Wedding photography burnout is real. For nine years, weddings consumed my life, documenting every bouquet toss and first kiss. I was burnt out and needed to make a drastic shift.
My wedding photography career started on a whim. My husband, David, and I started our wedding photography career in 2013 when a friend of a friend called us up in need of a wedding photographer and was wondering if we could assist. As a fresh-faced 22-year-old with a photography degree in hand, I was desperately searching for any job that I somewhat enjoyed and could pay my rent. It felt like a stroke of luck. With a single phone call, David and I found ourselves booking our very first wedding. Little did we know, that gig would set off a chain reaction. Wedding after wedding, our calendar filled up, until we found ourselves shooting 30-plus weddings a year for nine years.
There's no denying that wedding photography is great money, but it is a lot of hard work. The repetitive nature of capturing the same type of event week after week began to stifle my creative spirit. Eventually, it got to a point where I felt like I was on autopilot. I knew every shot I needed and exactly how to get it without giving it a second thought. With nearly every Saturday booked and seven-day workweeks becoming the norm, editing sessions intertwined with exhausting shooting days. After nine years of photographing weddings, I knew I couldn't do it anymore. I'd hit my limit.
I was burnt out. I was in a creative rut. The joy and passion I felt for photography just wasn't there anymore. I knew I needed to make a drastic change, but with all of our weddings being booked a year or more in advance, I wasn't really sure how to get out.
In the midst of the whirlwind that was 2020, our once bustling wedding schedule came crashing down, leaving a trail of cancellations, downsizings, and rescheduled events in its wake. At first, my heart ached with disappointment, but then I recognized the unexpected gift hidden within the chaos. For the first time in my adult life, I had an abundance of free time, and I finally had the time I needed to create and redevelop my photography career.
In February 2020, we moved into a large new photo studio. For months, it sat empty because there was so much uncertainty surrounding everything, and we were scared to leave the house. As time passed and our new reality set in, David and I decided to take advantage of the unused space and our newfound "free time.'' We began experimenting with studio photography, something neither of us had much experience with.
The studio became our playground, a canvas for experimentation and growth. David and I made a deal. His focus was going to be lighting. My focus was going to be posing. Our goal was for each of us to perfect our chosen skill set with the hope of elevating our studio work.
What started as stylized portraits on seamless paper backdrops quickly evolved into elaborate sets and conceptual shoots. Mine and David’s creativity was running wild. Stepping away from wedding photography and diving into studio photography allowed me to fall in love with photography all over again, but for entirely different reasons.
I fell in love with the slow, meticulous nature of studio photography and the level of control David and I had over every aspect of the shoots. With every click of the shutter, we pushed our boundaries, expanding our skills and breathing life into our photographic vision. The ability to perfect posing, adjust lighting and move at a slower pace in order to fine-tune and truly master the shot was so refreshing. David's lighting was evolving and getting better with each shoot. My posing was getting more precise and intentional. I was able to connect with my subjects in a much deeper way than I ever had on a fast-paced wedding day.
We found ourselves in a thrilling phase of uncertainty, unsure of what exactly we were bringing to life. It felt so right, though. We both felt alive, energized, and inspired in ways we never had before. Even though we were at a loss for words when it came to describing what we were doing or why we were doing it, we knew we had to keep going. It felt too good not to.
As 2020 drew to a close, weddings started making a comeback. The hiatus had allowed us to rediscover ourselves, and there was no going back from that. So, we made a big announcement: no more new wedding bookings for us. We were determined to honor our existing contracts and finish what we had started, but the game had shifted. It was all about embracing the newfound version of ourselves and staying true to the journey we had embarked upon.
We spent all of 2021 developing a creative portfolio. We completely rebuilt our portfolio with work that feels true to who we are and began attracting a whole new type of client who truly values our creativity. Now, we find ourselves collaborating with musicians, crafting cover art, and showcasing our work in galleries.
What started as an unexpected pause in our wedding photography journey became a transformative chapter. This new career path has opened doors we never imagined, allowing us to travel, collaborate with incredible artists, and live our passion to the fullest. It's crazy to think that none of this would have been possible if we hadn't taken that leap of faith, followed our hearts, and said goodbye to wedding photography once and for all.
I'm a photographer. I always will be. Photography is such an expansive field with so many niches and avenues to explore. If you feel burn out starting to creep in, don't be afraid to take a detour and explore a different type of photography. Switching things up can breathe new life into your work. Embrace the challenge, follow your gut, and let your camera lead the way.