Beating burnout: photographers on maintaining mental wellbeing

Four people riding horses through the shallow waves on a beach at sunset.
Two professional photographers reveal their experiences of stress and burnout from the industry and offer their tips for staying balanced. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM) at 1/320 sec, f/5 and ISO800. © Anastasia Taylor-Lind

Photography can be stressful and even anxiety-inducing. Whether you're shooting photojournalism or advertising, weddings or sports, you're under pressure to deliver standout images on deadline. Long days or months spent travelling, often alone, perhaps covering harrowing stories, can be draining. Add to this the financially precarious nature of freelance work – something many felt acutely in the wake of Covid-19 – and it's clear why many freelance photographers burn out.

"If I don't take care of my mental health, I can't do my job effectively," says Anastasia Taylor-Lind, a London-based photojournalist and TED Fellow who has covered conflicts around the world for international media outlets and NGOs. "Without self-awareness and some level of emotional and mental stability, we're not able to process and retell other people's stories."

To tie in with World Mental Health Day, Canon's Shutter Stories podcast featured a discussion about stress and anxiety with host Lucy Hedges and photographers Anastasia and Tasneem Alsultan, a Saudi-based documentary photographer focusing on human rights and social issues for The New York Times and National Geographic. Here, they swap experiences and discuss coping mechanisms for dealing with burnout, and reveal their hopes – heading for a more compassionate, caring image industry.

Hear more of the conversation in this episode of Canon's Shutter Stories podcast: