Last week was National Stress Awareness week, and never before has there been a year when this applies more to wedding photographers. We’ve all juggled so many plates, shifted and adapted as restrictions changed and kept up with last-minute changes so dizzying they’re enough to give anyone a headache.

We even take on board other people’s stress in addition to our own. The snarky comments in online spaces; at weddings, that caterer who can’t be bothered to plate up a couple more dinners as they are stressed about the other 80 that they’ve just done; the vicar who talks to you like an idiot because of some photographer way back when who broke the rules; the couples that get stressed about their wedding and look for somewhere to dump that stress when their dream wedding wasn’t 100% perfection.

This is all before personal stress from whatever life situations that you are in. It can all be too much and I’ve seen more photographers feeling close to or at the point of burnout. Quite a few are throwing in the towel and looking for other careers that are potentially less stressful. Before it gets anywhere near that point for you, I’d like to give you some tips I’ve learned to combat stress over the years, and also some from our community, that may help you unwind should you feel your stress levels climbing, or to help you before you get to that point.

Plan to Prepare or Prepare to Fail

It can be difficult when your usual schedule is all out of whack to keep on top of everything – when shooting back to back weddings it might feel a bit like you’re on overdrive, running from one job to the next, but taking time to make sure you’re prepared will do wonders for your stress levels. Get yourself organised for what jobs you have at the beginning of the week, put together all the kit you’ll need in one place, and make sure you have things like postcodes, timings, and contact numbers readily available. Take some time the night before a job to refresh your memory of all of these things so whatever else life throws at you first thing in the morning, you’ve prepared for that particular job already and won’t get the details muddled with what you’ve got coming up in the future. We highly recommend using a Studio Management System to keep you on track. Our favourite is Studio Ninja. Get 50% off your first 12 months with code FARM

Write It Down

Talking of preparedness, getting things out of your head and onto paper is a technique that I, and other members of the community use regularly. Keeping a notebook beside your bed and jotting down any worries you have before you drift off can help you put them aside for the night. Farmer Jo Donaldson recommends making sure it’s a physical notepad instead of your phone to keep you away from artificial light. Lists, in general, are great for keeping organised – Jade takes an A4 sheet, sections it off into photo work, housework, shopping list and any other bits she needs to remember that day which helps get it all out of her head and focus on the task at hand. I loved this suggestion from Hayley Morris – “I make a list of all the jobs I have to do, but instead of crossing them off, I highlight them instead. The list grows in colour through my day the more I achieve, which I find is more positive than seeing loads of crosses and squiggles or black lines.”

Get Legalled Up

None of us want to dwell on the worst things that can happen, but think about your stress levels should the unthinkable happen and you’ve not prepared for it. Make sure your insurances are up to date, for both kit and public liability and that your contracts with your clients cover everything they need to so you both know what is expected of you, as well as your contracts with any second shooters or other professionals you work with so everyone is on the same page. We have copies of contracts written by legal experts available to download for members of The Barn which takes some of the stress out of knowing where to look for these things.

Have an Airtight Backup System

We’ve all heard those horror stories from photographers who’ve lost entire weddings and the fallout from that can be extremely damaging these days with word of mouth and social media being so prevalent in how couples find their photographers. Don’t let that be you – never put off backing up your work, and make sure you have several methods in place should one fail. I use Raids from Drobo plus Backblaze for online backups.

Manage Client Expectations

You might have 3 other weddings that week, but remember to your clients, it’s one of the most important days of their lives and so it’s easy for them to forget that anyone else is getting married, too. Managing their expectations so they’re not stressing you out by asking where their images are, will help with your stress levels immensely. Clearly set out in your contracts and communications how long they can expect to wait for sneak peeks and full edits to be delivered. Pic-Time has an app that sends automatic gallery updates to your clients when you’re working on it.

It will always delight them if you under-promise but over-deliver! Getting their galleries to them while they are still in the honeymoon period can help with your aftersales, too. My 1-Day Wedding Edit workshop is still available to watch if your wedding workflow is currently stressing you out.

Quit Self-Medicating

It’s so easy to let stress start taking over and the next thing you know you are in a terrible stress loupe, have a bad sleep pattern or you are self-medicating with anything that seems to take the edge off. Then you end up more stressed because of the lack of sleep or the after-effects of too much self-medication – for me this would be wine. Whilst it might give a momentary sense of the stress easing, alcohol in the long term will have a negative effect on your mental well-being.

Have Good Sleep Hygiene

Ok, we’ve covered trying to prepare for all the things that keep you up at night, but sometimes it happens anyway. So what can you do to help you get back off to sleep as quickly as possible? We’ve already mentioned not using your phone to make notes, so keep it out of the room entirely if the temptation to pick it up for a quick middle of the night scroll is too much for you. Switching off your notifications an hour before bed is a must too – most handsets have a setting that will do it for you automatically. Some Farmers swear by weighted blankets and pillow spray. I’ve been reaching for Bach’s Remedies this year. It might all be in my mind but it’s got to be better than also trying to pass my stress on to someone else.

Make Some Time for Self Care

I’m terrible for waking at 2.30am and my mind kicking into stress mode about anything that’s going on. For times when sleep totally eludes me, I switch on a sleep meditation from the Insight Timer (free) app. Just having a nice soothing voice talk to me for a while seems to do the trick. I also walk the dog every morning without fail – partly a necessity for being a good pet owner, but also I know that getting moving and the blood pumping is as essential to my well-being as getting enough sleep and staying hydrated. Scheduling in rewards after weddings is a must too – be that a massage or a lunch date with friends, we all need to switch off and deserve to rest. Actually, book it into your diary, or it will never happen.

Being Part of a Community

We’ve already covered the old adage of a problem shared is a problem halved, but it’s worth circling back to. Without the watercooler chat and after-work drinks of a regular office environment, working for yourself can be so isolating sometimes it feels like you’re the only one struggling. Being a part of a community can be a lifesaver in realising you’re not alone. Our Farmers Facebook group is for photographers who have attended and our classes and events, and is the friendliest photography group on the internet (probably).

I hope if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your stress levels right now that some of these tips will help you. A lot of the time it’s because we’ve fallen into bad habits and could do with a little mental health MOT to set us back on track. Like with all major life changes, it’s best not to try and change absolutely everything at once, so why not pick a couple of things that resonate with you and see if you can implement them into your routines? If you have any other tips you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you too.