The start of the new decade was supposed to be a year of life-changing memories, including births, senior years, weddings and other special occasions. Many of those memories were meant to be captured with the artistic vision of photographers to allow them to live in eternity.
However, most of those experiences had to be put on hold, celebrated in a smaller way or not done at all. For professional photographers in St. Joseph, that was hard to handle because those memories are what they live for.
“For photography, I get to capture a moment that not everyone gets to capture,” said Kaitlyn Doolan of Kaitlyn Doolan Photography. “I get to see the bride and groom see themselves for the first time on their wedding day, a mom with her newborn baby that’s only 3 days old. I get to capture that true emotion that you don’t really get to capture unless you just have a memory of it.”
For some professionals, photography is just a hobby, something they do in their free time and make extra money from. For many, though, the art form is a livelihood. To have those jobs they truly depend on in the spring and summer months, from weddings to proms to graduations, stripped from them due to unfortunate circumstances made for a stressful time.
“Your books quickly become pretty sparse and you have to try to figure out where your income is gonna come from, and so, unfortunately, being self-employed, you don’t really have that guarantee,” said Melissa Cox, owner of Lifeshots Photography by Melissa Cox.
Professional photographers like Doolan and Cox had to make adjustments in the summer months of 2020. Doolan had to find other forms of employment to make up for the income loss. Cox ran a gift certificate sale to bring in some income and hoped her clients would return when the time was right to set up their appointments with her.
In the months of the pandemic, some professionals who were deemed non-essential had to walk a fine line. Those with a photography license fell into that category, but the stress of possibly losing her license because she had taken part in sessions she wasn’t supposed to based on regulations from state and local governments was something that wasn’t worth the risk for Misty Burnett, owner of Trinklett Photography in St. Joseph.
“I just didn’t work. I didn’t take the chances. I saw some doing the on-the-porch sessions. I didn’t even risk it,” Burnett said.
Burnett was out of work in her photography business for roughly three months. She rescheduled appointments and was able to regain some missed income through the Paycheck Protection Program, otherwise known as PPP. While Burnett was clear the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a blessing, she said she was able to use the free time to hone her skills.
“I just took the time to just improve my editing skills, took some workshops, redid my website, so really tried to better my business and I feel like that really helped,” Burnett said.
Luckily, as summer 2021 begins, the business has come back for Doolan, Cox and Burnett.
“It was kind of scary. I didn’t know what the future was gonna hold with photography,” Doolan said. “Now, I can’t run fast enough, so it’s been kind of crazy busy.”
Regardless of their specialties, all three photographers said they find meaning in their professions and it has served a greater purpose beyond a paycheck.
“The biggest thing for me, I’ve always been a creative person and I’ve always loved capturing life,” Cox said. “When you go through things in your life, the older I’ve gotten the more creating those memories and capturing those memories is meaningful for me.”