It’s always the right time for a photo shoot: Professional photographers busy during pandemic

Everyone, with the right filter and fall-leaf background, can look happy and carefree–even if they are not.


courtesy of Stacey Markel

Stacey Markel focuses to get just the right angle for the photo she has in mind.

Whether it’s dressing up in a favorite outfit, or being able to do silly poses for a fun photo shoot to commemorate a special occasion. Many spend hundreds of dollars for these special memories.  While big wedding and family reunions may be out of the question, local photographers are busier than ever with senior portraits.

Senior portraits have increased in popularity because of social media and the promise that everyone, with the right filter and fall-leaf background, can look happy and carefree–even if they are not.

Would you get professional pictures taken during COVID-19?


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What do you do once you’ve received your final portrait products? Some may send printed copies to relatives or friends. Others may hang them in their house as a sentimental piece of art. Many now post digital copies to their popular social media accounts. 

Today, it’s all about how to get the most likes on a post, maybe the most uplifting comments and interactions. As of July 2020, more than half of the population at 3.96 billion people use social media–for many, that means regular professional photos of their life events, from major to minor. 

Linganore parent Stacey Markel has been a professional photographer with her own business for 7 years. Markel uses social media to get the word out about her business, along with referrals. She has a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account for her business and charges clients to download digital products. 

“I have packages of digital copies of portraits which are 10 for $200, 25 for $250 or all images in the gallery, which is typically 70 – 100 photographs, for $300. Social media is extremely helpful for photography. It has enabled me to reach out to more people including my clients and their followers,” said Markel.

The demand for photo sessions has grown with social media. No one needs “snail mail” to send a copy of a portrait.

Linganore parent and Damascus High School graduate Keri Young remembers that in the 1980’s, she had her school yearbook picture taken, but didn’t get casual portraits as they were just for her household. 

“It represented the end of one season in my life and the beginning of a new one. A very huge step towards independence. However, we got what we got. No one got outside pictures taken. In high school, if I had had social media accounts and digital communication access, I would have wanted to spend more money on my portraits as they did still mean a lot to me,” said Young.

Go small business or go pro?

Victor O’Neill 

Victor O’Neill Studios is the company that Linganore uses for students’ yearbook and professional portraits. Seniors have the option to get just head shots with a free yearbook shoot option. Their next option is a standard package that offers two casual outfit changes (6 poses) 8 poses in a traditional drape or tux, and 4 poses in cap and gown. For Covid, the cap and gown was supplemented for outside shots for a $20 session total. 

Senior Tabitha Knedeisen was one of the seniors who decided to get the standard yearbook package. 

“I really liked taking outside pictures. I think that they turned out the best in the end because they were more natural pictures for me. The ones inside with props were very posed and I wasn’t as comfortable so they were awkward,” said Knedeisen.

Erin Eastlake poses as Bailey Spore takes her portrait for her confirmation. (courtesy of Erin Eastlake)

They also have the third option of the deluxe package that includes up to 4 casual outfit changes, 8 poses in a traditional drape or tux, and 4 outside pictures for a session total of $40. 

Spore Photography 

Junior Erin Eastlake has had individual portraits taken by Alumni Bailey Spore and has posted them to her social media accounts. 

“I chose Bailey for my portraits and the final results were amazing. I loved every single one. They meant a lot to me because they were for my confirmation as well as my first time really going out and dressing up since the pandemic started,” said Eastlake.

Eastlake has been participating in online learning and has tried finding safe, fun activities to do during the virtual school year that can make it a more enjoyable year. 

“The pandemic did affect me choosing to take pictures. I had all of the pictures taken outside in a non-crowded location due to the risk of the virus,” said Eastlake. 

Markel Photography

The pandemic made the photo shoot more meaningful for Senior Taylor Mitcham. As a senior, there haven’t been a lot of fun activities, so she was grateful for the Markel’s portraits.   

Taylor Mitcham poses for her casual senior portraits taken by Stacey Markel. (courtesy of Taylor Mitcham)

I would have had my senior photos taken whether COVID happened or not. I absolutely loved the final shots and I think that they will be a great memory to keep of my senior year, especially since there aren’t a lot of other events to photograph.” said Mitcham.

Mitcham also enjoyed the experience of having her senior pictures taken. It was very special as the location was great and the quality of each photo was amazing.

“The experience of getting portraits taken was awkward towards the beginning of the shoot since I didn’t know Mrs. Markel very well, but once I warmed up to her, I had a lot of fun. She was able to make me smile which made the photos super genuine, too,” said Mitcham.

Is it always expensive? 

Professional photographers’ charges vary based on the type of portraits. The average cost in 2020 for senior portraits ranges between $125 and $350 per session, family photo shoots range between $145 and $500, and individual portrait photography ranges between $150 and $370 for top ten photographers. All of these numbers are hourly per session and depend on how long you take pictures. 

Markel charges $150 a general session of around 1.5 hours. She also offers shortened photo shoots for just cap and gown shots ranging between $75 and $100. Those costs are excluding the optional prints, canvases, and other items.

Stacey Markel photographs a client for a fun farm photo shoot. (courtesy of Stacey Markel)

“I have seen an increase in interest in 2020 over the last year, especially with family sessions. I believe this is because the pandemic has caused families to be more aware of family time and how important it is. Since the majority of the time, clients do not want inside shots, there are not really any precautions to take with Covid-19 beside staying six feet apart,” said Markel. 

Spore charges between $75 and $100 per general photo shoot. He is building a new business. 

“One benefit of going to me for portraits is that I provide the same quality pictures as professionals. Also for students, it’s a easy to take pictures with someone around your age who you know, ” said Spore.

Although Covid-19 didn’t change how photography was done, it has changed the number of interested buyers and Spore is seeing a different trend than Markel. 

“During lock down, I obviously didn’t get any business, but since summer started and school has been back in session, I’ve actually gotten more business than before the pandemic. People have a lot of time on their hands, and safely taking pictures for fun has become popular,” said Spore. 

Photographer’s Perspective

Even though photographers are usually the ones taking the pictures, Markel also enjoys having her picture taken. 

“I definitely enjoy being behind the camera and capturing others. Being in front of the camera can be a little awkward for some people and I am one of those that feel that way! Because of that, I try my best to make my clients feel comfortable and have fun during their session so that they don’t feel awkward and the results are as genuine as possible,” said Markel. 

There are lots of things to enjoy about photography, from the creativity that can go into it to final outcomes, there is a lot of variety. 

“I started my business in 2013 after a friend asked me to take some family photos for her for her Christmas cards. After I did the session with her and loved how much fun it was, I seriously considered opening a business to offer those services to other families. After that success, I added newborns, high school seniors, and some event photography,” said Markel. 

Spore is following the same path. He has been taking portraits for two years and would like to continue it after college. He is excited to see how much he can grow in his photography skills. 

“I first started taking pictures and making videos when my family took a trip to Italy two years ago. I really thought that the video was great and started looking more into cameras and videos more. Then, I had someone on the football team, Xander McClure, ask me to take pictures and videos of the games and I began to love it even more then,” said Spore. 

Spore’s favorite pictures to take are portraits. He loves being able to spend time with people, get to know them, and then think of the best ways, angles, and locations to get their pictures that are true to them.