Is a socially distant family photo session possible? It’s a question you might be wondering as we are *potentially* approaching phase one of re-opening. And here’s a little known secret…many Boston, MA family photographers are communicating daily this about topic. So what’s the deal? When we’re allowed to operate again, will we? Is it possible to hold sessions safely? IMHO, it is, BUT both photographers and clients will need to be flexible. Here’s how I think we can make it safe, while also providing beautiful images for our clients.
Location, Location, Location
Forgive me for stating the obvious here, but the first thing we need to consider is which towns have implemented mask requirements. If a town has this policy, then it’s a no go for an outdoor session unless in a client’s yard. The state law only requires that masks are worn *when maintaining social distance isn’t possible*, and that’s hugely helpful because it doesn’t automatically cross every town off of the list.
Once a town has been chosen for a session, it will be critical to select a remote location (likely a field) with little to no foot traffic. These are becoming harder and harder to find as people are spending so much time outdoors, but I personally know of three off the top of my head.
For me, this honestly isn’t a huge shift in my approach to sessions. I have always preferred the quiet, lesser-known locations. For other photographers though, city locations are their preference, and their clients may expect this, too. In these cases, a shift from city to “country” may be a more difficult one to make.
Another critical component of safely holding sessions will be by using longer lenses, or zoom lenses. These will allow us to stand at least 6 feet away from our clients. Again, this will be a harder change for some photographers than others. My preferred outdoor lens has always been the 85 mm. For those who don’t know, that lens requires standing far back, so I am used to working at this distance already. I know many photographers who rely heavily on their 35 mm lenses though. These are much wider and require that you get very close to your subjects. For those photogs, switching to something like an 85 may feel like learning a new skill altogether, and they may choose to not shoot until they can safely use their usual equipment. All of the images below were shot with my 85, and my 135 mm, which is an even longer lens. I have to stand REALLY FAR away when using it ;).
Re-Thinking Time of Day
Most Boston, MA family photographers (and photographers in general) try to schedule their sessions during golden hour (about 90 minutes before sunset). While this will probably still be the plan if shooting in a client’s yard or at a deserted location, there may be ways to utilize slightly more populated locations if we re-think time of day. For example, I’ve always loved shooting at the Public Garden shortly after sunrise because I’ve never liked battling crowds. But now, that may literally be the only safe time to shoot there. It also may be worth considering days of the week that we typically wouldn’t shoot. For example, a random Tuesday is likely to allow us to avoid crowds much more easily than a Saturday. All photos below were taken between 7 and 8 AM when no one else was around!
Again, this one seems obvious, but I’m not just referring to touching people (sorry, no handshakes or hugs!). If we plan to continue shooting, we need to re-think what we bring to sessions, too. This means I won’t bring my bag of blankets (clients should plan on bringing their own), no use of props (I don’t use props but many photographers do), and no exchange of checks or cash. The hard part for me, if I do go forward with sessions, is that I won’t be able to accept client offers to carry my camera bag, ha! Dads often ask me if they can help, and although I usually say no, it sure would be helpful given that I’m getting veryyyyyy pregnant. Safety first, though!
In closing, it’s really important that we remember everyone has their own set of circumstances and will have different comfort levels moving forward. What works for one photographer or client may not work for another, and our decisions will be very personal ones. I hope that regardless of the decisions we make, we can do so safely!
Stay well, Boston <3