Yesterday Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out his roadmap to easing lockdown.  This is a welcome development as finally, it means that businesses such as photographers and photographic studios can start plan

It should be noted that the government dates are all specified as “at the earliest” or “no earlier than”.  Our own roadmap to re-opening maps on to the government one – therefore our dates are also “at the earliest” and “no earlier than” too.  After almost a year of uncertainty and being unable to operate my business as normal – I really hope that these dates can be kept.  However, one thing I have learned over the last 12 months is nothing is ever certain and I fully expect that plans will have to change – alas.

Roadmap

Let’s look at the 4-step government roadmap and translate that into what it means for us.  I should state at this point that the views I am expressing are my own – yours may differ.

I am looking at this through the lens of Ian’s Studio and how this affects MY business, but I hope that if I explain my thinking you will be able to apply the same logic to your own situation – whether you are a studio owner, a professional photographer or an enthusiast keen to get back to shooting.

As I list the ‘general’ easing of restrictions – I am not going to list everything that happens at each stage – just a few headline items to help us focus on the principles of what each step permits.

Step 1 (part one) 8 March

This is the date for schools to return, and some easing of restrictions to do with care homes.  The stay at home order is still active.

For photographers and studios this date really doesn’t give us any more options than we currently have under lockdown.  Certainly there should be no ‘social shooting’ taking place either outdoors or indoors.  The key phrase here is that the ‘stay at home’ restriction remains in place.

Having said all that, throughout lockdown, essential business to business work has been permitted.  Therefore if, like me, you are a professional photographer or studio and you need to work to support another business then my understanding is that can still take place.  So things like product photography can still take place.

Limited business-to-business related studio hires I believe should be possible, such as a photographer hiring the studio to photograph products for another business.  Studio hires purely for leisure would not be permitted.

One other thing that is permitted at this stage it is possible for one person to meet with one other person outdoors for recreation.  In theory this should open up the possibility to one photographer, one subject/model shoots to take place outside.  However, in my mind this goes against the ‘stay at home’ directive and I would I recommend leaving this kind of shoot until part 2 of step 1  (Why couldn’t he have just said a 5 step plan? Anyone?)

Step 1 (part two) – No earlier than 29 March

We go back to the rule of six for outdoor meetings, and the ‘stay at home’ order is finally lifted.

This is the point where I think limited outdoor shoots should be possible.  As I said earlier, you could argue you could do a “one photographer, one model” shoot from March 8 – but I don’t think that is in keeping with the ‘stay at home’ directive.  Also given the likely weather in March, it is almost impossible to do an outdoor shoot without an assistant to hold onto reflector and light stands to prevent them from blowing away.  Much better to save such shoot till after Step 1 part two date (hopefully March 27)

After this date I might consider running a small outdoor training session consisting of myself, a model, an assistant and up to three paying photographers.  The weather does present a risk to such a shoot as we wouldn’t legally be able to move the shoot into the studio.  But if you are interested in being part of such a shoot – please let me know.  I will tailor the event to the photographers who book.

Step 2 – No earlier than 12 April

At this stage non-essential retail and close contact services such as hairdressers can reopen.  But social mixing isn’t yet permitted until step 3.

For a photographic studio – this is the date when we can start offering non-business related photographic services.  In other words services such as family portraits can resume – though I would imagine most people will want to wait until after they have managed to book a hair cut!

Also from this point limited studio hire for non-business related shoots would be possible.  These would have to adhere to strict social distancing rules.  And would be typically one photographer, one subject/model/family

One-to-one training sessions, such as one-to-one Lightroom training and mentored studio hires should be possible.  However, group shoots would not be permitted until step 3.

Step 3 No earlier than 17 May

Rhianna Grey at Ian’s Studio – Behind the scenes

Rule of 6 for outdoor gatherings is removed.  The rule of 6 will apply for indoor gatherings.

For a photographic studio such as Ian’s Studio – this is the point where we can start to offer group shoots again.  Since we have to follow both social distancing and the rule of six these events will be limited to myself, one model and up to three paying photographers.  Unlike traditional group shoots these events will be organised around the photographers who wish to attend.  (Similar to the events I was planning in Summer 2020).

Studio hires will be similar to those that could be offered after the Step 2 easing, but providing social distancing is kept and the maximum number of persons present (including myself) is six there should be a little more flexibility on what is possible (Eg hire shared by two photographers).

Larger group shoots will be possible outdoors, with, in theory, up to 30 attendees.  Again these will be subject to the fickle British weather, but if a spell of warmer, dry weather is forecast it may be worth considering running one or two such events.

Step 4, no earlier than 21 June

Character Portraits Night

The gov.uk website states “It is hoped all legal limits on social contact can be removed.”

If this happens then from this date onwards, social distancing in the studio will no longer be required.  This means we should be able to run group shoots, workshops and events in a similar way to how we did prior to the pandemic.  In the case of Ian’s Studio this means me booking a model/setting a theme for a shoot and opening up booking for up to seven photographers to attend.

And that’s it we are fully reopened!

Concluding thoughts

This all sounds fantastic and in theory, just four more months and this will all be over!  Except that it won’t be.  This is a roadmap, and if we have learned one thing from this pandemic, things will change, the virus and the government will throw us some curveballs.

It will be amazing if this timetable is kept to – I don’t believe for one moment it will happen exactly as I’ve laid out in this blog post.  But at least having a roadmap means we can plan.  It is better to have a plan and have to change it or push back the dates than to have no plan at all.

I am confident we will get there, eventually.  So hang in there, keep positive, stay safe and for goodness sake, please follow the guidelines.  They may not be perfect but it the best chance we have to see an end to this earlier rather than later.

I look forward to welcoming you back to Ian’s Studio and helping you make great photos again,

Ian.