers are seeing an influx of weddings like never before and are needing to figure out how to scale and handle the volume while they have it.”
Of all the photography disciplines, wedding shooters typically have been among the most community-focused. National and regional meetups and get-togethers were common up until 2020. This has now changed.
“The lack of community and in-person meetings coupled with the high turnover of photographers has left many without the community they once had,” France explains.
It’s not just the sense of belonging and support that is now missing, but that high turnover has resulted in a more practical problem.
” It has been difficult to hire and find quality assistants or second photographers because of the lack of community,” she said.
The Threat of Sickness Looms Large
While many act as though the pandemic is a thing of the past, wedding photographers are aware of the truth: it’s still a major concern.
“There are also a lot of last-minute changes because people have COVID,” France explains. “I have seen wedding party changes and last-minute adjustments because of people getting sick, and on top of that there is a new slew of people who are insisting on their wedding vendors being vaccinated.”
As is expected wedding photographers who used to “power through” when sick are no longer able to.
“I have had to jump in more than once now for someone who got COVID and could not shoot an event,” France says. You should have options for backup in case of an emergency so that your clients don’t go without you. Also, your contract now needs to cover you for this situation.”
Challenges Foster Opportunity
While there are challenges wedding photographers have to face, there are opportunities to succeed and fill the gaps left by those who may have shifted careers during the pandemic.
France says that photographers should keep a few things in mind in order to make it through the various new challenges that wedding photographers face.
“First of all, pace yourself,” she says. “Get support and make sure you do not overwork yourself. Outsource where you can, as this will help you handle fluctuations in volume”
On that note, France says it is important to establish a supportive community again as best as possible.
“Get backup. If something happens to you and you are sick you need photography and office backup. She says that Shoot Dot Edit and Tave are my favourite resources.
“Tap into your community. Everyone is struggling and needs help right now,” France says, and adds that it is even a good idea to help fellow vendors, especially wedding coordinators.
“If there is a market that has had an even harder time with this, it is wedding coordinators. They have had to plan the same wedding twice and dealt with all the issues you can imagine. You can help others more .”
It is important that you understand the importance of your wedding photography.
“Raise your prices,” she says. “Your prices should be at minimum 10% higher than they were pre-pandemic if not just for inflation. If you have not raised them, you are now at a discounted rate.”
She also says that it is important to be as thorough in client communication as possible.
” Communicate with your clients about your policies. Be open and transparent — it will help a lot if anything does happen,” France says. France says, “If your policy is not clear, speak with other photographers to get one and put it in writing .”
” While she acknowledges that it can be difficult to consider every circumstance, these are some of the best :
” What happens if someone gets sick? What happens if the wedding needs to be postponed? How do they manage their cash? Can they use it in the future? She suggests that they set a time limit and boundaries to manage expectations. “Putting a time limit and boundaries on things is a great way to manage expectations.”
The loss of many wedding photographers means clients have a much smaller pool of shooters to pick from. Those who survived the worst of the pandemic will be able to fill the gaps.
“Now is the time to lean into relationships and marketing. She says that industry turnover has created new opportunities and it is a great time to start a business or come up fast.
As long as photographers are prepared and have the right head space, France says that, at least from a business perspective, the results of the pandemic aren’t all bad.
” I believe there are both good and terrible consequences to the pandemic. They are excited to marry and appreciate having their loved ones there. She says that they are more excited to be married and there is a renewed energy at weddings.
“People are more understanding of change and more flexible. I think after you have had to deal with so much change you just get more understanding.”
Image credits: Sara France