Lockdown Economy Philippines in Photography services with Regina Roque

The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Danielle Hormillosa

Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.

In this interview hosted by Julie Jerusalem, we meet Regina Roque, the main photographer for “Photography by Regina” in Manila, Philippines. Regina talked about how Photography by Regina had numerous engagements before the pandemic broke out but since the live events industry took a heavy blow from COVID-19, things have changed. She found it challenging to operate her photography services since she did not receive many projects and her local and international shoots were cancelled. She only had photography bookings enough to sustain her but not her team. However, she mentioned that she tried to venture into product shoot services which did not only help her but helped startup businesses as well in their content creation.

Hello Regina! How’s everything coming together?

Regina: Hi Julie! Good afternoon. First of all, I really want to thank you for having me here and I hope that whatever I impart can actually be beneficial to other small business owners out there and to whoever is watching this.

So far, so good. I’m okay and trying to look at the beautiful side of things on a day-to-day basis in this crazy time. I’m taking it slow, one day at a time. I have to share something. Recently, I read a viral quote that says, “we thought 2020 was going to be the year that we achieve whatever we’re working on, but it’s actually a year for us to appreciate everything that we have right now.” That sums up my 2020. It’s something that I can really resonate with. I’m always an optimist!

Nice knowing that you’re okay. So Regina, present to us your photography service.

Regina: I’m the main photographer and storyteller behind Photography by Regina. My business is a wedding photography service for couples who want timeless and genuinely beautiful photographs. My style is very relaxed and I really allow my couples to be themselves on their wedding day — nothing complicated. We document how things flow on the wedding day. I’m not only limited to weddings. I also have another studio for post-wedding inquiries for birthdays, maternity celebrations and baptisms. I established Sunny Day Studio for milestones that involve kids.

How long have you been doing this and where are you based?

Regina: I’ve been doing my photography services since 2014. In the first two years, I was only doing it on the side because I was in corporate work. I took a leap in 2016 and officially registered my business. To be honest, I’ve never been happier than how I’ve been doing for the past five years of my life. I’m based in Manila, but I’ve also done a number of shoots abroad. I have accepted travel assignments in Japan, Korea, Australia and Bali.

The pandemic forced me to go back to my hometown of Bataan, but I’m happy that I have widened my network there and also accepted some shoots within the comforts of my hometown. I still get to do shoots from time to time despite the quarantine.

You mentioned earlier that you’re the main photographer of your business. Do you have employees and how many clients do you normally have?

Regina: I don’t really call them my employees because we’re like family. I have a team of five, but I work with most of them on a per-project basis. Out of the five, only two were regulars who do the administrative work, deliverables and layouts of my albums. However, I was only able to sustain them for the first few months of the pandemic because there were no shoots and no work to be done. The good thing is that they have homes in the provinces so they are temporarily living there. Right now, we are just looking forward to being together again and we constantly update each other. I continue to provide mentorship and fellowship. As their mentor, I’m worried and guilty because I’m thinking, “What do I do for them? How can I provide?” Luckily, they’re all creative people who have started their own business or found part-time jobs so it’s relief for me as a mentor.

How about your clients? How many do you normally have?

Regina: We are a service-oriented business, not like a commodity in which a customer buys and the transaction is done, so we don’t live by big numbers. To give you an idea — before the pandemic, we do around 10 to 15 shoots a month. That’s a combination of weddings, prenuptials, birthdays and family shoots, so it’s a quite a good business. However since the pandemic started, the first shoot I did was for one wedding in June and there was a long gap since my last shoot. From September to November, I only do two to three shoots in a month. That was enough to sustain me, but what about my team, right? That’s my problem right now. I looked at my December calendar and saw six shoots scheduled and for January and February, I have seven shoots scheduled. From these numbers, we can see that the industry is slowly picking up. I’m looking forward to 2021 which is going to be a busier year.

You mentioned that the situation is not like before the pandemic when you had a lot of projects. How did you deal with this problem?

Regina: Honestly, when the lockdown started, it did not sink in that this industry will be affected this much. It did not even sink in right away that events are not allowed until about a month after the lockdown when I went through my calendar and conversations with my clients. In a span of one month, I had already moved to 17 weddings to 2021. It was hard! It was hard because there were also local and international travels that were postponed and I’m not the only one affected. Luckily, I saw an opportunity for me to help small businesses. There are many small food businesses or new products out there, so I went and did product shoot services. I like it because it’s an opportunity for me to also help small business owners make their content.

You mentioned that you are in contact with your clients. Do you know how your customers and your competition are doing?

Regina: I’m not someone who actually looks at the competition. Many of my very close friends are also photographers so I really don’t see them as my competitors. In fact, they are the ones I can count on whenever I have problems, whenever there’s an issue or if I ask “how do I deal with this?” The same goes for them. We have this group of photographers who brainstorm whenever something is up, so competition is out in that sense.

Do you ask if I know how my customers are doing? Definitely. This is a relationship-heavy business so I really make sure from the get-go and from the inquiries that my tone and brand voice are very warm and very friendly. I think it’s never been more beneficial to my clients as now, that they know I’m someone they can count on especially in a crazy time like this. They ask, “Do we move our wedding? Do we not? Who do we invite? Do we reduce our suppliers? Can we customize our package with you?” Some of them probably also lost their jobs or their buying power may have gone down. Compassion and understanding really go a long way at a crazy time like this. I like that I’m in constant communication with most of my clients, especially my brides. I’m getting so many emails about their concerns. I like that they also know that they can reach out to me via email or through something as informal as an Instagram message. I just want them to know that I’m game to journey with them through this crazy time. I appreciate that I’m not the only one asking how they are doing. In return, they also ask me how I’m doing, how my team is, and how the industry is doing. A simple “how are you” really means so much.

You mentioned that you have upcoming projects in December. Looking forward, what are your other plans?

Regina: Looking at December and 2021, it’s really going to be a very busy year ahead. Most of my weddings in 2020 have been moved to 2021. It’s not like we had zero sales at this time, because there are clients who have been reserving their dates for 2021 and 2020. I’m happy that the confidence is there from clients to do events again. In general, not just with our industry, it’s slowly getting back to normal. I like that 2020 was quiet — it’s a resting time for me, to re-charge and be able to bounce back again for 2021. Life goes on!

Can you name three things you need help with?

Regina: As we go back to normal, people cannot help wanting to get out of the house, so we’re really forced to deal with people outside of our homes. My major concern is the health risk we are facing right now, especially with people’s increasing confidence to resume events in crowds larger than what we were used to this year. From a macro perspective, I wish, as we wait for the vaccine, those swab tests are more affordable in our country so that there will be the peace of mind for us as we work and for the clients as well.

I’m going towards the path to becoming a destination photographer. I’ve had shoots cancelled locally and internationally this year that was moved to next year, which adds to my worry. I hope that we have clearer and much safer guidelines for travelling. A number of my clients are abroad and the reason they moved their wedding from 2020 to 2021 is that they cannot fly back home. I wish for safer and clearer travel guidelines in our country.

About the Guest

Officially established and registered in 2016, Photography by Regina is a wedding and engagement photography service. She produces timeless and naturally beautiful photographs by effortlessly capturing what’s real and what’s there. Her style, thus, allows her to tell beautiful stories about every wedding that she covers. While she’s based in Manila, she has also done travel assignments worldwide.

Website: http://reginaroque.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/photographybyregina/

Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/photosbyregina/

The UN-registered nonprofit social initiative that helps small businesses and self-employed professionals to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.