At a time when business typically booms with an influx of clients, student photographer Katie Lovelace did not expect hers to come to a screeching halt.
Lovelace is one of many photographers trying to navigate the blurred lines of taking new clients while still obeying social distancing guidelines and California’s shelter-in-place order.
Lovelace, an experience industry management senior, has provided photography and videography services in San Luis Obispo for about two years.
Prior to spring quarter classes moving online, Lovelace had spoken with a few clients and set tentative dates to shoot their senior portraits after spring break. Then, Lovelace said the spread of coronavirus hit her “like a gut punch.”
“Coronavirus halted all planning and everyone is still apprehensive, even myself, of scheduling shoots,” Lovelace said.
According to the county’s shelter-at-home order, photographers are still allowed to hold outdoor photoshoots with small groups of related people, but studio photography and large wedding photography is not allowed. And even in outdoor shoots, physical distancing must be maintained.
Lovelace’s business primarily consists of videography, however, she offers increased photography services during the spring. Lovelace estimates that 80 percent of her annual photography services occur during spring quarter, due to the high demand for senior photos. During Spring 2019, Lovelace served two to three clients per week.
Lovelace said that her favorite aspect of shooting senior photos is the opportunity to listen to clients’ stories during the photoshoot.
“College is built up so much of the cliché phrase, ‘The best four years of your life.’ This time is so important to some people and momentous,” Lovelace said. “It is special to look back on the photos of campus and the sights of San Luis Obispo.”
Alex Weinstein, a recreation, parks, and tourism administration senior, was planning on scheduling a graduation photoshoot with Lovelace prior to the shelter-in-place order.
“Senior photos are something I was looking forward to as a memory of graduating college and all of my accomplishments,” Weinstein said. “I was looking forward to sending a photo to my family and friends along with a graduation announcement.”
Weinstein said that she hoped to take a classic photo surrounded by palm trees at the Cal Poly entrance of California Avenue.
Weinstein is currently living in San Luis Obispo and plans to return home to the Bay Area in mid-June. Weinstein is uncertain, however, if she will have the opportunity to capture photos with friends before this time.
“Hopefully, I am able to take photos with some of my friends that I am not able to see right now because of the shelter-in place,” Weinstein said.
If social distancing guidelines are still in effect during early June and Weinstein is unable to pose for photos alongside friends, she plans to schedule a solo photoshoot with Lovelace.
“We will stay six feet apart and follow all social distancing guidelines if they are still in place,” Weinstein said. “I definitely think that these pictures will be more significant now, especially since I won’t have a traditional graduation.”
Amanda Speakman, a photographer and an art and design freshman, is also navigating this foreign territory. Speakman estimates that 70 percent of her annual business occurs during the months of April and May due to a high volume of senior photo clients.
Before the shelter-in-place order was established, Speakman said many Cal Poly seniors contacted her to schedule graduation photoshoots for Spring 2020.
“Unfortunately, I could not honor that,” Speakman said. “As a photographer, you have this responsibility to keep your business closed.”
Speakman opted to return home to the Sacramento area as the coronavirus escalated. During this time, she had a few last-minute photoshoots with local high school seniors before the official statewide shelter-in-place order was announced.
“It felt different,” Speakman said.
During a typical photoshoot, Speakman enjoys talking with clients about their new adventures that will soon begin.
“I had to tiptoe around those conversations, since we just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Speakman said.
Speakman said this dilemma is upsetting. As a photographer, Speakman is accustomed to giving clients the spotlight and an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments.
“My job is to make [a senior] feel like a star, because it is their year and their season,” Speakman said. “I want to do my job of making the person feel recognized and important for their achievements.”
Speakman’s photography business is her sole source of income. The sudden halt of photoshoots has created uncertainty for the future, but according to Speakman, the loss of income is small in comparison to the inability to interact with clients and pursue her passion.
“Not being able to do something that I am passionate about – that is the biggest loss,” Speakman said.