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How to Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety with These Steps

13 min read

Cold sweats, sleeplessness, tension headaches, sheer panic: sounds like pre-shoot anxiety to us! For some photographers, the days leading up to a wedding photography session are racked with stress. Here’s how to calm your pree-shot nerves and have a photo session that’s anxiety-free! (Photos & quotes by: CLARA RICE)

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps

What’s Photographer Anxiety?

Do you feel “jitters” or “butterflies in your stomach” before going to work, especially if the shoot is something new to you? When we say anxiety, we talk about the pre-work nerves before a photoshoot many photographers experience rather than an actual anxiety disorder. Many photographers often suffer from some sort of anxiety, and this can seriously affect their creativity and ability to work.

Photography aspects like timelines, camera gear, and posing guides can build up your anxiety. However, you don’t have to feel like there are too many things that you can’t control and be easily overwhelmed. In fact, you can channel that energy to prepare and keep everything according to plan. As a result, you rule out potential problems and guarantee a more successful shoot.

Photography anxiety means worrying about the unknown. It can also be feeling concerned about whether your shoot will go according to plan or not. The best way to counter this is to prepare as much as you can. Pre-shoot anxiety is enhanced when you’re worried that you’ll forget to do something, bring something, or prepare something. A checklist calendar will keep you on track pre-shoot, so you won’t have to worry. Here’s an example checklist to help you get started:

Six Months Out:

Book your second shooter. Don’t wait until the last minute to look for a quality co-photographer! Your creative compatriot should be secured early – and with a contract. Find your lawyer-approved second shooter contract in the ShootProof Marketplace!

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps

One Month Out:

Complete your Wedding Photography Timeline with ShootProof’s FREE Timeline Planner. Use as-is, or let it inspire your own! A photography timeline should contain the start time, so you’ll have an idea of what you should do first. For events with multiple locations, like a wedding, consider how long it takes for you to travel to the reception venue.

Reserve any rental equipment you’ll need – lenses, flashes, a backup camera body, etc. and will deliver them right to your door before your shoot. Check the locations before a shoot, so you can work out your route to the site, and how you will use the location.

Two Weeks Out:

Confirm your timeline details one last time with your clients and/or the coordinator, as well as your second shooter. Double-check the shoot dates and call times, especially if there are multiple days or locations.

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps

Five Days Out:

Create a list to plan which gear to bring, so you can avoid forgetting something. When you know you have everything you need with you, you’ll feel less worried and anxious.

Thoroughly clean your gear, making sure everything is in working order. While you might not notice it, you may have exposed your camera to dust or food particles on your previous shoot. Make sure to have a camera cleaning kit that contains a rocker blower, LensPen, lens wipe, and cleaning cloths.

Reformat your cards so they’re ready for shooting. Make sure you have enough memory cards with you in case you fill one up!

“I always pack my gear the day before, preferably earlier in the day. This includes charging all of my batteries, formatting memory cards, and making sure everything is grab-and-go in the morning – sometimes even my clothing! I also print out multiple schedules and shot lists, and familiarize myself with the day ahead. Ideally, I’ll go to bed without anything nagging my brain.” – Clara Rice

Morning Before:

Charge your batteries. Stopping mid-shoot to charge batteries will break your momentum, and consequently, bring back your anxiety.

Pack your gear and store everything neatly so it’s grab-and-go ready! The best camera bags are durable, lightweight, and waterproof. It also helps if your bag has lots of compartments and pockets. Send an “I’ll see you tomorrow!” message to your clients, second shooter, and any relevant vendors. This helps squash their anxiety!

On the Day:

Take care of yourself before anything else. Devote time to taking a bath and eating a proper meal. While it doesn’t seem like a big thing, this could make a great impact on how you feel on the day of the shoot.

Wear appropriate clothing for the event type and location. Look sharp and wear comfortable shoes. Remember, your clothing must be comfortable so you can move around easily. When in doubt, ask the client if the dress code is casual, formal, or semi-formal.

Be on time. During your preparation time, you should have determined how long it would take for you to travel to the photoshoot’s location. You also have to consider whether you will be traveling using public transportation or your own car.

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps

Bring an Assistant

Your clients may not have hired a second shooter, but you can still bring an assistant – even if only for your peace of mind!

Pro Tip: Your contract should clarify that you may choose to bring an assistant at no additional cost to your client, at your own discretion. Be sensitive to how this could impact mealtime! If your client didn’t pre-approve an assistant or second shooter, you should make your own arrangements for your assistant’s meal.

Don’t rush around at the start of your day trying to set up for a reception that’s still hours away. Photographers who utilize off-camera lighting frequently find themselves in this position, but setup anxiety can be eliminated by tasking your assistant with these preparations!

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps

Your assistant can keep track of your portrait list, call out names, and cross of completed shots, along with straightening boutonnieres and fluffing dress trains. Assistants also make great reflector-holders! An assistant can keep up with gear as you switch locations, hold on to your heavy lens bag as you get the shot, and pass you your next lens so you don’t have to go digging for it.

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps

If pre-shoot anxiety really gets you down, a friendly face can be just what you need! Along with bringing a bottle of water or reminding you not to miss the ring shot, your assistant can relieve stress with simple camaraderie – so hire someone you really like! While you photograph the final exit, your assistant can pack up your gear and prep for an efficient departure!

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps

Communicate More

If part of your photo-biz anxiety involves the mass of emails flooding your inbox (and the overwhelming pressure to respond to them all RIGHT NOW), alleviate the pressure by incorporating automated emails into your workflow! Studio management solutions such as 17hats, Táve, Light, Blue, Iris Works, Pixifi, ShootQ all allow you to create email workflows that automatically send on whatever pre-wedding schedule you determine. Instead of manually sending the same email over and over again to different clients, create a series of reusable templates and let your studio management software do the rest!

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps

Automated Emails

Automated Emails are your go-to anxiety antidote. You can use automated emails to:

  • Provide planning tips to your clients
  • Invite your clients to complete their Wedding Photography Timeline Planner
  • Share links to past events you’ve photographed, boosting their excitement over their own images
  • After the wedding, remind your clients when they can expect to receive their photographs

Make Money, Not Anxiety

You should never collect payments from your clients on their wedding day! (Yuck!) Instead, establish a purpose-driven payment schedule – one that supports your cash flow and makes legal sense – like this:

  • Payment #1: The retainer, which secures the date and finalizes the contract. The retainer prevents you from booking anyone else for that time slot.
  • Payment #2: Received 60 – 120 days before the event, this payment enhances the clients’ commitment to your services. If they cancel at this point, their losses are greater, because your chances of rebooking the date are severely reduced.
  • Payment #3: This final payment is received 10 days – four weeks before the wedding. At this date, you know you could not possibly rebook the date should your client cancel, so the clients’ financial commitment is 100%.

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps

Automated Payments & Invoices

Next, streamline your payment process with ShootProof Invoices! Schedule multi-payment invoices, email them directly to your clients and receive payments securely online. No more pre-shoot anxiety over getting paid! Best of all? ShootProof never takes a commission on any of your sales.

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps

Self-Care Routine

You’re no good to anyone if you show up to a shoot harried and exhausted. As you complete your prep steps, don’t forget to take care of your own needs! From pre- and post-shoot routines, to ongoing self-care, these simple methods will keep your anxiety at bay. What else helps you relax and focus? Movie night with your family? A morning yoga class? Whatever calms your mind and keeps you sane: DO IT!

“No drinking the night before (Okay, one glass of wine, max!), and never plan anything else for a shoot day – even if I don’t start shooting ’til the afternoon. I leave SO EARLY because nothing stresses me out more than traffic!” – Clara Rice

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps


Plan a post-wedding recovery day! Whether that’s brunch with friends, sleeping until noon, or simply rehydrating while you review your photos and blare your favorite music, it’s important that you don’t overload your schedule after a big shoot. Allow time to unpack your gear, dump, and backup your cards, and stretch out your sore muscles.

“I come home and upload my memory cards, because I can’t relax until that second copy is made. After that: SNUGGLES.” – Clara Rice

Community & Connection

A supportive community can help you process struggles and challenges, and prepare for future weddings without all the anxiety. Throughout your shooting season, stay connected to colleagues on social media and in-person by prioritizing regular meet-ups. No one understands a wedding photographer’s struggles like another wedding photographer, so find new friends who can identify with your career chaos.

If you’re in a wedding photographer wasteland, find other small business owners who can swap ideas, share inspiration, and turn customer frustrations into a cause for laughter.

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps

It Takes Time

If you’ve done all of the above and you still feel overwhelmed, reassure yourself that your anxiety won’t last forever! The more you shoot, the more comfortable you’ll become; and one day, you’ll reach the end of a wedding and realize you didn’t feel stressed at all! Keep calm, stay inspired, and #FocusOnWhatMattersMost. We believe in you!

Pro Tip To Go:

“A lot of photographer anxiety comes from comparison. We see cool poses or ideas online and want to use them all immediately. Instead of trying to memorize ten different new poses, just add one to your arsenal per wedding. ‘Today I’m going to add in a close-up kissing photo with her ring-hand on his face.’ Next time you’ll have that shot ready to go, and can add in a new one!” – Clara Rice 

Banish Your Pre-Shoot Anxiety With These Steps

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Dec 2023
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