Making The Time For Photography

Surfers, Bird Rock, San Diego

I was recently asked, "With all you do, how do you find the time to take photos?" Photography is not my day job. I lead a busy life. I work full-time, that sometimes calls for travel. I'm a father to two young, active children. I help my wife run a home-based business. Somewhere in the day I have to eat, sleep and exercise.  I suspect many of you, like me, are juggling busy lives and working to improve your photography.

Back to the question "How do you find the time to take photos?" My flippant reply was "I slept in July." And while occasional sleep deprivation is a part of how I make time for photography, the question has tugged at my brain for a few days. After thinking more about it, there's a more serious answer to the question. I thought I'd share how I balance life's responsibilities with my passion for photography.

Finding the time to shoot
This is by far the toughest one to tackle. I promise myself one morning a week to go out and take photos. My week is insanely busy. From Monday to Friday, from ~6:30am to ~10pm my time is booked. It's family, work, or the home business. Shooting during the week is impractical.

I do my shooting early on a Saturday or Sunday morning - up before 5am and out to a location before sunrise. (This is where the sleep deprivation factors in.) Why so early? Two reasons. First, the light. My passion is landscapes and early morning and late evening is when the light is best. Second is minimal impact to the family. While everyone else sleeps, I get my photo fix in. I'm usually back home before the rest of the family is getting up. Occasionally, I'll get a "hall pass" from the family for an afternoon/evening of shooting. Those are special treats in my world.

When I'm out shooting, I'm doing three things. I recently read a good article on the 50/50 rule on Matt Kloskowski's blog. I didn't have a cool name like the 50/50 rule, but now I do. And that covers my first two things.

  1. Getting the shot I planned for. The hope is I come away with something I'm happy with - at least worth sharing. I don't like to have gotten out of bed so early for nothing. :) But, I don't try to squeeze in multiple locations on a given morning. I tried that, and wound up rushing the shots. Now, I take my time. I know I'll have another outing in a week.
  2. Experiment. I'm trying out different compositions, different subjects, different lenses, different focus, and so on. The beauty of shooting digital is that it costs nothing but a little time to try something new. It also gives you a healthy backlog of photos to process for the days you can't go out and shoot.

    The photo at the top of this blog is an experimental shot. As I taking sunset pictures, the surfers starting coming in. I was confident I'd gotten the sunset I was after, so I quickly recomposed to get their silhouettes against the ocean.
  3. Scouting locations. Sometimes that's driving home by a different route. Sometimes that's stopping in a coffee shop I've never been to and people watching. Sometimes it's walking the location I'm at, thinking about how it would be different given a different time of day, different weather, and so on.

    A good example of the last one is my recent visits to Bird Rock, one at high tide the other at low tide.

On the occasions I travel for work, I always bring my camera and tripod. And again, I'll get up before dawn and do a sunrise photo somewhere. During the summers when the days are longer, I'll try to squeeze in sunsets. Yes, I'm tired toward the end of the work day. But I've never been upset about it. I get upset when I don't get up and go out for a photo. Those are the days I end up regretting.

Planning and processing photos
I plan and process during the week. After 10pm, I have time to do whatever I want. I try to process at least one photo a day, hopefully more. On Thursday or Friday, I'll do my planning for the weekend shoot. Sometimes I'm able to get some processing done watching my kids' after school activities. 

Is there a trade-off? Sure. I generally don't watch television (actually, I don't have television service, the Internet provides entertainment aplenty). For the occasional show I do watch (digging The Blacklist these days), I'll half-watch that while working photos.

Blogging and Social Media
I blog and share to social media sites whenever I can squeeze it in. There's 20 minutes before one of my kids has to go to piano class ... start typing something on the blog. A mobile phone is awesome for checking out what's new in my stream on G+. I wrote the bulk of this post in between watching my son practice his sai form in Kempo class.

I really like sharing knowledge. I realized many of the photographers I follow online are those that share their knowledge. Both the how and the why behind their shots. How was the photo processed? Why was this angle for the shot chosen? So that feeds and drives me to share in kind.

I'm not an expert. I don't pretend to know everything. Heck ... you might not like my photos at all. And that's OK. But if my sharing helps one other person, I'm happy. Many times my posts are short, a simple photo share. Others are longer, such as tutorials or tips & tricks. I share what I can and endeavor to do so regularly. I do wish I created more "how" and "why" posts, like this one. Particularly short videos. I really enjoy doing them, but they take the most time and need planning. I fear a stream of consciousness video would be a bore.

And in the end...
At the end of it all, we only ride this rock called Earth once. Photography is like anything else in life. If something is important to you, you make the time for it. I don't believe the "I don't have the time" excuse is valid. If I can't find 30 minutes a day to do something I truly enjoy, I'm living wrong. Making the time may mean changing habits (I used to watch a lot more TV and movies). And change is not usually easy.

If you think you "don't have the time", take a second look at how you spend your time. I've cast aside the "I don't have time" excuse ... and traded it for "I wish I had more time". I think that one's a universal truth no matter what your passion.

How do you make time for your photography?