Burnout: Surviving as a Photographer

Burnout sucks. But first, I am going to preface this with two things:

  1. Everything here is completely subjective, BUT something that’s changed my life may help you.
  2. I’m flipping off the burnout, not photography – and especially not my clients (in reality I was flipping off my husband, lmao).

The Problem

Photography has a busy season like any other industry, and sometimes that season varies dependent upon what you specialize in. For a wedding/elopement photographer, in a state the Blue Ridge runs through, that season is usually September – November ish. I really took a beating this year. I was lucky (?) enough that my hiatus in 2019 saved me a ton of heartache that my peers endured – reschedules, cancellations, people demanding full refunds…I’m extremely grateful that my break happened when it did. I booked just enough couples this year to get me back in the swing of things, without totally pushing myself over the edge.

Side note: this isn’t intended to dismay my past/current/future couples. We absolutely love what we do, and we love YOU. There’s just no getting around it sometimes, and we gotta vent!

Ways to Cope

I have been battling a chronic issue/illness that I’m unfortunately still undergoing extensive testing to diagnose. Consequently that stress, on top of the flare ups, on top of my work load brought me to my knees. I had to find ways to manage my burnout and decompress – for me and my clients.

  1. Nap

    Take the damn nap. Even if it’s Monday at 11a and you’ve been up since 9. There is literally no shame in a nap or two a day if you just feel like you need one.

  2. Set Office Hours

    This is a BIG one for photographers. When you’re self employed and your business largely runs on social media, how can you clock in and out? You have to make it happen. If you have the right clients, they are going to understand that you can’t be ‘on’ 24/7 – and if they don’t, it sounds like you aren’t reaching the right people.

  3. Take Time Off

    My husband’s birthday is smack in the middle of busy season. Know what we do? Take a trip for his birthday every year anyway. Sometimes I will book a session or two wherever we end up going, but I make sure it’s not going to destroy the vibe.

  4. Limit Your Bookings/Reassess Your CODB

    If you are shooting multiple sessions a week, multiple weddings per month, and it’s absolutely killing you – you gotta regroup. Some people are built for the hustle, but some aren’t – and THAT’S OKAY. You don’t have to fucking eat, sleep and breathe what you do to be a ‘boss’. Set some boundaries and use a CODB calculator to adjust your pricing if you need to cut your work load down.

  5. Go Outside

    Ya’ll, I’m not playing with this one. You don’t have to becoming a hiking enthusiast or take up a sport, but go outside. Drink up that sunshine. Taking a walk or two everyday has the potential to change your life (and if you have an able dog, you should do this anyway!).

  6. Meal Prep

    WHEW. Comin’ in hot with this tip. I have been meal prepping for around 5 years now, and I don’t know how I survived otherwise. Granted, I was not a full blown adult back then, but still. Take 30-60 minutes every Sunday, buy a set of designated containers, and prep yo food for the week. Even if it’s 1 meal a day, 5 days out of the week, eliminating the ‘What do I eat today?’ thing is amazing. Plus, you can find some amazing healthy recipes to boost you from the inside out everyday.

  7. Shoot Personal Stuff

    If you are a photographer hopefully you are in it for the art, and not just because you think it’s a quick buck.

    Spoiler, it’s not – but anyway.

    Take your camera and capture your own life as well. I have 3 digital bodies for work, 2 film and 1 instax for personal. Finding the time to document stuff for ME really allows me to regenerate sometimes – especially model calls. Every so often I want to capture something MY mind came up with, and that always helps me out.

  8. Block Off Holidays

    I do not, have not and don’t ever see myself booking something on a major holiday. Those are times my family is guaranteed to have, even if that means just the tiny family in my house. Of course, if you are a lone ranger or don’t care about holidays, do you! But if you are family centric, or care about certain traditions, don’t let anyone monopolize that time other than yourself and those you love.

  9. Focus on Your Mind and Body

    Do some yoga. Meditate. Read a new book every week, or maybe every month. Try to learn new things, even if it’s small, that aren’t related to your business. Flex those brain and body muscles!

  10. Remember Why You Started

    I think every year I get to a point (comparison, stress, burnout) where I want to just quit. Dismantle the website, don’t renew my insurance, be done. But then I remember all the amazing people I have met, days I have documented, and stories I’ve told and it centers me. This is a very draining industry physically and mentally, but we do it because the core values override the challenges. Don’t let that slip away.

Hopefully something here helps you. And if not, just know that you aren’t alone. This burnout thing happens to ALL of us, don’t struggle in silence. Reach out to someone and just talk! Facetime, send memes, start a movie club – whatever helps you sort out that queue of edits and get them done.

2020 has been a hell of a ride. Let’s go into 2021 ready!

  1. Sydney says:

    These are so true. Hustle isn’t everything, and leads to burn out so quickly. Thanks for these tips!

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