Experiencing bouts of anxiety when working fast paced events like a wedding is quite commonplace, clearly there is a lot riding on you the photographer. Truthfully a lot of that stress, we tend to create for ourselves. Let me explain how with thoughtful preparation ahead of time, I minimize to an extent those periods of uneasiness.
Like with most challenges in life, the better prepared you are, the more success will follow. Event photography can be stressful for any photographer, no matter how long they have been plugging away at this profession. There are just so many variables that sit outside of your control. Once you are hired to expertly perform on a job, you have no choice but to at the very least, meet and hopefully exceed on the expectations that the best of your brand has established. No matter the unfair circumstances that will come your way. For me photography can be funny like that, some of my most relaxed, and therapeutic memories to date early on were spent with a camera nearby. But also when I let poor work habits creep back in, photography can then be at the heart of some of my most stressful days.
I think it is natural to ride a wave of excitement and nervous anxiety prior to the start of most paid photography gigs, albeit large or small. Over the years I have learned to manage my event day anxiety more effectively, by simply disciplining myself to double down on the amount of preparation I put in prior to the event taking place. There is good reason for why professional athletes watch extensive film to prepare for their opponent, put a thoughtful game-plan in place, and arrive early on game-day to warm up extensively, as part of their pregame ritual. As professional photographers why should it be any different for us, our pre event ritual should be nearly as involved to set up for the greatest level of success. If you find that you are leaving for a paid gig, ten minutes past when you should have, leafing through Pinterest a while squeezing in a drive through coffee run, culminating in a frantic arrival to the venue, well then I think you would agree that adjustments in your preparation are in order.
Work the Pre-Shoot Checklist
It is crucial that you take care of all the equipment based details, well before your first shutter click of the day. We employ complex gear, which can create panic inducing murmurs in our head at the worst of times. Questions like "did I remember to switch my camera back to auto focus?", "are my cards set to record in RAW format?", "why is my flash missing every third shot?", "did I forget to charge the batteries since my last gig?". You can see how these small details pile up and work to pull ones focus off of where it needs to be for you to be at your best. It is difficult to perform at a high level when feeling unsettled from skimping on the preparation. If you have not yet, I would encourage you to sit down and create a pre-shoot checklist of your own. It should not take but a few minutes to chart out what you will need to get in order prior to any upcoming event. You will feel your confidence for success grow as you work your way through these details leading up to the shoot.
Scout the Venue Ahead of Time
It is difficult to get the very best out of what an event location has to offer when upon arrival you scramble about, frantically looking for suitable shot locations. Instead calmly arrive with the venue’s best shot locations already mapped out in your head. Nowadays you can basically visit the grounds of any venue or shooting location from the comfort of your couch. The wizardry of the internet has allowed for copious amounts of research to be done without ever having to set foot at the venue. Most venues appear on Google Maps, have dedicated websites, and offer links to all forms of social media accounts. Basically these allow you to tour the grounds ahead of time, with minimal effort. Allow yourself this chance to pre visualize how you will approach the shots, what lighting equipment will be necessary, and choose which focal lengths will work the best for that space. If it is close enough by, set some time aside to visit in person, take notes and introduce yourself to the staff, more times than not they are happy to share some insider tips as they are vested in having you capture the venue in it’s best light.
Set Time Keepers to Stay on Schedule
Part of my preparation prior to the event is reviewing and breaking down the event schedule. Once that is in place I manually set reminders that will then sync to both my phone and watch. My primary device for any event day is the smartwatch, personally I just feel holding the phone screen to my face while working, too often gives off the wrong impression. I try to minimize that behavior and the watch really helps achieve that. Using Apple's built in Reminders app, I can be sure I am not allowing myself to get distracted, straying to far off of schedule. In most cases you will not be getting that time back, leaving you left to scramble, raising further that level of anxiety. Again this is something you can control to a point, so do your best to do just that.
No amount of preparation will prevent at least some anxiety to creep in, we are all human, it’s in our nature. If you care like I do about your craft, then understand the more you work through being consistent with putting in the time to prepare, the better a job, in every circumstance, you are going to do. How would you rate your pre shoot preparation? Please share any pre-game rituals you have in the comments below.