Zach Nichols figures he makes the vast majority of his annual income between May and September, when his clients take advantage of the natural beauty of the Inland Northwest as a backdrop of the most exciting day of their lives.
Even now, weeks before wedding season typically takes off, the 28-year-old Spokane photographer would normally be slammed with shoots for engagement photos, working with couples from near and far documenting their happy coupledom as they lock down details with wedding venues, caterers and dress shops.
"Typically this is prime time for engagement photos, before wedding season really kicks in, because people want to do them on weekends and I'm usually booked on weekends with weddings [later on]," Nichols says. "I've had to cancel a lot."
While Nichols considers himself lucky that he has a couple of small, elopement-style weddings in April that are still on the books, there's a lot of uncertainty when he reaches out to couples who hired him for their summer nuptials. With efforts to flatten the coronavirus curve limiting large gatherings, and no way of knowing when those limits might be lifted, looking ahead even just into May is impossible. "I've been talking to people about, 'I'm human, you're human. All of us can get sick,'" Nichols says. If something happens and the bride or groom or other parts of the wedding party have the virus, he asks, what's the plan?
So far, most of his wedding jobs for this summer are taking a wait-and-see approach. And even though Nichols doesn't consider himself someone who gets too stressed, he acknowledges that losing too many of his typical 25-30 summer wedding jobs, each paying between $2,000 and $4,000, would be a hit for him, his wife and his 19-month-old.
"As a wedding photographer, you take one away, it's a big percentage of your income," Nichols says.
The silver lining? Nichols has some savings to try to weather the immediate future, and a career he believes will always be in demand.
"Weddings are never really going to go away," Nichols says. "If weddings are canceled, next year will be even more crazy."