Decision Fatigue in Wedding Photographers

[L]isten it’s coming up to the last weekend in August. You know what that means? Yes, you have almost made it through the crazy season. How are you feeling? If you are more frazzled than a Badger’s tail then take a few minutes out to read this article. It may help you through the rest of your weddings or to be better prepared for next year.


I don’t understand how you are always quite so tired when you get in from weddings …

This is what my husband said to me one night. Usual scenario, I get home from a wedding and start unloading the car. Said husband is in his slippers deep into Match of the Day. ‘How was your wedding?’ he asks, ‘Fine’ I say. What I really mean is please put on your shoes and go park the car for me, then while I put my PJs on please pour me a large glass of wine. Funny but he doesn’t get my telepathic message and I have to park the car, put on PJs, pour my own wine and then figure out what I can eat as the wanker caterer didn’t think we would actually want the food our couple had paid them to make for us. Waaahhhhhhhh! It’s all too much and I feel like crying whilst rummaging through the fridge for food that needs neither cooking, assembling or a plate. Wine and bananas it is then. ‘What’s up with you?’ He asks.. ‘I’m just really tired’ and that is when he said it …

But you know what? He has kind of got a point and I’ve been mulling this over recently. Yes we run around a lot on a wedding day and we carry a lot of kit. Sometimes just travelling there can be a challenge and having a DSLR with a prime lens or double that if you shoot two cameras strapped to you all day, will add to the strain. But that famous Wedding Hangover that a lot of photographers suffer from, what’s that all about? Well of course the physical side is a large part of it. Muscle ache and loss of electrolytes can play havoc with the body. So do your best to stay hydrated and replace your body salts after a wedding. We have a whole host of tips in our Wedding Photographers’ Survival Guide.

But I’m still mentally wiped out after most weddings. It doesn’t even seem to matter how many hours I’m there, I will feel like the walking dead the next day. So when I recently heard about Decision Fatigue and it’s symptoms it dawned on me that this is what is adding to my feeling of waking up as a member of the zombie apocalypse.

According to various sources, it is thought that on an average day we will make around 35,000 conscious decisions. Yep… that is not a misprint, so if a normal day is that many a wedding day for you could be stacking up to more like 50,000. It’s a wonder we can function at all by 9pm! Next time you shoot a wedding, pay attention to your thought processes. From getting dressed in the morning .. can I spend 12 hours stood in this shoes? What is the weather doing, do I need more clothes, less clothes? What kit am I going to need? How many cards do I need? What’s the best way to get there? By the time you get to a wedding, you have already racked up the points on the decisionometer.

Then BANG, BANG, BANG.. it is all day long decision making. What lens to use, what camera settings.. for all 2000 images that you will take over the day!!!! Where is the best place to stand, what is the best angle, can I do anything clever with this, is there a better shot, do I want a canapé, is the light better here or over there, what’s the best background? It is non bloody stop…

And as the day wears on, you get worse at it. I realised how awful I was at making decisions at a recent wedding. The reception was in a pub so we could choose anything we wanted from the menu for our meal. Yummy, right? Except it was one of those super long pub menus with lots of sub menus. So you could have this but cooked this way or another way, with this sauce or a different sauce and you could swap your side for a different one, FML! I could not pick and after staring at it for 20 minutes with drool coming out the side of my mouth, I made such a bad choice.. chicken wings. When it came, it was just a huge bowl of chicken wings all smothered in a really gloopy cheese sauce.. no carbs, so salad.. just wings and sauce. So messy and really not what you want to eat in front of anyone. See Bad Decision!

So what can we do? There are actually some really simple techniques that can help minimise Decision Fatigue.


Take the stress out of your pre-wedding mornings by making some of your decisions the day before.

Like what you are going to wear, pick an outfit and get it all ready the night before. Or better still take a leaf out of Barrack Obama’s book and edit your work wardrobe down to a minimal ‘uniform’. When asked why he only wore a limited selection of blue or grey suits, he replied “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” This can also be a great strategy for getting into work mode and feeling empowered to save your brain for later decision making. Apply the same to breakfast, plan it the day before or stick to the same food before every wedding.

Same with packing your kit, make all those choices the day before so you are good to go. I think about every wedding individually and plan exactly what kit to bring. So I leave behind lenses that I know I won’t use or a flash gun that will never come out of the bag. I only pack what I need and I’ve started to ensure that everything is charged and ready to go the evening before.


Many industries such as the medical profession, airlines or the military are very well aware that mental capacity is drained by our endless daily decision making so they create Check Lists. Getting into the routine of going through a simple checklist is reassuring for the brain and cuts down on the possibility of making a bad decision. I have a very basic check list before I leave to shoot a wedding.

  1. Cameras
  2. Cards
  3. Batteries
  4. Paperwork

If I have those four things I know I have everything I need to shoot. If I wanted to be more thorough, that list may include money, lip balm etc, etc. Make a list with your couple for groups shots or any other images they might want and bring it with you, then check them off as you do them. It’s so easy to get caught up and forget something really important like a shot of the Bride and her Mum. Never rely on a couple giving you this list on the day as their heads will be wrecked from all the emotion.


So now you know for a fact that you will be crap at making choices later in the day. If you or the client wants to do a shoot after the meal, plan where you will take them as early in the day as you can. The last thing you want is to be traipsing all over the place trying to make a choice with a Bride and Groom following on. Plan where you will stand for the speeches and how you are going to light the dance floor sooner rather than later. And if you know you will be hungry when you get in from a wedding, plan in advance what to eat. For me, it’s always cheese and crackers, so I get in some grapes and chutney to go along. Hmmmmm cheese!

Right, it’s the August Bank Holiday this weekend. I always see this as the last big hurdle of the summer, we can all do this and we can all be mindful of Decision Fatigue and help ourselves out. I’d love to hear from you if any of these tips helped you out. Good luck with your next wedding, see you on the other side.

Lisa xo