Depressed wedding photographer...

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by june_daley, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. Hi all,
    I am a wedding/social event photographer, 6 months ago, my own fiance left me. It has been world shattering, and along with other events, has led me into a dark depression. I am on medication and seeing a therapist, however, even shooting small events has proven to be more than I can handle. I don't feel I can do my clients justice - all interest in photography has gone and I'm struggling to run my nisi ess. My therapist has suggested a break from photography. How can I possibly cancel on my brides? II'm aware my business will suffer greatly from this course of action should I choose it. My greatest concern is how to handle cancelling my brides? I feel terrible to even think of cancelling their bookings. But I know I would be doing more of a disservice to them by attempting to photograph such a big day for them in my state.
    How to handle this? Should I tell them the truth?
    Advice much appreciated.
  2. I'm sorry to hear about your personal difficulties. Getting yourself back to functional has to be a priority.
    Ideally, if you could line up one or two other photographers in your area, whose skills at shooting weddings you could endorse, whose styles are generally similar to yours, and who would be willing to do the same basic work for the same price, and present each bride or couple with the referral to / option of the other photographer(s) when you cancel, that would certainly mitigate the harm and hard feelings. IMO, any steps in this direction are better than none; even if you can't do it all, try to do some.
    As far as what you tell them, well, if you participate here under your real name, they can Google you, read this post, and find out. But I don't think you need to say more than that circumstances personal to you and wholly unrelated to them leave you in serious doubt that you will be able to do a proper job with their weddings. You might want to add that you are not dropping them to do some other work, and you are cancelling all your wedding bookings. If there are any with whom you feel particularly close, I guess you can explain further, but generally, I think giving too much personal detail to ordinary customers is unnecessary and arguably unprofessional.
    If you have contracts that obligate you to do anything in the event you cancel (refund deposits etc.), be prepared to do those things quickly and without their needing to ask.
  3. I am sorry you are going through a rough time right now, but I agree with your therapist. You might not want to cancel your entire season, but maybe just the early ones. Contact a few other photographer you think might do a good job and see if they want to take over your contracts. If he/she can, run it by your brides. Do this in a non-dramatic, matter-of-fact way. I agree with Dave, they do not need to know the finer details. A medical matter? Family affairs? Also, I would suggest you do your first big wedding with a lot of help. Maybe a good friend or cousin can help you out on the day of, making your load a bit lighter. On the weddings you do take on this year, maybe you can cover yourself with a longer edit time. If your turn-around was 8 weeks, ask for 12.
    In addition, actually having to go back to work might be therapeutic. Keeping busy might keep your mind of "the loss of your future as you had envisioned". Depression does get better. Just to keep in mind, February is by far the most depressing month of the year. Spring is just around the corner. I wish I could help you out. Hang in there!
  4. Don't cancel those weddings! This is your livelihood and you can pull yourself together to do a great job. Think of making
    newlyweds really happy with great photographs! The more time you spend thinking about your photo shoots, less time
    thinking about your ex. The silver lining is: at least you didn't get married only to get divorced shortly after and there is
    someone else out there that's better for you. Plus, no distractions right now while you're growing your business. This is
    going to all work out.
  5. I disagree with your therapist. Working is a good cure.
  6. Working is definitely a good cure, and the long-term effects on your business will hurt you much longer than the current place you're in emotionally. These couples have trusted themselves to you, and breaking a contract with them just because your relationship didn't succeed hurts them - and they have done nothing to deserve it, and they will more than likely resent you and perhaps even write bad reviews about you.
    I'm not disregarding the pain you're in. I've been there. I've had to do things in the midst of a divorce, even as much as having to work on the very night I found out my first wife had been unfaithful to me. Nothing is harder. But, it is not permanent. It is temporary, even though it might not seem so when you're in the midst of it. For what it's worth, my now and future wife (who was at my first wedding, ironically enough) is the best thing that ever happened to me and I have never been happier in my life. It will pass, and a greater relationship will be yours when you are ready.
  7. I am joining with the press on a do a great job group. I can't argue with your therapist on medical grounds but you must not be convinced she is right or you would not be here. Get yourself a second shooter (maybe agree to train an eager newbie) and go for it. As they say is sports, play through the pain.
    You are a professional. Professionals have to produce when others would cave. As a photojournalist I had to shoot things that sometimes broke my heart. In the end though it is not your work that is haunting you. It is that guy. You will not feel better embracing all of the hurt around you but rather by embracing the joy that will someday be yours.
    Remember that for any professional the pictures you take are manifestations of your skill, knowledge and experience not primarily your attitude. For the time being you need to take the most skillful pictures you can not the most joyful ones. This might be the best opportunity for you to back away from the emotion in your photography and work on your hard-core skills. You just might take your work to a new level. Study each wedding carefully rather than getting emotionally involved in it. Make decisions and explain them to your second.
    I am terribly sorry that you are going through this now but you know that it will be over sooner rather than later. Don't let your ex fiancé take away your livelihood as well as your joy. Sometimes getting angry isn't a bad thing.
  8. I am sorry to hear of your circumstances. I can't imagine what you are going through and depression is a very serious thing and it effects everyone differently. Anyone who has not gone through this can not weigh in on what you should or should not do. You are however asking what to do in taking steps in handling canceling your brides. I agree you should partner up with another photographer or studio in your area and explain the situation and work out a deal until you are ready to work again. By all means do not tell any of your clients your medical conditions. I pray you feel better soon.
  9. I totally agree with Ellis on this one. Have you thought about doing fun things, yoga, fitness in general,
    finding a psychiatrist, dump the therapist? Often doctors give out drugs that don't work! From the tone of
    your post you are still depressed. Well that's a no brainer. Often various medications make you sleepy
    and you have no energy to take on the days adventures.

    Get out of the house, maybe find a simple job that employs several people and become friends with

    I'm very sorry to hear of your struggles, however almost 70 percent of marriages end up in divorce. Be
    very glad you didn't get married, have 10 kids and perhaps a husband that beats you or is in jail for the
    next 30 years leaving you with nothing.

    You may think that I'm not understanding you or have symphony. Of course I do!

    You may dread going to a job, a wedding, but I promise that once you are at the wedding and working
    you will feel fine.

    A few years ago my father died on a Saturday. I shot a wedding on Saturday and took an overnight flight
    from LA to Florida. The wedding was great. As bad luck would have it the same thing happened with my
    mother. She passed away on a Friday. I shot the wedding and flew overnight. No one at either wedding knew about the deaths. Frankly
    they don't want to hear about it.

    You've booked these jobs, don't give them up. If the drugs aren't working find another doctor and be
    happy that you have all of this talent.

    Oh, don't stay in bed, get up and go out to get some coffee or something in the morning. The more you are outside and
    with friends as well as meeting new friends, I would think that you will recover fast. However I'm not a
    doctor... My very best to you
  10. June, I totally disagree with the folks
    who say work is therapeutic. It is only if
    YOU think it is.

    Depression is no small matter. Please,
    please take care of yourself, first. I am
    personally of the opinion that revealing
    your true situation to your brides would
    be more beneficial than not, but your
    privacy is also a judgment call that only
    you can make. My bias comes from the
    work done by Brene Brown.

    When going through depression I do
    lower quality work (I am not a
    photographer) and that leads me to
    feel even worse. It is quite
    counterproductive for me.
  11. If you had a physical problem, such as a broken leg then people would understand that you couldn't t do it. Contractually this could be covered
    by force majeure if your lawyer was smart enough to include it, I.e. Forces outside your control.
  12. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    My greatest concern is how to handle cancelling my brides . . . How to handle this? Should I tell them the truth?​
    If you choose to cancel some bookings, then I suggest that you also supply the Clients with the names of a few similarly priced and similarly styled photographers who can take on the work.
    What I suggest you tell the Clients is that you are ill: you should have a contract that covers you not being able to work due to illness.
    However, on another topic about which you did it specifically ask: concerning the advice by the therapist to take a break and also to take medication: I would seek a second and probably a third opinion from qualified and experienced experts in the field of depression. I don’t know what defines “a therapist”.
  13. I'm surprised people are telling you to do this against a doctor's suggestion! If you suffered a heart attack and the doctor told you to take a year off from weddings due to physical stress, would you take their advice or do them anyway?
    My advice is to follow the doctor's suggestion. Find a replacement for half the weddings that are closest in date. Work with some other photographer friends as a second photographer for a time and see how you feel and if you can do your job effectively. If you can, keep your commitment to the other couples. If not, find a replacement.
    Simply explain to the couples that due to health reasons, you are unable to fulfill your contract and offer referrals to other photographers who you know are not booked. Do the work of finding who is available before recommending them, but let them choose who they want to replace you. All you have to say is that you are doing this for personal reasons, no need to elaborate. I believe doing it this way is better than trying to push through and not meeting the client's expectations. I think it would be far worse for your business to do a poor job working against a doctor's orders than to help your clients find a suitable replacement.
    How many times do we stress to our clients that their wedding is one of the most important days of their lives? We tell newbie photographers that this isn't a job you can half-ass, you don't get a do-over. A professional knows when they can perform their job and when they can't. You said yourself that you couldn't even handle shooting smaller events, it would be a disservice to your clients to try to shoot their wedding if you are not capable.
    Do what is best for YOU! You need to get yourself healthy. Best wishes.
  14. Dear June, I too do not agree with your therapist fully. Avoidance should be avoided ASAP. You should get back to your usual life as quickly as possible. As someone suggested take things positively, think that everything happens for our own good. You will surely do wonderful wedding photography and good luck for similarly wonderful life.
  15. To those saying to work through the difficulty or keep at least some of the bookings:

    My therapist has suggested a break from photography.

    Do we agree that the OP's mental health is highly important? Should we counsel against the advice of someone who is presumably a licensed professional in whom the OP appears to have confidence?
    [E]ven shooting small events has proven to be more than I can handle. I don't feel I can do my clients justice ....
    How can it be ethical to maintain bookings for weddings with at best uncertain prospects of being able to do the jobs properly? This is not a case where photographer's shooting hand is broken and the doctor says there's a 95% chance it will be sufficiently healed before the weddings.
    My greatest concern is how to handle cancelling my brides?
    While in general I don't feel strictly bound by an OP's questions, that is the main one I was trying to address.
  16. Depression is a serious illness. Unfortunately: one of the symptoms of depression is 'catastrophizing'. That is, imagining the worst in every possible situation. Your therapist will help you with this.
    Your doc says to take a year off. That's easy for him/her to say. Most of us can't afford to take a year off, and we certainly can't afford to sabotage our own business. If you're feeling uncertain, and you think you simply will not be able to deliver images that are up to your professional standards: try bringing a 2nd shooter that you trust. If, on the day, it turns out that you really can't deliver, give your 2nd shooter more leeway to do things their way. You can do this without being too obvious about it to your clients, and you will be assured of having adequate images to deliver. You might find the results are not up to your standards, but that doesn't mean your clients won't love them. And the financial burden of hiring a 2nd is not as bad as simply cancelling your entire season, and hoping you'll still be able to book clients for the next.
    Just my $0.02. The medication will work, it is made for this. And, your situation is temporary. Your business is not.
  17. None of us knows your complete circumstances, and while many of us would suffer far more harm from canceling, and taking a step back (both in the short term, as many of us find our work therapeutic, and the long term, as the impact it would have on our business could potentially be catastrophic), these criteria don't necessarily apply to you. Assuming your livelihood is dependent upon this career is pure idiocy.
    Only you can make that judgment for yourself. Don't listen to the people who are telling you that you've made the wrong decision. Regardless of the impact on your life, this problem could easily spiral out of control, and suck in the clients you feel obligated to serve. Frankly, I think you are morally, and ethically obligated to cancel -- whilst you feel you would be incapable of providing them with your best artistic expression. What we do is create art for our clients to enjoy. Mood, and mindset have a HUGE impact on the final product. To 'tough it out' and make a total cluster out of 2 or 3 weddings, then be facing very upset clients, and their lawyers - that would make it so so much worse for you. Especially as it all could have been avoided with some upfront honesty.
    Those who criticize your decision, clearly have not felt depression the same way you currently are. While normally, I would go with the 'get out and about, get back to work!' crowd. The cost to your clients (and then to you) could be absolutely catastrophic.
    I, for one, would like to thank you for being a professional, and taking your responsibilities seriously. The concern your question demonstrates for your client's well being shows more professionalism than many of the respondents. As far as your question goes, you should find photographers (probably about 2 or three) who are available for each of the dates in question. Talk to each of the photogs to confirm their availability, then sit down with your clients (or talk to them on the phone -not preferred), advise them that due to mental hardship in your personal life, you no longer feel as if you can photographic weddings, you should give them the contact information for all of the photogs you've contacted, and hand them their deposit back. When they ask why, you can tell them the whole story, or you can just say something like 'Whenever I see a wedding dress, I curl up in a ball, and cry hysterically.' I highly doubt a bride to be is going to be to hard on you - especially while mental visions of you doing just that in the middle of her wedding are running through her head. You should apologize profusely, but remain adamant. Before you start, I'd also advise putting a banner across your webpage that says "Not accepting new clients at this time" Any client who remains suspicious, will have their doubts assuaged by that.
    Good luck. Find a new joy in life. Maybe you'll be able to come back to wedding photography at some point in the future (maybe not), but for the time being, you are doing the right thing, your clients deserve you at your best, or, barring that, someone at their best.. Rest, switch gears, and get back on the horse (though maybe one of a different color) - your therapist has your best interests at heart, and is working to help you get/feel better - But it will take work on your part. Focusing on improving your mental being is the best thing you can be doing.
  18. I'm sorry to hear how things are going. I have had numerous significant turmoils in my life. Stay calm, write down a plan
    you're comfortable with that is clear and cohesive and carry it out the best you can.
    All the best to you, Dave
  19. I'll add to the voices who say you should pay attention to your therapist (and/or seek a second opinion from another qualified professional with whom you can discuss your situation in detail); do not take mental health advice from people on the internet who make their "diagnosis" based on a one-paragraph summary of your situation.
  20. Well after reading your opening post again, I've made a mistake in telling you to just go out do it and
    you will be fine.

    Since we aren't qualified to advise you. In your place of health it's easy to give both bad and good advice
    and often this advice may be wrong.

    If it were me, we hire extra shooters sometimes, I would call another pro in your area, not a second
    shooter. You show up if you can. The going rate for a pro photographer here in Los Angeles well I pay
    them about $600. I then keep the rest of the money. Maybe you can hopefully do this. You can pay a
    photographer whatever you wish. Remember that most pro's are suffering because the wedding parties
    and the guests often do the photography for the couples for free. The pro's will jump at shooting a
    wedding, unless of course they are already booked.

    As far as telling the wedding couples what to say I think I would say something like "Somethings come
    up with a minor health issue. However the photographer covering your special day is fantastic."

    If they ask whats wrong simply say that "It's kind of private and thank you for your concern." Something
    in that order. Don't say anything directly about your health. It's privite. There is no need to. This allows
    you to be completely honest and at the same time you are taking care of their needs and your health.
    It's a win - win situation.

    I wish you well and happiness and I hope this may have helped. My very best.
  21. 1) About the first thing any mental health professional will learn is that depression is usually accompanied by feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness
    2) No mental health professional will know you as well as you know yourself
    3) In view of the above, do you know that despite feelings of inadequacy and misery you could possibly see yourself grinding your way through a job if you were forced to, or are you the type that will flee or make a florid emotional scene instead? If you know you are a runner or like to make a scene, you should cancel the jobs for your clients' sake. It's that simple. If you are not the type of person that inwardly waits to make a florid display to show everybody else what you're feeling, then once you start on your familiar routine your learned routines should see you through to the end. Yes, the clients may notice you are not peppy but are too absorbed in themselves and once you are through it you'll gain a lot by knowing you can just grind your way through it anyway- most of the torture people put themselves through in these situations is the uncertainty. You're on a hiding to nothing trying to guess if you will at some stage make a serious mistake and I don't feel molly-coddling talk is going to help you. If you choose that way you could just drift in circles for years. You already know how to do this stuff, so I say just do it anyway.
    (I think ;) )
  22. I agree with a lot of the advice already given (contract your weddings out to other photographers as long as the couples are on board) so I won't repeat it
    I just wanted to throw some support your way and hope things turn around for you.
  23. Yes in this case, I don't feel that work is therapeutic. It's simply a distraction from the real issues you have to contend with on a personal level. I think many get therapy and temporary distraction confused. Especially in a setting where it's about being married, the joys and commitment.
    I think if you feel you're going to have a hard time doing the weddings emotionally, you should start going in the direction of not doing weddings for now. If that means finishing up the ones you're committed to, then fine. But don't accept any more. You also know your financial situation too. Sometimes you need to live.
    I just don't want you to believe that working is the solve. It's simply something to divert your attention. If you continue working, know that the healing process still lies outside of work.
    My opinion is that you look at your finances, and if you need to finish them to get through your current situation, then finish them. But don't take anymore and consider stepping away from the wedding business for a little while as you deal with this.
  24. I haven't read all of the responses - but I can honestly tell you - that you need to be upfront and forthcoming with couples that have paid your retainer and booked you.
    If possible I would go as far as finding a few photographers locally who would be willing to back you up in this instance. I know I'm a member of 2 or 3 facebook groups and if something like this happened to a member we'd all be there to help.

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