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Photographers Discuss Precautions to Take When Returning to Work Post COVID-19 Restrictions

Published June 30, 2020

Covid-19 has been a big talking point on this blog lately, and with good reason. Being a company that ships thousands of products all across the United States each week, we must maintain a precautionary approach to how we manage the business. In the past, we’ve talked about cleaning procedures for your gear and shooting space, and we’ve even done polls to see how Covid-19 has effected the photography and videography community.

So as the country and world start opening up and attempting to return to some state of normalcy, we wanted to get a sense of how photographers are working to resume their businesses while maintaining new safety guidelines going forward. Each city has its own set of restrictions and guidelines, and I figured it was good to get a baseline of how different people are handling their safety during this pandemic regardless of where they’re located. So I went through and found some of my photography friends from all across North America, and asked them what steps they’re taking as they resume business, to keep both themselves and their clients safe during this ongoing pandemic.

 

 
Zach Sutton
Beauty Photographer
Los Angeles, CA
Working as a beauty photographer in Los Angeles, we’re finally able to start opening back up and getting back to work. Much of my work, however, involves makeup and hair stylists within close proximity to subjects, so I’m taking all of the necessary precautions to assure the safety of myself and all others on set. For starters, I require all hair and makeup artists to wear both a mask as well as a face visor. I’ve also reorganized my studio to allow for a 6ft distance between each individual work station so that everyone can maintain social distancing as much as possible. On set, I usually bring a grip bag of various clamps, gaffers tape, multi-tool, and other various things I sometimes need and cannot find. I’ve added to that kit some hand sanitizer, isopropyl alcohol, and disinfectant wipes to wipe down any countertops and other equipment that may be handled by multiple people. And of course, if anyone is showing any symptoms of illness, I ask that they reschedule their session, and have reworked my cancellation policy to be more generous to those who are filling ill the day of the session.

 

 
John David Pittman
Portrait Photographer
Little Rock, AR
Going back to work in a city and state that never was under an official stay at home order is a bit peculiar. Personally, I am taking all the safety precautions but am occasionally met with clients who may not be as concerned. So I find myself in the position of walking a fine line of being responsible and not upsetting clients who may not understand my new protocol. I’ve found that communication is critical.

When communicating with potential or current clients, I’m upfront about the safety precautions that will be implemented during the shoot. These are the primary changes I’ve introduced to my workflow.

  • Clients are required to wear masks unless they are being photographed.
  • I am currently not working with assistants to minimize human exposure on set and in the studio.
  • I ask that clients minimize their “entourage” to two people maximum.
  • Everyone who is not being photographed must wear a mask at all times and distance as much as physically possible.
  • For in-studio jobs, I sanitize surfaces before and after the job.
  • I inform clients that the front door to the studio will be open and to please let themselves in rather than greeting them at the door.
  • Clients are asked to serve their own beverages when usually, an assistant or I would do that for them.

Things are certainly different, but they aren’t that hard. Work is without a doubt slow, but if everyone can continue to chip in and do their part, hopefully, we will see those photography jobs start coming back.

 

 
Renee Robyn
Commercial Photographer
Alberta, Canada
 
Alberta’s restrictions have so far been far less than many other places. We weren’t hit as hard in the initial spike as other provinces and states were. However, the city still has an ordinance of no more than 15 people in a confined space. While resuming business, I’m cleaning all contact points within the studio before the clients show up and after they leave. Clients wash their hands and sanitize as they enter. I’m fortunate to use a large studio, so I’m only using my telephoto lenses and staying approx 20-30 feet away from my clients as we shoot. I’m also wearing a mask, and keeping the bay door open so that fresh air can circulate.

I haven’t had any shoots yet that require makeup or hair artists, but I will likely ask that hair and makeup is finished prior to coming on set, just to limit the number of bodies in the space. I know I can have more than 2-3 people in the studio at a time, but I prefer to run a skeleton crew for now.

 

 
George Brooks
Digital Tech 
Los Angeles, CA
As a digital tech, my role on set is now more important than ever as we begin to resume production amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With social distancing protocols in place, it is imperative that every crew member and department on set be able to monitor incoming shots (as well as the set itself) from a safe distance. No more congregating around one monitor! Additionally, many clients are choosing to participate virtually rather than traveling to wherever a shoot may be happening. To prepare for this new way of working, I’ve spent my time in quarantine developing solutions to cope with both of these realities. In terms of helping producers enact social distancing on set, I’ve added more Eizo monitors and iPads to my kit to provide discreet monitoring solutions to as many crew members as possible. I’ve also added more wireless transmitters and receivers to my inventory so that monitors can be placed at greater distances from my cart. And for remote clients, I’ve also built out a multi-cam live streaming setup that allows me to easily show them many different views around a set and communicate with whomever they need to in addition to streaming a Capture One viewer so that images can be viewed off-site as they come in. Crew members who are physically present on set can also monitor the live stream if their role requires them to see what is happening on set in real-time beyond just seeing still frames. I’ve also developed a method of transmitting Capture Pilot over the internet so that remote clients and art directors can navigate through images at their own pace and make selects that automatically update on my end. In short, I am striving to give remote clients the most immersive experience possible from the safety and comfort of their own homes in addition to enabling crew members who are on set to see what they need to see from a safe distance.

 

 
Lynsey Weatherspoon
Editorial Photographer
Atlanta, GA
 
As an editorial photographer, getting back to work was essential, though not a rush since most publications were still trying to figure out the best way to protect photographers. I began my own workflow once I started working again. All of my assignments must be outdoors, and anyone who is assisting me has to wear a mask. After each shoot, I sanitize my equipment with alcohol wipes and allow it to air dry in a safe spot in my home office.

I ask editors questions about the health of my subject to ensure that all parties are safe. It’s an extra step to assuring myself, while also being able to execute the job without any trouble. Photo editors are adamant about not entering anyone’s home, which I appreciate the precaution they’re taking when assigning us to different projects. I also allot time to come home, and disinfect my clothing and gear before delivering photos. The communication between me and editors is crucial since there are new steps to take to remain safe on and off the job.

 

 
Brenda Bazán
Portrait Photographer
Brownsville, TX
I am a portrait photographer and grad student in South Texas. Lockdown for me started in Spring Break. It first extended an extra week, and then it was announced that we would not be going back to school for the rest of the semester. When all this started, I immediately postponed the few sessions I had booked until further notice. By the end of May, I took in one client whose session I had postponed. This session took place in my studio, inside my apartment, and it was going to be five people in the photo. I disinfected the apartment and wore a mask at all times. I asked my clients to also wear a mask, except when posing for me. They were also asked to wash their hands upon arrival, and to spray the soles of their shoes with disinfectant. After this, I booked one more session with a client I have worked with for a couple of years now. This session was out in the open, and again, I wore a mask at all times and asked them to do the same.

Things are starting to get ugly down here, and I now have to reject inquiries for portraits. I was asked if I could do a wedding at the end of August, but the way things are going, I don’t want to commit to anything. Especially to a crowded, indoor event.
In times like this, I am putting my physical and emotional health first, as well as my clients’. It is hard to plan ahead when things are so uncertain, and this can become a burden if we let it. It is much easier said than done, but taking things a day at a time has helped a lot.

 

 
https://aperture7photo.com/Ken Yu
Photo Assistant/Digital Tech
San Francisco, CA
What steps/ precautions you’ve been performing?

  • Wearing gloves and disinfecting all gear during setup and teardown.
  • Masks recommendation – those breathable sports fabrics
  • Health and temperature check prior to arriving on set
  • Hand washing/hand sanitization on an hourly or more base.
  • Stepping outside whenever I can but still be an earshot away if I’m needed.

My experiences of being back to work.

I work on editorial and commercial photoshoots (5-7 people max usually). My experiences being back on set has changed, but not in a dramatic way. Health and temperature check is performed every morning by producers. During setup, we wipe down all the grip gear with disinfectant wipes, and keep loads of hand sanitizer all over the set. When carrying heavy high rollers and gear around, the masks were difficult to work in. It trapped all the hot air that I was breathing out and, at times, made me lightheaded. I had the blue disposable masks on at the time. I recommend spending the money on a breathable fabric mask or bandana, it’ll make your job way easier in the long run. Mindfulness of everyone on set made it feel like okay and that we can still do this and have fun without being overly paranoid.

 

 
Roberto Valenzuela
Commercial Photographer
Los Angeles, CA
I love the energy of a photoshoot! It is super fun to meet the models, MUA, stylists, etc. The group energy is high, creative, and ready to create. But through COVID-19, like most, adjustments had to be made. As much as a force of habit hugging may be, I had to really rewire my brain to pull back and not do it! During COVID-19, I did manage to photograph a couple of global campaigns. Because of the level and caliber of the entire project, not only were face visors and masks required, but most of the vendors had to be COVID-19 certified. This certification takes the knowledge of infections and precautions to a whole new level. The modeling agency required that anyone with close proximity to the models had to be certified. During the shoot, it was also hard to restrain yourself from showing the models the photos on the back of the camera. That would require breaking the social distancing rule of 6 feet. As much as you want to show them the photos because you are so excited about them, don’t do it! Last but not least, after the shoot ended, all celebrations and chatter had to happen with a respectable distance from each other. You can still enjoy each other’s company, laugh, talk, and reminisce about the shoot, but you can never let your guard down. In the end, people will respect you for it and appreciate your consideration for everyone’s safety during this difficult time.

 

 
Kate Whyte
Beauty Photographer
Vancouver, Canada
 
I’m a commercial beauty and portrait photographer in Vancouver, Canada, and resuming business during these unprecedented times has required strict safety measures. Where in the past, I would have been happy to have additional decision-makers on set, we now make sure that only the most crucial members of the production are present and FaceTime others in if necessary. Masks are imperative for all team members with the exception of the talent in front of the camera, and surfaces are routinely disinfected throughout the day. Productions are scheduled with more time in between to allow for deeper cleaning between sessions. All production members must agree to the terms of the production (PPE, disinfecting, social distancing) in advance so that there is no confusion on the day, and if anyone is feeling sick, we are flexible with rescheduling.

 

Have you resumed working now that your city has lifted restrictions? What precautions have you taken to ensure the safety and health of both you and your clients? Chime in in the comments below.

Author: Zach Sutton

I’m Zach and I’m the editor and a frequent writer here at Lensrentals.com. I’m also an editorial and portrait photographer in Los Angeles, CA, and offer educational workshops on photography and lighting all over North America.

Posted in Photo
  • As I’m only just now considering resuming in-person shoots, this was a good read and definitely provided useful information as I move forward.

  • Dave Hachey

    In my former professional life (~50 yrs teaching and doing research in medical schools), it became second nature to wear masks and gloves, and to use hand sanitizer when appropriate. Ebola and HIV scared the heck out of me, but this corona virus is much, much worse. I find it astonishing how quickly it overtook the planet. There should be no controversy about wearing PPE to protect yourself, your clients, and most of all your family. Thanks for posting this article, and keep safe.

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