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What measures can we take to continue shooting safely during the Corona pandemic crisis?

By PARKES, written 1584626238

I am sure many photographers, professional and enthusiast alike, are asking themselves the same question. For the professionals, it is a serious matter of safeguarding income streams as much as possible; for the enthusiast, a less serious matter of how to indulge their passion for their hobby, in a safe but fulfilling way. But the same question is also being asked by the other ‘players’ in the industry; the models, make-up artists, photographic studios and costume designers. 

It will affect us all, including the high street camera shops who will be hit by both falling footfall and a reduction in people seeking to purchase equipment and accessories due to reducing their photographic activities. What is certain is that photography is no less likely to be impacted than most other industries. And it remains to be seen whether the pandemic will hasten the demise of any companies. Sadly, I imagine that studios, many of whom are already under significant pressure, will suffer greatly.

In terms of keeping some photographic activities going, I offer the following thoughts as a discussion opener, and a prompt for creative thinking, not an exhaustive list of measures to adopt. I appreciate that some ideas will be less practical than others, but I hope they offer a modicum of common sense thinking in a way that might facilitate the completion of shoots in the safest possible way.

Change your focus

For ’general’ photographers, consider a shift of focus (pun intended) to other forms of photography,  such as wildlife, landscape, aviation photography; any form of photography where close contact with people is easily avoidable, observing all the other advice such as avoiding direct contact with surfaces touched by others (e.g. gates and door handles) and observing the personal hygiene regime as recommended by the health authorities. Try something you have never tried before; architectural, macro, still life, abstract photography.

Move to outdoor-based locations

For the photographers working with models, moving to an outdoor-based location shoot basis seems the most sensible solution, wherever possible, giving the most potential for complying with the current advice regarding social distancing and avoiding close-proximity contact with others. Each individual involved should;

  • self-transport to the shoot location
  • maintain the generally accepted minimum distance from each other (6 feet/2 metres)
  • provide their own sundries (for example, food and drinks, hand sanitiser)
  • take a bottle of water and a bar of soap and towel(s) for hand washing
  • take a waste bag for any rubbish to be taken home and disposed of correctly
  • be provided with an electronic version of any information (for example, release forms, to print their own copies as required)
  • provide their own pen for signing release forms
  • consider taking sterile gloves as a contingency (for example, wearing them to and from the actual shoot location if they have to go through doors and gates)
  • clean their own equipment thoroughly before leaving a site or on return to their base

Risk assessments

Everyone should do their own risk assessment on the location and do a (virtual or real-life) walkthrough from the car park to location and back again, assessing any specific potential infection points and devise a solution to avoid any contact or mitigate the risk in another way.

For studio work, the situation is extremely difficult. Some measures that can be adopted to mitigate risks are listed here;

  • move to solo shoots only – one model, one photographer, one MUA
  • ‘enforce’ social distancing working wherever possible, observing a minimum of 6 feet / 2 metres distance
  • Strict no-touching rule (should be obvious anyway in all circumstances) except for unavoidable MUA interaction
  • Studio personally setting up, moving and operating lights and equipment
  • Sanitising studio-owned camera triggers before and after use on the photographers’ cameras
  • Sanitising any studio props/furniture used in the shoot, before and after use
  • Individuals provide their own costume/clothes wherever possible
  • Studio to provide paper towels and sanitiser/disinfectant – but all individuals should provide their own anyway
  • Individuals could provide their own coffee mugs et cetera, maybe even take their own tea/coffee in a flask

Make-up artists

The situation for make-up artists (MUA) is not so easy, as avoiding proximity and direct contact is nigh on impossible.

One possible solution would be for the MUA to adopt the role of an advisor, sitting apart from the model and directing the model how to apply the makeup to themselves; this would be dependent on good make-up skills by the model and good communication skills by the MUA. In this situation, who provides the make-up would be a key consideration and would depend on the budget.

The MUA is unlikely to want to provide a costly set of make-up and brushes et cetera which could not be used on any other models thereafter. The model is unlikely to have all the make-up used by the MUA. Perhaps the MUA could provide a lost of items required for the shoot and the model or the shoot director; be it an agency, the photographer, a designer, whoever is organising the shoot; can provide the items required. 

Prior contact would probably be required between the model and the MUA to determine types, shades and sources of foundation and makeup to ensure that the best possible effects can be achieved, either through previous experience of working with the model or through a video call or looking at previous photographs.

Where it is not possible to avoid contact, the risk can be mitigated by good hygiene regimes and other measures.

  • wipe down any surfaces with disinfectant cleanser before beginning work
  • put down a paper sheet before placing any brushes and make-up etc on the work surface
  • using sterile gloves
  • washing hands immediately before beginning work
  • provide the model with a paper towel or similar to hold, if he/she needs to cough or sneeze you don’t want to waste time looking for a towel; get them to tell you or raise their hand to let you know and move away; replace and safely dispose of any used towels immediately
  • tidying up and binning anything not to be used again before removing gloves
  • washing hands
  • using paper towels or similar to open doors etc after washing hands, on the way out

Final thoughts

As I said at the beginning, this is not intended as an exhaustive list, more as a stimulant for thought and discussion, but I hope it is of interest and some assistance. Stay safe!