Hey everyone! Today I’m sitting down (digitally) for a Covid-19 Q&A with Laura Grier of Beautiful Day Photography, a world-renowned destination wedding and adventure photographer, and co-founder of Andeana Hats. Laura’s the fearless leader who led all of us gals on the women’s retreat in Peru that we attended last month. She shoots luxury weddings one day and then hops on a plane for Nat Geo the next. From cresting active volcanoes to surviving poisonous spider bites and knee replacement surgeries to swimming with sharks and doing barrel rolls in fighter jets – probably all in the same year – this babe has done and seen it all! As a globe-trotting, jet-setting entrepreneurial maven, traveler of all 7 continents and seas with her camera in hand, I couldn’t think of a better person to ask how they’re navigating this life-changing global pandemic and what we as photographers are predicting for our futures.
Kelli: Firstly, are you enjoying your downtime?
Laura: There have only been two times in my life that I have allowed myself to not travel for an extended period of time, stay home, reflect, and be STILL and both times have been forced upon me. One was my knee surgery and the other is right now during Covid-19. It is interesting because in my regular crazy hectic life and travel schedule I would have never allowed myself that much downtime, even though I create my own schedule. Both of these seemingly “bad times” have turned into amazing moments of change and reflection for me in my life; much-needed breathing, healing, and processing room while I searched for others to re-inspire me. I see it as a gift of downtime that I am getting that I would never give to myself. During my healing from knee surgery over 2 years ago, I was sitting there reflecting on my travels and wondering how I could do MORE to make a positive difference in the planet, through my lens, my travel, and my words. SO I literally googled “travel for social good” and that led me down a rabbit hole of finding all kinds of incredible people and organizations that were making a positive impact on the planet through travel and the crazy part was that many of them not only KNEW each other but lived within walking distance from my house in Venice Beach! And now with the Covid lockdown, my boyfriend and I are getting a rare trial in uninterrupted “domestic life” and I am catching up on reading, writing, sleep, working out, and playing my music. It has been quite pleasant so far and I’m definitely glad we are going through this together in Miami.
Kelli: As an avid travel photographer, how are you handling being in the same city for several weeks at a time?
Laura: I STILL feel like I am traveling since I have yet to go home. I have been in Miami the past month and came straight from a long trip from Peru and before that the East Coast and Reno and the Caribbean. I haven’t been home in Venice Beach since mid-February and I am still waiting for when I am allowed to come back after the lockdown has been lifted. So to be honest I was READY for a travel break and to just be in one place longer than a few days…the only downside is that I am STILL living in the same suitcase since February so I’m over the same outfits that I have been wearing for months now. I have SO many recent trips to edit and write blogs about that I feel like I am reliving my travels every day by going through them and writing about them, so my wanderlust is still being satiated.
Kelli: As a photographer who’s always got something brewing, do you have any advice for other photographers on how to make themselves “essential” during the pandemic?
Laura: I think of myself as a storyteller and a content creator and photography just happens to be one of the ways that I can do that. Thank god our lives are digital because we can still do so many parts of our jobs and be storytellers and content creators without being out there shooting. I am still remote mentoring, writing blogs and travel articles, repurposing previous trips and shoots, submitting to my stock agency and magazines, and just fixing up my website etc. So many times. We as photographers sort of slack on the tedious admin parts of our businesses, because of lack of time or just because let’s face it, it’s the least fun part of our jobs, but now we are getting this rare gift to refocus, reorganize, and rebrand ourselves…and I think that is just as important as finding new ways to drum up new business during this time. But the good news is that EVERYONE is needing content right now and everyone is scouring the internet and can’t go outside or do anything, so this is the best time to build your audience and get your stories and images out there!
Kelli: With the threat of an economical recession looming, do you believe high-end luxury photographers who have built their brands up should prepare for a decrease in revenue and should consider lowering their prices?
Laura: No, I never believe in lowering your prices. You can offer more for the same price but not lower it. The people that can afford luxury are not getting hit as hard during this and weddings will boom once they are allowed again to happen. The price you set for your worth will always be the same no matter what happens. You should never devalue yourself. If you want to take on lower-paying clients for associate jobs or other gigs, that’s fine, but with weddings, I would never lower my prices, but maybe add in some incentives or gifts if you want to help people out.
Kelli: What tips can you offer to photographers who’ve been forced to deal with clients postponing/cancelling events?
Laura: I think this is a time for being “human” first and not as much of a “business owner”. Normally, if a client canceled their wedding or postponed their deposit would be non-refundable, but these are unprecedented times and I think the right thing to do is to give people their money back or a full credit towards when they reschedule. We all have to help each other out during these times and I can’t imagine with the heightened emotions of planning a wedding what those poor brides and grooms are going through right now that had to cancel their weddings! They are losing so much money and have the added emotional disappointment, so do the right thing right now and they will remember that later on. Karma goes a long way. I have been focusing on doing wedding albums and books for clients that now have the time to do them and have been focusing on creating revenue that way while we are all stuck at home.
Kelli: Is there anything you can suggest to freelancers and entrepreneurs who are forced to be home to remain busy and “in-business”?
Laura: I think boredom will never exist for me. There is SO much to do and not enough hours even during the lockdown. My advice is to use this time to organize your business, reach out to clients and coordinators and to check in with them and how they are doing, network and learn new things by signing into Zoom conferences and calls, think about other ways to diversify your business and have other income streams after this, because our world may be very different once things reopen. We all need to find ways to add more digital and virtual options to our businesses and marketing. Also use this time to apply for all of the stimulus loans and aid that is out there, because we don’t know what the rest of this year is going to look like! Even when I’m cleaning I listen to Ted talks or just try to find inspiration and other news and ideas other than the Pandemic!
Kelli: Do you think after this, the travel industry for photographers, influencers, and other freelancers will suffer?
Laura: Every industry is suffering from this. We will have the worst unemployment rate since the Depression and the Vietnam War, so my answer is YES…and no. I think many people after being cooped up are going to want to travel and need that wanderlust and hope to keep them going through these times. I think photographers will always have jobs and freelancers as well. I think the first thing to go is marketing and influencers in terms of Travel budgets for some of these brands, so it will be interesting to see what happens there. We will always have words and photos to create, just the subject matter may shift a bit.
Kelli: What would have been your game plan if you were unable to board the plane in Lima on that infamous night the president closed the borders? We were all on the last flights out, but I think you were literally on the the last last plane out of Lima!
Laura: Hmm, I have definitely thought about that. It would have been a very different month because Lima is on a serious lockdown compared to the US and their internet is SO bad down there that Zoom or WhatsApp video calls are virtually impossible to do. Luckily, I could have stayed with Pats and had an apartment to stay at and I think we could have used that time to work on Andeana and all of the remote photography work and writing that I have been doing from Miami already, but emotionally it would have been a LOT harder for me without my boyfriend as a support system. But as I always do, I would have found positives getting stuck down there and practiced full Spanish immersion, created some sort of video blog or reached out to a news publication documenting about my experience getting stranded in Peru, written to the airlines and the consulate to get rescued earlier (used my parents former CIA contacts to make that happen lol) driven across the border…I don’t know I would have figured another way out somehow!
Kelli: And finally, once we’re allowed to travel again, where are you headed next? Are there certain precautions you’re preparing to take to ensure you’re safely traveling from airport to airport?
Laura: Madagascar, Curacao, and Tonga were all trips that got canceled during this pandemic, so those trips I am really looking forward to going on soon! I don’t think I will travel any differently than I always have. Back when my mom worked for Counterterrorism with the CIA she always warned me of terrible things happening everywhere that I was traveling. It was enough to make you completely paranoid, so I just shifted my mentality to the opposite spectrum. I am just not going to worry. I will be smart, but not overly anxious about bad things happening because as you can see, you have the same risks on domestic soil or now even at the grocery store as you do anywhere else. You can’t live your life in paralyzed fear, so I just choose not to. I will pack a mask and have hand sanitizer and wipes (which I normally did as well) and just make sure I am self-sufficient and have enough snacks, water, and provisions on me in case I ever get stranded or locked down again. We need to be “radically self-reliant” which are the principles of Burning Man:)
Laura: I believe that everything “bad” happens for a good reason. I’m not saying that people dying is a good thing, but I think sometimes the universe forces us to be uncomfortable in order to create real change and innovation. I truly hope that we as humans come out of this pandemic with positive change and realize what is important to us in our lives and how to be less helpless and more helpful. Hopefully, businesses will realize that more people can work remotely and spend less on overhead and cause the trickle-down effect of less traffic and pollution and fewer hours wasted commuting. Hopefully, we will all “reconnect” and have more face time with our families and loved ones. And most importantly, hopefully, we will all remember and have gratitude for what we have and our health and not take it for granted.
Thank you so much, Laura! Check out Laura Grier’s travel archive on Instagram. It’s the perfect escape during our lockdowns! @lauragriertravel
Also check out: Andeana Hats - @andeanahats Jetset Collective Media - @jetsetcollectivemedia Beautiful Day Photography - @beautifuldayweddingphoto