Updated: March 7, 2022
While it can be a wonderful and rewarding career, being a wedding photographer certainly has its stresses. The nightmare of losing a memory card or having your camera die during the ceremony are enough to give pause to even the most fearless photographer. After more than ten years as a wedding photographer, Jesse Boone has learned a lot about the best practices for helping create an enjoyable wedding day for everyone involved (including you, the photographer). In this article, he gives five suggestions for getting rid of wedding stress! Here’s Jesse:
When I first started making a career from shooting weddings, my friends didn’t understand it. They just couldn’t grasp how people would pay thousands of dollars for a day of shooting. I’d explain to them that there are many reasons why wedding photography is relatively expensive, and why it certainly should be.
Of course, price is determined by many factors such as image quality, experience, branding and of course, supply and demand. However, the main reason I think wedding photographers should command a high hourly rate is that it can be extremely high-pressure. Everyone who’s been inside for even a few months knows about those late night, deep-sleep nightmares of losing a memory card or having your camera suddenly die on the aisle shot. This can be a wonderful job, but sometimes the pressure involved is so much that it induces nightmares.
Navigating the pressure and stress is key to being able to be successful and happy in this career. In over 10 years as a wedding pro, I’ve seen some crazy things at weddings and dealt with some serious stress. I remember one week in September of 2008, I had five weddings for my studio that weekend. We made it through! I backed up thousands of files after this draining weekend, edited everything in Lightroom and then had my hard drive crash as I was exporting out. I had been working around the clock and still had a stack of 20+ album designs to tend to — some of which had been lost on that hard drive. Fortunately I was able to recover all the files and redesign the albums, but the stress levels were through the roof that week. My wife refers to this week as my mid-life crisis. Seriously, I was having a nervous breakdown. The stress and pressure was affecting me beyond measure.
From that moment on, I knew something had to change. The changes weren’t all immediate, but I developed some strategies over the next few seasons to make sure the stress of weddings never brought me back to that dreadful place.
I knew that I would be better off going back to a corporate career if I couldn’t solve the stress issues that can arise alongside a career in wedding photography.
Here are 5 tips that helped me finally shoot my first stress free wedding.
1. Develop a relationship
As my business grew in the early years, I grew away from my customers. This may sound weird, but unless you are deliberate, you will find that the distance naturally grows as you get busier. The more events I booked, the more valuable my time became. In those years of fast growth, I found myself doing the least amount possible with each client. I knew what was profiting my business. The initial sale and the actual wedding day were the two touch-points that could be viewed as necessities. Everything else, seemed optional.
One of the big changes I made after hitting the wall of burnout in 2009 was to engage with my clients more often and more deeply. I didn’t realize what this would mean at the time. I just knew I wasn’t feeling the fulfillment that should be associated with a fully-booked season. I began doing a few things that helped in the satisfaction category, but also helped my sales.
First, I would make it a point to spend the initial 10 minutes of my meeting getting to know my clients. I moved all of my sales talk to the backend of my presentation and sometimes to the next day.
The difference is very clear between showing up at a wedding to work with clients you hardly know and showing up as a friend. It all comes down to trust. By the time you get to the home where the bride and groom are getting ready, you want there to already be a level of comradery and trust. Having that in place before the wedding is a huge stress reducer.
How do you do it? It’s all about touch-points. We have 4 touch-points scheduled between the time we book and the time of the wedding, some of which include gifts and some with face-to-face time. An engagement session goes a long way toward developing a connection prior to the wedding as well.
Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. Alexander Graham Bell
The older I get, the more I see this to be true. People who are amazing at what they do, whether it is coaching football, or playing golf or dancing or performing live music are exceptionally well-prepared. Preparation is equally as important as skill. Preparing to shoot a wedding involves creating a routine with your equipment, file management, and travel. If you want to reduce the stress associated with a wedding, you need to have a backup for everything (camera, lights, batteries, cards, 2nd shooter.) With my old car, I shot about 100 weddings. It didn’t have a key code on the outside like my new one. I made a backup key and put it on a magnet and hid it under the wheel well. What if I lost my key at a ceremony? My car would be locked with equipment in it and I would have about 5 minutes to get my act together and follow the limo to go do photos 40 minutes away at the beach! That could be a problem.
It’s important to test your equipment the evening before the shoot. Once all the preparation is done, a system needs to be constructed to make sure it’s done that same way every time, because as things get busy, it will be harder. Prepare to always leave an hour early. This gives you a little leeway in case of an auto accident. We have made it a tradition to go have coffee at the nearest coffee shop to our destination. That way we are close by, but don’t arrive too early.
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There is also a mental and spiritual preparation for a wedding that is necessary to me. To take a quick moment with our friend David or my wife Nelli right before the job begins and pray for God’s blessing to cover us and our couple – means a lot to me. No matter how much we prepare, we will not be able to control everything that happens, so by releasing our worries right before the shoot, we are able to relax and use our abilities. This is also where we put our attention on our couple and prepare to serve them with a positive attitude.
3. Have a second shooter
While there are many reasons I shoot with a second shooter, perhaps the stress reduction is the primary reason. Moments happen fast at a wedding. No matter how good you get at predicting the next move, there is always a surprise — like a special secret handshake at the toast or a sentimental spontaneous appearance by a mascot. Whatever it is, these surprises happen, and having a capable second shooter capturing everything from another angle with a different lens takes a lot of pressure off. There are many other reasons to have a second shooter, but knowing I will never be missing a shot takes the stress down.
4. Use a checklist
Using a gear checklist before you leave the house is an easy way to reduce wedding day stress. So I made one for you to copy 🙂
Get our Free Wedding Gear Checklist – Editable PDF
5. Make it comfortable
The first thing you want to do when you arrive is introduce yourself to the family and bridal party that are present. Getting their names on a questionnaire and going over that during the pre-shoot coffee will help you build rapport quickly. I usually explain to the group that we will be taking photos all day, not to feel obligated to look at the camera, and that if at any time they want a photo together with friends or family to let us know.
From there, you just rely on your skills and try to enjoy the day. Our approach to the creative and bridal party has helped us leave stress behind. Once the stress of this career is diminished it can be a fun job that engages your creativity while providing personal freedom. I hope this helps on your journey.
All photos in the article and below are ©Jesse and Nelli Boone.