Friends! I’ve been thinking a lot about this post this week because my sweet husband came to second shoot a wedding with me in Ithaca this past weekend! I LOVE when he comes to shoot with me, because not only do we get to spend a day together and I don’t have to miss him…BUT he helps me to remember to care for myself because he is so caring for me.
As a photographer, wedding days FLY by and before we know it, we have sore backs and headaches and the next day what industry professionals call “wedding hangover” from dehydration. It’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves on a busy day when we are so busy taking care of our bride and groom!! While that is our #1 responsibility, taking care of ourselves while we take care of them is critical to us being able to do that WELL. I have learned a lot over the years and continue to learn from my husband, on ways I can be better about self-care.
Here are my best tips that I can come up with – and I hope they help you!
1. Hydration and Pre-Hydration
This may be the most important thing to staying healthy on a wedding day!! When you are moving around so fast, and sweating, you lose a LOT of water inside your body. And it’s really important to replenish that water constantly. Derek has helped me realize that I need to drink more than I think I need to drink. Because for me, the consequence is an awful headache I can’t shake that sometimes lasts an entire day the next day! So that’s not worth it!
Bring a water bottle with you and don’t rely on the venue to have water waiting for you! If you can, bring multiple water bottles especially if you are traveling between venues and churches, or getting ready locations and venues.
Another thing I do to hydrate especially for summer weddings is drink Gatorade or something with Electrolytes BEFORE arriving on the wedding day. Pre-hydrating is really important and electrolytes will help you replenish what the heat will take out of you!
Make sure to drink throughout the wedding day at any chance you can, when you arrive to the venue, throughout the reception. And, throughout the time you are running around not able to think about it – Derek was handing me water while I was shooting portraits and although at the moment it seemed inconvenient, that was the exact moment I was losing the most water and needed it!
Bring food with you on the wedding day – protein bars are my favorite! My new favorite is the One bar – maple doughnut flavor or peanut butter. There is a ton of protein in these bars and it really helps tide me over when I need to last! Many times on wedding days, you don’t eat a “lunch” – only breakfast and dinner – so it’s important that we fill in the in between times as much as possible.
I always eat a big breakfast with eggs and plenty of protein the morning of a wedding, so my stomach will last as long as possible before getting hungry! I also take bars and snacks that I can have in between locations, especially if there is a church or any kind of commute. The hardest days to remember to eat is when the wedding is all at one venue and the cocktail hour isn’t served until later, and you don’t break to sit down in your car. Eat a protein bar in between portraits or before the ceremony or anytime you have a moment – because guaranteed you will have a moment to eat and take care of yourself!
Another thing I do is eat during cocktail hour. If I am shooting throughout cocktail hour, I have my husband or second shooter get me a plate which I can enjoy quickly between shooting and setting up my reception lighting. That is usually a 7 minute window but I can eat then – and it’s critical because dinner won’t be for another 2 hours or so! If I am not shooting during cocktail hour, I will sit down and actually enjoy eating the plate for a longer amount of time before capturing the reception details.
Professionally, it’s important to take care of your hunger because as Justin & Mary say, it’s important not to be “hangry” on the best day of someone’s life! You really do perform better, and act kinder, when you are not feeling angry that you are hungry or feeling faint! Your clients will benefit when you take care of yourself!
3. Going to the Bathroom
I know this seems very elementary, but it is SO EASY to spend a long amount of time without going to the bathroom when you are in go-go-go mode. When I first started shooting weddings, I was still getting in my groove and because of that never went to the bathroom the ENTIRE day. That was so bad for me!
I have found after years of practice that there are ALWAYS in between moments to run into the bathroom. You can use the bathroom at a hotel if you are shooting in a client’s hotel room, you are a human and no one will say no! And if you are driving to a church, or to a venue, you will usually have time when you arrive before the clients show up for portraits. It definitely always takes a bridal party a much longer time to load and unload into their vehicles than it will for you to get out of your car!
And definitely, go during the reception – there are plenty of breaks during dancing, so take the time then!!
4. Sitting and Putting Down Your Camera
This one is DEFINITELY the hardest for me! This is what Derek challenges me with all the time to help my back and my posture. Just like going to the bathroom, there are plenty of moments you can sit down and enjoy a reprieve for your back and body! When Derek is with me he always encourages me to sit when I can – usually you are not thinking about sitting but it’s important to do that as much as possible!
One time I usually sit down is before the wedding ceremony if it’s at a church, and if it’s a Catholic mass during communion – that’s something that is long and after the first few people not needed to capture for the couple. I also sit down during cocktail hour while I am eating and before the reception starts. And DEFINITELY during dinner, I sit down and enjoy my meal and use that time to refresh my body as well as back up my photos on my hard drive.
There are plenty of other moments when you can sit down too, you just have to be looking out for them! And with that, taking your camera off your body and putting it next to you is so important for your back!
5. Carrying Your Camera Wisely – Distributing Weight
The second hardest thing I feel is trying to figure out how to carry your camera and all of that weight of heavy lenses throughout the day so it works for your body! Everyone will have their own solution to this – but what I’ve found works for me is using a cross-body camera strap. Rather than hang the camera from my neck, which pinches the back of my neck, carrying the camera so it falls to my hip and the strap is across my body like a messenger bag works really well! The strap I use is by Barbershop! I carry a Kelly Moore Bag with extra lenses across my body the other direction, so both straps create an X on my back. I think this is the best plan, so the weight is as even as possible on both shoulders! My neck still gets pinched on the side but definitely hurts way less carrying the camera this way!
Some people use the Holdfast Money Maker strap which also creates an X and allows for one camera body on each hip! That’s also a good solution!
Derek has another solution for himself which is to not use a camera strap at all! I know several men photographers who do this and a few women also! You just need to be confident in your ability to grip the camera and the weight of whatever lens is on at the time! The hardest one would be the 70-200 which is super heavy – but if you’re confident in not losing grip, go for it!
This is critical for wedding photographers, I found this early in my career! Because of the amount of hours you are on your feet, it’s really important to photograph in something that has cushion and support – more cushion and support than you are used to wearing on a normal day! I found this out the hard way, trying to wear regular flats and after 6 hours my feet killing me! What you need is a shoe that will last UP TO 10 HOURS or however long your longest amount of coverage is – for me it’s 10 hours! Not every shoe is a 10 hour shoe. Typically I wear black flats with cushion by companies like Naturalizer, Aerosoles and Clark’s. I try to get something that can match my black dress and work fashion wise but I wouldn’t wear it on a normal day – honestly it’s more important to be comfortable and I doubt people are inspecting my shoes on such an important day as someone else’s wedding! Definitely don’t sacrifice in the shoe department and invest in good ones, you’ll be so happy you did!
Let me know if you have any questions or what your biggest struggle is in wedding day self-care! I hope this post was helpful for you!