(Dale Roth is one half of the photography duo, Roth and Ramberg. As writing is not his strong suit, he has asked his teenage son to correct his lack of punctuation and when possible, add in big words. However, Dale does know how to do a perfect scheimpflug.)
What happens next
With a quick look on social media, it is easy to tell us photographers are scrambling to show off our still life skills. Right now, it seems is the safest way to follow the guidelines of staying home and follow social distancing. At the same time, small business owners are taking their own photos in order to sell their wares. Whether it is a restaurant trying to advertise take-out options or a thrift shop taking photos and selling online, it is clear online is the new reality and sadly, quality photography isn’t needed. In fact the more raw it is the more honest the message.
The question, of course, is what happens after this is all over? No one knows. The value of photography has been diminishing for many, many years. We have always tried to stay ahead of the wave, building our business model around taking photos of people, as that seems to never change. Those who made their living photographing cars are all gone. Food photography is reserved for the high end clients, as most restaurants will have a very hard time recovering from the financial expense of a photoshoot. Architecture is dwindling and only the higher end builders put value in good photography. Even then, it is usually at a lower rate than it has ever been.
I can see people are getting restless out there, not only in the photography world but also in daily life. I hope the numbers continue to go down and the government can start allowing us to return to some normality. I observe now that people are turning against each other, even I am having those feelings of frustration.
Here I am in a job that is used now more than ever making less than I ever have. For now, however, we know we can photograph still life’s without much judgment or grief. We all want to make a living so I think that falls under acceptable. The next step, hopefully sooner rather than later, will be allowing photographers to do their jobs. We are pretty much masters of social distancing as we in most cases are not within a few feet of our subjects. The makeup and styling is still a question, perhaps the subjects themselves do it themselves with guidance? Gloves may be the answer, but how safe are those really? I’m not sure the grocery clerk with gloves offers me much protection. We can wear masks which I assume will be where we as photographers will start. Studios and equipment will have to be sanitized after every shoot. Art directors may work remotely as we send them images via software. The less people involved the better. Corporate headshots will probably the first up after still life as far as acceptable work. Distance can be maintained easily and it is a one on one type of situation. This may be followed by or conjunction with industrial photography. Sadly I think advertising photography may be the last as it usually makes for bigger groups.
We of course cannot take any risks about our own health. Both of us have been following all procedures and maintaining proper distancing and limiting our time outside our homes for the simple reason is the faster and better we work together the sooner we can return to work. We see on the news individuals not following what is asked and I hope then don’t end up delaying us longer. I hope people are paying attention to who is doing what in all aspects of our world. I want to support local again, I want to help those people who did their best to protect us all.
It’s bleak and it may be bleak for a long time. So what do we as professional photographers? I think we show off our skills, as we have a talent that most people don’t. They can shoot with their phones but not as good as us. We we can show them what lighting is and show them what sensible business practices are. We have to make the pendulum swing back to supporting small businesses and not throwing money at photographers who are thinking selfishly. The lowballers will always be there so let’s show off why we do what we do.
We still have the passion to make great photos no matter what the situation. “Good enough” isn’t good enough and we have to fight the fight to raise the standards. We all are losing money daily and, sadly, anything that comes along now, no matter what the budget we will all accept. It will take some time to get costs close to what they were, maybe they never will?
Now is the time to be creative as we have nothing but time on our hands, but I hope when all is said and done the professional photographers/designers/illustrators/videographers will bring back quality and craft and we can educate our clients and the general public what it is that we do.