As we’re all aware, businesses were shut down worldwide several weeks ago due to Covid-19, and as with any traumatic event of this nature, there was a period of anxiousness and uncertainty. Just as the grip of the Novel Coronavirus started to clench down here in the states, I had just signed a lease on my first studio, this was the beginning of March. As a headshot and portrait photographer, this was a huge and exciting step for me! Sessions were still running strong those first few weeks then towards the end of the month our Kentucky State Governor issued orders to shut things down.

I was in shock!. I _did_ have a bit of a business nest egg built up, but how long would it last? How long would this shut down go for? As per the orders, the shutdown was indefinite. 

[Related Reading: Here’s How The Coronavirus Will Impact The Photography Industry]

Healthy at Work Louisville Photographer 0005 Louisville Portrait Photographer Gary Barragan

Adapt, Improvise, Overcome

So being a military brat, you kind of learn the ability to adapt and overcome. Every few years as I was growing up, just as I was getting comfortable, my Popz would get a promotion and we would have to up and move. This ability to adapt would eventually become an asset to life in my opinion. You quickly learn to react to the curveballs thrown at you and then how to best navigate around them. This pandemic would be no different. I refused to sit and mope or remain idle but rather find ways to contribute to our community while planning to re-open, which I knew would happen eventually. Every day I was tuning in at 5:00 pm for Andy Beshear’s daily briefings to get the latest updates, metrics, and trends while also keeping up to date on surrounding states to help plan for this opening day.

PPE – it was instilled in our brain that we should be wearing this when we were out, life as we knew it was changing day-to-day. I had a doctor’s visit where I had to fill out a health check and they took my temperature using a contactless thermometer. Hand sanitizer stations were everywhere. Socially distanced markers were starting to pop up at the grocery stores. If I was waiting in line at a store, I could visually see where to stand to respect the space of others. I studied society and the different protocols that were being implemented. I took notes and started to formulate my own game plan. I knew that all these protocols and health measures would be carried over as guidelines to re-opening our economy.

Healthy at Work Louisville Photographer 0016 Gary Barragan SLR Lounge

Soon I was on the hunt for PPE to be used at the studio. Striking out every time at the national chain stores, I started to stop at the local hardware stores where I found just about everything I needed. Lysol spray, disinfectant wipes, Hand sanitizer, face shields, etc. I even had an extra box of nitrile gloves in the kitchen that I use for cooking. The one thing that eluded my was a contactless thermometer, but after multiple google searches I lucked out with iHome.

[Related Reading: These Companies Are Helping Photographers During The Coronavirus Crisis (UPDATED)]

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) Supplies

  1. Masks
  2. Face shields
  3. Nitrile Gloves
  4. Hand sanitizer
  5. Disinfectant spray and wipes
  6. Contactless thermometer
  7. Sterile pads
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Once I gathered my PPE, I knew how I would operate would be changing as well. I would have to modify everything I do in the studio, from clients no longer being able to check-in at the community lounge, to how sessions and tethering would run once the client steps in front of my camera. Based on our Governor, Andy Beshear’s Healthy at Work guidelines for photographers, I created a new way of operating for my photography business.

I drafted new email templates, created a new web page which includes the measures I’m implementing, and maps on where to enter the building, (since the main entrance is closed to the public).

Now when it comes to actually photographing my clients, I’m usually more than 6’ away from the client so that wasn’t the issue. Reviewing the images in-session was the issue. I normally shoot tethered to my MacBook Pro where the client and I can review and critique the images as the session progresses. However, with social distancing, “We can’t be doing that”, so thankfully Apple recently released a feature called sidecar which was the perfect solution. While I’m on my MacBook on my side of the studio, I’m streaming wirelessly to my iPad Pro on the other side of the studio where the client can still see what I’m seeing.

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Gear For Social Distanced Photography

  1. Canon EOS R
  2. RF 85mm f/1.2 (headshots)
  3. RF 24-70mm f/2.8 (portraits)
  4. RF 70-200mm f/2.8 (portraits)
  5. 16” Macbook Pro running Side Car
  6. 12.9” iPad Pro

The day before opening on May 11th I was contacted by our local Wave 3 News and was interviewed for the photography segment as one of the studios to first open up. I received a call that Sunday afternoon and within a couple of hours we were at the studio doing the interview.

All my planning had paid off! Having everything in place for opening helped with the interview as the reporter could see what my operations would look like. I even sent him the link to my page where it went over directions and what to expect.

Monday came and what a day it was. As I was packing up for my first session, I received a call from Wave 3 News where they wanted to circle back around do a follow-up interview! Thankful again I was thinking ahead. Then later that day as I was photographing my client, my phone started blowing up with texts… Andy Beshear featured my IG on his daily briefing for modeling how to grab onto the new guidelines and build confidence with our clients. I never submitted for anything of the sort so it was a total surprise to hear this news, I felt pretty honored.

My first week back in business was exhilarating to say the least. I was able to create the images my clients need while being safe and still having fun! I know we still have a long road ahead of us, but I think with proper planning and forward-thinking we can sustain and even excel. There are still a few obstacles I need to figure out for my hair and make-up team as they currently are not allowed to work on location outside of their salon. One of the alternatives is the client would go to see them at their salon before coming to see me. It’s not ideal, but it’s what we have to do for now.

Healthy at Work Louisville Photographer 0005 Louisville Portrait Photographer Gary Barragan

Final Thoughts

Now I know my method is not the end all be all for everyone, as every state differs but what I do hope is that by sharing my story, it will help photographers in other states on thinking ahead and creating a plan for when they are able to re-open their studio. Now if you have opened your studio already, I invite you to share your story. What challenges did you face? What success stories have you had already? I look forward to hearing your thoughts! Everyone please stay healthy and safe! 

*Content Shared With Permission by Gary Barragan