How To Find Time For Photography

When speaking with other non-pro photographers, one of the biggest and most common struggles is simply how to find time in our busy lives to get out and make photographs.

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A decade ago I was living alone with no dependents and, even with full time employment, I had plenty of time to commit to photography. And be a salsa addict and teacher. But that’s another story.

These days, married with a nine year old daughter and nearly five year old son, my days are somewhat more filled. But I still find time for photography. Here’s how.

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First, let’s get more specific about what I mean about “photography time”. As I see it there are four main areas. I want to talk a bit about each of them, and how I find time to commit to them.

Research and Inspiration

This covers looking at other people’s photography via books, online and in person, and finding what inspires and excites us. It also includes researching particular cameras and/or lenses, not so much for me about the dry technical spec, but more about how others feel about using them, and what they’ve been able to create with them.

I find time for this fairly easily because it’s something you can do in very small chunks. In a tea break at work, in the evening when the children are in bed, when waiting to collect the kids from somewhere and more.

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Social and Sharing

I consider this to be how and where I share not only my photographs but my thoughts about particular cameras and lenses, and photography in general. So my own blog here at 35hunter and my Flickr, as well as my favourite blogs and Flickr streams of other photographers I like and talk with.

This can also be very bite size and done in a few minutes. To write a blog post or share a batch of photos with tags and description takes longer. I nearly always do this in the evening when the kids are in bed and when I haven’t got a particular activity committed with my wife. I prefer to write a blog post in one go, so I’d rather spend a couple of hours in one evening then none for a few evenings than say 30 mins over four or five consecutive nights.

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Editing and Processing

Even with the most minimal of processing (which I strive for with both film and digital!) you still have to edit your photos in some way. This for me means importing into LightRoom, exporting those I like to JPEG from RAW, then deleting all the others, then a second or third sort through the JPEGs to find my absolute favourites. The digital processing part for me is virtually non-existent, the RAW files from my Pentax K DSLRs seem to work well with LightRoom’s simple JPEG export and give me results I love.

I try to make time for editing and processing as soon as I can after taking the photographs. Mostly it’s that evening, again when the house contains at least two sleeping bodies, if not three. It doesn’t take long – a batch of say 100 photos from a a few hours shooting might take 15 mins to scan through, keep the best and ditch the rest.

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Making Photographs

Ah, the big one, without which we can’t claim to be a photographer at all – the time we’re actually making pictures with camera in hand. I have two main approaches – one is a short walk for maybe a handful of snapshots and little expectation. These usually occur during lunch breaks at work, sometimes on the way to or from work. Sometimes a local short walk in the evening if the weather and light is conducive.

The second approach is a more deliberate and lengthy photowalk, usually at the weekend. My partner has a few leisure and additional work commitments throughout the week and weekends where I look after the kids, so when we swap roles I virtually always use the time (typically a couple of hours) to drive to one of my favourite haunts and photograph. A 15-30 min drive plus 60-90 mins photograph is usually enough for me – beyond that my eyes get tired, the magic starts to fade, and I start to feel I’m photographing just for the sake of it.

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So this is how I find time for photography.

I certainly don’t spend endless hours or all day sojourns on photography. But by having maybe one committed lengthier photowalk each week plus a couple of evenings for the editing and processing and social and sharing elements, then fitting snippets of research and inspiration in quiet moments in between, I’m able to, most of time, find enough time for my love of photography to keep me sane.

I would add that I try to keep my life pretty stripped down and simple on the whole.

The major things I do in my life are sleep, eat, work, spend time with my wife and family, photograph (all the above activities under that umbrella), write, read and listen to music. I have simple exercise routines – a daily morning yoga practice and an almost daily brisk walk I slot in too. But that’s about it.

This is by choice – I do fewer things, and I try to do them better.

And it means those things I do choose to make time for, I can give a worthwhile effort and commitment to, rather than halfheartedly dabbling in a 20 different activities and not really giving much to (or getting much from) any of them.

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A final note about a major way I freed up more time.

I’ve virtually given up eBay. A few months back I was probably spending half an hour per item I photographed and listed for sale, and another 30 minutes on packaging and taking to the Post Office. When you’re selling a dozen items a month say, that’s a lot of time.

Plus just stepping off the binge purge repeat hamster wheel in recent weeks has been so refreshing.

As well as saving time not listing and selling, I’m not spending further hours a week scouring eBay for potential bargains and/or lenses I have only known about for five minutes but now suddenly absolutely desperately need in my collection to have any chance of being a decent photographer. You probably know that feeling.

Aside from the time saved, I don’t have that unpleasant and ever present anxiety of seeing cameras and lens overflowing my shelves and in boxes waiting to be sold.

It took me a while to get there, but now making use of what I have (the still not unsubstantial two film bodies, three digital bodies and 15 odd lenses that make up my core kit) and letting go of the chase has been enlightening.

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I hope you find this post of some interest and it encourages you to look at how you can find more time for photography.

But right now, how do you find time for photography? Which different activities do you consider combine to make up your overall passion for photography? Let us know in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

 

16 thoughts on “How To Find Time For Photography”

  1. A whole bunch of thoughts here!

    One of my favorite ways to get in a little photography is to take a camera with me to work. I work in the downtown of a small city. The nature of my work is such that I can sometimes get away for 30 minutes at odd times, say 10:30 or 2, and just walk with the camera in my hands. Such is the nature of a lot of the photos shared on my blog lately.

    I also like taking photos around the yard. That can take 2 minutes or 2 hours.

    eBay is an *enormous* time sink. After I get moved — all my cameras are already at my wife’s, save a few I’m using — and settled, I’m going to evaluate every camera I own and get rid of the ones that do not spark joy. It will be a giant project. I expect it to consume 2018. But when I’ve stripped down to the core set of cameras, then the rule WILL be that for every camera that comes in, another must go out the minute that camera’s test roll is processed and I have the scans.

    1. Jim, thanks for your comments. Sounds like you’ve found a good approach with fitting photo opportunities in around work. I do similar, though sometimes I think I could probably take a slightly longer lunch break and drive 10 minutes somewhere for a few shots of different places. I like to combine the photography with a walk too though.

      Yes I take quite a lot of photos in our garden too, especially of the roses this year as they’ve been abundant. It’s a good way to quickly test a lens and/or compare lenses to get an initial idea of what a lens can do. It’s been very useful when I’ve wanted a direct comparison between say a 50mm prime and a zoom at 50mm.

      eBay is such a double edged sword. I love it and all but about two of my lenses I think came from eBay. But getting in that buying, testing, selling cycle was not a healthy or happy approach in the end, for many reasons. I got to the point where I was getting so stressed in the evenings because I knew I had all this camera stuff stacked up and waiting to be sold. My bank balance was less than I wanted too – because I’d got behind with the selling. Just not an enjoyable place to be and it was tarnishing the whole photography experience.

      I still have maybe half a dozen lenses and cameras and odd bits I want to sell, but the core kit is now pretty settled.

      Talking of which, how are you getting on with the K10D?

      1. I’m going to end up with three piles of cameras: must keep, must get rid of — and “man do I love this kit but I’m probably going to get around to shooting it once every three years.” That pile will be the hardest to deal with.

        I haven’t had as much time with the K10D as I want. I’m simply too busy getting ready to move, plus my dad went into the hospital unexpectedly this week. I am having some trouble getting focus right, but I’m also shooting indoors at too-low ISO. I really need a day with the thing out in the world to know for sure what’s what.

      2. Ha, sounds like one of those hoarders shows we have here (and no doubt in the US), they always do that three piles thing. I think it works though. It’ll be interesting to see what rises to the top of your “must keep” pile in the coming months. And how this approach will influence your photography overall.

        With the K10D, it’s not the best indoor or low light camera. Those CCD sensors are at the best at their native ISO (100), and in decent daylight the colours really sing. I’ve used mine a little at ISO200 and 400 and the results are very usable but you can see the noise creeping in. Stick to ISO100 if you can – I essentially use mine as if I’m shooting Fuji Superia 100 in a film camera and as I said have been delighted with the results.

        Also I think it’s a camera that has plenty of bells and whistles, but once you get it set up how you want it, actually becomes beautifully straightforward and simple, pure even. Not unlike a digital Spotmatic…

  2. I have a camera with me all the time (XA2 or iPhone). No dedicated camera time, and I shoot as soon as I see something worth the frame. The question is the seeing!

    Even with a camera in hand, when I’m preoccupied, troubled, or simply tired, seeing a potential photograph is the problem.

    Regarding the time lost to eBay you’re completely right but there’s a worse one… bloody Facebook! I don’t post my whole life like so many, just my posts on WordPress. The problem is that I tend to browse through all the crap on Facebook too much! Gotta stop! Just like G.A.S!

    1. Frank, do you ever consider going out specifically to photograph for a half hour or hour? I wonder how this would change your approach and ability to “see” photographs, if that was the sole purpose of your outing?

      I resisted Facebook for years when it first came out. Then I got involved around 2007 because of a scene I was involved in (salsa) as it was a good way to keep posted of different clubs and events. Then I got involved with someone and our online communication was almost entirely through Facebook. When that all ended (around 2009) I just deleted my Facebook account and never looked back. Haven’t touched it since!

      The only social media I do have (other than Flickr which I’ve used since 2009, coincidentally) is Instagram. But it’s just a bit of a faff using it with a phone. I don’t mind browsing a few photos on my phone but to look properly I use my MacBook. A 15″ screen is obviously massively different to the 3″ ish screen of my iPhone! And Instagram isn’t very laptop/desktop friendly for uploading (it won’t let you!) so I haven’t really got into it, despite its promise. In fact it must be months since I last posted anything and weeks since I even looked at it.

      Again, like offline, I keep my online stuff pretty stripped down and simple these days.

      1. Sure I sometimes go out just to shoot, but only when I feel my mind ready for it… a bit more discipline might be good!

        As for Facebook, as I said I just repost my blog stuff there… and I get caught up in all the crap that flies around there! Again a discipline-problem I guess.

        I stay away from Instagram and it’s frantic hunt for followers. Haven’t posted for months and not checked my account at all. The wonder is… I really don’t miss it! Might be the same with Facebook but it gets me quite a lot of visits on my blog!

      2. The whole social media and followers thing is a big topic. I have a post in draft about part of it, but I’m not sure if it’s relevant or interesting enough to ever post. I think we need to try to analyse the quality of audience we get from different sources. People like you and I who both write about photography and comment on each others’ blogs are I would suggest the sort of audience we want to attract to each other’s blogs.

        Numbers on their own mean very little – I’d rather have five loyal followers that also commented on the blog regularly than 500 anonymous readers who never interacted.

        And the whole “like” thing is a mystery to me. What’s the point of “liking” someone’s post, or comment? It’s so meaningless! If you like something enough, leave a comment to say so! I should try to see if I can disable this on my blog. Bit of a pet hate, as you might have gathered!

        Would be interesting if you could figure out how much of your audience who arrived through Facebook is people who genuinely read, enjoy and comment on your blog, and so how much you’d lose (if anything) by not being on Facebook.

  3. Like Jim, I try to take my camera(s) to work with me every day and if I walk to lunch I take one with me and maybe walk the long way around. Sometimes I see something sometimes I don’t. My fiancee usually finishes work a little later than me so I sometimes get half an hour to go somewhere then. I do find that I sometimes get fatigue from shooting the same places so very regularly but usually that passes when I notice something new or realise I haven’t shot there with this camera. Sometimes when an unexpected extra time is available (because she is working later or something) I annoy myself by not thinking of a suitable destination quick enough and end up wasting the time driving around to nowhere.
    I am trying to get to a point where it is easy to take a decent camera with me when I cycle so I can stop and take shots then, still not quite there ion that yet though.
    I have to admit I spend a lot of time on the first two activities you mention and eBay.

    By the way that third pic of the leaves is wonderful, I love it!

    1. One thing I try to do before I go out for a more planned photowalk is have the place, camera and lens(es) in mind before I go. I have, in the past, wasted so much time trying to make a decision I’ve ended up with little time left when I’ve finally got there and been frustrated at wasting the opportunity.

      It helps to minimise your kit – obviously the fewer cameras and lenses you have, the fewer to choose from.

      Maybe you could just write a short list somewhere and have it with you so when those unexpected opportunities arise you can just pick a place from the list in a few seconds?

      What’s stopping you with the cycling? Have you not found a camera compact enough, or is it something else?

      Thanks re the leaves shot. It was taken with the humble Takumar 55/2 and a Pentax K-x, my first DSLR and one I really didn’t like much (mostly the disappointing viewfinder and issues with focusing). Hence why it took me about four years to try a DSLR again.

      1. Yes, I should keep a list and rough journey time or something like that, thanks for suggesting.
        The bike thing is just about being prepared with a suitable carrier, slinging a camera over my shoulder doesn’t work with slick lycra so I need to make sure I have a suitable pack or something and I haven’t found one that really works for me that I can access quickly and easily. I just haven’t thought about it enough; or maybe I’ve thought about it too much, I am guilty of procrastination sometimes 😉

      2. Yes when I mentioned the list I thought about a small sketched map even, with the distances and direction to each location. Then I didn’t want to get too complicated!

        Do you have a camera in mind that’s compact enough? I fairly recently found a great little camera bag from the Amazon Basics range (which I wasn’t aware existed before this). Really decent quality and well made and very affordable. I’m delighted with it. Don’t know if they would offer something that would suit you? http://amzn.to/2gRS5qN

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