Well, we're twelve weeks in almost and lockdown has been life changing for the vast majority of the global population. We're in the midst of worrying times for many, but after that initial panic of lockdown and the loss of most of my 2020 business, myself and many other wedding photographers have adapted to try new projects and give their business some TLC to ensure that they all come back stronger for when the time is right.
I thought I'd share a quick blog about some of my feelings as of today and a little bit of an insight into what I've been up to over the last twelve weeks.
First though, here's a short film where I explain where things are up to (as of early June 2020), what support you guys have who may have already booked and some of my thoughts as regards the months ahead...
FOCUSSING ON 2020 COUPLES
When the UK government announced lockdown the day after I had shot Rebecca & Adam's wedding in March, there was a wave of emails and phone calls from worried couples with bookings in April & May. With an initial three-week period of lockdown announced, many of us thought that by the summer, we'd be back on track with the disease under control. However, with the "R" rate continuing to remain high and the tragic death toll currently topping 40,000 here in the UK, we've moved into June with little sign of when weddings will resume in England & Wales.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, with an easing of travel restrictions in England, with Wales expected to follow suit later this month. Social distancing still remains though and is likely to figure in some part for the bulk of 2020 even if gatherings and weddings resume.
My friends over at "Rock My Wedding" have some great ideas for staging a socially distanced wedding. In it, they point out how just by making small changes to venue layouts, you can still celebrate and have a brilliant day whilst keeping everyone safe and happy.
As regards my couples booked in for March - August, all bar three have successfully rearranged and fortunately to new dates where myself and the majority of their suppliers could accommodate too. For those couples who've had to go with a date that I was unavailable on, we've agreed in each case that I'll arrange for an associate photographer to cover their wedding, with me continuing to edit and produce their album afterwards (thanks to my friends Sally Joanne, Declan West, Jon Hesketh and Sarah Louise)!.
Despite the loss of work, the business - which changed to a Limited Company back in January 2020 - is solid and going nowhere. What has also helped is that some couples who have rearranged until later this year or 2021, have made additional part-payments which has really helped. There's been no admin or additional fee for rearranging dates and changing contracts (...who the heck would do that?!) - just a simple re-signing of an e-contract online and the new dates have been locked in.
It will mean though that 2021 will be EXCEPTIONALLY busy, with a lot of travelling across the UK to areas such as the Lakes, Kent, Cardiff, London and my usual home turf in North Wales, Cheshire, Merseyside & Shropshire - but just think of those celebrations and the shots that are waiting to be captured...!
BUILDING BACK BETTER!
Alongside rearranging contracts and dealing with your questions - like a lot of other photographers and friends in the industry, attention quickly turned to investing in myself and the business by positioning it better to benefit for the future. We're often guilty of letting things slip (...I love lists and the therapeutic feeling of getting through the majority of things each day, but still, some things always seem to remain on there!) so the last few months have seen me tackle some of these.
I've been busy making albums for couples back in 2019 who hadn't yet got round to ordering and I've got an exclusive 50% off print sale, thanks to my partners at Loxley Print. It's now been extended until mid-June for any couples who wish to buy any from their wedding! (Just use code; THANKS50).
One other project has been to look at training. Training is something that I've always been cautious of - stupid really - as having now shot over 200 weddings, a voice in the back of your head suggests that you should know it all. Never - I'm a huge fan of other photographers across the world and I love to know the technical details behind certain shots that appear on my insta feed. Not to replicate them, but to challenge my mind to try new things and open up new ideas and creativity. I also love it when other photographers get in touch with kind comments and questions about my shots as well.
I was also struck at the start of lockdown by the HUGE level of support from respected fellow wedding photographers across the industry who offered support, advice and availability to cover rearranged dates. Whilst business is always competitive - we're all in the same boat as many of us are sole traders and are now all the more stronger going forward having made new friends to share things with in the future.
One of these guys was Phil Salisbury, a cool photographer based up in Lancashire. Phil encouraged me to join NineDots, a community of global wedding photographers who train together, share advice, critiques, podcasts and much more. Since joining in April, I've been able to pass on referrals to other photographers for dates I'm already booked for, made new contacts, learnt new skills, received insights from amazing shooters such as Two Mann Studios and Andy Gaines - plus it has also allowed me to really take on-board some new advice to improve my business all round.
Another photographer who I really admire is Manchester based Neil Redfern. Neil is at the top of his game, and has a wide range of fantastic YouTube videos which aim to take your photography to another level. I've joined his Patreon Channel and have taken part in live webinars and submitted images for critique (...which I've come to learn are to be embraced, not feared, in order to help raise your game).
Finally, with a slight bit of light appearing at the end of the tunnel now and my first pre-wedding shoot of the year happening next weekend - I've started to think about preparing for weddings again (...think of it like pre-season training if you can!). Therefore, I'll be hopefully meeting up with one or two previous couples this summer (at a safe distance!) for a staged shoot, basically to allow me to get back into the headspace of shooting again, whilst providing the couple with some beautiful new prints of themselves from the session. I'm doing this at no cost - as I'm so grateful for their help.
Also, keep an eye on my YouTube Channel in the coming weeks for a behind the scenes film from each shoot.
PODCASTING & YOUTUBE
Talking about YouTube, I've decided to create my own channel during lockdown. Firstly, I needed somewhere other than just my website to host some portfolio showreels - plus, thinking about future marketing - a YouTube Channel will really help with my SEO and give me somewhere to build a following for future behind the scenes and podcast films that I hope to create.
I've got a little music / recording studio at home which I've dusted off and upgraded last month to allow me to produce some new film and podcasts - all of which will hopefully give you more of an insight into how I work, my business and what to expect on your wedding day. It's also my aim to interview some fellow wedding industry suppliers and venues over the coming months, to both say thankyou to them and help you understand more about what to expect on your wedding day!
Like I said at the start of this blog, there's always something that keeps falling off the "to-do" list and for us, there's been a whole lot of work going on at home now that time allows. After sending off Rebecca & Adam's gallery in April - attention turned to hiring a skip and clearing out the garage which quickly led to a motivated month of jobs around the house and working on the garden.
We also had a couple of new arrivals in March (a few days before lockdown in fact) - Salt & Pepper! I've always fancied a couple of hens - but never seriously looked into it, therefore we headed over to a local farm and brought home two gorgeous Salmon Faverolles who have quickly become queens of the garden! These girls are no trouble at all, providing a couple of eggs each day and happily keeping the grass short and moss free!
Their fresh eggs make the tastiest poached eggs on toast...
It's also been time to freshen up my home working environment, with my editing room given a new lick of paint, some new framed photo from 2019 weddings and a new desk and flooring along with another room which I'll be using for recording my podcasts.
Zoom catch-up's and quizzes with the family have also become the new normal - plus, it's been great to have weekly Sunday night catch-up's with my closest friends down in London. We see more of each other now than we used to! I've also undertaken the mammoth task of digitising all of my of my printed personal photographs from over the years (first job, graduation plus much more...) and putting my old VHS schoolboy football tapes onto digital, bringing back some great memories in the process. Check out these pics from my younger days below!
Finally, it's been important to invest in our health, alongside Millie's daily dog walks in Erddig Country Park (luckily at the end of the road) where we've been able to socially distance safely whilst doing this. One of the benefits of being at home has been the glorious weather that we've had in April & May, enabling the 10,000 steps to be accomplished most days fairly quickly. We've also got to know neighbours that we may never have through the regular Thursday night claps and from sharing a few boxes of eggs as well!
Back in April, I also did a bit of fundraising and incorporated one of my runs into the Virgin campaign for the NHS...
I've also really enjoyed cooking whilst I've been off and using the weekly shop to think about new recipes and how best to use them. I turned 40 just before lockdown and have a cookery school programme at Harthill to look forward to post-lockdown, but until then, home cooking including using the eggs from Salt & Pepper are sufficing along with my online Sourdough baking course which I'm just about to make a start on (...thanks Helena!).
That's just a little insight from me - hope you've enjoyed reading!