Since the first known case of COVID-19 was reported in China late last year, many businesses all over the world have felt its impact, with a large number of them either closing down or letting go of most of their staff. Photography companies were affected too, with Nikon delaying the Nikon D6 camera launch by two months, and Canon reporting its first quarterly loss ($83.8 million loss for the April-June quarter) since 2001 which was when the company started releasing quarterly results.
New York-based John Lawrence Rapisardi, a portrait, fashion, and travel photographer, has felt the novel virus's impact on his photography business. Here he is to talk about how COVID-19 has affected photographers like himself.
John L. Rapisardi
Hello John! Please give us an overview of your photography background.
Hi! Thank you for having me. I come from a family of Sicilian creatives – I am an heir of Mario Rapisardi, a 19th-century famous poet from Sicily. I discovered my interest in photography and design as a young child, exploring the arts through painting with my grandmother. I, however, ultimately stuck to photography. I have little formal training in photography – when I started, I just took my camera and took photos. However, in recent times, I have attended some fantastic workshops taught by some of the best photographers here in New York.
As a photographer, how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?
Just like any other business that requires close contact, photography has been hugely affected by the pandemic. As a travel photographer, I can no longer travel to beautiful places and take photos as I used to, since most countries have either closed their borders or have strict restrictions on who can enter the country. It also does not make sense to risk my life and that of others I will interact with, just to get photos.
You also do fashion shoots and portrait photography – how has that been affected?
Yes, in addition to photography during my travels, I also do portrait and fashion photography. These have been affected two-fold; people do not want to risk any contact during a photography shoot, and with the global economy not doing well, few people can afford to spare money for a shoot. With many weddings being canceled or people opting for smaller ceremonies, photographers barely have any events to cover. Some have even gone for over a month without any paying jobs.
Have camera companies been affected too?
Yes, they have. As much as camera sales have been dropping each year for the last four years, the pandemic has made it worse. With fewer paying jobs and an economy in recession, very few photographers can buy new photography gear. With the uncertainty surrounding their income, many professional photographers, including myself, are holding off on investing in new technology until they are sure that their income has stabilized.
What is the way forward for photographers and anyone else in the photography business?
After months of the pandemic, most people worldwide have adapted to the recommended measures to prevent the pandemic's spread. As photographers, we also have to follow those measures for any project. For instance, a hand sanitizer is a must-have in my bag – I pack it when I'm packing my photography gear. I always have a mask on, and generally, avoid physical contact during any photoshoot. I also avoid unnecessarily touching things and take frequent breaks to wash my hands and sanitize my equipment. While these are obvious things, they may not be that obvious for a photographer during a shoot. I have often found myself so focused on my camera and the subject of the shoot that I forget my surroundings. We have to be extra careful to remember that we need to focus not only on the photography but also on our surroundings and health.
As a photographer, what else can you do during this time when there is a lull in business?
I believe in always finding new ways to improve my skills and business, and this pandemic has accorded me an excellent opportunity to do that. I've taken up online classes to improve my photography skills and found time to experiment with different kinds of lighting in my house. You could opt to take a course on post-production, curate your portfolio, learn new marketing strategies for your business, or even research tools that can speed up your workflow. Ensure that you spend some time on your photography every day, even if it is just one hour.
Any parting words?
Photography has been around since time immemorial and is not going away any time soon. Even though COVID-19 has brought about immense financial strain on photographers, taking this time to improve yourself will make it easier for you to bounce back once things go back to some form of normalcy.