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A Belleville photographer is cautiously optimistic about her small business despite COVID-19

By Beatrice Toplitsky

BELLEVILLE – Like countless small business owners across the country, Belleville photographer Dawn Stafford is adapting to the effects of COVID-19.

Stafford’s business, Pics and Tweaks Photography, began in 2010. She built an addition onto her home to have a professional photography studio operating out of her basement in 2017.

She says she has taken photos since high school when she was given her first camera.

“People kept saying, ‘oh wow, you’ve got an eye!’ and I was like, ‘do I?’” says Stafford. “My pictures were liked, and so I just kept taking pictures.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, Stafford says many of her bookings were dropped.

“Weddings are my main source of income,” she said. “And they were pretty much all cancelled this year, or postponed until next year, hopefully.”

With the year ahead still largely unpredictable, Stafford expanded her business, looking for new opportunities. Recently, she began photographing real estate.

In addition, she became more creative. Stafford purchased graduation gowns for shoots with students who were unable to take their grad photos at school. It was seeing the opportunities where regulations prevented some schools from having onsite grad photos that are making the difference, she said.

Stafford is careful to clean her equipment for each session and provides hand sanitizer for all of her clients. Not only that, her new studio allows her more space to photograph her subjects from a safe distance.

“If people want to wear masks, I say it’s okay,” she adds, “I do tell them that once I’m behind my camera, I do need to take off the mask because it fogs up my glasses and I can’t see through my viewfinder.”

Hiccups aside, Stafford continues to enjoy her work. Despite the challenges, there are still wonderful moments to enjoy. 

“I tend to do a lot of fall portraits outside just because we live in such a beautiful area,” she said, “The leaves were spectacular this year. It was one of the most colourful years I’ve seen.”

As for the future, she says she’s cautiously optimistic, adding,

“We’ll have to see how it goes, that’s all there is to it.”