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Wedding Photographer Talks About COVID-19 Situation | Spring 2020 Wedding Season

March 26, 2020


Hey, this is Scott of Photography Banzai. I’m gonna be talking
to a professional photographer today about the COVID-19 situation currently,
which is March 25th 2020. We’ll be about wedding photography and this is Christopher Tyson. @CTysonPhotography You got it man! You do mostly wedding stuff,
right? Yeah, I’m primarily a wedding photographer. That’s by far the lion
share of my income. I also do some commercial work, mainly with hotels and
event industry stuff. But by far and what has been the primary source of my income
has been wedding. Specifically and exclusively for about 11 years now.
Awesome, yeah, I went to your.. what was it like.. a meeting & greet photography
wedding photography…? How to do weddings… Yeah, a little bit everything. Just trying
to.. yeah! See, yeah. And try.. and try and meet some new people. And give them the opportunity to kind of
get a bit of a taste of what it would be like being a wedding photographer. It’s a
tough thing to tell you what it is. It’s more or something just experience. But
yeah. Yeah, yeah, I did it once with someone else. But I also did it once or
twice as just like a friend thing. So I kind of have an idea. But definitely a
lot of helpful information that you gave us for the timeline. That was really interesting. Good! So let’s introduce your photography a little bit more. So you said
the weddings and also the extra stuff. So with your wedding photography how many
do you tend to do per year? My first few years of shooting weddings… 2009, 10, and 11 I would definitely consider myself a part-time wedding photographer.
In there those years I was right around that 8 to 12 mark. And then 2012 I got
close to 20 and then 2013 to present… I think the lowest I’ve done is 27 and
the highest I’ve done is 38. Wow, that’s a lot. If they end up being spread out over
the year. It’s not too bad, but it’s the rough ones when it’s just literally the
summer months and a little bit of fall. Those are long years, yeah. I could
imagine. So with the current situation. The virus outbreak, is pretty much ever
thing canceled at this point? The cancellations that I’ve had so far have
come from the client end. Not too many of the cancellations I’ve experienced have
come from like the venue end. The venue are right now.. are like literally hanging
on to the last minute. And I think over the next few days here we’ll probably
see a lot of the May ones get canceled as well, my gut says. And that’s gonna
be a venue based one. But it’s a weird limbo to be in. Nobody’s ever had a
business plan or an idea of what to do if our industry just gets turned off,
like a light switch. And so we’re all just kind of figuring this one out. And
feeling this one out. And yeah, I don’t think anybody has any good answers on
what exactly is gonna happen. For everyone watching in Illinois basically
we have a stay at home guideline for the most? Yeah, he said mandate, but
then he didn’t sign an executive order. So I… oh okay. Nobody really knows Like and then, yeah how do private events fall into that? So it’s… You mentioned with the
venues that they’re trying to hold on to whatever they’ve got. How can they even
do that in this situation? Hopes and prayers? Yeah. Uhh, you know Illinois like
our mandate right now is only through April 7th. Because they’re kind of doing
things in two weeks blocks at a time. But when it comes to a wedding you have
to pull so many different things together and guests are traveling from
out of town. And coordinating so many different things with different
companies. And just.. you know, you can’t wait until two days before your wedding
to call it off. You have to start planning ahead of time. And the other
thing that’s taking place is the March and April brides, and even some of the
May ones, who have already rescheduled are taking a lot of the only few free
dates we had later in the year. So if May all of a sudden is forced to reschedule,
and everybody tries and reschedules at the same time. You just.. you run out of
dates and you run out of vendors very quickly. And nobody has an answer for
what to do in that situation. I can’t completely disagree with just
trying to keep things as the status quo. If we can get back to doing things as we
normally do, that would be the easiest solution to this.
However, the people who are committing to reschedule and.. and.. change dates and do
stuff right now… They’re being able to choose their dates and choose and have
options and stuff. And pretty soon options won’t be on the table, and it
will just kind of be a free-for-all if this does go into May and especially
June. Do you mostly do it on weekends, or do you actually have decent amount of
weddings in the weekday period. Well, I have weddings Friday, Saturday, Sunday all
throughout the year. Not every single one of them by any
stretch of the imagination. But here and there. Last year I had my first just
random Tuesday wedding. That wasn’t a reschedule wedding or anything. Just
literally a Tuesday. And I had the feeling that they’ll be more Tuesday
weddings this year. Yeah.. Uhm, It just.. it’s an availability and it’s an option to where
if you still wanted to get married in a shorter timeframe and not have to
regroup and do everything that’s definitely something to consider. So
we’re entering all kinds of territory of we’ve never done this before. So we’ll
just kind of figure it out on the spot. What are some of the challenges to a
small business currently in this situation? Anything tied to the wedding
industry… The biggest issue we’re having is literally our income was turned off
on a light switch. Just literally that. And, you know, photographers are a little
different. A lot of us either work out of our house or a small studio. I have a
studio space, but other companies that have employees, like a DJ company or a
florist company… You know they have the added issue of not only income for them,
but how do they pay their employees? How long you keep your employees? What is
unemployment pay? And then, you know, how is.. is government going to have the
assistance in place for small business? It’s just.. there’s a lot of unknowns to
the point that it’s really difficult in something that we don’t have clear
direction. And I would say that’s not really anybody’s fault. This is just
something that nobody’s experienced before. Again, nobody had a business model
and plan in place for when the entire world gets shut down. Nobody did! The
biggest thing that it’s also going to affect is the timing of it. For us, coming
out of our slow season. March, April.. we generally don’t have a lot of our
strong savings built up and in play. And especially now, because the way we’ve
always done it is, okay, we look at our calendar. We budget. We say: April, May, June…
we have this many weddings. This many events. This is our cash flow. This is
when it’ll come in. This will apply. And we budget accordingly to that. And that’s
we’ve done it every year. And right when that cash flow is supposed to ramp up is
right when the light switch was switched. And so nobody’s in a good spot, right now.
Because we budgeted accordingly to what was gonna happen. And that’s.. that’s my
toughest thing that I personally experienced is budgeting and planning
for a cash flow to come in, and then just not have it come in. There’s a really
good chance that I’ll be able to sort out most of it without taking a huge
financial los,s as far as actual weddings themselves. But that doesn’t help me pay
my rent, you know? And my mortgage in seven days. You know, that that’s the
tough part. Yeah. I know that previously when I was at your event you talked about doing
a little bit of additional photography the different type with the hotels…
That’s been my saving grace through this. Towards the end of last year late
fall-ish I had opportunity kind of develop working with Hilton and some
other properties all across the United States and photographing them and documenting.
You know I talked to my fiance about you know disappearing for two and three days
at a time and traveling. And having a one-year-old, and how that’d work. Coming
out of that conversation we’re like… Hey we’re entering a slower year. This
is an opportunity we have. Let’s make it work. And so we made it work. And, you
know, so there’s many a time I’d fly it on the Mississippi and then
I’d fly directly over to Washington or I fly directly to South Carolina. And then
come home. And then try and do everything else. And then be a dad. And then have a sick kid. And stuff and the saving grace I have with that. Is anytime you
deal with any in the corporate world no payments come quickly. So a lot of my
payments that I’ve had take sometimes almost 90 days to get to me. So I
actually have a backlog of payments and profit coming in that’s gonna help me
dramatically in this spot. Kind of luck. You know, it wasn’t planned
to be that, but it’s definitely gonna be one of my saving graces that this
off-season, you know, we made the commitment we were gonna work. Rather
than just kind of relax. Worked out great! I’m not gonna argue with it. Does this kind
of give you motivation to potentially branch out a little bit more in the
future with your photography, or is there like no time once the wedding start? Yes and no… Uhm, no Hotel wants their photos of a the property taken on a weekend. They’re
always packed. So these are only taking place Monday through Thursday. And so the
question is.. can I be efficient enough when I’m on the road as far as editing
and keeping my business in play? And meetings and stuff, and still do this. You
know, I definitely probably won’t turn down a lot of opportunities. But they’ll
definitely be some weeks in there where I’ll probably black them out and say, hey, I
love you guys. But I just I can’t travel right now I need to take care of this
first. So I.. the my… the way I am operating my business is weddings come
first. Weddings have their pick of my time, and then if I can fill something
else in I’ll fill something else in, and uhm maybe even push something in there that
isn’t an easy fill, but I’ll kind of smash it in. But that goes kind of with
everything that I’ve done from day one. Like, I generally don’t turn down the
opportunity to explore.. to taste.. and especially when you can make money doing it. Yeah. Why would you tap the brakes on that? You never know what’s
gonna happen, or the opportunity that it’s gonna lead into. So just go
experience it. The worst thing that can happen is if you do a first short period
of time and you’re like: Hey this just isn’t for me, or my timings not right. And
then you get out of it. But there’s nothing wrong with trying it out. And I
tried it out, and it’s been a huge huge win for us. Let’s just assume that this
situation changes by June. Okay. At that point, do you want to kind of speculate
what’s gonna happen with the wedding situation? Let me ask you this. June 1 or the
end of June? Because that is going to be a very critical month, I think, for all of
us. I think a lot of us in the industry… We can weather May, and I think a good
chunk of us have already budgeted in a way that we don’t think that May weddings
are gonna happen. June’s gonna be the one where… If
this gets pushed into June, or let’s just say they ease recommendations. And they
allow, like, the smaller gatherings. Weddings are probably going to be one of
the last things they like officially say and allow. Hey let’s bring, you know, 300
people together. And serve food. And be around for eight to ten hours. And have a
lot of elderly and high-risk people at it… That’s true. It probably will be one
of the last things they rubber stamp and say: Hey you’re good to go on. So it’s not
inconceivable that a good chunk of businesses could be moving back to
normal by the beginning of June, but weddings are still kind of in a weird
limbo. Or almost in a way like bootlegged where, you know, you kind of have them off
the grid. Or a different way than, you know, over.. it yeah… semi-legal, yeah Food is gonna be a big one. They’ve been very Clear about restaurants in
Illinois. All restaurants that serve food to somebody who comes in and sits is not
open, period. So now does a wedding reception count as that? And that’s where
like we get into this this weird area they don’t know. So I would say, if if we
can start doing weddings again June 1, uhh… It’ll be a very painful year. Nobody’s
really gonna grow. Nobody’s going to have like a big giant huge win of the year.
But all of us will survive I think. I don’t think there’ll be too much
long-term damage. Ahh, June’s gonna be the big one. Because then.. you.. at that point you’ve already pushed, you know, March.. April.. May..
Brides later into the year or also into 2021. If you start have to do June as well too… ehhh. We’re gonna run on availability. The
other thing to think out is if you’re a 2021 bride who’s thinking about getting
married, or you just got engaged. A lot of your prime dates are gonna disappear
very very quickly from the rescheduling as well. By shutting us down for only a
small period of time can greatly affect how literally the next 18 months of
these weddings are gonna pan out and how they’re gonna work out. Yeah. scheduling, I can imagine, trying to push three months into: June, July, August, … Hopefully you can
manage that like physically and being capable of it.
Yeah, it’s it’s the physical portion of it. It’s the backlog of editing. It’s the
time sitting in front of the computer. Yeah. It’s gonna be scheduling the emails.
Scheduling the meetings. If you’re a whole wedding venue. It’s going to be
having the amount of staff that you need to do it. Because a lot of the wedding
venues rely just on the weekend only staff. So a lot of the people have
regular jobs. So if we start doing those Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday weddings… Where are you gonna get the staff to do this? There’s so many pieces to it when you
start digging into it that, you know, in… All the the DJ’s, or even some
photographers who will rent gear. There’s only enough gear. Oh! To rent.. rental to go around too So. That’s true. Yeah. In May.. June’s it’s gonna be… It’s gonna be very telling. And some
people are gonna be squeezed pretty hard. And it’s not fun to see. And it’s not fun
to know. But to think that every single one of us as wedding vendors had a
great savings account. And we planned ahead and we budgeted for having our
industry turned off for multiple months… I don’t think that’s a fair thing to put
on all of us. But the end result is is that we have to pay bills, you know. Yeah. That… Coming sooner than later. Yeah, ha. Do you always have a second
photographers? Or is that kind of part of your option for a wedding couple? It’s
included in my initial… Like when somebody says how much do you charge for
a wedding? The initial price that I talk about always includes a second
photographer. Okay. So do you think you would find it challenging if it is
pushed back to find so many people to help you out? I’d say you probably across
all the wedding’s that are like of an average to decent budget in size. 80 to
85% of them have two shooters. And then… Let’s just say a really busy area time
frame in our Northern Illinois Rockford area. Let’s just say we have ten weddings
going on per day. Where.. That need a second shooter. If all of a sudden all
these things get compressed and we’re now to 15 weddings that happened on a
Saturday that means we need 15 second shooters. Yeah. And some of these
people who are second shooting now have their lead wedding on their own
because people are running out of dates and stuff gets passed off. So that will
be a pain point and that’s gonna be another scramble. Because
there’s only so many of them. The photographer forums you’ll probably see us three
days before a wedding begging for a second shooter and.. and stuff. And I.. That’s one of those things of like having that second shooter development and training
is getting in front of that as well too. It wasn’t planned on at that time of you
know happening like that. But it’s another one of those things we have a
list of people that we can start developing and pooling and preparing for
it. I know I have a friend in the floral industry and they’ve already had to push
so many dates to later in the year. And she’s already looking at these dates
like… Oh my gosh… And she went to her employees and just like: get ready! Like.
Okay. We’re… get ready to work… I just no answer to it other than that, yeah. Is there
anything else so you can think of? I would like to give.. like.. if anything I
could give like a word of encouragement to like some of my fellow people within
the industry. And that, like.. This is an ebb and flow. This is a very painful
season, but it is just a season. It’s something that, you know, just as summer
moves through a season winters gonna move through a season. And there will
come a time when we’re on the other side. You know, and get ready to ramp up. And
I’m… my greatest thing that I’m doing for my business and what I would encourage
all of us other vendors is to take this time to get better. And to hone those
things. To develop skill sets. To put, you know, policies and practices in place
that once spring does happen. You’re ready to put that gas pedal down and go.
Because it’s it’s gonna get chaotic very very quickly. As much as, I like…
Definitely two days ago I had a day where I was just like, you know I’m just
kind of done with everything. And I’m not gonna do anything of value. And I’m just
gonna probably get fat on the couch for a day. And I just gave up on the day. No
problem in admitting it at all. You know, but if we do that for a week and two
weeks… and three weeks right now while this downtime is… All the sudden spring’s gonna get
here and we’re not gonna be ready. So just take advantage of this time and
do the things that you’ve been wanting to do, as far as making your business
better. And also making yourself better as a person. And get ready because
once we make it to the other side it’s it’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be chaotic.
It’s gonna be busy, but there’s gonna be a lot of opportunities out there for us
to grow very very very quickly. Yeah I learned that it is a very physical job
as well. So maybe some actual training would help. Start jogging! Like.. I..
downloaded the.. couch to.. “The couch to 5k” app. I’m gonna start running here. Because I… What great better way to social distance than just a run away from
people? Haha, Oh yeah. Sure. Thanks for your time. Again, ahh… @CTysonPhotography on Instagram and the website, so CTysonPhotography.com You got it! Okay. Awesome.
I really appreciate it. Yeah. Thank you! Okay so I’m just gonna start off. If you
make a mistake or anything just pause and then redo it. I’m going to edit this
for sure, so. Now what part do I freestyle rap? Ha, Whenever you feel like it!

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