The hardest things about being a wedding photographer

Ten things I don’t love about being a wedding photographer

In my opinion, anyone who says they love their job 100% of the time is one of two things: Lying, or someone who rocks orphaned baby pandas to sleep (which is a real job, btw). So I’m keeping it real and lifting the lid on the hardest things about being a wedding photographer.

I’m a romantic. And I believe – all the way down to my little toe – in love. In its widest definition. I believe in love for your besties, your family, your puppers… and your plant babies (speaking from experience, ngl). And I also believe you can have true love with your work. 

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s always smooth sailing. As ol’ Will Shakespeare once said, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” Families quarrel, philodendrens droop, puppers bark at the mailperson, and besties borrow your favourite sweater and spill wine all over it. 

And when it comes to my career true love? 99% of the time, I love my job with a passion that would put Romeo and Juliet to shame. But the other 1% of the time? Well, the seas of wedding photography can definitely get stormy. 

Want to know what I find hardest about being a wedding photographer? Time to borrow your bestie’s wine and come along for a BTS look at the not-so-glamorous parts of life as a wedding photographer. 

Ten tough things about being a wedding photographer 

1. The responsibility. This is your wedding. It’s one of the most important days of your life, with important memories to go with it. There are no second chances for me to capture any of it again. I’ve got one shot. Which is why I’m pedantic about researching venues, getting to know my couples, and preparing preparing preparing. A lot of care goes into my wedding photography and while I’ve mastered how to go with the flow to capture stunning documentary images, I never wing it. Quite the opposite. I overthink everything to make sure I can capture your day thoroughly and handle any plot twists. And, yep, there’s a lot with the potential to go wrong!

Related to that …

2. The nerves and pressure. Even after 15 years, my wedding photography jitters have never gone away. It’s a fun day for all involved, but stress levels are high and emotions can run hot, especially while everyone’s getting ready. So I need to be calm and in control – no matter what’s happening and how I’m feeling. But when I ‘clock on’ and have my camera in my hand, everything else stops. Nothing matters except my couple, their day, and their wedding photos. Being ill isn’t an option and I have to put my own personal crises out of my mind. But luckily, shooting a wedding takes all my brainpower and leaves no room for anything else – including remembering to stay hydrated …

3. The wedding hangover. And, nope, I don’t mean from drinking. A non-alcohol-induced hangover is a reality for wedding photographers. Shooting a wedding means continuously working for long stretches of time. And it’s hot, physical work. So it’s a constant dilemma between needing to stay hydrated and not wanting to drink so much that you need to spend a penny at any point before the start of the wedding breakfast which is your first opportunity for a break. There’s just so much to capture! Scoffing nuts and dried fruits, and sipping coconut water, carries me through, but it’s not exactly sufficient nutrition and it’s never enough hydration. So, yep, hello, headache and hanger, my old post-wedding friends! 

4. The physical labour. You might think wedding photography is light work – after all, I’m just carrying a camera around, right? Yep, I thought so too – until I became a wedding photographer! Then I was hit with the reality of being on my feet all day (and much of the night), lugging 15kgs of kit, and keeping up with the 100mph speed of wedding day moments. You constantly chase (literally and metaphorically) after natural shots. The posed groups and portraits are done at a rate of knots to get your couple back to their guests quickly. And I’m often six hours into a wedding before I get a break. So by the time I arrive home, every muscle is seized up and I have to lever myself out of the seat and hobble inside. And guaranteed I’ll discover cuts and bruises that I have no clue how I got. 

5. The emotional exhaustion. I’m a sensitive soul which means I soak up all the emotions of the day and empathise with all the feels as if they’re my own … on top of the pressure and nerves of capturing a couple’s wedding. And everyone looks to you as an expert for support and help – with anything and everything! Do you know how to do a bow-tie? My engagement ring is stuck, how do I get it off? We’re missing a buttonhole, have you got the florist’s number? It’s an emotional and mentally busy day. So when bedtime arrives, it’s almost impossible to fall asleep. My body screams, “LET ME SLEEP!” but my mind butts in, “Nope, let’s process all this – second by second.” 

Given 3, 4, and 5 … I try to take Sundays off to recover – and limit my social interactions lol. No-one should have to endure me the day after a wedding – just ask hubs!

6. The RSI injuries. Still think wedding photography is an easy job? Let’s talk about pain! I hear about all the musculoskeletal ailments under the sun in wedding photographer groups. As I write this, I’m healing an ulnar nerve entrapment from having my forearm and hand resting in the same position for too many solid weeks of back-to-back editing. Pfft! It’s a lot for puny humans. 

7. The people-pleasing. My couple is my ‘official’ client. But wedding photos are actually for everyone at the wedding – and often for family and friends who aren’t at the wedding. There are also other wedding suppliers involved (like the florist, planner, cake maker, stationery designer, hair stylist, makeup artist …) who have a vested interest in the photos and want beautiful images for their portfolio. Keeping that many people happy isn’t impossible – but it requires a lot of empathy, effort, and time.

8. The drunk people. A wedding is the celebration of a lifetime – with the revelry to go with it! Sometimes, festivities start at 7am with champagne for breakfast … and don’t end until the next morning (with some hair of the dog!). It’s not far off a 24-hour party. At most weddings, this isn’t obvious until dinner when the wine flows a little faster and the room is suddenly a whole lot louder. But that’s when my hanger, tiredness, and dehydration usually set in – and my sense of humour starts to wane when someone tries to pick up my expensive kit and take my photo. So I’ve become a pro at summoning the final dregs of my energy to think sympathetically of the monumental hangovers they’ll nurture the next day – and the wild dancefloor memories I’ll capture for my couple!

9. The anti-social schedule. Most of my couples book anywhere between six months to a year ahead of their day. Which means my diary is full before my own family and friends’ weddings and parties are planned. So, yep, I miss them – the events and my friends and family! Luckily, my lot are very understanding. But it’s a huge ask. And holidays often have to take a back seat until the winter. So I really value mid-week coffees with my wedding industry friends and bingeing on family time in the quieter months. 

10. The unpredictability.“Oh, so you have a fully booked schedule and things are looking totally steady for the next couple of years? Haha. One sec.” – Covid. As a wedding photographer, you never know where your next booking will come from. In fact, you always wonder if there will ever be another booking at all! And you don’t have a regular monthly salary. It goes up and down with significant spikes and drops. In winter, it’s slow. In summer, it’s nuts. But I’ve learned to trust that everything will work out as it should and I’ve grown to love how I can match my routine and pace with nature’s seasons.

All in all? Being a wedding photographer is literal blood, sweat, and tears. So yeah, I really love this job! No really, I do. I wouldn’t change a thing. Because that’s the thing about true love: It might not always run smoothly, but you love it anyway.

And there’s a lot to love about being a wedding photographer. Let me tell you all about it.