I recently did something at a wedding that I hadn’t done in years — I photographed it. I tagged along as second shooter for my co-worker and awesome wedding photographer Stephanie Kaloi. And it reminded me of why I quit shooting weddings… and basically shooting anything ever.
I used to love photography. But shooting weddings pretty much killed that passion.
Wedding photography is fucking hard. I forgot how hard.
For the non-photographers out there, lemme give you an insight into the day in the life of a wedding photographer:
Let’s say an awesome engaged couple purchases your biggest wedding photography package — let’s say that’s eight hours of shooting. You’re actually going to have a 10-12 hour day the day of the wedding.
If the venue is a far away, you’ve gotta budget time to get there early lest there be traffic, or you have car trouble. I liked to get to weddings about an hour early “just in case,” but that usually meant I had to leave my house two hours early to factor in travel time.
Then there’s the eight hours that you’re on your feet, carrying heavy equipment, running back and forth between where the couple is getting ready separately, or from the ceremony to the reception site, or up and down hills between all of those spaces.
The moment you get that sweet sweet relief of being able to SIT THE FUCK DOWN and eat something, because ohmyfuckinggawd you’re starving and sick of holding your gear. The moment you bring that sweet sweet forkfull of much-needed sustenance to your mouth… the speeches start. And you’re back to work. No food for you.
Not to mention that you’re on high-alert for all those hours trying your best not to miss one single moment of the awesomeness that is offbeat weddings. Unlike most day jobs where you can afford to goof off from time to time, wedding photography does not allow for that. From family photos, to hilarious mishaps. From first looks to last dances. From detail shots, to trying to get photos of everyone in attendance… you’re ON for the whole eight hours.
Until you’re totally exhausted… just in time to drive home yourself home.
Then comes the worst moment. I hated when I was all “Wee! Wedding over and I kicked some photography ass. Mission accomplished!” And then: “Oh wait, mission not accomplished. Mission only half-way done.” Now you sit for hours in front of your computer and edit photos until you get cross-eyed.
Yup, wedding photography is fucking hard physically, but it’s also hard financially. As wedding photographer Mike Allebach explained in his post 12 things wedding photographers want to tell you, but can’t:
Most full-time wedding photographers I know carry over $15,000 worth of wedding gear and often work 60-hour weeks… Add insurance, taxes, software, advertising, albums, repair, shipping, and studio expenses, and many photographers end up making less than minimum wage for the first few years of their career.
When I realized that I was making as much money just sitting at home and editing the Offbeat Empire — Hell, I was probably making MORE money doing that, as I didn’t have to pay for all that camera gear, insurance, gas, and Mc Donald’s on the drive home to make up for the wedding meal I missed! — I decided to quit photography then and there.
Since then my back, my hands, and my eyeballs have thanked me.
This is obviously not to say that all wedding photographers would quit, will quit, or even want to quit. I’m publicly bitching about my old job because I want everyone who hires a wedding photographer to REALLY REALLY appreciate them. Because they are doing that hard-ass job — even if they may be feeling the burn out — because they’re passionate about taking photos of awesome couples in love.
THAT is the part of the job that I miss: the couples. I miss meeting fantastic people, and tearing up during their ceremonies, and falling in love with their loved ones throughout the event. I also miss how happy the photos make them, even years after the event.
But in the end, all the love and happiness wasn’t enough to keep me in the game. It wasn’t enough to make me lug all my gear until my back ached and my feet swelled. It wasn’t enough to make me still love photography after it became grueling hard work.
Photographers, let’s get real: How do you deal when you’re starting to feel the burn of career exhaustion?