Local photographers develop positives amid coronavirus negatives

Photographer Corey O'Connell finds as much joy in shooting all sorts of photos, from brand images to portraits to candid shots of life in downtown Waco. Photo courtesy of Corey O'Connell.

By Madalyn Watson | Editor-in-Chief

Waco-based photographers are refocusing their priorities in order to keep their clients safe and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Brand photographer and storyteller Corey O’Connell aimed for his photography in a professional setting to be as authentic and genuine as his personal projects.

“It really doesn’t feel all that different when I’m on a brand shoot to when I’m shooting for fun with friends,” O’Connell said. “I approach it the same way, the same ideas, the same attitude of creating good content that matters.”

O&squot;Connell and his roommates turned an "ugly burn pile" into a bonfire late at night for this "spicy photo shoot." Photo courtesy of Corey O&squot;Connell.
O'Connell and his roommates, Cameron and Danielle Philgreen, turned an "ugly burn pile" into a bonfire late at night for this "spicy photo shoot." Photo courtesy of Corey O'Connell.

O’Connell works mostly with brands, but he also captures portraits, couples and the life of downtown Waco. He said he doesn’t see a huge difference between these kinds of photoshoots. In fact, his close friends and roommates modeled for a recent photoshoot with Milo All Day.

In addition to Milo All Day, O’Connell has photographed for several different brands such as January Letterpress, Bare Bucha, Verve Coffee Roasters, Union Hall and Jeep.

“With COVID-19, it’s worked really well for me to get to shoot with the people that I live with,” O’Connell said. “We’re not really running a risk of someone at the shoot having COVID-19 and having to test or monitor anyone outside of how I normally am functioning at home.”

From behind her camera, Scottsdale, Ariz., senior and photographer Kaitlyn Clink said she believes a picture depends on the bond between the people on either side of the camera.

“I haven’t been able to go places to just meet new people, share that I’m a photographer or just catch up with friends and get their ideas on when they want to book,” Clink said. “It’s hard to build relationships right now and photography is all about relationships.”

Grapevine senior Candy Okwena poses in a vibrant dress on Jacob's Ladder in Cameron Park. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Clink.
Grapevine senior Candy Okwena poses in a vibrant dress on Jacob's Ladder in Cameron Park. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Clink.

Clink mostly takes portraits and couple photos or snapshots of events like weddings for a living. Even before the restrictions of coronavirus came into the picture, Clink said developing a link with her clients helped her break down some barriers she faces as a young photographer.

“I’d say it’s definitely hard to be taken seriously not only just as an artist, but also somebody I feel like in college,” Clink said. “People see it as I’ve just gone into it, not realizing I’ve been shooting for over six years, and I didn’t have a problem with it in high school, but the less you know people, the less respect they have for you.”

Although these relationships have changed, Clink said the logistics of photoshoots have not changed as much due to the pandemic.

“Luckily, you can keep your distance as a photographer,” Clink said. “If I wear a mask, they don’t have to.”

Hannah Hasty from Scottsdale, Ariz. takes a break from a drive. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Clink.
Scottsdale, Ariz. senior Kaitlyn Clink photographs her friend Hannah Hasty from Scottsdale, Ariz. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Clink.

Due to some health complications, O’Connell has had to be extra cautious in order to protect his clients as well as himself during shoots.

“I will remain in a mask for pretty much every single shoot, outdoors or indoors,” O’Connell said. “What a lot of people don’t understand is because I am a one man show, if I’m having to quarantine for two weeks, I’m not able to be out there shooting photos. It’s not like I get sick leave or paid time off.”

O’Connell also said the “more reckless” he is outside of his work, the bigger the risk that it will affect another person’s life.

“In my attempt to be neighborly, I want to consider someone else regardless of how I feel or not feel,” O’Connell said. “And that, for me, has looked like taking as much precaution as possible and making sure safety measures are in place while also realizing the value of working and getting back to work.”

Photo courtesy of Corey O'Connell.
Photographer Corey O'Connell uses both digital and film photography for all of his projects. O'Connell recently started pursuing videography to broaden his horizons amid coronavirus. Photo courtesy of Corey O'Connell.

The brand photographer and storyteller, O’Connell, added videographer to the list of the many hats he wears in response to coronavirus’ impact on his business. More about O’Connell’s creatives work can be found on his website or Instagram page.

“I’ve only been really doing video for the past six months or so and that honestly came out of a response to the pandemic, and a lot of jobs being put on pause or losing jobs in just photography. I needed to be able to diversify income,” O’Connell said. “And that was a big pivot that I made as far as trying to still do full-time creative work.”

Since college students her age make up a large portion of her clientele, Clink has a lot of experience with graduation and senior photos. She plans to take more for the next couple groups of Baylor grads. To learn more about her packages and prices, check out her website or her Instagram.

“I’ve had some calls from parents about next semester on when’s the best time to shoot for next semester,” Clink said. “People are also wondering when they get the cap and gown, and if they get it if they’re not walking because people don’t get to walk this semester and may not get to next semester.”

Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Clink.
Heather Skoog poses in an elegant dress that contrasts the Arizona landscape surrounding her. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Clink.

Clink said many seniors are reluctant to book photoshoots right now because of the uncertainty associated with all the grad traditions like the Commencement ceremony.

“I’ve been trying to figure out how I can get [caps and gowns] just for people to use for their pictures but usually they’re very individual with the sash and stuff for your major,” Clink said.

O’Connell and Clink are trying their best to adapt to this new normal — for the sake of their clients more than the sake of their business.

“Our responsibility as artists really does matter,” O’Connell said.