Tips On Dealing With Stress Whilst Shooting Weddings | Dear Devlin

Dear Devlin.

Do you have any tips on how to deal with stress and anxiety when photographing weddings? I love my job, but have noticed there have been times where stress and anxiety has (I think) stopped me from producing my best work, and I don’t want to let my clients down because stressful situations are sometimes unavoidable.

Stressed in Surrey

Hey Stressed In Surrey

This is a great question that I’m sure many wedding photographers struggle with. Weddings are stressful and being the photographer at them is one of the most impactful roles on a wedding day. Most of their other suppliers do not spend the wedding day with the couple. Not only do we do that but at points, we have to take control of the events and the people in order to deliver certain images. Add to this that everyone at the wedding brings their own stress.

Looking through Pinterest or Instagram though, this side of the industry doesn’t seem to exist. It’s all champagne towers, confetti, and smiles. And weddings that look like all-day photo shoots – which of course they are not. Neither are they styled shoots with willing models, good light, and plenty of time to get your shot. Real weddings are hectic and stressful, real couples often feel uncomfortable being photographed.

Add into this any anxiety that you might already be dealing with from your personal life or from running a business in times of economic uncertainty and just after the pandemic. It is a lot and it is normal to have a human reaction to it all. By the time it comes to pressing the shutter button at a wedding you have already absorbed and processed so much.

We can also put additional pressure on ourselves by wanting to create a magazine-worthy set of images from every wedding. The reality is that shooting a wedding can sometimes feel like a game of whac-a-mole. This problem occurs, slam, you knock it down, then another and another pop up. All the time with a serene smile on your face as if it’s also the best day of your life.

So how can you better cope with stress on wedding days?

1. Take Breaks. Nobody works all day without factoring in breaks because being ‘on’ all day just doesn’t work for us. It’s OK to explain when you do a planning session with your couple that there will be points where you will take a small amount of time for comfort breaks. Whatever they do for a living they will have breaks.

2. Take Ear Pods. There are points over a day where you could pop in your ear pods and listen to music that calms you. This might be Enya, it might be Megadeath, whatever works for you. You do not have to be on high alert all day.

3. Take A Breath. When you feel anxious, focus on your breathing. Taking just three deep breaths that start in the belly and feel like you fill your lungs to capacity and expel the air fully will reduce stress levels. Alternatively, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth until you feel your face soften. A good indicator that you are stressed is that your jaw will feel clenched. When you become aware of that, do this technique.

4. Take A Moment. In the highly pressured parts of the day, you might default to panic shooting. But taking 10 well-planned images is better than making 200 without a high level of intention. Even when people are looking to you for direction, it’s OK to say I need a moment to plan this for the best.

I’ve yet to leave a wedding thinking ‘I nailed that!’ – I leave every wedding beating myself up about the images that I didn’t take. But I have learned to accept that is just part of wanting to do the very best job that I can. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t stress.