Top Tips For Surviving Wedding Season
It’s the time of the year when wedding photographers all over the world are neck-deep in editing, shooting, editing, shooting, and even more editing…yes, wedding season is well and truly upon us! We know – first hand – that as well as being a very exciting time of the year, it can also – sometimes – be quite stressful, dealing with deadlines, an ever-mounting editing backlog, communications with clients, and all at the same time as frequent travelling for the actual shooting of the weddings themselves, and thus being away from family and friends so much – it can be hard.
With that in mind, we asked some of our This is Reportage photographers what their top tips were for surviving wedding season. Below you’ll find lots of golden nuggets of advice, from things such as how to make your workflow more efficient, keeping fit and healthy, client communication skills, making time for loved ones (and your own peace of mind), keeping a car-kettle handy, pre-writing blog posts, staying hydrated, surviving the added-pressure of school holidays, tips on admin-software, working in short sprints, business automation, cutting out distractions, personal projects, running, outsourcing, the importance of sleeping and eating well, taking days off, time-blocking, planning, not being so hard on ourselves, not seeing it as something to survive at all, and lots more…
“My top tips for surviving the wedding season are all car based…
Carry your own food. I’m pretty much guaranteed to be provided with food at every wedding but that’s usually served after the main course has gone out for the guests (2 hours after I’ve stopped photographing) so I always have some nuts, protein bars and plenty of water in the car. It means I can have something to keep me going as soon as it’s ‘cameras down’. There is also a car-kettle and noodle pots in case I want something hot… tinned 3 bean salad and tuna is also a good standby.
I also pack a pillow for a little car nap before I crack into photographing the evening. You’d be amazing at what a little short sleep can do for energy levels in the evening…. especially if I’m driving back afterwards. Don’t forget to set an alarm – 20 minutes sleep is ideal, waking up as the guests are going home is not!
As I’m a bit of a coffee addict I’ve also got an in-car espresso maker (don’t judge me). Good coffee is essential for getting through the day.” – Andrew
“With it being only my second full year, I’ve quickly learnt that if you don’t cull quickly, then it all gets lost in the heap of editing. I like to put previews out within a couple of days – so the initial cull, using my iPad pro, often while sat in my pants, is always done the day after. That way I feel like I’ve achieved something from that set too. So when I look at my collections and see I’ve still got ten to edit I can think to myself “Yeah, but I’ve at least started all of them”…
Then I outsource a few when I realise that it’s too much looking after five kids and shooting all of these weddings.” – Barnaby
“Make time for yourself! It’s the most easy tip to give but sometimes the most difficult one to apply. My advice: schedule at least one day in the week in for you-time only.
Plan something nice, get a new haircut, paint your living room or just stay in bed all day binge-watching your favourite shows.
It is so easy to put all your time these months into weddings and your wedding clients. But it will break you up in the end.
You are not a hero when you are editing for 20 hours straight. You are a hero when you know when to take a break and don’t forget about the most important person in the room: yourself!
So my tip: mark a big red X in your calendar at least a morning or afternoon per week minimum, turn off your phone, no checking e-mails and enjoy! It might feel weird in the beginning, but expect to love it in the end ;-)” – Linda
“For me… I outsource the bulk of my editing to Image Salon. I have the same editor year to year so they get it right and I don’t have to double check much.
Also… this was the most important change in my business this year… using a video service to easily make personal videos for inquiries and explaining things to my clients. I use LOOM… it’s free. I record myself walking through an online gallery for clients for example. My sales have also increased because of this.” – Curtis
“My first tip is to just be an amazing communicator. My couples always comment on my speedy delivery of emails and galleries so in the busy season this can obviously take a hit from just the quantity of work I have to get through. My couples do want their work back as quick as possible but they’d never want it at the negative effect to my wellbeing. The personal connection I build throughout makes people care about me and not just see me as a one man photography editing robot.
Letting my couples know I’m busy in Instagram stories, face to face meetings, Facebook posts and emails gives me a bit of breathing room to operate. I’ve found continually posting straight after jobs to my social media also subconsciously tells my couples how busy I am. I’ve had so many comment on how great it is to see me busy this year just from how busy my feed has been.
Also a nifty feature I’ve done this year is setup all my draft emails as canned responses in GSuite. I don’t use a CRM as I prefer a more personal approach. The best line I added to my draft responses is, “you’ll hear from me again in…” making my couples aware of what kind of time period I’ll then reach out again. I usually over estimate this also so I’m always the first to make contact with them rather than them me. This also stops those time consuming “sorry to bother you but is our gallery ready” emails.
Another tip I have is to pre-write sections of my blogs in the off season. So in January I went through my weddings for the year and pre-wrote part of blog posts. I obviously can’t write about the day in too much detail but can write a bit of back story and venue info. Sometimes my SEO plan (plan makes it sound like I know what I’m doing) changes after the wedding as maybe I was going to blog the venue and now I’m blogging something unique about the wedding like the theme. Needless to say these little bits of info help me get in the flow and get the ball rolling mid season.” – Adam
“We have a lot of Indian Weddings in this part of the world, which means 3 – 5 days of back to back shooting, sometimes with as little as 3/4 hrs of sleep. So this might be targeted more at those weddings:
1. Stay hydrated. Always carry water with you. You’d be surprised at how quickly you lose fluids.
2. Carry nuts for snacking on. Very useful when you’re shooting hours on end and miss multiple meals during the day.
3. Get an assistant. Have someone carry your bags, hold your lights, etc.
4. Have rest days after a big multi-day wedding. We often get tempted to jump back into work to look at those great images we got. I’ve learned the value of giving that time to yourself/your family.
5. Learn to say NO. Or rather, to push back. When it comes to clients, or anything else. Set expectations and work to that schedule.” – Geeshan
“Taking care of my mental health by doing the things that help me properly relax and switch off: reading, going for walks, going to the cinema, catching up with friends, getting plenty of sleep and even some after wedding pampering time. If I do this often enough I find that my focus gets a lot better and I end up procrastinating less. I used to feel bad whenever I was taking time off as I felt like I wasn’t working enough – which I know is probably something a lot of self-employed people feel. But I realised that comparing with last year when I wasn’t doing these things I can definitely see how I work smarter and how my business improved. It’s like I know that if I focus when I’m working then I deserve those breaks and treats and I end up being way more productive. Like a donkey with a carrot I guess :)” – Corina
“Planning like a freak was my saviour.
Somewhere in the middle of wedding season my two kids are off from school for 6 weeks. To survive that I need to plan everything. And with everything I mean EVERYTHING.
In the past years I was annoyed that I had no time, felt like I let them down and allowed way too much TV. I delivered weddings too late and overall was not rested or fit when showing up at weddings as I worked until 1am in the evening. I needed to change radically.
I have a big automation in place (I use 17hats) when getting inquiries or need to send bills. So that requires very little time and can be done from my phone. But the biggest saviour is Google Calendar with all it’s tags and tools it provides for FREE. I have the app also on my phone as it shows me the coloured tags and the week in block format. Like that it’s very easy too see where you can add some me-time or other shoots. I plan in plenty of family time (orange tag) in so they don’t end up in-front of the tv too much when they are at home. But when I am off the kids I plan every work in without the distraction of social media/phone/other procrastinations in. Every task has different coloured tags in my agenda and I stick to it with a set timer. I get up 2 hours earlier than the kids to handle the culling (red tag). I edit in 12 – 16 hours so I make blocks of two hours within 1 week. Portrait shoots I edit and cull within 1 hour so I plan this time also in the morning hours in. I stick to strict social media times and plan it in my agenda with a purple tag. As my bookings never come through SM I only fill it with images for ‘validation’ purposes so I don’t spend much time there. That saves me a lot of time.
I do also plan 4x 1 hour gym sessions per week (yellow tag) in and bring the kids there too. They entertain themselves there and it helps me to stay fit during this period. I don’t plan in any social events with friends. That’s just how it is during my busiest time. I try to get early to bed and don’t do work in the evening as I realized that I don’t function well when working in the evening and have the kids and work-life during the day. I use that time to recharge with a Netflix series, a book or a cinema night with my husband. I hire babysitters so I get stuff done or have quality time. It works for us. It’s about finding the balance and it took me years to fine tune this and I can say it’s my first summer where I am not frustrated to find a balance in work, kids and personal time. The key is planning, staying fit and manage everyone’s expectations.” – Silviya
“My top tip is to allow yourself a break the day after a wedding. Weddings are a true celebration of love, family and togetherness and having spent 10+ intense hours documenting those emotions, it’s probably not surprising that I find myself wanting to do nothing more than down tools and spend quality time with my family. That allows me to destress, relax and refocus ready to get down to business the next day.” – Alex
“Tips for surviving wedding season:
* For my mental state I exercise by running long distance two to three times a week. This helps relieve built up stress and keep me in peak condition for the wedding seasons that happen here in Spring and Autumn. It’s too hot in July and August and the season gets quiet in the sultry southern states of USA.
* I have a couple of ongoing personal projects that don’t have anything to do with weddings. I head downtown to shoot everyday life on the streets of San Antonio, Texas.
* In fact, I generally don’t look at wedding photographers work. This is all part of my strategy not to burn out. I love what I do but too much of one genre can make you stagnate. I look at street photographers, photojournalism and study books on many photographers I like. My hero of sorts is Henri Cartier-Bresson to start with. The Magnum website often has book sales on, or signed copies from their photographers and that keeps my mind fresh. To avoid that potential rut, and to keep thinking fresh I study photography books, geometry, composition, but not weddings.” – Philip
Exercise is key. Try and get some form of exercise on a daily basis if you can. Even it is only a 30mins walk in the morning it will boost the energy you have for the rest of the day. A healthy body feeds a healthy mind.
Sleep: Try and get to bed before 12. Since I have kids I go to be around 10.30 (I used to be a night owl) and this has helped me when they wake up so early (6.30am most days) A good nights rest is critical before a wedding.
Gear: Charge and clean all your gear the day before your wedding. Sort cards and check all your gear in advance. It’s amazing how you can sleep better when you know your gear is ready to go. I load the car with non electrical gear as well so that I don’t have to do it in the morning.
I polish my shoes and iron my shirts etc the day before as well. I always have spare trousers and shirt in case of an emergency. In the hot weather it is nice to change shirts for the second half of the wedding.
If the wedding is more than 2 hours from my house I try and stay near the location in a B & B or a hotel with a pool. I love having a swim to stretch out my back on a morning of a wedding. I have found driving is surprising tiring. I am also very wary of driving more than 90mins after a 12-14hour day. So I will try and stay locally if I know that the drive is more than 2hours and go back in the morning. A lot of photographers take huge risks when travelling back late at night. Tiredness can kill!
I always start my day with a shower, shave and a large breakfast.
Porridge is my favourite breakfast for wedding days. It is a slow burner and keeps you going for longer.
I always bring sandwich wraps and chocolate with me for my wedding days. I will eat them before or after the ceremony and they help me keep my energy up for the day. I have found if I run out of energy I can’t concentrate and my photography suffers.
I also bring about two litres of water. Hydration is the key and I generally would drink four or five pints of water if not more during a wedding day. I avoid the likes of red bull and other energy drinks because they give you short term boost but the crash later can be worse! They also give a terrible wedding hangover.
I have a freezer bag in my car to keep the chocolate and sandwiches cold. I also recently got a one litre SHO Bottle. It keeps your water ice cool for days.
I always download and backup my weddings on the day of the wedding. I have enough cards for three or four weddings so I generally don’t reuse the cards for a few weeks after the wedding.
When I come in from a wedding I always back up my batteries before going to bed even if I have no job the next day. I find it is always handy to have your batteries charged just in case you need your camera in an emergency or unplanned job.
After the wedding:
The day after the wedding I try and take it easy and rest as much as possible. I normally fit in a walk or a swim to unwind. I rarely edit directly after a wedding because my body and brain needs a rest.” – Liam
“During the busy wedding season it’s really easy to spend your days sat in a dark room, staring at a computer screen editing away. My top tip is to get outside into nature and give yourself some me time. After a few hours of editing I just head out of my house to a nearby stream and just sit there. Sometimes I think but most of the time I just sit and listen to the trickling water and it just helps to clear my head. Stepping away from the screen is so important and when I go back I always have a quick check at the pictures that I’ve edited to see if they look good as sometimes complacency can set in.” – John
“This is what works for me during high season to get this going as smooth as possible. If i have a shoot outside Lisbon, long drives, I take an extra two days off to rest at that place. Like now I am at the Algarve south of Portugal, after a photoshoot, enjoying a bit of sun and beach, even if I bring my computer along, it’s relaxed time away from office.
Also, I keep my gym schedule, even on holidays, I go to my boxe classes as much as I can. It keeps me fit, drains my anxiety and relaxes me to sleep better. The last thing I do, is enjoy a free time with friends, going out for a concert, or dinner with the tribe over some green fresh Portuguese wine. Always keeping my veggie diet to home cooked meals from fresh local products. Have a good season everyone!” – Nicole
“How do I survive the wedding season?
I make sure that I back up everything as soon as I get back form a wedding in multiple drives and online (backblaze) so I can sleep soundly, then I leave the selection for a couple of days so I’m fresh. Photo Mechanic and Capture One (C1 is my new friend) Admin is my master in between the editing.
Divide my day into hours of attention –
Reactive – early morning – coffee and emails
Proactive -mid-late morning – main bulk of my editing and ‘eating the frog’ which requires focus
Procrastination – early afternoon – that slump after lunch is used for facebook, email, changing the cartridge on the printer
Late afternoon sprint – second proactive session.
All of this using a Pomodoro technique (Pomodoro is a cyclical system. You work in short sprints, which makes sure you’re consistently productive. You also get to take regular breaks that bolster your motivation and keep you creative.)
Surviving the Season for me though means making time for Me and Family. I make sure the summer holidays have regular day trips with my kids, making the most of that time by creating memories. I also have a love of music and vinyl which gets me through the edits, I make wooden plinths to renovate vintage turntables, its a meditation then blow off steam in a run, sail, or mountain bike. Fitness is king.
But most of all……. Love my job!” – Nathan
“I can give a what NOT to do. Don’t rush during a wedding. Enjoy it. Also don’t fall down from the top step of the Church because you’re in a rush in front of the bride, groom and guard of honour using your lens as a brake (read break)… It can be known to cause injury.” – Liz
“Well, here are my personal tips for surviving the wedding season:
– Do sports. I’m running/cycling several times every week which helps me a lot to have my heart rate low on weddings.
– Hydrate! It’s still a constant topic for me and Rosa but extremely necessary. And I don’t mean coffee!
– Take some bubble time on a wedding. Means: Focus on yourself for a few moments/minutes, be in yourself, relax, refocus. I do it a lot.
– Communicate with your fellow or second shooter. It also keeps your heartrate down.
– I don’t cull my photos the day after the wedding, Rosa does. I need some distance and at least one day without any wedding topic.
– Sometime we outsource editing. It’s a bit tricky to find someone who does your amazing job. But if you find somebody really good, feed him/her with chocolate!
– Plan time with your family/kids. Because you’re self employed you work ANYTIME, not only on the weekends. Family time for me is absolutely important and has priority.” – Patrick
“To survive the wedding season I make sure I have my “escapes” on hand. Whether that is switching off from managing clients and editing by playing video games, or an hour sweating in the gym, I always make sure that I have put relaxation or exercise as a “to do” item on my daily list. It is far too easy to put our personal mental and physical wellbeing on hold as we go through the weddings but having it as part of my to-do routine helps me keep it in check, and undoubtedly it is a great feeling to tick it off at the end of the day, too!
When you are exercising, watching a good TV series, or playing video games, you get to mentally switch off which is crucial for getting through the wedding season with clear mind. It also helps when revisiting recently edited galleries and being able to look through them with a fresh pair of eyes. Delivering the best result for our clients is always our priority but we can’t do it if we are mentally drained and lack focus!” – Anete
“Here are my top tips for surviving the busy wedding season:
I shoot mainly Asian weddings, 3/4 days long, I do this alongside being a mum to two boys, one of them being only 10 months old, so it’s been really important for me to make sure I’m not burning out!
Plan ahead, especially with the school holidays that happen to coincide with the busiest of times for a wedding photographer, it’s vital to plan ahead. Take time out to make sure you’re getting some family time and some ‘me’ time. Assess if you need to outsource any marketing or editing. Drink plenty… water of course! The best advice though is to time block, so you know each day what you’re doing from hour to hour and you’re getting enough breaks to keep yourself sane. Turn the phone off at a certain time and just enjoy some family time.” – Bhavna
“Planning, organization and FOCUS. The day next to Wedding I dedicate to backups and rest, the second one to culling. I create a calendar with hours to edit and breaks for pause and check phone. No Wi-Fi or other distractions. I’m delivering wedding on one week to 10 days. Then upload for pic-time gallery and my website. Hard? Yes. But main word is focus and don’t allow distractions.” – Nuno
“Having a wife as a teacher, and a young daughter, for me it is about splitting the season in two, and forcing myself to take a mid season break, to re-energise. As much as we all love wedding photography, it is a job to feed the family, and time with the family is just as important.
I try to schedule the holiday in around the quietest weekend in August which isn’t booked up by January, taking 12 days Monday to Friday to just lose one wedding weekend, then when it is booked, it is booked! Then when I’m away, no instagram, no Facebook, just a quick check on enquiries each morning. Switching off is so important for me, to be able to switch back on again and give the couples who have invested in late summer and autumn 100%.” – Robin
“Over years of shooting weddings i still find myself increasingly under pressure through the summer. My wife is a teacher and we have two teenagers so the first thing they ask every year is when am I taking time off. This always comes as I’ve just had a busy spell and the edit mountain is growing. Last year I decided to focus on editing in the morning and then have family time in the afternoon. I still plan a week off but as usual, currently the week I’m enjoying off is the week the rain, cold and wind comes, so surfing and trips to the beach are out.
Dividing my time gives me an incentive to focus. I pushed my quoted edit deadline to 6 to 8 weeks, if I can finish faster then that’s a bonus. I also find my consistency improves with shorter editing sessions. If I spend an entire day editing, I always come back the next day and feel I need to tweak colour and brightness on some shots.” – Martin
“1: Always have minimum one banana and some water in your car
2: Let go of your expectations and don’t be hard on yourself, you can’t do more then your best. If you can’t do it today, tomorrow is also fine or the day after.
3: Take enough days to relax on amazing spots and do some workouts for body and mind.
4: Change your working location now and then, that can give relaxing and positive vibes.
5: Don’t think of the big pile, but work at one wedding after another (be more in the moment, like you do on weddings 😉
6: When you are telling everybody you are always busy, you might want to change something. In the end friends and family are Nr.1
6: Don’t see the wedding season as ‘surviving’ but as ‘living the dream’
(You know you have a wonderful job!)” – Denise
“Thrilled by the forthcoming wedding season very often I ask myself “How to relax and enjoy the time of the next wedding season?”.
Being a wedding photographer, I would rather go for the unique moment and its timeless emotion than direct or prepare the scene and the couple to achieve fabulous images. Thanks to my experience to shoot at various locations and under different circumstances, I would like to summarize what I feel one could do to enjoy the wedding season and spend a really good time.
– Release your emotions, make jokes, laugh through tears, cry tears of joy and simply entertain yourself
– Express yourself, share your feelings, communicate, and completely forget that you are getting paid for the job you do
– Last but not least, I would better enjoy the bride and the groom as a personality and sense of humour and be able to freely communicate with both of them, and not just treat the engagement as another business opportunity, so that I feel sure when they nominate me to be the photographer of their wedding day.
Please be sure that when the day comes, I get excited and feel the embarrassment just like the wedding couple; quite often it turns out that a brief meeting for a cup of coffee before the wedding itself would help us both to get to know each other, shorten the distance and feel relaxed.
I do feel obliged to share these thoughts as it is my ambition to be recognized as the wedding photographers whose images provoke tears and smiles every time the couple, their parents, children and grandchildren open the wedding book.” – Bozhidar
“I’ve recently made the switch to delivering clients’ images in an online gallery. This might seem like a small change but it has saved me a lot of time ordering prints and packaging up USB bundles. It also means no more trips to the post office and the inevitable queues! My clients seem to love it too as they receive their photos as soon they’ve been edited.” – Melanie
“This simple routine has completely changed how I feel the day after a wedding, giving me back a proper day off (so important this time of year), rather than being broken on the sofa in a zombie state.
I used to return from a wedding and collapse straight into bed with a large glass of wine and an episode of Black Books or the IT crowd. The following day was always a wasted day.
Now, as soon as I get home I have a pint of water, a shower, do a 5 min stretch and don’t drink any alcohol. The difference I feel the next morning is remarkable.” – Matt
“Aside from the obvious ideas such as keeping in good physical shape by eating well and exercising regularly, one of the key aspects of surviving wedding season for me is my psychological approach to it. I really don’t like the idea that the wedding season is something that I must survive.
Several years ago I became interested in meditation and started reading about Zen Buddhism. I am a long way from being the Dalia Lama, but I do try to practice living in the present moment without worrying about things which are out of my control. I came into this wonderful profession as an escape from a job that I did not enjoy, and for me, every day is a pleasure because I get to do what I love.
I think too many people lose sight of how lucky we are to earn our livings as wedding photographers and get too wrapped up in the pursuit of fame and money. For me, reading the odd spiritual book helps me to maintain perspective and a healthy attitude. By not wasting time worrying about things which are ultimately out of my control, I have plenty of surplus energy to not only do my job as well as I can but also to enjoy my life outside of wedding photography right through the summer months.” – Anthony
“For me it’s so important to invest in my own marriage during these busy periods. I can become so focused on work that I forget to appreciate and spend time with my wife.” – Benjamin
“Taking some time for yourself and have a break now and then is really important for me to stay focused and productive. Take at least 1 day off per week, you deserve it! Although I’m still struggling with that as I always feel I have to work more and just take bits and bobs off instead of a full day…
If I’m editing and I start realising I want to do anything else but to sit in front of a monitor, I take a break, get some fresh air, go for a bike ride, walk my dog or surf. When I get back to it, I can’t wait to sit back down in front of my desk as I’m physically knackered, that’s when I get most productive. Everyone deserves a break, don’t force yourself to keep going, that’s when the quality of work suffers.
Time with friends is also important. Heading out for a quick coffee and a nice chat with a friend in between the workload refreshes the mind and improves creativity. Regarding outsourcing editing, I would never do that as it’s part of the creative progress in my opinion, even though very time consuming.” – Alexa
“I have a list of do nots…..
Do not continue with a second job as a chef.
Do not have more than 0 children.
Do not buy an investment property then single handedly renovate it.
Do not find your dream house, then need to sell both houses at the same time to fund said dream house.
Do not take a shine to potent organic cider.
Do not sign up to half marathons thinking you are still 20.
Do not build a second website for commercial photography.
All these I am actually doing right now as well as second shooting…” – John
Thanks so much to the TiR members who contributed to this piece; a really fantastic read, with so many great bits of advice.
If you enjoyed this piece, you may be interested in some of the other topics our members have discussed, including whether two photographers are better than one, if venue visits are necessary, what we do in the quiet season, and thoughts on what wedding photographers themselves would look for in a photographer.
Would you like to join us here at This is Reportage? Members receive lots of benefits, including 60 Reportage Award entries and 18 Story Award entries per year (Collection Eleven is open for submissions at the moment; deadline is 23:59 BST on 23rd September 2019), an unlimited amount of images shown on your profile, free invites to our physical meetups (such as our upcoming Summer meetup in Portugal, and our Christmas Party in London), opportunities for extra exposure on features such as these, and much more…