Health and wellness is a consideration every professional photographer should take into account to be the best possible versions of themselves. As photographers, we can find ourselves in odd positions or hiking miles for the perfect photos. Add in the additional weight of the photography gear we carry and the hours we carry it, and you have the perfect storm for soreness, fatigue, and what we in the wedding industry call a “Wedding Hangover.”
Learning how to combat the dreaded post-shoot fatigue is something every photographer can benefit from, regardless of niche. I’ve caught up with some of the best photographers in the industry and asked them how they battle this very real issue, so check out what they had to say on how they keep themselves in the best shape to create amazing photos. I hope their answers will inspire all of us to continue to work to be the best versions of ourselves for not only our clients and our livelihoods, but for ourselves as well!
“Don’t ever forget that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. You should try to take care of both so that you are performing at your absolute best. It can take a huge toll creatively if your mind is feeling weighed down by the stress of running a business and emotionally being there for your clients. A few ideas that have worked well for me in the past are journaling, taking an electronics/social media break, seeing a therapist, and getting monthly massages (this is two-fold benefits!). There are lots of ways to take time for yourself, find the one that works best for you! I also find that clearing my system of sugary drinks or caffeine until the 11th hour (haha) on a wedding day (that little bit of soda for that extra push!) with drinking lots of water (at least half your body weight in oz) 2-3 days and on the day of the wedding not only keep me from becoming dehydrated, getting tired faster, but it also helps clear my mind so I can be creative. I pack with me a 30oz bottle with a straw built in that I drink from on the day of and I refill as necessary.”
“A little over two years ago, I cut all refined sugar and nearly all sugar from my diet. This single adjustment has changed my health (and, without being overly dramatic, my life). My energy level, ability to focus, quality of sleep, among other things have all benefited. I don’t find wedding days to be physically difficult, but what I struggle with is a sore back from sitting at my desk for hours editing and completing other photography-related tasks. I have found that getting up at least once an hour and moving around, paired with 10-15 min of stretching daily, has drastically minimized that discomfort. This is something that anyone could do. Additionally, I enjoy lifting free weights. For less than $100, you can buy a simple set and work out where and when you want. They’re inexpensive, portable, and really you can keep a set in your office and knock out a few sets whenever you have time.”
“I’m in my 40’s and in my 14 years spent as a photographer, I’ve suffered 2 torn rotator cuff injuries (partial tears) from shooting too much. One of my tears came from working out TOO much and not giving myself enough rest. The other came from simply overshooting and overworking. Both injuries boiled down to one simple thing, not taking care of myself and listening to my body. I’ve found there is no magic bullet for staying in shape but one thing holds true, everything in moderation.
Let’s face it, wedding photography is a physically (and mentally) taxing career. If you don’t adequately prepare for its rigors and listen to what your body is telling you, it will make the choice for you and prevent you from working.
For me, a good diet including lots of veggies, good clean sources of protein, LOTS of water (half my body weight in oz daily) and watching the caffeine intake (which admittedly is a problem). There are some weekends where I will shoot 3-8 hour weddings back to back. It’s amazing how much better I feel on morning #2 and even morning #3 simply by changing my diet. I’m still absolutely wrecked at the end of those weekends but functional. Compared to before where I would literally need a day to recover.
Exercise is really different for each person. I’ve hit the weights, run 5k’s, kickboxing and even just tried being “active”. Every time I’ve been injured it’s from going too far into one thing. Balance really is key, especially as you get older. So now I run a couple of times a week, hit the weights a couple times a week and kickbox the others. If I’m feeling really run down or weak, I’ll still go but won’t push myself.”
“I had to change my diet drastically 4 years ago and started working with my beloved nutritionist who gave me an awesome recipe for a “day after wedding” smoothie. It works like magic:
2 cups of spinach
1 or 2 bananas
1 teaspoon of peanut butter
1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon of vegetarian protein powder
It helps your body and your brain after a long day of intense thinking and moving.”
“I do yoga! Yoga specificities for Photographers actually. It targets exactly where my problem areas are and strengths and stretches them. There are tons you can do by my fav is the Post Wedding Hangover that you can find right here!”
“Besides chasing 5 children around every day? We have a well-equipped garage gym (used to do CrossFit back in the day), train jiu-jitsu, and eat clean (mostly). We’re also getting back into snowboarding this winter + surfing in 2019! We’re in our upper 30s (Amii)/low 40s (Andy), and we think we’re 20 … probably act like it too (more often than not). We attribute it all to regular exercise, eating well, and having positive attitudes.”
“As a wedding photographer, I used to have the most brutal, hit-by-a-mack-truck wedding hangovers the day after a wedding. I was sore, emotionally tapped out, and it really took a full 24 hours for me to feel back to “normal” after a wedding day. Coming from being a collegiate athlete to having my butt kicked by a single day event was a wakeup call for me for my overall health, not just on the wedding days, but every day. I found myself getting winded on adventure shoots with my couples, and I realized, if I want them to climb a mountain with me, I have to be able to physically climb the mountain myself, and not be a health risk in the process! After a year of struggling, I really examined myself, my goals personally and for my business, and hired a personal trainer. He got me on the right track in both the gym and nutrition (spoiler alert: when you’re 30+, you can’t eat the cookie dough at midnight like you did when you were 20 and running 3+ miles a day for basketball), and I began to feel completely different, both on wedding days and every day. I now work out with weights 4-5x a week, focusing on a different area each day, as well as a few days of cardio, be it stairs, the treadmill, or a bike. Nutritionally, I watch my macro intake, choosing to go for a high protein diet that allows me to fuel my days in a solid manner, and not just go for that 5th cup of coffee to spur the next 3 hours. I’ve felt a huge shift in my ability to move and stay engaged on a wedding day, and I also don’t feel the wedding hangover blues nearly as much — it has to be one heck of a wedding for me to be sore the day after now!”
“As photographers, we are on our feet anywhere from 10-20 hours. This has horrible consequences for several parts of our body and requires some TLC to alleviate the pain. After you’ve come back home and showered, (hopefully that is part of your post-shooting routine), lie in bed on your back and elevate your legs so the blood rushes down. Flex and point your toes to roll your feet in clockwise & counter-clockwise movements. Then, flex and grab the arch of your foot and pull it down towards your chest. I learned this trick from years as a dancer, being on my feet and placing immense pressure on them for hours on end. Stretching all over is always a good idea (yoga is golden for post-shooting days!), especially if you are carrying a lot of weight on your shoulders and back!”
“To stay fit throughout the year, I play ice hockey twice a week. I grew up playing hockey (almost made it to minor pro) and have a love for the game. Hockey provides a great cardio workout and really helps clear your mind while having a lot of fun with good friends and colleagues. My wife and I both run our businesses from home and have two young busy boys so we get up early to get our workouts and hockey games into our schedule. My wife will stay home with the boys while I head to the hockey rink for a 6:45AM game and vice versa (except my wife hits the gym). Then when I get home I feel energized and ready to tackle the day.”
“Wedding and production days are one-part creative, and one-part construction worker. They are grueling days that would leave me with back injuries, shoulder pain, and aching knees. Interestingly, it all went away with strength training. In 2014 I decided to make a lifestyle change by eating clean and regularly doing HIIT. Within months, the back injuries vanished, I felt light on my feet, and I could lift significantly more weight without tiring. The day after, or even night after production, I could still go running for miles. Today, here’s what my regiment looks like:
1. Sunday Meal Prep (low-fat/low-carb)
2. Mon (Chest/Back), Tues (Legs), Wed (Shoulders/Arms), Thurs (Core)
3. Yoga 1-2x per week for flexibility/recovery”
“This year I will be 40 and I’ve never felt better in my life. Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the past 7 years has taught me a lot about myself and my health. I know how far I can push my body before it breaks, literally, and how to prepare for extremely physical days that are required of a wedding photographer. Through much trial and error, I’ve learned that good health is a lifestyle, not a quick fix, and I feel best when adhering to a few basic principles. The first, and most important, is getting enough rest. I shoot for 8 hours every night, especially the days before weddings. I discovered that I am much more creative when well rested, which is important when you are a creative professional. Second is a healthy diet. Over the years I cut out processed foods, preservatives, vegetable oils, refined sugars and refined carbs from my diet. I also eat organic and natural if that option is available and only drink water and coffee. It’s not easy, and I’m not going lie, I have my cheat days, but following this routine on a consistent basis has worked wonders for my overall health. I also do intermittent fasting which helps with those long weddings days when you don’t have an opportunity to eat. The last is engaging in physical activity. It’s not so much the type of activity that is important but rather finding something that you are passionate about. If you are passionate about a physical activity the health benefits will be the easy part. I find that maintaining these 3 principles help keep me in tip-top shape, especially for those long wedding days.”
What are some of your favorite tips & tricks for battling post-shoot days?