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Lockdown Life: Re-thinking a Small Photography Business

In an instant, Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in the UK and across the globe have, at least temporarily, brought many small businesses to a devastating halt. And while things aren’t quite as planned for most, it’s been inspiring to see many small business owners make an effort to think differently about how they can use their talents and skills to both nurture their creativity and continue bringing in an income.

I connected with two of my photographer friends who have done exactly that as their summer schedules of weddings, newborn shoots and other events have been wiped completely clean.

In their own words below, meet Jennifer West and Hannah Brooke who are both making the most of these crazy, unprecedented and unpredictable times we’re living through…

Jennifer West 

I think, for me, the start of this came from an intrinsic need to connect with people and a fundamental need to create. I have been a full time photographer for 20 years and what felt like overnight, my entire business—and indeed life as I knew it—was put on hold.

It has been an unprecedented and scary time for many reasons and my heart goes out to those whose families have been affected most. Apart from the initial wave of panic over health and financial reasons, I found myself really missing people.

I’m predominantly a wedding and family photographer and an entire summer’s worth of special occasions including weddings, birthdays and newborn shoots have all been postponed.

After a lot of research and even more trial and error, I started taking creative portraits through FaceTime video calls, directly via iPhone to iPhone. The results are often unpredictable and sometimes hilarious. Luckily, the idea has been positively received by so many as a fun break from the new normal. I have photographed couples, individuals, families, and even brands during the lockdown.

It was when I realised that I would be missing so many early days with newborns that cannot be re-created that moved me to think outside the box and look for new ways to stay connected to those around me. I also felt deeply affected after seeing so many positive messages of solidarity and I really wanted to give something back and bring a little positivity into peoples lives.

jennifer west photography, wedding and family photography London, Kent, Bromley, Swansea, destination

It was only a few days ago when I photographed a new mum and her 3-week-old son. She explained that her baby’s father hadn’t even met his baby yet, due to them being separated by distance in two different cities that made me realise this goes far beyond just capturing photos of families in isolation; this is important and a poignant reminder of how, although we may be physically separated, we are all connected by a common experience. I feel proud to be part of documenting the positive moments within it.

Jen’s FaceTime photo shoot sessions are 30 mins, cost £30, and include a £10 donation to our amazing NHS. You can see more on her website. There’s even a tutorial for fellow photographers on there, if anyone would like to try FaceTime photography for themselves.

Hannah Brooke

It took me a few weeks to adjust to this “new normal”, life at home 24/7 with a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old. It continues to be a rollercoaster of emotions. Some days I’m almost euphoric with gratitude for my family, our health, our garden, the weather….. And yet on other days, I’m not sure how I’m going to get through it. But we always do.

I’m happiest when I’ve got a camera in my hand. I’m not going to lie, the Covid-19 lockdown hit me hard as a photographer. I’d finally found something that lit me up, that I was good at, and I created a business that I’d poured my heart and soul into. I built it up to the point I could resign from my corporate job and was all set to become a full-time photographer on 2nd April 2020. Who could have ever predicted that time would coincide with a global pandemic? And just like that, my busy diary was cleared. Completely empty and I don’t know when I’ll be able to work again.

And so I started by taking A LOT of photos of my own kids. I figured it’s as good a time as any to practice with my camera and really hone those skills so I can be ready to be back even better for my customers post-lockdown.

I realised that I was going to have to either pivot my business with an online offer pretty quickly, or face facts that I wouldn’t be earning any money for the foreseeable. So I created an online “Smartphone Photography Masterclass.” It’s been on my mind to create one for a while as people often ask me for hints and tips on how to take better photos. Ironically I hadn’t had time to do it until now. 

I also realised though that I really missed being creative, and documenting memories for other people.

And so my “Doorstep Photo Project” started.

All I’ve ever wanted to do with my photography is to bring people joy, and that I’m being able to do that in these strange circumstances has given me a newfound sense of purpose. It’s nice to have a bit of a “plan” for the day.

What’s really stood out for me during this time is the sense of COMMUNITY. I already knew Wetherby was a pretty special place to live, but suddenly people are looking out for each other more. I’m talking to people I would have usually walked past with my head down. Being able to see all of these happy faces, exchange a few words and know that people are coping ok is precious.

The other thing that’s really struck me, is how happy and content the kids are. It’s hard for us as parents being on demand 24/7, homeschooling AND working, but the kids just love being home with their mummies and daddies.

Since I started the Doorstep Photo Project, people who have had babies during lockdown are now contacting me. Unable to have a proper newborn shoot, or any of the usual visits from family and friends, they want to be able to send their loved ones beautiful photographs of their babies whilst they are still tiny.

The babies will be oblivious to what’s happening around them right now, but in years to come their parents will be able to tell them the story of how they were born in isolation.

Naturally, I’ve given due consideration to how I can do this safely and comply with social distancing rules, so I’m using a zoom lens to ensure I keep my distance. I plan my route as part of my daily dog walk.

I’ll continue this project a few days a week as part of my daily exercise for as long as lockdown lasts and am happy to walk or cycle to anywhere within five miles of Wetherby.

I realised that I was going to have to either pivot my business with an online offer pretty quickly, or face facts that I wouldn’t be earning any money for the foreseeable. So I created an online “Smartphone Photography Masterclass.” It’s been on my mind to create one for a while as people often ask me for hints and tips on how to take better photos. Ironically I hadn’t had time to do it until now. 

If you would like to be included in the Doorstep Photography Project, contact Hannah at hannah@hannahbrookephotography.co.uk or 07779 271447. Her Smartphone Photography Masterclass is a steal at £20 during lockdown and you can find out more here. You can also keep an eye on the project on Facebook or Instagram.

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