Sarasota local and professional photographer Tom Winchester has seen an uptick in both businesses and residents seeking professional photography. At first, he was surprised by the number of jobs coming in during COVID-19, he says, but then he started to see a trend: “People are looking for ways to connect,” he says, “and they have a little more time to devote to it right now.”
With the decrease of in-person events, more online connections are being made, whether it’s business-related or social. Winchester says he’s heard firsthand from business owners they are using this time to invest in and improve their online presence, not knowing when in-store visits will return to normal numbers. Whether it’s a total brand overhaul, new head shots for the team, or new product shots to share on social media, he says they are all looking for a way to get the competitive edge right now and stay relevant.
“Some businesses are coming to realize that good photography is the difference in closing sales and coming across professionally and trusted online,” Winchester says. “It’s vital for businesses to have a strong presence in the digital space, and in order to do so effectively, they have to be able to communicate their brand story well. Great photography helps to tell stories and make consumers feel like they are a part of a company's brand.”
Branding isn’t just for businesses, either. Personal branding is just as important, especially considering the current unemployment trends. As layoffs have increased, the job market’s gotten more competitive, making it an ideal time to update the old LinkedIn profile, according to Winchester. For those in industries that haven’t been affected as badly, a good brand uplift for, say, freelancers, real estate agents, social media influencers, and entrepreneurs is still key in landing new business.
Winchester has stayed busy shooting through the pandemic, and he safely offers his services either on location or from his oversize, air-conditioned studio in the Porter Road warehouse district off of Cattlemen Road. The studio has a sitting area, dressing rooms, and a lobby with further seating for distancing purposes, and the entire studio is sanitized before and after each client.
From his lens, Winchester sees that people are still staying focused on the future and being hopeful about their businesses. That, in turn, keeps him hopeful. He says his most enjoyable shoots throughout this time were of families who’ve had special events canceled and came up with creative ways to honor the milestones and celebrations despite missing the party.
“Photographs last forever, and the ones that I’ve been taking right now seem to carry more weight,” Winchester says. “I get the sense that people are cherishing these moments even more now, and I’m honored my photos get to play a part of their story.”