November 11, 2020

Save your tiers for me

This week I have to write about something not relating to photography and I hope you’ll forgive me – the impact of COVID tiers in Scotland on our workshops

Many of you who know me, know that I am a positive person. I tend to look on the bright side of life. This week, however, I can’t do that. I can’t remain smiling through these difficult times. I know we are living through a pandemic, and I know that many people are finding things tough – me included. I also know that many people, despite making considerable changes in their businesses, are going to go out of business. For many, it will cost them their houses, their families, maybe even their lives as that horrible disease takes control – the disease I am talking about is depression, not COVID.

I have written a blog every week for nearly two years. I don’t get paid for them, but I like to share my knowledge, and in turn, people book workshops because they appreciate the skills I share. I understand that’s a transactional relationship and it worked well – I had fun welcoming people on my workshops, and they had fun learning new skills. This week’s blog almost didn’t get written, and I’ll explain why.

We are Good to Go

Ever since March, as the initial lockdown kicked in, I have done everything I can to ensure the safety of my customers. I locked down when we were asked. As the Scottish Government outlined its first roadmap out of lockdown, I formulated a plan to meet all the regulations, and I ran this by Business Gateway. They confirmed, I was being very cautious but doing everything I could to make my experience COVID secure.

I was one of the first businesses to sign up to the Good to Go accreditation that evidences we have policies and procedures in place to ensure that we have a COVID secure environment. At the end of the workshops that have operated since March, we survey our customers, and there has been a 100% positive response that the workshop feels safe.

All of these things confirm that we care about the safety of our customers and we do everything we can to ensure that this remains the case. However, we didn’t just stop in March. Recently, the Scottish Government introduced a five-tier system to counter the second peak. It was right to do this, and the approach laid out a set of indicators that should be used to determine the tier a local authority should sit in.

We took exactly the same cautious approach to determine if and how we could run workshops at each of the tiers. You can read them at the bottom of each page on the Edinburgh Photography Workshop website.

We are still Good to Go

We’ve implemented yet more measures since the tier system was introduced. We can safely run the Switch to Manual workshop and Night Photography workshop sessions under the tier three restrictions. We do this through a combination of online and face to face elements. These have been well tested, and the response has been excellent.

 

Ever since I set up Edinburgh Photography Workshop, the underlying aim has always been to look after my customers. Not just on the day of the workshop but also after and in the long-term. I am sure many would support that this has been the case. It is for this reason that I would not want to run a workshop that put any of my customers at harm. I do not want to make money at all costs. I want people to have the same enjoyment that I have had from taking photographs.

So, why aren’t we going?

Despite, everything we have and continue to do to ensure a safe experience, it is a sad fact that the last workshop booking was made on 6 October. This is an important date as two days later the Scottish Government introduced the additional measures into the Central Belt of Scotland which includes Edinburgh. This is an obvious indication that the levels of restriction have a direct influence on the confidence that people have attended our workshops.

I am writing this while listening to the broadcast from the Scottish Parliament where it has been confirmed that Edinburgh will retain the tier 3 status. Unless confidence comes back to people from some other source, this means that we will not receive any more bookings for another week. Over one month without any income.

While I have firm principles in wanting to help customers and these will still remain come what may, I cannot survive without bookings. While I am not going to be critical about politicians who believe they are doing the right thing, there is much evidence that the City of Edinburgh has responded well. There is a strong positive movement in the spread of the virus.

What can you do?

First and foremost, if you live in the City of Edinburgh, you can travel around the city. The streets are pretty empty, so it’s a great time to take photos in the city. Learning a new skill is great for your own mental health. We also walk between 2 and 3 miles during the workshop so you’ll be improving your physical health too! If you have wanted to learn how to use your camera, this is the best time to attend a Switch to Manual workshop.

Book with confidence

We will support your decision to make a booking. We have changed our cancellation policy. If the workshop has to be cancelled for any reason, we will reschedule at no charge. You are safe in the knowledge that if you have to have a test, or even worse, test positive, you can reschedule at any time up to the start of the workshop.

Book for later

I really do appreciate that despite all the measures we have taken that some people may not want to attend right now. I get it and understand it. You can still support us and we’ll support you back. We have Gift Vouchers that you can buy now and attend later. One of the historic issues with a voucher is that they usually have an expiry date. That’s not the case with Edinburgh Photography Workshop. All our vouchers have had an expiry date removed. You can buy a voucher today and be secure in the knowledge that you can book at any time in the future.

Book online

We are still running our Online workshops. Our one to one online session on exposure gives you all the information in the introduction section of Switch to Manual. As an added bonus, if you later choose that you’d like to attend the full Switch to Manual workshop, you can do this for £50 instead of the usual £75. You can also learn Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop in our online First Steps with Lightroom session. For those more advanced, I can run a tailored workshop on any subject relating to photography in the Virtual Classroom workshop.

Enjoy our photography

As well as teaching photography, we take great photographs. You can see some of the work we do over at Rich Dyson Photography. We have a great selection of framed prints that make great Christmas presents or a treat to see you through the winter months. There is a super 2021 calendar available to buy so you can mark off all the things that we’ll want to do when we get a reliable vaccine.

Support us, so we are here when you need us

The long and short of it is that I love what I do. Customers love how we do it. But, to keep doing it, it’s a fact that we need to have income coming in. We’ve had some government support from the Self-Employed Income Support scheme. I am fortunate that there may be some support from my family and god-willing, I will survive through this. At some stage, though, I may need to take a tough decision and stop running the business I love!

The tier system is a valid way to combat the COVID virus, and I fully support it. However, I hope that you can see how keeping an area at a higher level than it needs to be, has a significant impact on the people in it. I have used up so much emotion in the last few weeks, desperately trying to find ways that I can keep my business operating. It is starting to affect my mental health, and at some stage, I will need to act to protect myself by making difficult and disappointing decisions – that time might not be too far away.

With your help and support, Edinburgh Photography Workshop will be running next year, the year after and for many years to come. I hope you can support me in making this happen. I am so sorry for making this week’s blog all about me and not some technical skill or a new product. I promise you that the next one will be about some products I am trialling, but for this week, please stop tears being shed as we work through the impact of the COVID tiers. I hope by the time of the next blog, Edinburgh will have moved to Tier 2 and I can get back to doing the thing I enjoy. Give the blog a share, tell your friends about the podcast. Please help a local business to survive.

Listen along

If you don’t feel like spending time reading these blogs, you can now listen to them instead. Head to your usual podcast providers such as iTunes or Google podcasts and search for The Edinburgh Photography Workshop Podcast. If you do like listening, please subscribe to hear it every week and leave a review. That helps others to find the podcast as well.

Give us your feedback

If you’ve got any questions or comments, leave them below. You can sign up for the Edinburgh Photography Workshop monthly newsletter where you’ll get regular updates on exciting things happening in photography and some great tips. Sign up by clicking here.

 

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