My Life is a Beautiful Chaos: There is No Life/Work Balance as a Photographer

For more from Xavier D Buendia, be sure to visit his website

There is no balance; my life is a beautiful chaos. I’m a photographer, I’m an artist, I’m a foodie and I’m a husband…all at once! I’m very lucky to have an amazing partner who supports, tolerates and gets involved in this mess. She understands that this is my life and this is who I am but it takes a bit of common sense from my side as well. I compromise the love and passion that I have for what I do to spend quality time with my wife. See, one of the reasons I wanted to become self-employed was to be able to spend more time with her.

This is so important to me because I grew up with a workaholic father who has only three things in his mind: work, work and work. So no matter how busy I am, I always find the time for her and [to] be there when she needs me…except for weddings, I hate weddings!

We plan day trips ahead, holidays, and lazy stay home days as well. The cool thing is that most of the time she can come to tastings, dinners and events and in fact I learned to be a bit more sociable through her. She reminds me to take cards, ask for emails, numbers and appointments so she’s part of this journey.

It’s like a Jenga tower you know? Adjusting pieces on one side (artistic) and the other (professional) so it doesn’t collapse and when it collapses, just pick it up and learn not to do the same mistake.

“So, yeah. The last year has been getting past the romantic idea of how cool it is to earn a living taking pictures and understanding that I’m running a business and I have bills to pay. My game changed immensely and my personality has adapted to this change.”

The biggest lessons have been:

  • Managing my time more efficiently 80% work time 20% play time, but there’s play time in work time if you know what I mean
  • Be patient
  • Be disciplined and grow that food photography cult
  • There’s no secret recipe for marketing
  • I AM a food photographer

The way I’ve evolved as an artist, photographer, freelancer or whatever you want to call me is a very personal experience so I’m not sure how many will get it but still, I want to share it with you, it might help others find their way around art and photography.

I have a very unorthodox way of doing things, I make shit loads of mistakes and learn things the hard way but that’s me and I would do it all over again. Me, as a professional has been evolving in ways where I’m understanding what the business of photography is about; I’ve been polishing my style and my technique, getting stronger contacts, finding my voice and keeping a balance between an artistic, free spirit and a disciplined, methodical, professional photographer.

The artist in me is in charge of the creative side of things, the artsy side of food photography, and the constant thirst for new projects and ideas to shoot. It is the child inside of me wanting to take pictures all the time; curious and thirsty for knowledge.

“Funny enough, my goal has never been numero uno on Google or becoming food photographer of the year nor earning 100k a year. Instead, I prefer to be the guy people want to work with and have a very strong network of contacts which ultimately will lead to constant work and referrals.”

So, yeah. The last year has been getting past the romantic idea of how cool it is to earn a living taking pictures and understanding that I’m running a business and I have bills to pay. My game changed immensely and my personality has adapted to this change. To explain the mindset a bit better, over the last year, I started surrounding myself with professionals in my niche, became very selective in the projects I want to shoot, the people I want to work with, and found the line where art becomes business. I learned how to manage my time much more effectively as well as you find out that once you become self-employed, you end up having a ridiculous amount of free time so I had to get disciplined and create a little personal cult as an artist/professional food photographer.

Most importantly, for the last year I’ve been working my ass off 7 days a week, 18 hours a day to be where I want to be. Funny enough, my goal has never been numero uno on Google or becoming food photographer of the year nor earning 100k a year. Instead, I prefer to be the guy people want to work with and have a very strong network of contacts which ultimately will lead to constant work and referrals.

Xavier D. Buendia / XDB Photography

More than ever I understand the importance of building a relationship and staying in touch with people, being honest, humble, a good listener and a great story teller. A year ago I was lying in a beach in Malta with this burning desire of being that photographer and figuring out a strategy to get there.

With that recently came blogging. Blogging is something very new to me, I’ve been doing it for a little over a year now and you have no idea how self-therapeutical it can be in ways where I can go back to previous posts and read where my mind was at that time. See what projects I was working on and compare how it all has changed. Since I got a little (huge) help from Chris here at Phoblographer about the different aspects of blogging, I learned how to better express my thoughts and be a decent communicator. If I get someone inspired to do better, then that’s a plus!

“My Instagram is probably one of the most honest feeds you’ll see, I don’t fake or style a single picture; I’m not that kind of photographer, I like posting imperfections and crappy shots now and then because that’s how life is.”

Personally, I think that social media is a freaking waste of time but as a professional and as an artist, it’s necessary and it’s the best way to get “free” exposure.  Twitter, for example, works very well for me; I engage with people in my niche and consistently I’ve been getting business inquiries.

Instagram works fine for me as a way for others to know Xavier the photographer, and what I’m up to. Some people have mentioned that my feed @xdbphotography is their favourite thing to look at, that’s awesome! I also get some local inquiries through my alternative business feed  @brightonfoodphotography

My Instagram is probably one of the most honest feeds you’ll see, I don’t fake or style a single picture; I’m not that kind of photographer, I like posting imperfections and crappy shots now and then because that’s how life is. Facebook doesn’t work for me, at all! I’ve tried everything, paid for posts, target audiences and stuff like that and nothing seems to work, besides that, I find Facebook as the most boring platform to waste time on.

Email marketing I’ve done, for about a year now. I’ve got a pretty decent mailing list but since May I have been incredibly busy with regular clients and new projects so I barely have time to think about stuff to say. Instead, I’ll be putting a news section on my website where people can look at sets of pictures from my recent shoots and I will share them on all my channels.

Marketing is very important but is not cool to get obsessed about it. I found in these 4 years of being a self-employed creative that there is no secret and no recipe for an effective marketing. What works for me, might not work for anyone else so I take what I like from others, study it, test it and adapt it to my business.

Word of mouth and kick ass work attitude beat ANY marketing strategy!

Keeping my website up to date is very important, I tend to update it every other month changing a picture or two at a time on each section. There are some signature shots from day 1 that have to stay while others are easily replaceable.

I’m a freaking ninja, I strike, then I ask! Now seriously, I’m a very impulsive person, my emotions tend to lead the way and I can’t say no to take pictures because that’s what I love doing. Add to that the fact that I’m fearless when it comes to taking new ventures; Problem is, not always the project is the right one for me so I’m learning to be more intellectual about it and think thoroughly what decision to make.

At a personal level, it happens the opposite, having spent so many years managing restaurants, I developed a sense for bullshit so I’m very cautious who I hang out with. That instinct has helped me a lot but still, I always want to take pictures.  

For more from Xavier D Buendia, be sure to visit his website