Recommend Guidelines for Photographers in Indiana to Reopen from SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19

Below is my letter to the State of Indiana COVID Response Team who asked me to provide recommend guidelines for photographers to follow as we reopen the state from the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic. I hope that these serve as a basic set of guidelines photographers can follow to safely reopen their businesses.

May 6, 2020

Christopher N. Deckard

Velvet Lotus Photography

210 N. 6th Street, Lafayette, IN 47901

To Indiana state leaders:

I would first like to thank you for all of your efforts to create as safe an environment possible over the last few weeks as SARS-CoV-2 has impacted the state and local communities. While many of us think the plan to reopen the state is ambitious, we do hope and pray that everything goes well and we can begin to find a new normal.

Per your request on May 4th, 2020 to suggest guidance for the photography industry, I’ve taken the opportunity to discuss with other photography professionals in our state to come up with a list of guidelines we feel should be followed as best as possible.

Following guidelines set forth in Executive Order 20-26, page 7, point 13 and page 6, point 8, recommendations put forward by Professional Photographers of America [1], photographers across the state of Indiana, as well as discussions with medical professionals, we have come up with the following recommendations for photographers to follow which should begin no earlier than May 11th, 2020.

For all sessions we recommend that on the morning of a photography session, photographers should ask their clients the following questions. This can be done via the phone, email, or questionnaire.

  1. Has any subject or family member had a temperature of 100.4 F or above in the last seven days?
  2. How are you feeling?
  3. Have you had a cough or any flu-like or COVID symptoms in the last 14 days?
  4. Have you been around anyone exhibiting these symptoms within the last 14 days?
  5. Are you living with anyone who is sick or quarantined?

If the answers to any of these questions is yes, the session should be rescheduled.

For outdoor photography sessions we recommend:

  1. Through Stage 4 of reopening, photographers shall wash their hands and use hand sanitizer prior to and after photography sessions.
  2. Photographers should wear a mask when possible.
  3. Photographers should observe social distancing guidelines and stay at least six feet apart from the subjects being photographed. Photographers should use verbal queues to recommend changes in posing.
  4. Any props used should be sanitized. Any clothing, blankets, or washable items should be laundered and dried. All props, clothing, blankets, and washable items should not be used for at least three days.

For indoor/studio photography sessions we recommend:

  1. Through Stage 4 of reopening, photographers shall wash their hands and use hand sanitizer prior to and after photography sessions.
  2. If possible, windows should be left open during the session.
  3. Photographers should wear a mask during the entire indoor session.
  4. Only the subjects being photographed should be in the studio. No guests, friends, or observers. If the subject is a minor, one parent or guardian may accompany.
  5. Subjects being photographed should wear a mask upon entering the studio per CDC guidelines for masks [2]. Subjects should promptly wash and sanitize hands upon entering the studio. All subjects should wear a mask when they are not being photographed.
  6. Photographers should observe social distancing guidelines and stay at least six feet apart from the subjects being photographed. Photographers should use verbal queues to recommend changes in posing.
  7. Immediately following the session, any windows that can be opened should be opened and the subjects and photographer should leave the studio for at least two hours. Following the two hours, any props used should be sanitized. Any clothing, blankets, or washable items should be laundered and dried. All props, clothing, blankets, and washable and un-washable items should not be used for at least three (3) days.
  8. In the case of multiple, individual, subjects being photographed, where the subjects live or work together (i.e. passport photos, headshots, etc.), each subject should be in the studio alone.
  9. It is further recommended that shoes be removed or foot coverings be placed over shoes.
  10. For studio shares, it is recommended that the studio administrator work with users of the space to follow the guidelines, including, but not limited to, additional cleaning and allowing no more than one session per day.

In the case of newborn photography sessions, photographers must directly hold and touch the newborn so as to safely and properly pose. To keep the newborn safe at all times, photographers must be within arms reach or have at least one hand on the baby at all times. As such, these additional recommendations are made for newborn photographers:

  1. Photographer shall wash hands and put on gloves before handling the baby. If the mother needs to feed the baby, photographer shall sanitize their hands prior to taking the baby back into their hands. Sanitizer should be used anytime new props are used or if the photographer touches someone other than the baby. Gloves should be used until Stage 5 is reached.
  2. Only one parent should be present during individual, posed, newborn photos. As family, parent, and sibling photos are also important the other parent and siblings should not be present until it is time to photograph the family. Any family member not being actively photographed should wear a mask.
  3. In addition to part 6 above for studio sessions, it is recommended that props, clothing, and the studio should not be used for a minimum of three (3) days per scientific studies that show the virus does not live past three (3) days on most surfaces.

Finally, in the case of wedding or event photography, it is recommended that the photographer follow social distancing guidelines, wash and sanitize hands frequently, and wear a mask when possible. As the photographer is a contracted professional who is required to be there, they have no control over the number of people at the event and shouldn’t be liable for exceeding the group capacity limits set for each stage.

We feel these guidelines will help photographers safely return to work and continue documenting the lives of the families they work with.

Sincerely yours,

Christopher N. Deckard



Open Letter to Governor Holcomb – Re: Clarification and Guidance for Professional Photographers

Dear Governor Holcomb,

Thank you for your guidance and quick reaction during this SARS-COV-2 pandemic. My wife and I are small business owners in Lafayette, IN. We have owned our photography business for 10 years and opened a women’s clothing boutique in the fall of 2018. We are a family of three and our businesses are our sole source of income. We realize, appreciate, and understand the sacrifice we are all having to make during this incredible health crisis even though we are deeply impacted by it, as are thousands of other Hoosiers, Americans, and guests.

I’m writing your office, for the first time, because I am extremely concerned with the lack of clarity, guidance, and consistent communication coming from the various offices in the Indiana State Government. Per executive order EO 20-18, all non-essential businesses are to be closed. I have personally called your office twice with questions and to receive guidance. I was told by your office that under no circumstance are we to photograph anyone, anywhere, for any reason as a professional photographer working our business. Not only is EO-20-18 very clear (at least to me) about this, but your office was very clear as well. Under that guidance I have assisted other photographers in communicating the urgent need to stop photographing clients and to stay home. I have also encouraged other photographers to report those who are in violation of the EO. The responses from IEDC are extremely different from that coming from your office.

From IEDC Covid Response:

“We have confirmed that photography is a permitted outdoor activity, provided the photos occur outside and that social distancing requirements (6 feet) are adhered to (i.e. porch photos).”

In addition:

“I am working to see if this can be added to the information online. In the meantime, can you tell me who you are speaking with at the governor’s office? This direction I provided came directly from them so I want to make sure I can clear up any miscommunications that may be occurring.”

The dates of these messages are as of today, April 7th, 2020.

I have personally encouraged photographers to stay home for a number of reasons. 1) It would be a violation of EO 20-18 and therefore against the law. 2) The health and safety of the photographer and client could be impacted as recent studies show that SARS-COV-2 can be transmitted via air up to 24 feet. Far beyond the recommended six feet recommended by the CDC. 3) Travel and accidents that occur during the drive to and from clients’ homes could impact the ability for emergency responders to respond to COVID-19 patients and instead direct resources to aid people who should not have been out to begin with and who should be staying at home.

The inconsistency in the messaging from your office has created much debate amongst photographers as to what is or isn’t allowed. In addition, the newly stated ability for photographers to be able to work despite the fact we are non-essential and ordered to stay at home now creates implications for 2 and 3 I listed above. This inconsistency and mixed message also flies in the face of the order itself.

While I am appreciative of our ability to be able to photograph our clients provided we practice recommended social distancing, I’m also a bit disheartened to hear that the health of the public and the potential impact on emergency responders and hospitals has been overlooked. Not only this, but if other non-essential businesses see photographers working and following safe practices, it encourages others to find ways to not follow the stay at home order.

If allowing professional portrait photography, operating as a business (whether it’s paid, unpaid, or for a donation to a cause), is acceptable we certainly welcome that clarification as quoted above from IEDC. If this is just an oversight due to lack of communication within the COVID response team, it would be great if there was additional guidance provided and a consistent and clear message as to what is and isn’t allowed.

Thank you for your time.

Christopher N. Deckard – West Lafayette, IN

COVID-19 – Should you cancel, postpone, or move forward

COVID-19, also referred to as Coronavirus, is sweeping our planet in a way that hasn’t been experienced for generations. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your families as we all go through this together. Our hope is that we can all do everything in our power to keep the most vulnerable from getting sick.

So, you have a wedding or portrait session coming up. What should you do?

There are lots of considerations to keep in mind. Of course, everyone’s health and safety are always our first priority. That and taking amazing photos of you!

What do I do about COVID-19 impacting my wedding?

You have been planning this day for months, maybe even years. So many pieces that you’ve spent time and money putting into place. Everything has finally come together and now COVID-19 is here. What should you do?

The first step, don’t panic. We know it’s hard not to, but things will work out one way or another. The second, contact your venue and see if any posted restrictions are going to affect your wedding. From there you and your partner can begin to make an informed decision about what to do. You can start having conversations with all of your vendors to see how they are handling this situation. Discuss with your families how you should best move forward because there are many options.

What options do I have?

Move forward with the wedding

In some cases, you may decide to move forward with the wedding. Unfortunately some of your guests may not be able to be there due to illness, travel restrictions, or other reasons. If your state, city, and venue still permit you to have the wedding, moving forward may be the easiest option. Ask your venue and caterer if they can put more space between tables. Provide sanitizing stations for your guests to easily access. Potentially shorten dancing. Refrain from hugging everyone or giving handshakes and practice social distancing as best you can. You may ask older guests not to come or to leave after the ceremony for their own protection. Consider having someone live stream your wedding so your guests who can’t make it can still witness the celebration of your marriage.

Postpone the wedding

Postponing your wedding may be the best option. It allows you to take a step back from this uncertain time and hit the pause button. This is where you need to involve all of your vendors for the best possible outcome. While most of us have contracts with you and there are set terms and conditions, many of us are willing to work with you and waive reschedule fees. The big thing to keep in mind is what your contracts say regarding cancellations. If you choose a date that one of your vendors isn’t available, you may be at risk of losing any retainers or non-refundable deposits you’ve made. It’s so important to include your vendors in the possible date selection process to ensure you get to keep working with the vendors you spent so much time selecting. If your contracts had reschedule fees, certainly ask that those be waived.

You don’t necessarily have to pick a new date right away. Ask your vendors how long they will allow you to wait to reschedule and in what time frame. We personally think that most people should be able to reschedule within 6-12 months. We’d certainly handle requests outside of that on a case by case basis.

Cancelling the wedding

While it shouldn’t come to this, in extreme situations it very well might. A destination wedding, for example, has extra moving pieces and there may not be travel restrictions to other countries in place. Most airlines are offering refunds and many resorts are offering full refunds as well. Cancelling a wedding outright due to COVID-19, without reschedule, is a very extreme decision and certainly puts you at risk of losing any or all retainers or non-refundable deposits you’ve made. While vendors are likely very agreeable to reschedule things with you, cancelling outright is a decision made entirely by you.

When should I make a decision?

If your wedding is happening in the next 30-45 days, reach out to your vendors and express your concern for their health and ask them what their plans are. Also ask what happens if you postpone. It’s important to have the conversation. COVID-19 restrictions are going to fluctuate by the day, week, and month. If your wedding is more than 45 days away you’re not under as much pressure to make any changes. It’s tough to play the waiting game, but that’s what we all have to do.

We are postponing, now what?

We encourage you to speak directly by phone with all of your vendors and then receive in writing how they are handling the situation. If you’ve got a new date picked that works for everyone, great! Now get that agreement in writing through a contract addendum or a new contract that states your previous payments are covered. This protects both you and your vendors. Always get it in writing.

After the legal side is all handled, let your guests know. Contact the hotels you had room blocks with and get those rescheduled. Ask that they waive any reschedule fees for your guests. Contact your photographer and see if they will do a quick 20-30 minute session with you to update some photos for new save the dates and send one out by email, your wedding website, social media or by mail.

Finally, take a deep breath and relax, you’ve earned it!

I have contracts, what should I be aware of?

You should have written contracts with your vendors that will talk about different kinds of fees, how cancelations are handled, etc. COVID-19 is not going to be specifically covered in your contracts. Keep in mind that in some cases, COVID-19 is not going to be considered as something that invokes “Acts of God” or “force majeure” clauses. These clauses in your contracts typically cover things like tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes. If you have wedding/event insurance, which we always highly recommend, see how your policy covers you in this situation. You can make more informed decisions once you have all of the information.

Many contracts may have reschedule fees. Ask your vendors to waive those if they haven’t already said they would. Make sure you include your vendors’ availability and consider it before making a final decision on a new date. If one of your vendors is not available you may lose your retainer by moving forward with the new date.

I’m rescheduling and I don’t get my money back?

To be honest, quite possibly. This pandemic has put us all into a unique and horrible situation. We know all too well from our own wedding how much planning goes into your big day. We would hate to be out any of our investment because we have to reschedule our wedding. We have talked with many vendors across all areas and we are all on a similar page. We are all willing to help out with rescheduling without adding fees. If you move forward with a date that a vendor is not available, expect to lose your retainer for that vendor though.

We are all feeling the punch in the gut from COVID-19. Our health, our social interaction, sanity, and our finances. Keep in mind that you are one of many brides put in this situation. If a photographer had to refund tens of thousands of dollars due to cancellations it would destroy them. Your vendors are going to work with you, but keep in mind that you need to work with them too. If you reschedule to a date that you know they are not available for you are effectively cancelling and forfeiting money paid.

For all of our non-wedding sessions

We will evaluate each of our sessions on a case by case basis. We already do this in regards to weather. At the moment our studio will be closed for new sessions for a short period, but outdoor sessions can still move forward. It’s easy to keep distant from each other to not put anyone at risk. We will likely do more phone consultations instead of in person at the studio. But again, we’ll handle that on a case by case basis.

Let’s all work together

As in any trying time, we all need to work together. If we don’t, our couples will not get the weddings they dreamed of and our vendors will not be able to continue with their businesses. Both hurt us all in the long run.

As we are photographers we’d love to help you out if you are in need of a photographer. If you’re choosing a date that your photographer isn’t available for, maybe we can work with you and your photographer. Depending on the package you had and how much you already paid, maybe we can deduct the amount you paid the other photographer. It’s all about working together and coming together as a community. We’ll help out as much as we can and our availability is quite a bit more flexible since there are two of us. Please contact us to inquire about your wedding.

We wish you all the best and will keep you all in our thoughts and prayers.

Helpful links

Kylee and D’Angelo Engagement – Downtown Lafayette, IN

Check out some amazing photos from Kylee and D’Angelo’s engagement session. We kept it all downtown Lafayette for their session and it was amazing. I even got to use my favorite brick road, finally completed after a summer full of construction.

When we have some little ones as part of the family I always like to start with the kiddos involved first. D’Angelo’s mom was kind enough to come down to visit and watch their little one as we continued on the session with just the two of them.

Kylee and D’Angelo’s engagement session was so much fun! I can’t wait for their wedding in just a couple weeks at New Journey Farms! It’s going to be amazing!

Update! Check out their wedding photos!

Brown Family – Purdue Horticulture Park – Lafayette, IN

The Brown Family - Purdue Horticulture Park

Meet the Brown Family! We met Joanna 3 years ago at a workshop we held at our studio. The focus of the workshop was to promote community over competition, newborn, and maternity posing. Men and women cheering each other on and supporting one another in an otherwise cutthroat industry. We could sense right away that she was special, but in a short amount of time, like a workshop, how much can you really tell about people? In the years since that weekend, we’ve kept up with Joanna and her family on social media, and have learned that what we initially thought was special about her didn’t even scratch the surface. She radiates grace, and love, and overall goodness. She’s an old soul. She’s patient, loving, witty, and the very definition of sweet.

We were so grateful that she made the drive up to Lafayette with her children for a quick Mother’s Day session. They’ve overcome so much in the last couple of years as a family, and we felt it was necessary to document them and their love for each other. The kids were the absolute sweetest and they really enjoyed their photo time with mom. Joanna has been an absolute rock for herself and her family. She is setting the most beautiful example of how to live by faith. Each and every one of these amazing people have a piece of our hearts. We can only hope that they admire these moments as much as we admire their strength and resilience.

We took Joanna and the kids to Purdue Horticulture Park because it’s one of our favorite spots. Some of the trees were in bloom and we took advantage of them. Lauren really loved the flowering tree and we totally took advantage of putting her in it. After their session, they joined us for dinner and we got to catch up even more while the kids all got to know each other. They were best friends in just minutes! The Brown family will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Chelsea and Zach – November 3, 2018 – The Trails – Lafayette, IN

It has been so great working with Chelsea and Zach! Their engagement session on the streets of Lafayette was really awesome. They were one of the first to be photographed in our new studio as well, and were totally patient and understanding with our big mess. The great thing is we were able to finish up our new studio and Chelsea was able to be our first bride to use the space to get ready in.

I just knew their wedding day was going to be incredible. When Chelsea showed me a photo of her dress, my jaw dropped! It was so stunning! I love all of the colors they chose and their decor was beautiful! The family came together to create the decor, florals, and the cake. A storm had come through the area a month before and destroyed the arbor at The Trails. Chelsea’s grandpa saved the day, building an entire new one from scratch.

We’re so excited to share some (well, a bunch really) of our favorites from this gorgeous fall day!

Creative Team

Check out the full gallery after you’ve looked through this sneak peek!

Hannah and Kyle – September 16, 2017 – Moses Fowler House – Lafayette, IN

I was so excited to be a part of Hannah and Kyle’s wedding day! When we met with them, I felt an instant connection with them. They are a dynamic couple and have the best energy together. Arriving at the Moses Fowler mansion was like a fairy tale. Every detail had been so thoughtfully executed. Everyone seemed calm but giddy over everything that was happening. Hannah could not have been more gorgeous. Seeing her tear up at the mere thought of Kyle warmed my heart so much, and his eyes lit up every time her name was mentioned. From getting ready to dancing the night away, the day was absolute perfection. I hope you enjoy some of our favorite highlights from their beautiful wedding!

Creative Team:

Megan and Cody – July 16, 2017 – Columbiaville Community Center – Columbiaville, MI

Megan and Cody, Columbiaville, MI, Destination Wedding Photographer

One of my many enjoyments as a photographer is meeting people across the country. I “met” Megan through a Facebook photography group a couple of years ago. It has been great watching her grow in her photography over the years and to build that special connection with her through a similar passion. Everything magically came together after her engagement and we finally were able to meet in person. I’m so glad I was able to travel hours away to celebrate with Megan, Cody, and their families!

Creative Team: