I am done with “fake it until you make it”

Seeing clients has helped get me through the last two years. Getting to connect with you, even from a distance and through masks, has been my lifeline. Even though everything about sessions has been different, they are simultaneously ‘normal’ in a time when everything feels unknown and chaotic.

I have pivoted, adapted, overcome, and ‘focused on the positive’. I have done the very best I can when faced with every restriction and closure of my business.

I am here today to let you know that my determined hope and positivity are real but that they share space with fear and anxiety about the immense and exhausting burden my business has become since March 2020.

Let me preface what I’m about to say with a caveat about the duality of experiences and emotions. I can respect and understand the need for restrictions AND feel disappointment and fear about what it means for my business. I can support the need to reduce the burden on our health care system AND feel overwhelmed at how to keep my business operating in a safe manner. I can go above and beyond to follow every rule, recommendation, and restriction AND still feel anger that ongoing systemic issues in our political system are passing the burden of this pandemic onto Ontario citizens, especially the most vulnerable people in our province.

When my new studio opens next week, it is the first hope I have had since the start of this pandemic that I may not close the doors to my business. I have smiled, I have planned, I have overcome, I have persevered, and I have done all of this while grappling with the reality that it was time to explore “what’s next” for me, other than photography.

Before March 2020, 60% of my business was studio sessions and it was the area of my business where I had planned and projected the most growth for the following five years. Since March 2020, restrictions, lockdowns, public health guidelines, and having my children home full-time, has meant my studio sessions are now less than 15% of my business.

“You must be so happy you can work right now!”

I am grateful that I am permitted to work, with restrictions, at this time. Unlike many businesses, I cannot turn to online sales, curbside pick up, or other forms of revenue generation during lockdowns. As a service provider I cannot ‘make up’ the sessions I am unable to shoot due to lockdowns or restrictions as I am one person and there are only so many hours in the day.

“Can’t you take advantage of government support for small businesses?”

My business was closed (no outdoor or studio sessions) for a total of 8 months. The longest lockdown was from January to June 2021, where we were only open for a period of three weeks. Over the course of the last 2 years we rescheduled over 100 sessions and quadrupled the administrative time required to manage my session schedule (requirements to actively screen all clients; reschedule sessions due to restrictions, quarantine, and illness; and added time required to communicate changes to clients). In addition, we had to restructure sessions to accommodate new restrictions over a dozen times. Over the course of two years, I lost 40% of my business and received the equivalent of one month’s lost revenue from the provincial government.

“Why can’t you just keep shooting outside like you’ve done for the last two years?”

We have all worked and lived in ways during the pandemic that are unsustainable outside of a crisis situation. Moving 12 months worth of sessions outdoors in a 5 month window, while relying on Mother Nature to cooperate, is simultaneously a marathon and a sprint we’ve been running since the Spring of 2020. I am no longer mentally, physically, or emotionally able to run my business in crisis mode.

“Why can’t you stay in your home studio?”

Physical distancing requirements limit the types and number of sessions I can offer in my home studio. My beautifully renovated home studio is a marvel in efficiency and ingenuity but does not have the required square footage to allow me to continue meeting public health requirements. At the same time, sharing the space with my family has become almost impossible over the course of the past two years.

Sessions now need to be spaced out to allow for ventilation and cleaning. My family needs to remain in a separate area of the house while I’m working on the main floor. My husband works from home full-time and my children are home more than they ever were in the past. My business and my family can no longer co-exist in our shared space.

“Other businesses are way worse off than yours”

Everyone has experienced the pandemic differently. It has had different consequences for all of our personal and professional lives (some positive, some negative).

I am sharing what has been happening behind the scenes in my business because it is my reality and it has had a profound impact on my family and my wellbeing for nearly 24 months. I want to normalize talking about the challenges of small business ownership as much as we talk about the success and celebrations. Social media makes it easy to compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel, so let’s share both and normalize that it’s okay to not be okay.

Now what?

Who would open a commercial studio space in the third year of a global pandemic after experiencing nearly 24 months of lost business, cyclical closures, and burnout unlike anything she’s ever experienced?


I have dreamed of being a photographer since I was a teenager. I don’t know who I am without a camera in my hand. I have poured my heart, soul, and 10s of 1000s of hours into my art and business over the course of the last decade.

I need to have hope that there are better times ahead and the new studio space is that hope.

Is this a risk? Absolutely.

Is it the risk I’m willing to take to ensure that I’m still in business in 10 years? Absolutely.

The part where I ask for help

Do you have friends who have admired the photos I took for you?

Do you have a friend or family member who is looking for a photographer?

Do you like the photos or posts I share on social media?

I would love it if you could click here and share the blog post all about my new studio’s virtual grand opening with your family and friends. The blog post has all the details for the live open house, giveaways, and special promotional offers!

I never imagined that my studio grand opening would be a virtual event and I’m hoping to make it as festive and fun as I can!

Thank you…

…For booking sessions, for sending supportive emails, for leaving comments on social media posts, for sharing your own lives online so I can keep in touch. Thank you for your excitement about the new space and what it means for sessions and the future of Sara McConnell Photography.