Industry News

Resources for Photographers to Watch, Listen to and Read Amid Pandemic

June 18, 2020

By Libby Peterson

Well before the pandemic hit, we had been talking about the importance of long-term work-life balance, but as shelter-in-place orders forced millions of people to stay home and away from their networks, communities and for some, families (at least physically), we saw a greater need to dig into some of the mental health, mindfulness and productivity resources for photographers to help them navigate the business of photography in “the new normal.”

[Visit our COVID-19 resource guide for more articles and information for photographers about the pandemic]

For those who haven’t read it, Katch Silva began a series that so far covers the productivity hustle in isolation, getting out of a mental rut in the pandemic, and more recently amid the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, understanding, confronting and unlearning implicit biases. We also began a webinar series on coping as a photographer during quarantine, beginning with an episode (listen here!) on staying creative, productive, connected and centered.

And we conducted a survey this spring to get a clearer idea of what the Rangefinder + WPPI community is doing to meet the challenges of the pandemic. One of the questions we asked was, “What have you watched or read during isolation that has helped you in your photographic practice, that you have learned from or been inspired by?”

[To read the responses to questions on other topics, including how photographers are finding creative motivation and what they’re doing to pivot in this tricky time, visit the Rangefinder + WPPI community survey homepage.]

Resources for Photographers in Isolation

Thankfully, we live in the 21st century, so photographers have been able to keep up with their businesses, creative growth and with each other in a variety of ways.

It didn’t surprise us to learn that nearly half of the respondents turned to their devices to watch videos, webinars and virtual conferences on various aspects of photography. Not far behind what people watched is what people read. (More on what exactly photographers found most helpful to watch and read later.)

Given that podcasting has reached new heights in popularity over the last five years, it was surprising to us that only a sliver of the participants mentioned listening to something at this time. Four people said that listening to music and at-home concerts has been helpful, and five people spotlighted the podcasts they’ve been tuning in to—among them:

Brené Brown’s “Unlocking Us”
The Jordan Harbinger Show
Jasmin Neidhart’s “Bloom Seeker”

(Incidentally, Neidhart’s first episode of “Bloom Seeker” features Rangefinder Senior Editor Libby Peterson, discussing how to become a 30 Rising Star of Wedding Photography.)

Some participants made a point of mentioning non-photography activities that they were doing to clear their minds: baking a cake, taking a walk, decluttering, woodshedding, etc. In fact, one thing led to another for one respondent in particular, who shared:

“I baked a lemon tea cake about 20 days into quarantine with my godmother over FaceTime. After I saw how bright the beautiful cake turned out, I decided to create a little styled setup with it—the first time I had picked up my camera in 20 days—and that really brought me back to life and ideas started spilling in from there. What if I turned my apartment into a studio? What if I learned how to make flower arrangements? Flowers truly have breathed life into me during this time, and I’ve been learning from a few florist friends via Instagram Live and FaceTime.”

What Photographers Are Reading

Forty percent of the respondents in this survey mentioned that they were reading something to stay inspired and continue learning while they were in isolation.

The majority of those people mentioned reading articles in magazines, on websites and social media to stay informed: Rangefinder (oh hey, that’s us), The New York Times, Vogue‘s business-related articles and their newsletter, and even posts in various Facebook groups were specifically highlighted. “I have read all of the PPA magazines that I didn’t have time to read while working,” one responded replied. “I am so glad I saved them. It has been very inspiring.”

About a dozen people found it just as useful to follow posts by photographers they admire on social media, such as Cindy Sherman, Harold Davis, Jared Lloyd, Terrence Malick and Tara McMullen.

Some respondents said they were reading books on photography, editing and color theory, including LightBox Photography cards and the instructional photo series by David duChemin. One participant recommended The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair, and another touted Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, “an incredible tool to take advantage of this time to go deeper into my creative practice,” they said.

Book on business, marketing and sales included The Magic of Thinking Big By David J. Schwartz, One Million Followers: How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days by Brendan Kane, Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller, and books by Grant Cardone. Other inspirational literary works:

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
The Power by Naomi Alderman
The Tao of Seneca

What Photographers Are Watching

A majority of the respondents who mentioned watching something during the pandemic said they specifically sought educational material to advance their photographic practice in some manner. Videos on photography techniques and behind-the-scenes processes brought people to YouTube, TikTok, CreativeLive and WPPI’s channels, as well as to specific photographers—Sue Bryce, Pye Jirsa, Yervant, Two Mann and Me Ra Koh, among others.

[Read our “10 Questions for Pye Jirsa: SLR Lounge Founder, Photographer and Lighting Legend”]

“Although I’m a Canon shooter,” one respondent admitted, “I’ve been watching the Nikon talk sessions, where well-established photographers discuss their photos, techniques and how they shot a particular photo. It’s been excellent and makes me want to try some of their techniques.”

A few respondents mentioned watching videos on commercial photography, street photography (like this one by Magnum Photos) and fine-art photography, including videos by Brooke Shaden, Chris Knight on “Finding Rembrandt,” and “My Photo Artistic Life” by Sebastian Michaels. Respondents also called out video courses on marketing and making money, as well as instructional videos on photo editing, such as Capture One, Kelby One, Photoshop and Lightroom.

“I watched a great tutorial on being able to selectively change colors and an intensive five-hour class on editing hair,” said one participant, who added that they also watched Steve Hansen’s course “Studio Workflow for Splashes & Crashes” on food photography via CreativeLive, “which always makes my mind explode with ideas.”

Zoom meetings, webinars and virtual conferences proved especially effective for photographers—in particular, those by:

Peter Hurley’s Headshot Crew
RF/WPPI’s “Creativity in Quarantine”
Wonderful Machine
Harold Davis
Dave Cross’s Photoshop Virtual Summit

Other respondents recalled non-photography videos that have helped inspire them. One pointed to how-to videos on watercolor painting and quilt design, while another found solace in artist documentaries, such as one on filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Still others were unwinding with design shows, the Netflix series Freud, Hero, Crimson Peak and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. “I catch myself watching movies in a much more photographic way,” said one respondent, “how the characters pose themselves, how the lighting helps tell the story, etc.”

Go here to read more about how photographers are meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About this survey: In April and May we emailed members of the Rangefinder + WPPI community to ask how they are responding to the pandemic. We also shared the survey in our weekly email newsletter, via our social media channels, and on the Rangefinder and WPPI websites. The goal was to create space to share ideas, insights and resources. One-hundred-ninety people answered at least one of the five questions we asked. Special thanks go to all of the members of the community who participated.