What is the Coronavirus ?
Coronavurses (CoV) are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from Flu to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)
The COVID-19 is the current new strain, being referred as the Novel Coronavirus, which possibly originated in the Wuhan district in China in Dec 2019.
More information at www.cdc.gov/COVID19-symptoms
How is the Virus Transmitted ?
The transmission of the Coronavirus is through the respiratory route. Meaning the virus is connected to the nose, lungs & mouth – and can pass to another person via droplets from nose & mouth. And contact of contaminated surfaces which got exposed to these infected droplets.
How long will the effects last ?
The chain-reaction of this Mega-Bomb has just begun. China being at the epicentre has just had their first day of Zero new cases. India is still under-playing the severity of the whole situation. And not learning anything from what Italy is currently facing.
From the research being put out there, the quarantine & lockdown on travel can last from anywhere between 14-30 days, so expect March & April 2020 to be majorly disrupted.
How will Social Distancing & Self Quarantine Help?
By making yourself shut from the surroundings & from social contact – you distance yourself from the possibility of an infection. The more people that do this – the more we get isolated from the virus & this eventually breaks the chain reaction.
As a Photographer – Are we Obliged to Shoot a Wedding during a Coronavirus Lockdown? What is Force Majeure?
As per the Government policy, it would be extremely difficult for wedding planners & couples to actually go ahead with a wedding. The current restrictions allow 50 or less individuals be present at any event at any given time. This puts a huge restriction on having a wedding.
If you have a contract, the Coronavirus outbreak falls under ‘Force Majeure’ . Legally, it means an unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract. So if you feel unsafe to perform your duty, you can inform the couple ahead of schedule that you would be invoking the Force Majeure clause. Honestly, I would hope that it never has to come down to that, as any educated person would call of a social event in such times. What fun would it be to have a wedding and not have their friends attend, or the attendees come in fear.
If the couple insists on going ahead with you – for the small under-50-guest wedding. I think this is where you would need to take the risk, take the precautions and go ahead and shoot the wedding out of respect for your own work. I think the biggest trait of a Professional Wedding Photographer is that they turn up 100% of the times, and this puny virus will not change that.
I feel this response will vary from person to person, and I just shared what I would end up doing in a scenario where the couple is going ahead with their wedding and I, as a Wedding Photographer, am standing up to the commitment of my skill & time – promised when there was no such calamity.
How does Coronavirus make the Photographer more Vulnerable?
It makes us photographers & artists exposed in two different ways.
- Mentally & Financially
Our Job involves that we come into contact with unknown persons – brides, corporate clients, families for – meetings, payments & finally for photoshoots. This puts us in a direct line of threat before, during & after the photoshoots. We do not know if the other person is infected or not. And it puts us at greater risk.
Wedding Photographers – are especially at a much greater risk – since it involves multiple points of contact & community spread.
- Close Contact with clients & other team members, Moderate contact with their families, hotel staff, High risk while travelling.
- Risk of travel to infected & populated areas like hotels, resorts & banquets.
- Being surrounded by several unknown guests with no scope for distancing.
- Interacting with our team members – who in-turn are exposed to a similar amount of threat. If we look at number of interactions (see infographic above), and guests being exposed to similar threats – in just about 4 events, a team of 6 photographers is exposed to an equivalent of 150,000 people & the risk is staggering.
- Sharing Photographic equipment like cameras & lenses puts the entire shoot & post-production team at a similar risk.
- Sharing & working in studios for post production puts the entire team under a high risk environment where everything kind of converges.
- Compromised immunity due to lack of sleep, tiredness, lack of proper food & water intake.
This in-turn puts the Photographer under extreme mental stress – of being extra-careful, while doing their job properly – making fabulous photographs & films, not missing any moments and also moving around freely. It becomes a very complex situation where one has to a deliver creative while putting their health at an unnecessary & unwanted risk
The Financial burden that Photographers and Artists are going through, is unimaginable. Listed below are some of the other reasons why photographers, artists & freelancers are Hit really bad.
There is a huge number of cancellations for Weddings & Events that were scheduled for March, April & May 2020. Since a lot of dates in Oct-Feb 2021 are already booked for photographers, this means that most of us will not be able to accommodate change of dates from March-April to Nov-Dec. Resulting in Huge losses.
No Work for Freelancers
A lot of Freelancers depend on Studios & other photographers for work dates. Due to cancellations and uncertainty – they will face an extremely difficult time all the way till November when the weddings finally start to happen and the income flow begins. Most Studios will shy from pre-booking the freelancers due to the current scenario leading to a huge question mark for their incomes. In turn, the freelancers will not be able to plan their expenses for the coming 6months or so.
Studio Shutdown & Delivery issues
Loss of work due to studios resorting to quarantine guidelines & personal safety. Having to shut down your edit studio means that – firstly you aren’t able to deliver the photographs & films to the client on time. Secondly it is a big loss of revenue, to keep a huge staff, which will not be able to contribute to your business, and on compassionate grounds – allow them to stay at home, while you take care of their salary.
At least that is the current scenario at our end. Most of the essential staff has been asked to stay home and we have assured that they will get their salary for as long as they have to stay back. For others, who can work from home especially – photo & video editors – we have made arrangements for them to stay back and deliver from the safety of their homes without compromising their health by exposing them to travel & other colleagues.
Having no source of income and taking care of your employees at the same time, while not being able to work & deliver – is the biggest challenge for the studios & photography companies.
What should we do?
Well, everything that I have mentioned so far, you probably already knew or sensed it. I don’t want to write more about what is going on as there are vast resources available on the internet, but to share some possibilities in these difficult times. Here is a compilation of stuff that can help you in the days of Quarantine & Lockdown.
1. General Health & Hygiene
- Make sure you get a Proper Diet, Some basic Exercise & Sleep
- Washing Hands Frequently
- Maintaining Social Distancing
- Avoid Touching Eyes, Nose & Mouth
- Cover Mouth & Nose while Coughing & Sneezing
- Seeking Medical Care if you display any signs of fever, cough or difficulty breathing
- Read More about the WHO Guidelines : https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
If you have to be at a Photoshoot
- Wear protective gear like gloves & masks
- Carry Sanitizing equipment for yourself & your gear
- Carry your own packed food and water to the event
- Energy Bars & Energy Drinks are the quick & hygienic way to fill yourself during a shoot without worrying so much
- Do not share your camera, lenses and even memory cards with your team members
- Make sure you sanitise all equipment before packing it in
- Change your gloves & masks after cleaning the equipment and before closing the bags
- Take a shower when you reach your hotel/residence, place the clothes in a plastic bag and pack them separately for washing
- Stay hydrated and watch out for coronavirus cases in the list of attendees (I am not sure if it is even possible as there is no information of social contact of the patients being shared)
- If unfortunately you or your team member is infected with the virus or have the symptoms, or even in the possibility of the same, keep a backup photographer ready and do not go to the venue yourself under any circumstance. Follow the guidelines listed by the Ministry of Health. Self-Quarantine for 14 days. And if you start to feel extremely unwell past the first week – please consult a Doctor & head to a Hospital.
2. Planning for a Late Wedding Season
The huge number of cancellations (postponements) mean that the wedding planning will resume again once the coronavirus threat is over. Assuming (and hoping) that April 2020 sees the last of the virus & the quarantine measure, this could mean that May-June will become the months when couples & families start looking for new wedding dates.
This could mean that most weddings & events will be bunched up post-monsoons, starting as early as Oct and going all the way till Feb 2021. Which means that the auspicious dates will be extremely busy shoot dates for everyone.
Destination Wedding Photographers like ourselves might face a lot of issues due to travel restrictions and might need to focus on destination weddings which are near our city of work – like Jaipur, Chandigarh, Agra etc. Cities that would be in drivable distance and allow us to avoid flights/trains and thus be easier to manage. I am not sure if Thailand, UAE & USA would lift off restrictions anytime soon.
3. The Good thing about a Late/Heavy Wedding Season
Heavy dates in terms of weddings & events also ensure that studios & photographers who don’t have a substantial reach/popularity – will now have a chance to grab a booking because of extremely booked slots from other studios/photographers. This also means that the loss of business months will be compensated for, quite a bit.
It also means that the winter months will be extremely packed & busy – and you will not get any time to rest or take breaks in between. So you now have a good opportunity to plan it better. Think of this downtime as a prep to the Marathon in the later months of this year. It might just be a blessing in disguise for the worn out bones & the rest that your body wanted.
A loss of 3-6 business months in the wedding industry also means that the prospective clients will exploit the void that was created & want heavy discounts – as all industries get hit equally, and the spending power of the client also reduces substantially everywhere. Be prepared to work in lower than usual budgets & to take up more shoot dates to compensate the same. There are a lot of business ideas that can help you support in these difficult times. I would be happy to discuss this on a case-to-case basis. Reach out to me on Instagram.
5. Don’t invest in equipment just now.
With massive financial instability – investing in more equipment is the worst possible thing that a photographer can do right now. Instead save money and focus on the necessities.
The Imaging industry is going to be hit with this global crisis & chances are that they will feel our pain and offer discounted prices a few months down the line.
6. Spend time with your family
Photographers & artists alike – are often social outcasts & don’t get to spend time with their families – due to assignments, travel or post-production. Like I said earlier, this self-quarantine could be a blessing in disguise. Make up for all the lost time with your parents, kids & siblings while at home, while practicing safe quarantine measures.
7. Self Quarantine
For artists & photographers, I think this would come the easiest. We are known to be in our shell, editing, making new art, photographing crazy stuff – away from social contact for weeks & months sometimes. Let’s not get impatient and get out of the zone now. Let us do what we do best – stay indoors & stay away.
8. Read, Study, Netflix!
This is the best time to catch up on the skills you always wanted. Lightroom Color Grading, Photoshop Editing, After Effects ? Something else you have been putting away for ages like Yoga?
You now have enough time to catch up on all that.
Read a book. We are so busy working with our cameras & sitting in front of computers that most of us have forgotten what a good ‘ol paper book feels like. It’s time to read one. I just started mine!
9. Self Portraits, Surroundings
This is a great opportunity to start a new project while being indoors and being in front of the camera for a change. Make a vlog, post on instagram or just show us your OOTD or Lunch Recipe. It will surely give you new insights about work possibilities and will give you a Daily goal to achieve. Capture a view from your window every day at different times, make time lapses, do a series of self-portraits, capture photographs of your family, be creative! It will also be a start to a healthy conversation between you & your friends.
10. Interact with Other Photographers
Remember that you are not the only one. Everyone in the photography industry, including me, will be going through the same effect of this pandemic. If you want to reach out to any individual for help or guidance – now is a good time to do so.
I am always open to interact, help, learn & reply to your queries or just have a casual conversation on my Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/ramitbatraphotography
11. Let your staff stay at Home, pay them advance!
Do not pressurise your staff to come to work. Be it the editors, cleaning staff, photographers, production crew, accounts or admin. Allow them to stay at home and worry about the safety of their family and themselves, and support them by giving them the salary for March already.
Here’s hoping that the figures that the Indian Government is stating are real & that community spread has been prevented.
Current Global Statistics as per World Health Organisation (WHO)
As on 19 March 2020 while I finished writing this article, the figures were as follows :
Having the mentality ‘I am young and nothing can touch me’ – is just stupid, selfish and dangerous.
Remember, social distancing is not just for you, it is for your family, your parents, your siblings, someone else’s mom & dad and grandparents, and especially those at risk who might not survive if infected with the virus. It is about everyone fighting together as a team and staying safe – Now more than ever.
From what I have gathered, by looking at the research of some of the top scientists and their predictions – the numbers are currently low in India – not because the spread has not happened, but because enough people are not being tested for the virus. Which only means, that unlike Italy & China – which had substantial infrastructure, testing and preventive measures – India will possibly be the worst hit. With Millions of people living in small closed slums with extremely difficult conditions, Several millions living below the poverty line, daily wage workers & the vast uneducated and unprepared crowds – it is really hard to digest the fact that the spread has not happened so far. The part that worries me the most is the fact that the daily wage worker, the helpers & the homeless who get a little to survive on from whatever they earn – how are they going to manage the pandemic. Even if the Coronavirus saves them, what about the lack of sources of income, food & water.
For the fortunate & the privileged ones, the ones who are hoarding food water & toilet paper – maybe we are overreacting, but it is way better to overreact than to wake up 2 weeks from now and see how everything was grossly under calculated.
I really hope I don’t get to say ‘I told you so’ this time. Praying!
Stay Safe, and let’s survive this pandemic – by also giving everyone else a fighting chance. Don’t forget to think about those who are not as fortunate as us, and cannot even quarantine – or don’t even know what’s going on.
In case you would like to get in touch with me for any Help/Questions in Photography, Filmmaking, Health or any other general discussion, feel free to connect on Instagram.
In case you or anyone you know requires assistance, Central Helpline Number for corona-virus in India is +91-11-23978046
You can get more information here for all other state helplines in India : DOWNLOAD PDF