The 7 (it used to be 5) Lessons of Shooting (for a living) in a Pandemic

As rules get more relaxed shifting into GCQ, I can’t help but wonder how commercial shoots are going to be conducted. Earlier this May, documents have circulated among industry professionals as to how they are implementing the guidelines set by DOH / DTI in their own respective areas. Our studio followed suit and adopted the consolidated guideline set forth by some photographers. Of course, writing everything down and doing something are two different things. Just wanted to share our experience of going through a shoot under the new normal.

Old habits die hard. You will touch your face. You will scratch your eyes. I had to struggle during the first hours of the shoot figuring out what to do when there was an itch that needed to be scratched. Pun intended. We have to be mindful of our habits, and slowly adopt a more “germaphobe” mentality.

Wearing those protective goggles actually saved me several times until I got the hang of being more mindful whenever I feel something weird on my face.

Choose your face mask wisely. I find myself yawning more often than not in the middle of the shoot despite having ample sleep the night before, and I was a bit lethargic. This has happened not only during shoots, but also when traveling and being outside in a mask for prolonged periods. I deduced that the mask I was using wasn’t giving me enough oxygen to stay conscious. Pick a mask you can breathe in comfortably, but not too comfortably or else it’s not really going its job.

Always have your own disinfecting kit. I was able assemble a simple kit by shopping online comprised of sprays, a caddy, rags, and disposable wipes. Make sure you have that with you every shoot.

I’ve learned to regularly wipe down my camera gear several times through out this shoot, and washed my hands almost every hour. One great benefit of using a mirrorless DSLR, is not having your face sticking close to your camera.

Technology has a learning curve. It’s easy for us to go into all these Zoom / WebEx / Microsoft Teams meetings, attend and leave. It’s a totally different animal when you’re in a middle of a shoot with a shared screen explaining to the client the shots you like, your focus is split. Pace yourself when you interface with client and when to press on shooting.

Gently remind your client about the urgency of feedback. We don’t have the luxury of time in our hands anymore. Remember those Viber-approved shoots?

Mind your own business. One of the guidelines we noted down is strictly assigning particular equipment. My boys (lighting assistants for almost 10 years), know my little nuances during shoots and can usually guess what’s my next move. They catch it by helping me out setting up the laptop, camera, or whatever gear is necessary. But now, sharing of items are prohibited so that we don’t get to spread anything accidentally. Which means you setup and pack up by yourself, and same goes for them. I can’t help them out either.

Setup time would take longer than usual. Say good bye to those rush shoots when you storm into a location / studio to setup up right away and be ready in minutes. It took us an extra hour to settle everything in and disinfect properly.

We got to pick up these nuggets of wisdom in a relatively small product shoot. I can imagine the challenges we face, when more complicated shoots come into play.

By the time this piece comes out, we have shifted to more loose rules of a quarantine. Unfortunately, the reality of it is, the virus wouldn’t be loosening up. We are caught between delicate balancing act of avoiding getting sick, and earning a living. There’s hardly any justice in the situation, it’s just is.

Good luck to all tributes out there.

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