Work Life Balance For Photographers

If you’re like many photographers, you became a working photographer because you had a passion for the craft and thought it would be a good way to earn a living.

And really, how hard can it be? You’re living the exotic life of supermodels, stunning locations and lots of very expensive, cool toys.

Then reality sets in. You discover that when the phone eventually rings, and you get hired for a job, you’re photographing a middle-aged businessman who doesn’t like having his photo taken. Probably in a generic office with only 5 minutes to get the shot before his next sales meeting.

And if you don’t come back with a killer shot that the photo editor at the magazine loves, the next time it’ll be someone else’s phone that will be ringing.

Even getting to that point requires tons of work. In fact, you probably can’t remember when you last had an actual day off. A day where there wasn’t a test shoot that needed to be done, a new client researched, a location scouted, a marketing list built, a portfolio showing, a critique session with colleagues, or any of a hundred other things that you need doing.

It can easily become a 7 days a week job. The photographer who today decides to binge-watch Netflix is the photographer who next month is asking,

“Do you want fries with that?”

“Live life fully while you’re here. Experience everything. Take care of yourself and your friends. Have fun, be crazy, be weird. Go out and screw up! You’re going to anyway.” -Tony Robbins

Is that really why you became a working photographer? So you can spend every waking hour working on some aspect of your business, many of which don’t actually involve you picking up your camera? There needs to be a balance, or you’ll burn out and may even come to hate photography.

But how do you balance the work that needs to be done with life? What about family and friends and hobbies and relaxing?

Here’s What To Do …

At first, you’re probably going to need to schedule life. Block out an hour of your day to go to the gym. Once a week schedule some time to meet a friend for coffee. Decide what parts of your work you need to do, what can be outsourced, and what is just busywork.

Maybe you did a job for a local business that needs 50 products shot and cut-out. You can sit there for a couple of days with Photoshop open and do it yourself with the pen tool, or you can outsource the lot so when you turn on your computer tomorrow they’ll be in your inbox ready for you.

Start Small And Create Boundaries

One or two things per week that are less about work and more about anything else is a good start.

Balance for me means that means that right after dinner, my phone gets switched to airplane mode and I’m unreachable until the start of work the next day.

“To light a candle is to cast a shadow.” – Ursula K. Leguin

If you go to social events or are hanging out with friends, leave your camera at home. With social media being an increasingly important part of a working photographers life, schedule times for that, and turn off the notifications outside those times.

Speaking from a couple of years experience, life without the Facebook app on my phone is so much better. When I’m waiting for something or have a few minutes of downtime, instead of reaching for my phone and getting involved in the online world of photography, I’m reaching for my Kindle and taking a mini-break with a few pages of a good book.

Balance is the key. Although we work as photographers because we love it, it’s important to remember to make the time for non-work parts of life.

Here’s what you should do; get away for a little bit with a book, a movie, or a bike trail … and schedule that time so you keep yourself accountable.

With that said, I’m going to head out for a run.

Craig Ferguson

Craig Ferguson is an editorial and commercial photographer originally from Australia but now in Asia. He specializes in people, travel and food and is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan. He has produced work for the likes of Wall St Journal, National Geographic, NBA, Lonely Planet, and more.