How to Balance Your Day Job, Family and Your Photography Hobby

Finding balance is generally one of the most difficult things for most amateur and enthusiast photographers to do. 

Life demands so much of you: and the most exhausting thing at times is finding balance between it all. My grandfather used to say to me “You go to school, and you come home, you sleep, then go to work, come home and sleep. And life is very repetitive.” He was right to a point, but I think that one of the best things that folks should do is find a way to keep a balance. It’s good for mental health, but it also means that you’re giving priority to the things that are very important to you.

I’m going to give a fair and big disclosure about this post before I go on. I, for a living, run the Phoblographer. Photography is a huge and paramount part of what I do for a living. But photography to me is also a hobby and at times a personal test of various traits of my character. My family is a mixed bag. Since the death of my mother, my sister and I are on very uneasy terms and my dear father lives in another state. My mother’s family, who is also very dear to me, is based in Canada. There’s a lot of them to keep up with. So what happens more often than not is that my friends and colleagues often become my family. My Christmas and Thanksgiving days are often spent with other orphans or friends. And so family, to me, has become what I’ve been able to make of it.

So how have I balanced the three? A lot of careful meditation and a fairly rigid structure that allows for some flexibility–which I don’t expect to make sense at all.

My work days often involve me working at around 8am to 9:30AM. Then I go to yoga for an hour and a half. Then I come back and try to get back into writing or emails, calls, etc. My Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are spent being creative. My Tuesdays and Thursdays are spent catching up on emails, calls, meetings, etc. I’ve realized that our modern world is filled with distractions that we genuinely need to cut down on. Very few things are that important where we need to respond to them immediately. So if someone is bothering me on email I kindly tell them that I will respond to them on certain days. They get that programmed into them very quickly or they typically end up getting cut off.

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Now, you probably can’t do that at your job, but I’m positive that there are ways that you can create sectional times for yourself. This all started for me by having the morning be about creativity and the afternoon about emails.

I also work from home, and sometimes I wish that I had a commute simply because it would mean that I had even more opportunities to photograph. In fact, when you’re commuting you have the gift of being able to bring your camera with you and take pictures along the way. When you’re home, you’re with your family.

But see, that doesn’t mean that photography can stop there. You can genuinely just find ways to incorporate photography into your life simply by bringing your camera with you. But while your camera is with you, you should practice what photojournalists and the very best portrait photographers do: which is barely take pictures. Be present in the moment and when something truly strikes you emotionally learn to react and take a photo of it. It’s something that you’ll need to program yourself to do. But it will help you immensely.

Like any other hobby though, it means that you need to find time to do it:

  • If you’re a landscape photographer, get the hell out of bed one foot at a time, get up, and go shoot.
  • If you’re an urban geometry shooter, the world of a city at 6AM or 5:30AM is surreal and waiting for you to photograph by photo walking.
  • Like to photograph food? Go ahead and cook and plan ahead

Of course, this all means that you’re going to need to put yourself to bed earlier, change your routine, etc. But you should ideally find time to make that photography time your personal time or find a way to make it seep into the rest of your life. This can mean being quick about something.

So what do I use to stay focused?

  • Email
  • Google Calendar
  • Trello

It’s all about disciplining yourself, but what it also means is that you have to commit. In the same way that you committed to having a family, you should find a way to commit to being yourself or else you as a whole will suffer. You should also find a way to make your family aware of how important something is to you. If anything, find a way to involve them.

What it comes down to essentially though is discipline: it could even involve you taking classes. If you’re taking classes then you’re committed in some way or another.