Wedding Burnout

Wedding Burnout

I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years

Lou Reed, Venus in Furs

The wedding industry, like social media is guilty of curating our moods, favouring happiness and presenting an ideal image to the world, and photographers, not just the photography are no different really.  In a sense we have to be.  Because who wants to be dour blot on everyone's happy day?  I don't mean as a physical presence on the day itself, I mean how we represent it and ourselves afterwards.  I'm not necessarily talking about photographing the stressed dad on the phone for two hours because the wine company forgot to despatch the entire wedding wine or the bride still trying to smile through the fact that the dressmaker got her dress wrong and it was too late to do too much about it.  Or that 'fine art wedding photography' would have you believe everyone arrived borne on gentle gossamer clouds and were transported everywhere by the very softest of sunbeams, and that no one ever at this wedding has ever even heard of, much less seen or even handled, any kind of carrier bag.  Even documentary wedding photographers shy away from plastics preferring to capture the bride and groom accidentally standing pretty still in a field of golden hanging lanterns.

If I sound a little grumpy about these wedding tropes that's because I am.  But that's really what this blog is about.  No one really talks publicly about the seasonal wedding burnout.  Of having shot a lot of weddings and spent too much time around our own photography.

Right now, frankly, I'm pretty bored of my photography.  That doesn't mean I'm phoning it in or doing a bad job.  It's not a question of quality but more how I respond to my own work.  I look at my photos and don't see anything new.  My photos just look like my photos.  Again, no qualitative judgement on that.  This is very probably an entirely internal process.  It's just they don't surprise me or delight me, personally.  But also I'm pretty sure dissatisfaction, even disaffection, is part of the process.  The moment our brains allow contentment to creep in is the moment we get sloppy, disinterested and lazy.  How many of us come away from a wedding thinking, 'I smashed that,' compared to 'Shit, I got absolutely nothing today.'?  I think most of us would be in the second camp.  But then how many sit down with the photos, go through the edit, and go 'Oh actually, I kind of did a good job after all.'  That happens to me throughout the year, at pretty much every wedding, but around this time of year there's an added accumulated mental fatigue from all the aggregate stress and worry over the many times you've beaten yourself up for not getting the shot that it will turn out you did actually get.

And you know what photographers, of course you got the shot.  After all the hours you've put in on this job it's actually more difficult to take a bad shot than a good one.  Because this is your job.  This is what you do.  You have trained and conditioned your brain and your brain doesn't forget how to compose an image from one week to the next.  That's just static on the line from your neurotic, weary, end-of-year self.  The self who could really, really use a holiday right now.  And you should go on holiday, or do something nice for yourself, because when someone comments that 'Wow your day rate is a lot.  Like A LOT.' actually there's no such thing as a day rate in this job.  Because yes there's the editing and the equipment, the insurance and the man hours spent responding to enquiries, but also there is the constant nervous energy that any good, committed photographer is burning through 24/7 throughout their year.  And it is tough.

Here then is a shot that I took at last Saturday's wedding, which I left feeling like I'd got nothing at all.  Not because I had got nothing at all but because right now, for a lot of us, we are pretty exhausted and that leads directly to a self-deflating neuroses.

Hands up if you're feeling that, too...

london wedding photographer

Technical details for the photography wonks:

Camera: Leica Q

Lens: 28mm 1.7

Aperture: f1.8

Shutter speed: 1/3200

ISO: 100

Mode: Manual

42 Comments

  1. Jo

    Yes and me. Thanks for saying this out loud. Holiday a go go :)

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Yes you’ve got the right idea. Enjoy New York! :-)

      Reply
  2. Polly

    Worth. Every. Penny.

    Reply
  3. Tom Weller

    I like the reference to plastic bags the most.

    Reply
  4. Dave Shore

    Another reason why I retired all together, you can get ‘it’ back I couldnt. I like your work Nick so dont give up if that is what you are thinking.

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Thanks Dave. Appreciate it. No not thinking of giving up. I feel this way every year. ;-)

      Reply
  5. Juliet Mckee

    Yes! My hand is up. I’m feeling it brother!

    Reply
  6. Barry Forshaw

    Great read! I come away from every wedding physically and mentally exhausted but I still sometimes think I could have done better. Then I look at the photos, preferably after a little while and find a few shots I like, then after the first edit I find a few more, then after a final edit and looking at the photos as a whole I can feel proud of what I’ve achieved. It’s tough to innovate at every wedding though because of the sheer pace of them. I had my first triple header this year 😮

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Triples are the closest we get to Groundhog Day…

      Reply
  7. Rowan

    Here are both my hands 🙌

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      I can’t find the emoji buttons here or I’d be high fiving both those hands.

      Reply
  8. Amy

    Get out of my head! This is literally me.

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      I won’t get out, I’ve just got comfortable.

      Reply
  9. Matthew Long

    It’s like you’re reading my mind. My hand is very much up.

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      I feel like I need a devastatingly strong Matt Long coffee..

      Reply
  10. Kirsten Mavric

    Spot on, Mr Tucker. It also ties in with that pesky Imposter Syndrome that comes with any creative work. Sigh.

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Thank you, KM. I wonder if imposters have Imposter Syndrome. I bet they don’t.

      Reply
  11. Maria Assia

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. So much this right now.

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Thank you. It’s a lot of us, isn’t it!

      Reply
  12. Andy Gaines

    Lou Reed FTW (as the kids might say… or maybe Lou who!?… anyway…)

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Well I had to find a quote from someone grumpier than me….

      Reply
  13. Rob Dodsworth

    ^This!

    Thanks for that. It has very much helped to hear this today!

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Thanks Rob. That’s really why I wrote it, so that’s great to hear. It’s too easy to forget we all go through the same things.

      Reply
  14. Lina Orsino-Allen

    Yes yes yes Nick. So exhausted right now. We must all remember we’re in it together if not physically! 🤜

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      We totally are. All our brains have the same architecture. We’re all going through the same things.

      Reply
  15. Damian Brandon

    Hey Nick, it’s almost as if your thinking out aloud for me but put out in a much more articulate way – Brilliantly put and if it’s any consolation, I will never get bored of looking at your ART – NEVER!!

    Damo

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Thanks Damo! That’s very much appreciated!

      Reply
  16. Carine Bea

    Hands up here, couldn’t have said better, Nick!

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Thanks Carine. Need to do those drinks soon… x

      Reply
  17. Andrew Billington

    Yep – I hit burnout at the end of June. Great read as always Nick.
    I come away from every wedding thinking I shot a bag of spanners….

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Maybe next time you should spend five minutes actually shooting a bag of spanners. Just to get it out of the way. Or wrenches if no spanners are available.

      Reply
  18. Paul Rogers

    Spot on Nick, I reckon burnout is necessary every season to allow us to reset for the Spring. But maybe each season takes a little longer to recover from, mentally, artistically, and increasingly physically (oh, my knees…)!

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Ha. Thanks Paul. It’s my back that’s suffering. I really should go over to mirrorless before I go over to using a cane..

      Reply
  19. Toni Darcy

    I absolutely love the raw honesty in this post! Credit to you for owning up to basically how every other photographer is feeling right now. Great read dude! xx

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Thanks Toni. Feels good to have everyone sharing feeling the same things on this thread.. x

      Reply
  20. Sam Docker

    Couldn’t agree more Nick, superbly articulated! If any photographer reads this and doesn’t get it, I’d argue that they’re not even a photographer!!!!

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Totally agree, Sam. And thanks for calling it articulate, Yoast has only given it an OK for readability ;-)

      Reply
  21. Steve Gerrard

    Expertly written mate. I’m sure we all relate. Driving away from a wedding thinking “shit, I don’t think I got any Fearless shots today!” and then going through the culled images and getting excited to share them with the couple. And the very next day thinking you still, after a decade of shooting weddings, haven’t found your style. Haven’t really made the photograph you’re trying to make. I think we all live for that challenge. I kinda hope I always will.
    Hope you get a holiday :)

    Reply
    • Nick Tucker

      Thanks Steve. Yeah, I think we probably will always feel like that. The neuroses is built into the process of developing and improving. Unfortunately!

      Reply
  22. Jez Dickson

    As concise and honest as your images Nick. Well done. I think the trick is to accept that it is actually part of the job (the naval gazing) and take some comfort from the fact that it shows you care. You really care. Our clients put their faith, trust (and money) into us and I believe most of us take that on board and carry it quite heavily. I think it is just how it manifests itself. By beating yourself up to the point of near surrender to the gods of wedding loveliness that lurk at every turn. It’s all fluff and flounder. Bloody stupid way of earning a living truth be told. Beating yourself up repeatedly, but it’s what we are good at. Maybe we should run workshops on it!. Sorry, late to the party with the post. Enjoyable read as always. Chin up and chimp on.

    Reply

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