You’ve photographed a wedding in which all the conditions were in your favour: a photogenic couple that feels comfortable in front of a camera, an exotic location with perfect lighting, and designs taken straight out of Pinterest. In an ideal world, you come home, edit 20 of your works of art from that same day, post it on your blog, get hundreds of likes, and dozens of messages from engaged couples who want you to be the one to photograph their wedding.
But in the end, other than being an artist, you are also a wedding photographer. You were hired by the couple so that they’d have a souvenir not only of themselves, but also of all the guests who came to the event. You were hired to photograph not only the exciting moments, but also the less interesting moments, from the beginning of the day to its end.
In actual fact, you come home with hundreds or even thousands of pictures you took at the event, which total an amount of ca. 50,000 pictures per year or more. Dozens of hours a week during which you have to sit in front of a screen and edit every single picture – balance the exposure, white balance, contrast, highlights, shadows, skin tones and more.
Not only that, you also have to deal with endless temptations around you, calling out to you all the time. Temptations that double and drag out your originally planned editing time beforehand, whether they be Facebook, emails, blogs, shopping, news, text messages, food in your fridge or a comfy sofa beckoning you over for an afternoon siesta.
True, blocking out all such temptations could help you at first. Hiding your phone, disconnecting the Internet, locking your fridge. But the constant urge to find something more enjoyable to do rather than edit pictures on Lightroom will only keep distracting your concentration, causing you to find new ways to navigate around the barriers you yourself have created.
One option is to succeed presenting the finished product to the couple, probably after much frustration, procrastination and needless wasting of time, which you could have dedicated to family, friends, and mainly, yourself. Another option is to change your attitude. Accept with understanding that editing is an inevitable part of the job, and find ways to reach a state of flow, in which entire weddings are edited with full concentration and no struggle.
The solution is much nearer than we think.
Let us look at a basic action we all do several times a day – scratching. We can learn an entire doctrine from this one little action we usually execute without paying much attention.
How annoying it can sometimes be, an itch in the foot, a nose itch, an eye itch, an ear itch. Not a hundredth of a second passes before the hand flies to scratch the irritated area. What a relief, what a lovely feeling. Automatic pilot worked perfectly. But what happens if the itch is caused by a bite or a wound? Each time we’ll itch it, it’ll only harm ourselves even more.
- Notice the next time something itches.
- Stop and make a note to yourself – “itchy sensation”.
- Notice the itchy sensation. Observe its character. See how it continues to grow. Be strong! I know it’s not easy. Do anger and judgment arise? Or perhaps, does this thought pop into your mind: “How annoying, why do I deserve this? I wish it would just go away!”
- Breathe and continue to observe, until suddenly, a wondrous thing will happen – the itch will go away like it had never existed. What a relief!
You can learn the following from this:
Everything changes, nothing is constant.
The itch comes, the itch goes.
The urge to avoid editing comes, the urge to avoid editing goes.
You’ve stopped scratching, but the couples already want to get their wedding pictures – they won’t magically be ready of their own accord. So, sit down in front of the screen again, take a deep breath, and follow these steps:
- Notice each time the urge to avoid editing resurfaces.
- Stop and make a note to yourself – “urge to avoid”.
- Notice the thoughts swirling around in your head at that moment, like: “What a boring task”, “I wish it would be over already”, “Why aren’t I a DJ?” Notice your feelings. Do you feel anger, frustration, boredom, disappointment or despair? Observe your physical sensations. Are your shoulders tense, is your breath shorter, do you have a fast pulse?
- Breathe in deep. Inhale, exhale and release, until the urge to avoid editing disappears on its own.
- Return to edit mindfully.
If you couldn’t resist and you’ve escaped to Facebook, it’s OK. The opportunities to practice this again will never end. Take your time to become skilled in each separate step before you move on to the next step. The more weddings you’ll edit, the more you’ll be able to replace feeling worn out with learning about yourself.
It won’t happen in one day, but you’ll eventually be your own master. Without stress and despair, you’ll let go and deal with the urges each time they’ll appear. With time and practice, you’ll see that the urges disappear as quickly as they arise. You’ll find that your editing concentration will continuously grow, and you’ll be able to edit the same number of pictures in half the time it used to take you in the past.
There are several more tips, regarding making a change in your daily schedule, that could help:
- A work-free, calm morning: Wake up early and invest the first hour or two in yourself, far away from all screens. You may meditate, work out, read a book, write, draw, or do anything else that makes you feel good. When you sit down in front of the computer, you’ll know that you’ve already nurtured your mind and body for the day, feeling free to grant your work your undivided attention.
- Edit first, errands later: It is very tempting to turn on the computer (or phone), and immediately check if anything’s new on social media. It is likely that you’ll be bombarded with needless information and noise, that will only cause an emotional tornado, ruining the peace with which you opened your eyes. It is also very tempting to return phone calls/emails and deal with other unfinished business. Sometimes, this only takes 5 minutes, but other times, it can take an hour and a half. There is no reason to start with these if they aren’t urgent. Dedicate the first fresh couple of hours in front of the computer to the most important task that requires the most energy from you right now – editing.
- Work in defined timeframes: Find the intervals that best suit you. For example, 25 minutes of editing followed by 5 minutes of rest. This way, you’ll feel committed to edit during editing time, and feel free to rest in your rest period. Try not to work by setting objectives, like – “By 14:00, I’ll finish editing the ceremony, and by 17:00 I’ll finish editing the dancing”. Objectives will only frustrate you if you don’t achieve them. Focus your entire concentration on your editing, and you’ll be at peace with what you’ve managed to edit that same day. You may even be surprised that you’ve done so much.
- A calm and work-free evening: Define daily work hours for yourself. Notice each time you find yourself squinting in front of the screen whilst holding your breath, and remind yourself to return to breathing softly. How does it feel?