3 Ways to End the Wedding Season Strong with Vanessa Joy
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If you’re a seasoned wedding photographer, you already know that the last quarter of the season can get tough. Maybe you took on too many weddings this year, or maybe you feel a bit of longing with the end of wedding season in sight. Whatever it is, wedding professionals typically look forward to a little bit of a break come winter—except for those in warmer climates who are just getting started.
In the Northeast, weddings in September and October are ideal because of the pleasant temperatures and bright colors. The last thing we want to give our clients is a tired-out photographer. Here are my tips for making it through the last stretch of wedding season.
Throw Out the Cookie Cutters
At this point in the season, you’ve perfected your wedding routine. You can do your photo session with your eyes closed and nothing can surprise you the day of. This is a good thing, but it can also lead to some serious boredom.
Do yourself a favor and pick up your favorite fashion magazine, or scour the Internet for new ideas that you can try at your last few weddings of the year. Whether it’s a new posing technique or lighting trick, or simply a different way of shooting, now is the time to throw a few curveballs into your game since you have the basics down pat. It’ll give your clients images that don’t look exactly like everything you’ve shot that year, which will be great for social media.
As I write this, I’m getting ready to attend a two-day photography workshop to give myself a boost that I’m in dire need of. I can’t wait to get those creative juices flowing and bring new techniques to my remaining weddings this year.
Burnout happens when we’ve been doing something too long, or when we’ve been doing it without taking a break. I feel it toward the end of the season, and I know I’m not alone. If you’re finding yourself getting easily irritated, tired or frustrated, you’re probably getting close to burnout. Don’t wait until you actually roll your eyes in front of your bride when she asks you to copy that stupid Pinterest picture; deal with it before then.
The best thing you can do, whether you’re already in burnout mode or feel yourself inching toward it, is to take a break. Some photographers like to still hold a camera, but do something more creative with it outside of paid work. Others, like me, need to put the camera away and completely detach from the photography world. Get a massage, take a nap in a park or just spend a day binging Netflix shows and eating chocolate—whatever gets you the recharge you need to give your couples your best work and your best you.
Here’s the big key to this step: You must not feel guilty about this off time. For a long time, I felt a great deal of shame when I took days off. Consequently, it made the time I took off completely useless because my body may have rested, but my mind didn’t. Human beings are not wired to never take a break.
Breaks and boredom are what give our minds the free space to be creative, come up with ideas and get inspired. Even workaholic Sal Cincotta can attest to this. Sal has said that when he lays his head down at night, when his mind and body have been given that break, is when his best ideas start flowing. Alissa can second this because that’s when Sal starts texting her all his new business ideas. Rest—good things will come of it.
Keep It at 100%
It’s easy to start slacking off at the end of the year. A well-established shooting routine comes with a little bit of laziness. A lot of the wedding becomes second nature, so it’s tempting to be a bit lackadaisical about it. If you give into that mindset, things could start slipping.
I often see this happen not at the wedding itself, but before and after. When things appear simple, it’s easier to procrastinate. A little pressure keeps people on their toes. If you have staff, now is a good time to get them motivated so they don’t slack off either.
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There are lots of ways to motivate yourself and your team. I offer incentives to look forward to, like an end-of-year party, or surprise them with little gifts here and there. It’s motivating for me to give of myself and my money, and I know they love the sentiment behind anything we do. And things we do together are great for team-building and studio morale.
Staff meetings are another good way to boost morale. Keep your team in the know about how the company is doing, what goals have been reached and what lies ahead. These are wonderful ways to keep everyone on the same page and pushing the company forward together. Even if you’re a team of one, sitting down and looking at the year as a whole will motivate you.
If you have some staff, even if it’s just second shooters, read the book EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom From the Trenches, by Dave Ramsey. It’s chock-full of amazing business advice, including help with financial and ethical questions. The sections on team building are solid. After reading it, you’ll be anxious to start implementing the ideas in your studio.
End-of-the-year burnout often results from taking on too much work. While having work is a blessing, it can also be a curse. One of the earliest decisions I made was to make sure I wasn’t overloading myself with weddings because I didn’t want to have a short career. Doing too much is a good way to find yourself hating what you do.
If you think you’re being overworked, you’re likely being underappreciated as well—and likely undervaluing yourself. The best cure for both of these things is to—gasp—raise your prices. You and your staff are worth the raise. Your clients are worth you not hating working their wedding. Your family and friends are worth the free time you’ll be able to spend with them.
Time is your most valuable asset. Make sure it’s going to something of value at all times.