The Future of Wedding Photography in a POST-COVID World
Weddings Photography in Times of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world of weddings as we know it. Many photographers have gone from having packed diaries to not even knowing when they will shoot another wedding. For someone who has been running a successful business, it's hard to imagine such a black swan period. And yet for many wedding professionals, COVID-19 has been devastating. Since I'm a professional wedding photographer with a past "crisis-management" experience, I thought I should share my personal opinion about the current situation and try to give a projection for the future of the industry.
What Happened to Traditional Weddings?
Weddings have always been some of the most important celebrations in life. They are associated with large family gatherings that are all about happiness and joy.
It almost went without saying that a wedding is a safe and friendly environment where nothing wrong ever happens. At least, until coronavirus. Nowadays, nobody
can be sure that any wedding is 100% safe if it involves guests. There is a whole new protocol for attending weddings, congratulating and photographing
weddings. From wearing masks and disinfecting spaces and surfaces to standing at a safe distance, there is a huge list of rules (that keep changing) we need
to be aware of.
But even with all the precautions and safety measures taken, we can never be as relaxed as we used to be. We are forced to think twice before touching
something and hugging each other, or otherwise calculate the chances of getting sick at every given situation. This is what puts brakes on the vast majority of
the weddings, except, perhaps, elopements that involve a very limited group of guests, or no guests at all.
Many Wedding Photographers are in "Survival Mode"
With almost only a handful of photoshoots scheduled and low incomes, most wedding photographers are currently operating on survival mode. While we have pandemic restrictions such as gathering bans, quarantines, and physical distancing, we can’t earn money from big weddings. Photographers who have initially been focusing on smaller outdoor weddings could be the only group to be financially safe during the crisis. The main problem for the whole wedding industry in general and wedding photographers in particular is that couples were forced to slash their wedding budgets. It often means they can only spend a tiny fraction of the budget
on photography when they are hosting a small wedding instead of a big one. And for many of us, it is not enough to survive because financially speaking, 30
elopements per year are not equal to 30 big weddings. You can see the math here.
Another problem is increasing competition from studios that are in urgent need to have a positive cash flow, which means that there is an increased bidding war for
even smaller assignments. Even before the crisis a lot of photographers charged a relatively low fee for their work and so during the pandemic the prices can
go down even further. All this will create an unsustainable business environment for many wedding professionals which will force them two either quit their
current line of work, find a second job or juggle multiple low-cost assignments. Even the most successful photographers have to be “creative” engaging with their
previous clients, followers by creating special discounts, deals and packages.
A Dream Job or Not?
Wedding photography used to be a considered as a “dream job”. Years before COVID-19, social media tools have helped to create an idyllic image of a fulfilling lifestyle through eye catching images and personal stories. Shiny, colorful and utterly excessive in luxury and glamour, weddings were perceived as a generator of positive energy and meaningful goals in life.
Due to the uncertainty and complexity of the economic and political environment in recent years, the wedding industry seemed like a paradise getaway. Of course, there always was a lot of hard work behind it, but nevertheless, tens of thousands of photographers have jumped on the bandwagon and started working in the wedding industry.
The Future of WeddingPhotography After COVID-19
So, what happens next? Will the wedding industry recover? Will we get back to normal-sized weddings? Are people going to be able to celebrate without being
scared of getting sick while just being around other people on the dance floor? And if so, when will this happen? Can this happen next year or will it take a
number of years to recuperate? And what should wedding professionals do while society is crawling back to old normality?
COVID-19 might have accelerated processes that have started already, and we might never return to the world we lived in before 2020. I’ve been photographing weddings for years, and I learned that a percentage of couples wanted a large wedding only because it was what their parents wished for and often paid for. Those
couples would probably decide to elope under other circumstances. Will this trend continue?
Weddings as social rituals are steeped in traditions that are hundreds of years old. There has always been something nostalgic about them which doesn’t seem to fit
our modern-day lives. Think oversized ball gown skirts, processionals at the ceremony, tiered cakes and excessive spending on décor, food, entertainment… Over
the past decades, trends have moved in the direction of personalization of weddings, establishing new customs and making weddings more intimate. One of
the new traditions is the “first look” photo session of the couple before the ceremony. We no longer believe in old superstitions such as the one which says
the groom must not see the bride before the church because it is bad luck. Everything has been modernized from the cake and flowers to guest lists, seating plans,
sendoffs and honeymoons. Today, anything goes, and massive family gatherings are no longer a norm just like the white dress and a tiered fruitcake.
Contemporary weddings have already been stripped of many traditions before COVID-19. After one, two or maybe even three years of living the new normality with the virus, traditional gatherings with hundreds of guests might become ancient history.
Or are we going to go back to being social and celebrate life as it was before? It is up to us to decide whether we are going to take this opportunity to distance
from each other and lead even more digital lives or turn back to the old values and be social animals – organic and natural human beings. Just like weddings
themselves, wedding photography won’t cease to exist, but its future largely depends on our choice of the path after the pandemic. Perhaps weddings and big
holidays are the only occasions that used to bring us all together, and now we are in danger of losing that too. Isn’t the future of weddings then also the
future of humanity as we know it? Let us all pause and think about it.