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Sigh. Hi friends. Do you even understand how badly I miss you guys? I was trying to think of all the “worst parts” of my job so I could think if I really, like REALLY-really, missed working. I’ve decided that yes, I do in fact, REALLY miss my job. Give me fussy newborns with sensitive skin to edit and while we’re at it, let them poop and pee on me and ruin my best shirt. Give me all of the two year old temper tantrums and rain reschedules. I’ll take all the dads who are mad they’re being dragged to have photos made and all of the crazy groomsmen who share that sentiment. I miss it all. The good, the great and the stuff that I would normally joke about not missing! When you love your work and it’s ripped away from you, it feels like a piece of you is missing. You are my second family. I mean that. I love you guys and I am so excited we’re getting closer to the starting line.
I keep coming back to the thought of how much my business model has to change now with the “new normal” we are being handed. For the record, I loathe that term, but for all intents and purposes, it fits. Gone are the days of back to back mini sessions and yes, I’m very sad to think this might include “Awesome Santa” sessions. Filling my days with a bunch of sessions so I can not only make lots of people happy, but then have another day off completely to edit, will be a thing of the past, as well as newborn sessions with grandparents watching me with their new grandbaby. That’s the stuff that has me a little sad.
As we move forward in these phases Gov. Wolf has proposed, I have to be realistic with what I can safely do. I will be subject to random “health inspections”, so these new rules will be enforced fully and will undoubtedly continue to change as we move forward. More on this in a moment.
Let me talk about scheduling. As you probably know, we typically book the following month’s sessions on the first of each month. So on May 1st, we would normally be booking June’s calendar. We haven’t booked anything since March for April, which all had to be rescheduled. Before I schedule anything else that’s new, I have to give the right of first refusal to everyone who has currently paid a retainer and had their session postponed. So if you have an May, June or later birthday babe and we haven’t booked your session yet, I am going to ask that you be patient while I talk to the nearly 150 people I first have to reschedule. My last sessions were the week I got back from Florida and that was the week of March 9th. We had booked almost 50 spring/Easter minis, 60 milestones and cake smashes and almost 30 newborns between March and May. So far 8 weddings had to postpone and I missed two days of preschool portraits. It’s devastating. And completely overwhelming to say the least.
If you were one of those who had a session already booked and a retainer paid, this part is for you. First and foremost, none of this will be happening until I get the go-ahead from the state. I am “non-essential”. Photos do not save lives or feed your family, so my doors have to stay shut. When we have a date set to reopen, I will first be contacting the newborn clients who have most recently had their babies while they’re still brand new (within the month). Next I will be in touch with newborns in order of which they were due/born. Same will go with cake smashes and milestones one year and under. Then all other milestone sessions. The reason I plan to do it this way is because a two year old or older won’t change as much in month as a 6 month old or one year old will. As far as spring minis go, I am still tossing around the idea to set up the sets outside in my backyard, take out the Easter stuff and just do spaced out minis outside in the open air. These would 100% take place on a Saturday and Sunday as soon as we are allowed.
The one thing I need everyone to understand more than anything: YOUR SESSION DOES NOT HAPPEN IF YOU ARE NOT 100% COMFORTABLE WITH IT. You HAVE to understand that there is a chance you COULD get a call from me saying that I’ve been exposed to someone with Covid-19 and we were together after, therefore you may now be a carrier. You and your family would need to be quarantined, as would I. I pray this won’t happen and surely don’t anticipate that, but I would be stupid to say there’s no chance it wouldn’t. You have to weigh the risks to your particular situation. My husband is a sales manager for a seafood company and has been working this whole time. We take as many precautions as we can and once I’m around people again, those precautionary steps we’ve been taking won’t stop. In fact, they’ll be ramped up. If you do not want to move forward with your previously booked session, we can transfer your retainer to a future session. If you need your deposit back and don’t plan on doing any photos for the next year, I can refund it. Although my retainers are non-refundable, these are not normal circumstances. I hope you understand though, once I refund your retainer, you are giving up your place on my calendar and will be put in the queue with other new sessions to reschedule. A lot of steps have to be followed to do refunds and we are trying to avoid this at all costs, but will not hold your $50 hostage if you need it or want it back for any reason.
The next time you come to the studio, you will see some new things. Some new commercial grade rugs in the entryway. When you enter, I will ask that you remove your shoes or slip on some shoe cover booties. Hand sanitizer will be available right when you walk in. The bathroom is being outfitted with a single pull paper towel dispenser and a commercial grade antibacterial soap dispenser. I ask that everyone washes hands upon entry, too. I will be wearing a mask at all times for now. When you’re not being photographed, I ask you do the same. Babies and small children do not need to wear a mask. Between EVERY SESSION, all props will be wiped down with anti-bacterial wipes and/or spray. After every session, all doorknobs and common surfaces will also be wiped. At the end of a studio day, the floor will be steam mopped and everything will be sanitized before I leave for the day. I will have an air purifier running as usual. For my hard to clean or delicate fabric props, I’ve bought a garment steamer and fabric sanitizer. Items that cannot be washed easily or frequently, like my big rugs, will be set in the front entryway to soak up the sunlight until they’re used again. I am waiting on confirmation if a UV sanitizing light is effective and I am researching that as a possible addition as well.
For my cake smashers, I’ve purchased a plastic covering that sticks to the floor (think of a house that’s half under construction and they put a sticky plastic runway down to protect the carpet from dirty shoes). I will be trying out this method to see how it works and I am kind of kicking myself in the butt for not thinking of it sooner. It’s disposable and virtually no cleanup. It will most likely be able to be used over any of my floors minus carpet for cake smashes, thus giving you many more options in customizing your session. I’m very excited about this, can you tell?
Sessions will have to be spaced out to allow for proper cleaning in between. I will have a sign on the door saying that we’re “IN SESSION”. If the sign is up, please assume that another session is happening and wait in your car. With spacing out sessions, there will be plenty of time for set up and loading/unloading your car with any props you may have.
We will ask that only the people being photographed are present at the studio. Obviously I don’t expect any toddlers to be uber-ing themselves to the studio anytime soon, but we ask that grandparents and siblings stay home, unless the session was booked to include them and we are aware they’re coming. I can help however you need during your session, if that means loading a child into the car or bringing in props from the car, I am ready to help.
All sessions will have the option to move outdoors in the studio backyard, but understand that all props may not be able to be used.
All of these rules will be in place to protect us. I hope we can follow them closely and I can do my part to keep my promise of being a responsible business owner.
On that note, I have to bring up contracts. You may or may not realize I have never done contracts, with the exception of weddings. I do believe I am the only person who never did. I don’t know why I didn’t, but I think it has to do with my upbringing and the amount of trust I have for people. But with these new crazy times, I am forced to implement them. I am an open book. I don’t expect people to cheat me and I would never ever cheat you. The new contract will be there to protect both of us. It will cover deposits and retainers as most do, but it will more importantly say that we both understand the risks of being in the same room with someone who could be an asymptomatic carrier of a virus and neither of us will follow through with a session if we are sick or suspect we could have been exposed. I encourage you to always read anything you ever sign your name to, but I also need it 100% understood that if there isn’t a signed contract when the deposit is paid, the session will not be booked, your retainer will be refunded and your session time will be offered to someone else.
If you’ve gotten this far, I want to say thank you for caring enough to read this. These last two months have been difficult with not working and adjusting to so many changes. I’ve been fortunate to be home and with my kids. I’m so grateful to all of the essential peeps for doing their job so well during these scary times. But with so much time to think, I know I’m ready to open up when the time comes and do it in a way that I can be proud of and confident about. I am so excited to get back to work and to see all of your smiling faces again. Stay tuned as we hear more from the state when the ban is lifted. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. Or even thoughts or ideas, I’m all ears and want to make this as painless as possible for everyone.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Be blessed. Lori
P.S. In the meantime, here are some photos I’ve taken while not working! We’ve been keeping ourselves entertained!
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