COVID-19 Effect on Photography and Events

Photography Services Sydney

How will photographers and event professionals need to adjust their services to survive in the new world after Coronavirus COVID-19?

What we Have or Had in the Events Sector

Do photographers need to adjust their prices to meet weaker short to mid term demand? What to they need to look for to minimise the negative impact?

Some of our thoughts;

In Sydney Australia, there are no (zero) major events in the business and entertainment sectors in the short term. All cancelled or postponed. The usual major event build-up that happens towards the end of the financial year is not happening this year (2020). That’s half of the yearly dollars wiped from the ledger. 

When you rip out more than 400 000 events a year and around $2.5 billion a month disappears from our professional world, that hurts a lot of people and hurts the Australian economy to a dollar value of $30b per year. Just under 200 000 people are now idling and coming to an abrupt full stop. Sydney being one of the biggest business events enablers are set to lose the most.

In the small to midsize Live Music space we’re seeing many postponements towards end of the year rather than complete cancellations. 

The Australian summer large music and festival season starts in our springtime September to October. So there’s some hope there.

Two large festivals we’ve photographed in the past are Rainbow Serpent Festival and Blues Fest, both having been deferred to 2021 at a great loss to their local communities and artists. Both will thankfully live on. Others may not be as fortunate. 

Local community festivals run by either local community hubs or the local Councils usually run in spring time. No word yet if these very important Fairs will be on this year. Newtown Festival, Surry Hills Festival, Glebe Street Fair and the great community events Randwick Council (Cancelled Events Link) puts on in their local area. I’m sure the Many Jazz festival would be sorely missed if it couldn’t run, as well as many others.

Artshub.com.au covers a few of the many large events around Australia that have been cancelled and the impact that has made locally. Internationally some Australian Artists are impacted (43) they were scheduled to tour overseas to SXSW.

Smaller performance spaces near us such as Belvoir Street Theatre (who just put out an appeal for donations) and Seymour Centre being small indoor spaces hopefully will be able to showcase performances in a few short months. 

Australiacouncil.gov.au has announced its support package for the arts sector. This includes major cancelling or suspending of a long list of program investments. Those who are or were getting some funding for various arts programs now are not a double blow for them. Instead the budget is being reused for other Groups and programs that are deemed more at risk.

Venues ‘Closed’ for Business

ICC Sydney our largest and newest purpose built exhibition and performance space↗ is essentially shut down for the Federal Governments mandated period from 18th March to 16th June. With not more than a hundred people allowed indoors, this cancels every business event and live entertainment at all major venues.

ICC Sydney Postponed Events due to COVID-19

Smaller venues are similarly effected. One of our favourite to visit are our historic houses that operate as “Living Museums” are also closed.

Sydney Living Museums Closed due to COVID-19

Lost Jobs During COVID-19 in Events

Jobs and business losses in some parts of the media sector will struggle. Change is going to hurt. APP – Medianet knows this well with their recent turbulence ↗. Even so they’ve put together a Jobs Board for those who need every avenue to get a camera back in their hand.

They’ve also put this resource together highlighting some events and how they’ve been affected.

Cancelled Events List by Medianet

Survey Results from 400 VC Founders (US)

​Survey released early April 2020 from 400 Seed, Series A & VC Founders​ (US based)​

​Research by nfx.com reveals what venture capital invested businesses are thinking. Technology plays an important role in the Events sector. Software and broadcasting comes to mind.
Survey results on who’s standing down staff and who’s hiring.

F​r​om NFX ↗ “We understand the challenges our community is facing. We hope this information helps everyone navigate more confidently”

Survey results on who's standing down staff and who's hiring

Chart – Survey Who’s Standing Down Staff and Who’s Hiring Data Collection by NFX.com

Who’s Hiring During COVID-19 Coronavirus

If you need to pivot your career to keep your own job or business and keep your employees, casuals or otherwise. It helps to see a macro view of the shifting business landscape. Who’s hiring and which sectors are or have stalled.

It’s okay to stay in a sector that’s temporarily stalled if you’ve got the means to carry yourself through. If there’s no hurry to make a decision. Hold back. Rushed decisions should be avoided without consulting your trusted network and sleeping on it a while.

A positive note from Michael Taylor at Candor.co ↗ “one interesting thing I noticed, is that every industry still has some companies hiring”

Which Industry Sectors are Hiring and Firing COVID-19

Industry Sectors, Hiring and Firing – COVID-19. Data Collection by Candor.co

Wedding Photographers Also Hit Hard

Besides Event Photographers of every sub genre loosing work. Spare a thought for wedding specialist.

With the Federal Health Department issuing specific limitations on weddings ↗

“Weddings can be conducted with no more than five people, including the couple, the celebrant and the witnesses. The 4 square metre rule and social distancing must be observed.”

Wedding  photographer play an integral role at weddings. Such a special time needs to be recorded. Photographers who specialise in this area full time will no doubt be loosing all their income. Same to for hair and make up, florist, stylists and how many couples and their parents have poured thousands of dollars into the wedding celebrations long in advance.

Wedding Cancellations and Refunds

The ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) has this Q&A specifically mentioning this scenario.

Question – My wedding has been cancelled ↗ or reduced in size. Am I entitled to a refund of the deposit I’ve paid separately to other vendors for products or services I no longer need, such as my florist, photographer, live band, car hire company, etc.?

Answer –

  • You should first approach the provider of each service to see if they are prepared to offer a refund or other remedy, such as credit note or voucher.
  • Whether you are entitled to refund of your deposit will depend on the terms and conditions of your booking with each vendor.
  • You may also have rights under contract law where the contract can no longer be performed.
  • Given the exceptional circumstances, the ACCC encourages all businesses to treat consumers fairly.

During this very difficult period for both the vendors who have no future work guarantee and for the customer who may or may not have a job. This will be tough.

All going well for both parties it could be a great wedding come spring time.

Event Cancellations in Reference to Tickets

Again The ACCC has added some information specifically on tickets to events.

If you’ve purchased a ticket to an event and it’s been cancelled ↗

Answers from ACCC

  • If your event is cancelled the ACCC expects that you will receive a refund or other remedy, such as a credit note or voucher, in most circumstances.
  • However, if the event is cancelled due to government restrictions, this impacts your rights under the consumer guarantees.
  • You may be entitled to a refund under the terms and conditions of your ticket.
  • You should contact the business directly to request a refund or other remedy such as a credit note or voucher.
  • Given the exceptional circumstances, the ACCC encourages all businesses to treat consumers fairly.

With every event cancelled or postponed, we’ve seen emailed newsletters sent to consumers offering refunds or giving them the option to hold on to their ticket in anticipation of the event running again post pandemic.

On the question of incurring travel and accommodation cost, its a similar response from ACCC with the exception of the recommendation of checking with your travel insurance policy. A bit of a long shot.

A change of mind because of a concern for COVID-19 Coronavirus yields a different answer, basically a change of mind wouldn’t be covered by consumer. We doubt with would be a widespread issue as every major event has been cancelled anyhow.

When it comes to consumer law, always check with the ACCC / your local governing body or a professional about your specific circumstance.

‘Events’ and ‘Venue’ Google Keyword Search Trends Phase 1 of COVID-19

Events Sector Keyword Search Trend Over 90 days covid-19 effect

Graph of Events Sector Google Keyword Search Trends COVID-19

‘Wedding’ and ‘Photographer’ Keyword Search Trend Phase 1 of COVID-19

'Wedding' and 'Photographer' Keyword Search Trends After COVID-19

Trend Graph of ‘Wedding’ and ‘Photographer’ Keyword Searchers COVID-19

Google trends confirms what we already know. The search for industry specific terms have dropped. Terms such as ‘Events, ‘Venues’, ‘Wedding’ and ‘photographers’ are all down. We see a spike in people in Australia looking for information on ‘events cancelled due to coronavirus’ then as the new reality sets in that everything is cancelled that search term flat lines.

If the downward graphs reflect your business reality. It not you it’s the Coronavirus COVID-19 effect.

If you’re seeing less or no traffic and less to no enquiries it’s the current state and not you. Don’t stress about your website or marketing plan. Use this time to make long term improvements or pivot and shift. See the below action plan for what proactive actions you can make right now.

One question to ask yourself. Is your offer still sell-able in the market place right now?

If it’s not, then it’s time to regroup and set some new goals.

Post Pandemic

Post pandemic, how will the event market ramp-up in large cities, quickly or with a nervous trickle as we pull away from the grip of a health and economic crisis? Can we escape the gravity pull of a bigger slump in business confidence since the 20th Century. WW2 like economic distress has been mentioned.

Professional photographers could suffer a pandemic of their own as professions because they’ve had to move to other sources of income. Photographers with experience in local or major international events talent pool could shrink, this would open the way for the newer photographers to win more large multi-day event work.

Predicting Winners

Could we be in a situation where there’s a very strong resurgence in major events because of the pent up or backlog of annual events and a shortage of experienced photographers? Ya never know.

Same situation could happen to venues being booked out because of the compression of cancelled events in the first 6 months of 2020.

In this best case scenario, we may see a premium put on the highly sought after venues as they book out. 

This could also open the door to part-time photographers, they can make up the shortfall if there’s fewer full time photographers that can shoot during business hours. Many full time photographers may move away from the profession to keep food on the table.

Event Managers will need to adapt very quickly so where the post COVID-19 investment roads leads us too. There will be some.

Marketing Managers know there’s always a few sectors that do very well out of adversity while others fall off a cliff. 

News websites are up 50% on visitation, add revenue should follow. As Sparktoro’ Rand says “The First Wave: Nothing But Covid” “The Third Wave: Back to a New Normal” 

The Third wave is where our focus is, planning on making a difference to the Events Community in whatever shape it comes out of the deep winter freeze.

Times will get tough/er, some Coporates will need / must spend more to promote themselves. The business community will get really hungry for revenues. When leads are in short supply a bigger percentage of the budget gets spent on marketing and promotions. Cost per acquisition will be high. Every new lead will be more precious than ever. 

State and Federal Governments typically focus more on the big picture, macro economy. Local Government will need to play a role in engaging local suppliers, the locals will need the neighbourhoods revived.

Those that invest in hard times will reap greater returns when markets stabilise.
We can hope.

Recessionary Pressures on Event Photography Pricing

Event photography pricing and rates vary by virtue of at least half a dozen sub-genres of event photography. Every medium to large event has enough differences to warrant costing up on a case by case basis. That’s in the corporate and commercial side of the sector. The domestic or personal types of events such as christenings and birthday parties are much easier to give fixed pricing based on time. Weddings are in a category all to it’s self in the way prices are determined.

In the lead up to and during the actual pandemic with a ban on all face to face gatherings means no events, all cancelled or postponed, end result means no revenue. A big zero. Every event professional specialist supplying to the business sector is all in it together.

When the recovery period of the recession starts, we expect the market will go one of 3 ways.

  1.  If there’s pent up demand for major events that come to market all at once in the second half of 2020, we’ll see prices stay pre-COVID-19. 
  2. A prolonged economic depression will drive the monthly $2.5b sector in Australia to being just a memory of what it once was.
  3. If there’s a hesitant or stalled economy in the corporate sector, photography prices will drop approximately 20% plus across the board. In other words a deflationary projection. Not good for the already 200 000 people struggling with uncertainty in the events sector. 

Factors to Consider

One unknown factor is how the business consumer will feel about the rapid shift to the online world. This may take away some volume from the person to person events.

A prediction is that smaller events will use Video Conferencing and Live Streaming as the preferred way of people connecting. 

Humans will always gravitate towards a face to face environment when they can. And we see the need for person to person contact grow from the social distancing that we’re all needing to adapt too during the early 2020. Human needs don’t change permanently so quickly. 

Large Trade Shows can’t be replicated online, so they will thrive post-COVID-19. Small Conferences will move to online experiences. Large Industry-wide Conferences will grow with a shift of focus from ‘product and services’ to more of an ‘efficiency and process’ theme.
The Health and Medical sectors may be more reliant on Summits to share research and development. 

Trade show photographers with experience will be in demand. Gala Dinner nights will suffer for a while, this type of event will probably stagnate until the end of 2021 is our prediction.

Another possible outcome is that event photography enquiries will grow for professional photographers but with more focus on by the hour and half-day, not so much for full days. If so, this could favour the on-demand entry-level photographers for smaller events or really tight on budget.

Part-time photographers will gain even more traction in the domestic market, such as birthday parties, nightclub photography and similar smaller events. In part due to the option of being able to reduce already very low rates as they are in many cases, only supplementing other income. 

In the professional photographer sector, half day rates will become more commonly requested. This could either nudge the prices slightly higher because this will include costs like travel and most of the time limits what the photographer can do during the other half day. Same for ‘by the hour prices’ all things being equal. Which it may not be equal, this is all new ground were travelling on.

Recovery Actions and Take Control

What Can Event Suppliers Do While There are No Events

  1. Google suggests not to take down your website ↗.
  2. You may be eligible for Government support ↗.
  3. Consider which sectors will likely recover first.
  4. Do a SWAT analysis on your business capabilities.
  5. Research which genres of photography will recover first.
  6. Tweak or redo your website, great resources ↗ here for that.
  7. Send a personal email to every client in the last 12 months.
  8. Add content or refresh your articles and photos.
  9. Connect with like minded people in your niche.
  10. Listen to podcasts in your profession.
  11. Podcast COVID-19 Pivot Business Strategies ↗.
  12. Behavioural and Decision Sciences Podcast ↗.
  13. Photographers try Photobizx.com ↗.
  14. Connect with your local Business Chamber ↗.
  15. Join a Creative Group such as The Plus Ones ↗.
  16. Remind yourself, you are not alone.
  17. And, We’re all in this together.

What Never Changes – Relationships

Strong relationships have always played a significant part in the corporate space. This will only increase for Corporate events where revenues are smaller. They have events less frequent or scaled back in scope, this could be the new norm for 2020-2021. 

The strongest relationships have always been built when there’s a personal connection. Face to face meetings and events are an essential element that will continue to serve the corporate market and their suppliers long into the future. 

Peoples resolve to adapt and advance will always continue no matter how this health and economic crisis plays out.

Further Industry Reading

MEAA Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance – MEAAwww.meaa.org

MEAA is the largest and most established union and industry advocate for Australia’s creative professionals.

The Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) is our peak industry body. It provides an umbrella structure for the key industry associations operating in the Australian business events sector.

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