Mental Health in the Photography Industry
Mental health in the photography industry has become a growing concern for countless photographers everywhere. It is also something we hold close to our hearts at Imagen.
Through speaking with The Imagen Community, photographers at events, and seeing reviews about our services, we hear the voices of concern. We are also seeing the profound impact that Imagen is having in your lives.
On TrustPilot, Katie Lintern (Ontario, Canada) has this to say:
“If you’ve ever felt overloaded with editing and you have analysis paralysis when it comes to editing each image – THIS is your salvation! Get your time back, folks! The cost is marginal for what you get in return – time!”
We are so pleased every day to see that we are saving photographers from hours of work, helping to free up time for you to focus on other essential aspects of your photography business and life.
With so much of the photography landscape changing, protecting yourself and your business is vital. As photographers, we can find ourselves spending a substantial portion of our day behind a camera lens or at a desk. Often, we push ourselves past the point of exhaustion in an attempt to fulfill our creative vision and produce the best possible results.
As photographers, we even produce images of people’s mental states. Those could be from joyous occasions at weddings, sad moments like loss, and everything else in-between.
There can be a lot of pressure to succeed in the industry. With social media at your fingertips, it can be easy to feel like you are falling behind.
Mental health as photographers is a sensitive topic, and one not talked about enough.
In this article, we will discuss:
- Why mental health important for photographers
- How being a photographer affects your mental health
- How long do business tasks take you away from family or other time
- What you can do to improve your mental health
- How difficult clients impact your mental health
- The importance of seeking help when needed
There are many aspects of mental health, but anxiety, stress, and depression are common.
Why mental is health important for photographers
The CDC defines mental health as including our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. Mental illness is not the same as poor mental health, though. A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience physical, mental, and social well-being periods.
Mental health is essential for photographers because it can save your life and business. Your mental health will always suffer if you don’t take care of it.
Unfortunately, when the pandemic started in 2020, statistics showed increased mental health problems worldwide. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that in 2019 one in ten people had anxiety disorders, and in 2020 the number jumped to one in four people.
That information is only one small example of what photographers face daily. This means:
- 1 in 4 photographers is facing mental health challenges.
- 1 in 4 employees is facing mental health challenges.
- 1 in 4 clients is facing mental health challenges.
Mental health disorders go beyond stress, anxiety, and depression. Suicide is also a problem people face everywhere.
According to statistics published by Mind, suicide numbers have been going up every year.
- From 2000 to 2014, suicide numbers more than doubled.
- There is a 30% increase in suicidal thoughts in the same 14-year time frame.
The numbers have not slowed down, which is one of the reasons we are sharing this with you today.
How being a photographer affects your mental health
There are a variety of mental health challenges faced by photographers.
- Burn out from redundant photography jobs.
- Burn out from compounding photography jobs.
- The unknown future of incoming photography jobs.
- They are caring for children and running a photography business.
- Many photographers are solo entrepreneurs without a support system in place.
We asked The Imagen Community the ways in which their mental health is affected. Here are some of the replies:
- “…a downward spiral in my ability to enjoy what I do (photography) and enjoying life outside of work.”
- “It’s cyclical. Right now, no stress. Fall, lots of stress.”
The seasonal aspect of the photography business is a harsh reality so many photographers face every year. This is especially the situation for photographers living in locations with dramatic climate changes.
Zack Arias says this in his 2009 short film, Transform. “Every winter I get in a funk”
Every winter he questions his talent, his skill. He questions if he is delivering his best work.
Zack has many inspiring words to share in his 10-minute film, and we hope that you give it a listen.
As mentioned above, he is not the only photographer facing those challenges, feelings, and concerns. He is not alone, and neither are you!
One way that Zack generates revenue is by teaching but also selling products to other photographers.
Not everyone has the ability to do either of those, but maybe you can use it as inspiration to think outside the box and find creative solutions to seasonal downtime. For example, getting into food photography on the side could be a profitable segment to your photography business.
Looking at the chart below, you can see that nearly 27% of the photographers we polled experience anxiety, 25% experience stress, 13.4% don’t get good sleep, and the list goes on.
You may not realize that job pressure is the number one cause of stress, followed by money, health, and relationships.
Additionally, stress can manifest itself as physical symptoms like:
- Upset stomach
- Muscle tension
- Change of appetite
- Teeth grinding
- Respiratory problems
- High blood pressure
The list can go on!
How long do business tasks take you away from family or other time?
Regular business tasks can consume or drive many mental health challenges, like loneliness, stress, and anxiety.
We estimated based on our records, photographers spend about one and half hours manually photo editing for every one hour of photography.
That means if you photograph a full 8 hour wedding day, you could spend 12 hours manually editing photos.
That in itself can take a lot of time away from family, lead nurturing, album creation, print sale meetings, and much more.
That is where Imagen steps in to either completely take the photo editing burden off your plate or reduce the time you spend manually editing photos by 75% or more.
Other areas of your photography business that might be taking precious time away from you are:
- Email Follow-Ups
- Contract Creation
- Social Media
- Lead Nurturing
Of course, there are way more, but these are just a few, each of which has tools and services to help reduce the load.
In the video below, you will see a conversation with Rachel Brenke, TheLawTog, where we discuss the top 5 time sucks in your photography business and what to do about them.
What you can do to improve your mental health
By now, you should understand the importance of mental health. At this point, you get that being mentally healthy can also keep you physically healthy, and vice versa.
So what can you do to improve your mental health? There are countless methods for improving or managing your mental health. Let’s talk about some of those, shall we?
- Talk about your feelings with someone, like a friend, family member, or professional. Venting can work magic for your mind. If you are feeling pressure or trouble, please share. We welcome you to share in The Imagen Community.
- Regular exercise can increase your self-esteem, help you concentrate better, reduce stress, sleep better, and simply feel better overall. Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain, allowing the body to deliver all the nutrients required for optimal brain activity.
- Your brain needs healthy nutrients to function well. Like exercise, healthy foods can keep you feeling great. If you have ever felt worse after consuming too much sugar, you have experienced the effect of food and your brain.
- Alcohol can play a heavy role in how we feel. It is a depressant, which can severely affect our thoughts, feelings, and actions short term and long term.
- Changing your scene or setting can instantly affect your mental health. Think about what most of the world has gone through during the pandemic. Many people have gone from working in offices to their homes. Some people work in the same room they sleep in or cook food in. That in itself can make you feel lonely or depressed. Taking your laptop and working at a coffee shop, coworking space, or even the park for an hour can dramatically change your mental state.
- Take a break from time to time. For that break, try not to think about the work you have to do, but also do not watch the news as that could also keep you in a challenging mental state. Like changing scenes, taking a 30-60 minute break can help you clear your mind.
- Along the same lines is taking a vacation or holiday. Spend a week in your favorite place. If you live in a cold environment, consider a warm location. If you enjoy the outdoors, consider an area with stunning mountain landscapes. Nature can do wonders for the brain.
We asked The Imagen Community what they do to manage their mental health. Here is some of the advice that was offered.
- “Try to meditate or take long walks in nature.”
- “Get a support team.”
- “Work on a passion project.”
- “Find alternative ways to make money with my skill.”
- “I spent more time with my family.”
- “Engaged with my past clients to build rapport for future referrals.”
- “I learned some new skills.”
- “Improved my online presence by focusing on SEO and social media.”
How difficult clients impact your mental health
As a photographer, you will undoubtedly face difficult or demanding clients at some point in your career. No matter how understanding or patient you are, some clients will always be difficult, affecting your mental health.
We asked The Imagen Community how difficult clients impact their mental health. Here is some of the advice that was offered.
- “I try first to see the client’s side. Are they unreasonable? Is there something else going on? Or are they just a miserable human? For example, a client was nasty to me, later found out one of her kids was going through chemo. And sometimes, it’s my fault, and sometimes it’s that are horrible humans. Internally, the effect is the same, one more thing to deal with when you have no bandwidth.”
- “When the wedding party is stuck up, arrogant and see you as a lesser person because you are a ‘wedding photographer’ and they are a bunch of people working in finance or law.”
Some clients can have short tempers, especially when it comes to weddings. These jobs, for example, are high-pressure events. To many, these are once-in-a-lifetime events, so the clients don’t want anything going wrong.
When you are talked down to, rudely, or anything else you might experience, keep what we just sharted in mind. Calmly take three big breaths, and then reply as nicely as possible.
The importance of seeking help when needed
Mental health is just as important as physical health. As stress, anxiety, or other mental challenges build up in your body, it can manifest in outbursts, illness, and sickness. Many times they are intertwined. If you feel drained because of your job, it will affect your physical health.
That’s why it’s crucial to have good insurance for both physical and mental health coverage. Many photographers don’t think about it until it is too late.
Every country has its health insurance policies, companies, and plans. In the United States, there are health insurance companies like:
- Kaiser Permanente
- Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
- Stride Health
In the United States, you can browse the official healthcare site for your photography business.
While many countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia have universal health care coverage for all citizens, each individual should look into what is available to them for their mental health. In some cases, it might be worth looking into private health insurance.
The Commonwealth Fund has a fantastic guide of what insurance looks like in various countries.
If you find yourself struggling with any mental health challenges, it is vital to seek help. If you fear you require assistance or reading this for a friend who needs help, here are a few resources that can help or point you in a good direction.
Some countries and even individual cities have their available resources. While we can share some, it would be impossible to find them all. So please do some research for your region to find help near you.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA)
- Psychology Today
- Peer Collection
- NYC Well (New York City)
- Samarian (England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland)
- Mind (England, Wales)
Other areas to find assistance is non-profit organizations with a pure focus on photographers and their businesses. The associations in the list below are sharted with their locations but are not always limited to their countries.
- Professional Photographers of America (USA)
- The Association of Photographers (UK)
- Redeye, the Photography Network (UK)
- Association of Wedding Photographers of India (India)
Mental Health and Photography
We want to encourage you to think about others as we wrap this up. Your staff and colleagues are most likely feeling the pressure too. You should also be a leader as a boss, so please lead by example.
Last but not least, consider doing photography for yourself (often or more often). Maybe start a photo project that has been on the back burner forever. You likely got into photography because you loved it and not necessarily the business. So why not do photography for the love of it. If you can make it work, take the time to enhance the passion your business is built on.
I hope that Imagen will allow you to focus on what you love again, freeing you from the tedious manual tasks.
As mentioned earlier, if you ever have struggles or concerns for your mental health, a colleague, or an employee, do not hesitate to ask for help in The Imagen Community.
The community is one of support for each other and friendship alongside some valuable nuggets on improving workflows.