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How to Survive as A Freelance Photographer in COVID-19 Quarantine

Updated April 28, 2020

Wow. Today's reality can feel a bit overwhelming. And daunting. And disheartening. It's the reality that many photographers now face: Few to no guaranteed bookings for the spring and summer of 2020. Bookings made weeks, months, or even years in advance, have been completely abandoned by many of our former clients. It's a gutting truth.

Across the world, emergency shelter-in-place orders and social distancing measures are in full force. These crucial actions were designed to save lives and to flatten the curve amid a devastating, worldwide viral pandemic. We don't disagree with any of these measures or efforts. But that's not what we're here to talk about. Our community is facing unprecedented loss. Lost opportunity. Lost income. Lost exposure. Lost expression. It's ok to feel loss from this recession.


Please know that we're here with you, feeling this with you, and with all our hearts, wish to bring you hope for the future. Together, we will get through this. We’ve written this article to provide professional photographers with extensive resources and support during the Coronavirus pandemic.  These are steps that you can take right now to move forward as a working photographer during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic.


Do Your Research (But Don't Overdo It)

As we settle into another month of the global pandemic, the reality of COVID-19 is no longer hidden from anyone. It’s important to remain informed with up-to-date research, and the global response to this information, in order to best understand and assess our reality. We recommend trusted sources for non-biased and research-based information.

WHO – The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 information center 
CDC – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 information center
NIH – The National Institutes of Health COVID-19 information center 

But try not to go overboard. A review of the morning news is quite different than spending much of your day obsessing about different aspects of the virus. It’s important to cultivate balance with news consumption. Given the creative strengths of this community, instead of spending hours reading about the pandemic, you may want to consider following up-to-date visual data. Visual Capitalist provides a nice summary of top data-driven visuals that are updated daily and from reputable sources to explain important aspects COVID-19. Consumption of visual data also takes less time than review of written data, so you can get back to focusing on what's important: your future. 


Cultivate Life-Pandemic Balance

The next time you go to grab your digital device for news updates about COVID-19, ask yourself, have I also paid attention to my physical, mental, emotional, social, work/financial, and spiritual health?  At the end of the day, can I list out specific actions in each area that I’ve taken that day to cultivate balance? We’ve suggested six key areas of balance below, followed by examples of these areas in day-to-day life. But these are merely suggestions. We encourage you to make this list your own.


Physical:  Our physical health and care for our bodies.

  • Exercise – walk, run, bike, play
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule – go to bed at the same time, get enough hours of sleep
  • Optimize your diet – whole foods, colorful vegetables and fruits
  • Maintain personal hygiene – shower, brush teeth, comb hair

Mental:  Our mental health and care for our mind’s function, knowledge, and beliefs

  • Learn - read books or trade publications, take an online class, listen to a TED talk or podcast, view a documentary
  • Take on an intellectual challenge – puzzles, games, hobbies
  • Decrease old vices – overeating, excessive drinking or drug use, excessive shopping
  • Get to know your mind - learn how to identify logical fallacies and cognitive biases in your thinking, research basic psychological theories, dig in to the science of resilience

Emotional:  Our mental health and care for our feelings, temperament, and personality.

  • Learn the basics of emotional intelligence – self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, social skills
  • Non-judgmentally observe and accept your feelings – meditation, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral documenting
  • Let go or forgive – yourself, others

Social:  Our connection with others.

  • Connect with others (old and new) online - Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facetime, Skype
  • Find opportunities to meet new people, virtually – join a new Facebook community (the Luxe Lens has a Facebook community!) or online support group. Find a community group that you identify with and start getting active. Do one thing every day to engage within this group.
  • Research key skills that will improve your communication and ability to genuinely connect with others
  • Practice random connection – say “hi” to a neighbor or another person on a walk, wave to others and give them a compliment, make eye contact with someone and smile

Work/Financial:  Our professional and material needs

  • Invest in yourself – increase your knowledge with formal or informal education or training
  • Gain exposure – take on a stretch project and try something new – you’ll meet new people, gain exposure as a leader, and you may discover a new strength.
  • Live within your means – keep a budget and remain within it, consider adding a three-month emergency fund, spend some time examining shopping habits and relationship with “stuff”

Spiritual/Meaning:  Our sense of meaning and purpose

  • Research the foundation of a meaningful life
  • Get outside – connect with nature and the people around you
  • Express yourself in ways that create meaning in your life – writing, music, photography (*cough*), video-making, drama – the list is endless.
  • Help others – when we help others, we’re able to set aside our own struggles and instead focus on the joy and fulfillment of kindness. Helping others also helps ourselves.



Honor Both Restrictions and the Lived Experience

Depending on current restrictions set by your county, zone, or province, you may not be able to leave the house at all for an extended period, or your outings may be heavily restricted to the most essential errands and services. It can be tempting to want to visually record the breadth of this period, especially as photojournalists and photographers release countless images of window scenes, front porch portraits, masked shoppers, or vacant city scenes. However, there is also beauty in that which you are personally experiencing. The day-to-day life. We encourage you to honor your experience by capturing life as it is – in quarantine. In depth.

 @filmnotdead - Sourced from

@shawn_records_the_person - Sourced from


Redirect Energies and Plan for the Future

Obsessing over pandemic news can be tempting, as thoughts race with cancelled gigs and uncertain finances. But this sort of razer-focus on negatives can damage mental health and leave many unable to move forward. While today may feel difficult and there may be additional hardships yet to come, it’s important to let go of helpless feelings over what we can’t control and instead focus on what we can control. Now is an ideal time to plan for future success.  

Enhance Social Media Presence. A current and on-trend social media presence is critical for anyone working in the creative industry.  But establishment of such presence takes both time and investment. Learn how to influence others and gain more clients via social media in our blog article on the topic.
Complete Tasks You Put Off When Work Was Heavier 
Rather than focus on why you have more time, why not redirect that focus to being proactive. Use this time to address those not-so-fun (but important!) activities that we’re all guilty of putting off. These activities include:
    • Blogging past sessions. Wedding photographers in particular know how important this is and how easy it is to put off. Now is a great time to either start blogging, catch up on any delayed blogs from past sessions, modernize your blogging format, or clean up any unnecessary or outdated posts.
    • Refine or redefine your portfolio. Make sure that your portfolio is up-to-date, client ready, and represents who you are and what you offer. When the market picks back up (and it will!), you’ll be at the top of many client lists.
    • Give your site a face-lift. Clean things up, modernize your site to match current trends, change out any seasonal site images, and be sure to showcase up-to-date work that effectively targets the audience you want to attract.
    • Build out or update email/marketing lists.If you don’t already have an email list, now’s the time to start one. There are many great resources for this - many of which are built into the site-builder or gallery manager you might already be using! If you already have one, now’s the time to clean it up and prepare email marketing for the future. Research what works and what doesn’t and make sure that you’re ready to go for future business.
    • Research and Refine Technical Skills. While you may have been doing this so long that you feel like you have nothing left to learn, it’s always wise to stay current and on trend. Learn new strategies for maximizing each session, make the most of your gear in any environment, optimize your post-processing workflow – there is no end to learning growth opportunities! There are many fantastic photographers and editors that regularly post their process for free on online platforms like YouTube. Additionally, many traditionally gated communities are offering free classes or workshops during the pandemic. (Psst. Nikon is currently offering Nikon School Online for free!)
    • Revise Professional Contracts. Save money on legal fees by spending the extra time to research legalities yourself. While it can be uncomfortable to consider cancellation penalties and partial non-refundable deposits, there are countless ways to restructure your professional contracts in a manner that protects both you and the client.
    • Build a Better Budget. If the idea of building a budget feels daunting, you aren’t alone. Thankfully, there are countless cost-free tools to plan for effective budgeting. One fantastic and easy-to-use all-in-one system is Mint by Intuit. If you already have a budget, we recommend reviewing this budget to make sure it accounts for changes resulting from the pandemic and that contingencies are in place for continued uncertainty. If thinking about finances feels overwhelming, please scan the bottom of this article for financial relief options and mental health resources.


Get Creative

You may be physically stuck at home, but you’re not mentally trapped. Now is an ideal time to stretch your creative muscles by nurturing an old passion or finding something new.

Rediscover Your Passion.
One great exercise that can help ignite your flame to create and fan the flame to brilliance, is to look back to where it all began. When you look over your body of work, take a close look at that illuminating spark of passion that drove you to where you are now. Maybe you started alone or without a subject, and so you worked double-time and made yourself the subject, stretching both imagination and the limits of your gear. Perhaps you found it in the richness of nature, among the clouds or in the wet petals of a morning flower. Run to that! Maybe your creative eye found energy among your family, faces now surrounding you, but previously under-captured. Let their personalities-their passions and their joys, their frustration and their tears-speak life back into your lens. Learn to be candid and open again. Maybe there were details you found so beautiful before that somehow got lost along the way. Whatever you discover, once you relocate that initial spark, hold onto it and breath new fire into it. You may learn something new from the “You” that you forgot. Don’t be afraid to jump back in!



Teach your Own Classes/Workshops.
Maybe you’re a social photographer who loved to network and share with your community and your clients. And now, you’re desperately missing this collaboration and social exercise. Or maybe you’re someone who wanted to get out there and share your knowledge, but never quite found the time. Now, more than ever, you have the potential to reach a large audience using only what you already know. It’s a great time to explore creating and offering your own classes and workshops, be it through a limited-space and intimate Zoom class or through pre-recorded videos and/or scheduled live streams. Whether offering paid or free, workshops and training courses can be a great way to connect with your community or your potential client base - particularly in this time of separation. To avoid common hang-ups or feeling overwhelmed, be sure to thoughtfully plan, research, and attend other live or pre-recorded courses offered by fellow photographers prior to attempting to release your own.




Plan for the Future.

Every suggestion in this article was designed to develop and refine a continuity plan that optimizes your resilience and increases your chances of future success.  In taking these actions, you also gain confidence and control over your future. What other steps can you take today that support your future success? To help you answer this question, we’ve compiled an extensive list of support resources for photographers and the creative community during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.



If you're hurting for basic resources, The Gig Workers Collective has compiled a fantastic list of US Emergency Resources (Food/Bills/Medical), organized by both wider national assistance and those specific to state/territory. Be sure to check this out. NPPA’s COVID-19 Resource Guide also provides a comprehensive list of resources for photographers and visual storytellers. The following resources contain information about loans, government funding, unemployment, relief efforts, and mental health for photography freelancers, contractors, and small businesses.



How Does it all Work?


Government Aid & Loans:


Financial Planning:


Funds, Aid, & Grants specific to Photographers affected by COVID-19:

  • Adobe's $1 Million Creative Residency Community Fund - Adobe is opening up their creative residency for 2020 in the form of Covid-19 relief which would provide funds for personal projects, Adobe Creative Cloud Access, and the opportunity for Adobe commissions. Apply Today!
  • The Photographer Fund– Format has put together a $25,000 relief fund offering $500 per person. 
  • The Creator Fund– ConvertKit has put together a $50,000 relief fund offering $500 per person. 
  • Emergency Grants List– A list compiled by the New York Foundation of the Arts of state-local grants available to artists/creators (some specific to performing arts). 
  • Freelancers Relief Fund– Offering up to $1,000 per freelance household to cover the lost income and essential expenses not covered by government relief programs. 
  • Women Photograph Emergency Fund – A small one-time support to independent women who need assistance up to $500 with no restrictions on use. (Currently fundraising for round 2 of assistance.) 
  • COVID-19 Financial Solidarity– Google sheet and sign-up link for mutual aid and solidarity among freelancers. 
  • Leveler– Peer to Peer wealth distribution wherein people with job security are directly funding those impacted by COVID-19.


Mental Health Resources:

  • NIH Mental Health Resource Center– This resource center offers both immediate contacts if in crisis, and a standard guide on where to start in your search for a provider. 
  • ADAA Find A Therapist Directory- The Anxiety and Depression Association of America hosts a directory to help you find a therapist near you, and will let you know if they practice Telemental Health as a treatment option wherein you can receive video of phone consultation from the comfort of your home. 
  • Coping with Anxiety– is a mental health project that offers organized resources including expert advice, free meditations, a mental health toolkit, and even a collection of delightful internet things to take your mind off the bleak, reenter, and find joy in the face of grief. 
  • Behavioral Health Resource– A fact sheet to help you cope with an infectious disease outbreak. The site offers similar fact sheets applicable to various mental health struggles and situations during the crisis. 
  • That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief– A cathartic and helpful read for people struggling with inexplicable feelings in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. 
  • Free Somatic Coaching– A 1 hour session to aid in accessing inner resources to stay centered and on purpose. 
  • WHO’s Mental Health Considerations– The World Health Organization has offered helpful guidance for those fearful, uncertain, or struggling. This PDF provides understanding and important tips on what to avoid and what to put into practice during the outbreak. 
  • Calm– is providing free mental health resources for emotional wellness. 
  • Coronavirus Support Community– CoronaHub is offering a slack community in which those who’ve lost jobs can find work, people can share advice on prevention, and more broadly a place where people can meet to “connect, commiserate, and calm down”. 
  • Free Wellness Classes– CreativeLive is offering free Wellness Classes that you can stream 24/7.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Download the COVID-19 resource and information guide.



  • Joust for Freelancers– Joust is offering support for freelancers in the form of advances on unpaid invoices, zero processing fees on payments, and a free bank account to all businesses impacted by COVID-19 cancellations with code “JOUST4FREELANCERS”. 
  • HoneyBook Opportunities– Honeybook has long been a great spam-free resource for linking Photographers to job opportunities.
  • Catch Light’s Behind the Lens– The series aims to provide visual storytellers a space to share stories and personal projects, as well as provide unique perspectives and insight into the process behind the creation of images. In response to the current economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, on the mostly freelance field of visual storytelling, they're increasing their standard rate of compensation of selected artists to $450 USD. 
  • Remote & Remote-Friendly Employers– A good starting place in a search for alternative income in potential remote opportunities.