Above Photo by Maheux Studios
A Guest Blog Post by Ashley Meier
Wedding photographer Ashley Meier, of BlueHaus Studios, recently dealt with a busy (and hot) Colorado wedding season while pregnant. Unfortunately, it's a topic that isn't often discussed among the photography community. How do you handle weddings you've already booked for the season? What do you tell potential clients? What should you wear for 8 hours straight? What happens after baby arrives? Luckily, Meier is boldly stepping up to provide insight and advice to photographers dealing with pregnancy and an impending wedding season.
Wedding Photography and pregnancy are an interesting mix. You have to deal with all of the changes your body is going through, cope with constantly being tired, and wonder about all the “what ifs.” Unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of control over your circumstances. I had to deal with this very situation for the first time this past August when my daughter Eleanor was born in the middle of peak Colorado wedding season. Here’s some advice for handling the before and after months.
• Give Them Options
I chose to offer my brides, who had the potential of being affected by the pregnancy, the choice to opt out of our agreement if they were concerned. I was fortunate to not have any sessions scheduled right around my due date. I even booked some weddings where the brides knew I would be hugely pregnant or just recovering.
• Deciding When to Quit
I shot my last wedding at 36 weeks, and I felt great physically, even at almost 100 degree temps in July. I tried to stay active throughout my pregnancy so I could handle being on my feet for 8+ hours a day. I also made sure I had competent second shooters who could become the primary if needed. For my last two weddings I had a third person who served as my “helper” and extra shooter in case anything unforeseen arose. It may have been overkill, but it was nice to have someone who could bend over and get the lower shots, run and get things from the car, help with bags and occasionally remind me to drink water and eat snacks.
I think 36 weeks is a good stopping point for weddings (38 weeks for portrait sessions). Although I have heard of people shooting weddings past 36 weeks, I wouldn’t recommend it since your baby is full term at 38 weeks and could arrive at any time. Sitting around the house and fanning yourself is much more appealing that late in the game. My biggest advice if you don’t have options is to have a few backup plans in place if you’re physically unable to shoot.
• What to Wear
Deciding what to wear is always hard as a wedding photographer, especially in July. In the earlier and cooler months, I wore dresses with leggings. Once the hot summer hit, I decided to wear cotton tank tops with maxi skirts and compression shorts. The maxi skirt was nice because it allowed enough air flow, and the compression shorts were a must have because nobody likes sweaty thighs. I was also able to bend down and move freely without the risk of exposing myself.
Comfortable shoes are also a must, which is another struggle for wedding photographers. Admittedly, I could have done better on this one. I wore Toms for all of my weddings this past summer and was decently comfortable, but I would also try to switch out shoes during the reception for some added support. Good support is definitely important to prevent your feet from aching and to maintain good posture (as you can see from the pictures, my posture was NOT GOOD; however, it’s completely normal to get such a large curve in your back while pregnant.)
• Stay Active
I think most of my success can be attributed to staying mentally, emotionally, and physically strong throughout my pregnancy. I did a lot of squats and regularly attended a weight-lifting class up until my last pre-baby wedding, which really made a difference in terms of my physical stamina. I recommend staying as active as you can throughout your pregnancy, and adjust your activity based on what your body can handle.
• The Postpartum Months: A Whole New Chapter in Shooting Weddings!
I was one of the “lucky” ones who gave birth 12 days after my due date. In August. After having to be induced.
Originally, I planned to give myself 5 - 6 weeks off before I physically had to be anywhere, but my plans were stifled since the baby was almost two weeks late. I had a three-week break before I had to shoot another wedding. I was definitely nervous because physically I would say I wouldn’t have been up to it at two weeks postpartum. Not to mention the sleep deprivation and difficulty with breastfeeding. I was fortunate I didn’t need a C-section because my recovery would have been even more delayed.
In hindsight, I would recommend taking at least six weeks off if you have a normal delivery (given that babies tend to be on their own timeline—not yours) and a minimum of 10 weeks off for a C-section. I never fully checked out when it came to answering emails, taking on wedding consultations, and some smaller business tasks. I meant to, but I couldn’t, and surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad. Ready or not, I had to be at my first wedding three weeks later, and then had a wedding almost every weekend that followed for the next six weeks. I even took my new little girl to Mexico with me in October for what I thought was my last wedding of the year.
Left: Eleanor in the hospital; Right: Ashley and her family after Eleanor's birth
• What to Wear (again): The Postpartum Addition.
I decided to buy a wedding outfit for the rest of the season. I wore leggings again (sometimes exercise leggings that had no obvious branding on them if it happened to be a hot day). I also got a patterned tank top dress to which I could add a sweater and large belt (so it looked like I had somewhat of a waistline). It made me feel better about my body in public, so I would recommend definitely finding something that is comfortable yet makes you feel stylish. Do not expect all of your pre-pregnancy clothes to fit right away. Give yourself and your body time to recover after a long journey. Your body will start to get back to normal eventually, but in the meantime, you don’t have to settle with clothing that makes you feel unattractive. Just buy a few essentials that you can wear for a while.
• The Details No One Tells You
Physically, I was fine shooting weddings postpartum despite a little soreness. However, I had a new challenge in trying to keep up my breastfeeding supply while being gone from the baby all day. Our baby took a bottle from the beginning so we never had to worry about whether or not she would eat while I was gone. I also started pumping from the beginning so I could get an occasional break from breastfeeding.
I just had to be strategic about finding time during the wedding day to get out to my car for 10 minutes. It wasn't always easy, but I tried to do it when there was a lull in the excitement. My second shooter was always available to cover everything on my behalf, and I tried to time my first break right before the ceremony started and then my second just before dinner. It didn’t work out exactly the same for every wedding, and sometimes I had to go longer than I wanted without pumping, but I made it work.
I also let my brides know what I was doing. Some people don’t but I wanted to be honest and all of them were completely understanding. (Tip: Don’t forget to bring nursing pads for leakage and a cover up for inside your car. One time a groomsman parked too close to me while I was pumping and I had to awkwardly duck down, to say the least.)
If pregnancy is something you will be dealing with during a busy photography season, know that you can get through it. I simply hope these tips prepare you and your clients for all the expected (and unexpected) occurrences throughout those hectic but beautiful nine months.
Bio Photo by Maren Miller Photography
Have you dealt with pregnancy or another life-changing event during a busy photography season? How did you handle clients and running your business? Let us know in the comments below!