It’s normal to feel nervous before a shoot – here’s why!

Last year I was enjoying a peaceful morning – bags all packed, batteries all charged and memory cards all formatted and ready to go – before I had to jump in my car and head off to shoot a small wedding. I’m always a little nervous before a wedding – or any shoot for that matter. It’s the terrain that comes with being an introvert and wanting to do a job well and I’m used to it by now. But this particular morning, something was different. Something was off. 

I was in the throes of having a mild panic attack.

Not a panic attack in the truest sense – with lots of hyperventilating, prickling extremities, noise in the ears, palpitations or any of those other ‘typical’ signs. I definitely had the palpitations, but I was also jittery as hell, couldn’t sit still and kept having these awful waves of nausea and dizziness washing over me. I couldn’t figure out, for the life of me, what was wrong!

picture about photography

Like I said, nerves are fairly standard for me, before a shoot. They always have been, and I’ve come to realise that they always will be. But I’ve also learnt that nerves are a good thing, and here’s why…

They keep you on your toes

A normal amount of nerves keeps you focussed and sharp. It’s almost like the ‘fight or flight’ reflex – your attention is honed and on point, your reflexes are instantaneous, your wits and capabilities are sharper than MacGyver and more ingenious than all the ‘A’ Team put together (80s TV references FTW!). Honestly, it’s like the best version of yourself functioning when you’re bristling with anticipation and a little nervous energy.

They show how much you care

If you’re feeling nervous it’s usually because you’re worried about doing a good job, about fucking up, making a mistake, doing something wrong… Ultimately, then, nerves are a good indicator that you care about what you’re doing and that you want to do a job well, otherwise why worry about it, right? In fact, I believe that it’s only when you stop feeling nervous about a job that it’s time to throw in the towel, because if you’re not nervous about it, then are you really going to strive to do your best work? 

three antique cameras

So, then, if nerves are a good thing, how do you embrace them?

Ah yes… back to my original story. 

After flitting around the house and getting myself into a bigger and bigger tizzy, I realised that the nervous energy was being exacerbated by the amount of time I was sitting around and doing nothing before the wedding. 

Normally, I’m out the door by around 9 or 10am, but this wedding wasn’t getting started until much later, so I didn’t need to leave until about 2pm. 

So all my good ideas about having a peaceful morning, doing some reading and making the most of a bit of time to myself were absolutely wasted because I had nowhere to channel that energy. 

Normally, I check everything is packed and clean, that I’m well stocked with batteries and cards and I’ve got all the paperwork I need with all the information. It’s kind of like heading to the airport when you’re off on your holidays – how often do you run through everything you’ve packed in your head to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything and then check multiple times that your passport is exactly where you saw it three minutes before? 

It turns out that, if I’m feeling nervous, the worst thing I can do for myself is to try to sit and do nothing. 

Nervous energy is strong, focussed and productive energy, if you use it in the right way. I’m actually far more efficient at getting things done when I’m nervous. So, when I’m feeling like that, I find cleaning is a good way to deal with it! Or tackling one of those jobs I really don’t like doing normally – such as weeding the garden, washing the car, or some other task that doesn’t require huge amounts of brain power but will distract me enough from the thing that’s making me nervous in the first place. 

That, and meditation, are my go-to methods of dealing with nerves. Which is exactly what I did that morning, in the end. I left the house sparkling clean and I was feeling much calmer too! 

Ultimately, the point to take away here is that nerves don’t mean you’re not capable and they certainly don’t mean you aren’t good enough, or shouldn’t be doing the job. Because you can bet your life that everyone gets nervous, even well-experienced photographers that you look up to! Bear that in mind the next time you get those butterflies in your belly and wonder if you should be doing this and remember that yes, you blood well should be!