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Local photographers provide senior portraits during pandemic



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Edgewood High School senior Harrison Pittsford poses for senior photos in the back of his dad's truck during a session with Rebecca Tabor from Bex Photography. Many Bloomington photography businesses have had to adapt to doing photo shoots outside and from a distance due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Courtesy Photo

The school year was cut short this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, and for local photographers, that means lost opportunities for photo shoots of graduating seniors. 

Local photography businesses around Bloomington have been trying to make up for this loss by getting creative with end-of-year photo shoots, special pricing and more.

Rebecca Tabor, owner of Bex Photography in Bloomington and Ellettsville, Indiana, said she’s been trying to make the most of the pandemic despite the loss in business. She’s found ways to make up for it, but she said she’s sad many seniors won’t get to experience their last game or competition.

“They’re missing out on a lot,” Tabor said.

Tabor said she’s known many Ellettsville seniors for several years because she worked for the Ellettsville Journal before starting her photo business, and often photographed them during sporting events. Schools are closed due to the pandemic, so Tabor wasn’t able to access the baseball field with one of the high school seniors, Harrison Pittsford, for a normal photo shoot. She said she stood with Pittsford in the bed of his dad’s truck next to the baseball field so the field could still be seen in the photos.

Several students at once used to be able to come in for photo shoots, but now she can only photograph one student at a time unless they’re taking photos with family members or people they've been quarantined with. Tabor has offered discounted and free sessions for those who can’t afford full-priced photo shoots. She said she understands some parents may be having financial troubles right now considering she has lost business at her studio.

Some photos are typical graduation photos with caps and gowns and others include quarantine-related props such as toilet paper and masks. Some coaches from local schools have bought signs and banners for their players. She said a local realtor sponsored her business and bought 20 custom yard signs.

“There’s been a lot of good going on,” Tabor said.

Heather Graves Rader, owner and operator of How Charming Photography in Bloomington, has been doing senior photo shoots nonstop this spring. She’s offering 15- to 30-minute outdoor sessions to comply with social distancing. The sessions are $50 and under, a reduction from her usual price. She’s also making yard signs, bumper stickers and banners.

Graves Rader is also offering some free services so all seniors have something to commemorate the end of their high school career without having to worry about paying for it. Parents can submit a photo of their graduating senior and a message, and she will create a graphic out of it for free that parents can share online. She said she’s also offering prom outfit photos as well so parents can still have photos of their son or daughter all dressed up.

Graves Rader said she has been busy with sessions every day since the start of the pandemic. She is only doing senior photos right now and has had to turn families away because she can’t do full sessions until social-distancing guidelines ease.

“The hardest part for me was when someone called to schedule a session and I had to tell them no,” Graves Rader said.

She said social distancing hasn’t changed photo shoots much because she wants to give her subjects space anyway. The only thing that has become difficult is she can’t help them straighten their caps or fix loose hairs. Now she holds a large mirror up in hopes the subject will be able to see the problem and fix it themselves.

Graves Rader said she’s grateful the weather has been good on some days for outdoor photo sessions. 

She said she took photos of a client Tuesday morning at the Sample Gates, and said her client felt she had the whole campus to herself, and that the pandemic was a curse and a blessing all wrapped up in one. Graves Rader told her she couldn’t have said it better herself.

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