With Coronavirus spreading and canceling several photography shows and workshops across the globe, photographers need to be prepared just like everyone else.

If you’re a professional photographer, you might find yourself with canceled bookings due to Coronavirus. You also might find yourself questioning whether or not you should keep that upcoming photography excursion you’ve been planning for the past year.

So how can you keep safe, without completely flipping your world upside down? How can you be prepared as a small business?

Have a contingency plan for client work

I was contacted by two clients this week leading up to Michigan announcing its first two Coronavirus patients. They had a simple question — what was my cancelation/postponement policy for Coronavirus when it came to events I was contracted to photograph?

In my five years as a photographer, I’ve never had a last-minute cancelation. But I have had postponements due to crazy snow and ice, or power outages. In those cases, I didn’t charge extra to the client because those photoshoots ended up happening at a later date. And obviously because they can’t control Mother Nature.

With Coronavirus, I’m bracing for last-minute decisions to take place. Just like those snow and ice days, I can’t exactly penalize my clients for something like a global health scare. So what can you do?

If it’s a postponement, ask for a deposit to secure the date

If you don’t ask for a deposit already, now’s a really good time to start doing so. Asking for something like a 15% or 25% deposit isn’t unheard of in the industry. Promise them that you’ll make themselves available for the gig no matter what the date is — which might mean turning down a different gig or altering your personal plans.

If it’s a cancelation, ask to apply a credit toward a future photoshoot

If you’ve already collected a deposit or full payment, ask your client if you can keep those funds and apply it to their account for a future photoshoot. In this case, it might be a good idea to offer them a small discount.

Offer a booking deal

Reach out to those clients who have been impacted by Coronavirus. Offer them a deal to pay up-front for a future event, and give them a big break on it. Something like 25% off. This will get cash in your pocket, and it’ll also help you secure future work.

Precautions to take

I had the chance to talk with Dr. Eric Bouwens, a good friend of mine who happens to be a family physician at Mercy Health in Grand Rapids, MI. He’s also a talented photographer. Beyond the normal washing of hands and staying home if you feel sick, Bouwens offered up a few photography-specific suggestions to help you stay healthy, whether you’re photographing at home or abroad:

Contact clients about their plans for larger events

Bouwens says it’s best to be proactive, and to contact clients in advance. That way, you can find out what you need to be prepared for in terms of your workload and income.

But if you have to photograph something with a lot of people present — a wedding, graduation, etc. — you have to be cautious and take the steps recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

“There are the standard recommendations of washing your hands frequently, using alcohol sanitizer, but that’s not really going to be adequate to protect you. There’s a lot of evidence that this is just being transmitted through the air of people talking,” said Bouwens. “I don’t think you can really count on it — you’re taking a risk of going to a group of 200 people to photograph them.”

Don’t worry about your camera gear

Cleaning down your camera gear shouldn’t be a concern unless you let someone else use it.

“Unless someone else is touching your camera, [cleaning your camera] is not an issue. It might be wise to wipe it off with some sort of light cleaning solution, but I think it’s a pretty minor risk,” said Bouwens.

If you do choose to clean your camera gear, you can use denatured alcohol on the exterior of your camera body (just not on leather material). For lenses, something like Eclipse Optic Cleaning Solution will not damage your gear, and is also safe for your camera’s sensor.

Look for opportunities locally or in remote areas

While Coronavirus might effect a lot of people negatively, it’s actually a great opportunity for photographers to explore more remote areas that are close to home.

“If photographers have potential projects to do close to home, that would be an easy call. If you can drive someplace and come back the same day, you’re not having to expose yourself to the hotel, the airport and all these other places, as long as you aren’t in a place that’s known as a hot spot (known community transmission),” Bouwens said.

“It’s a great opportunity to do some of those local things you’ve wanted to do — drive to Lake Michigan, drive up north — it’s a great opportunity to do some sort of more remote things. You could be doing hiking, going out to the national parks … it’s not summer yet, it’s very quiet,” he said.

“If you’re near a large city, and the streets are kind of abandoned because everyone’s afraid of going out, it might not be a bad time to do some street photography. You don’t necessarily have to interact with people if you’re close to those areas.”

What precautions are you taking for Coronavirus? Has it impacted your business or travel plans? Let us know in the comments below.

Be sure to tune in today, March 12, 2020 at 4 p.m. ET for a free ASMP webinar discussing Coronavirus for photographers. Click here for details.