A typical weekday at my house begins as 5:00 a.m. and ends around 10:30 p.m. In the hours between, I have been a high school English teacher, mother, wife, friend, and part-time photographer.
When I first started getting serious about photography, I really only meant for it to be a hobby for myself. Then a friend asked me to take some photos for her, and then another friend, and then another…until eventually, total strangers were seeing my photos and asking me to take photos for them also. What started as a hobby quickly grew into an extra source of income and a way to fund new photography gear, and I found myself spending almost as much time on photography as I was on my career. However, I wasn’t as happy as I was when I was just taking photos for myself in my spare time. So, what was the problem?
*** My life was unbalanced. ***
Since then, I have realized that not every professional photographer is full-time or well-known, and that’s okay. Not only do I love my job as a teacher and not want to give it up, but as a single-income family while my husband does double duty as a stay-at-home dad and college student, a steady and reliable source of income is important to me. That doesn’t disqualify me as a “professional photographer.” Instead, that just means that finding balance is a little different for someone like me, and the rules that apply to full-time photographers don’t always apply to those, like me, who are hobbyists or part-time pros. When I discovered what worked for me, I made photography fun again, and I learned a few things along the way that might help some other part-timers out there as well.
1. Set Limits
- Since my time is limited, the number of sessions I do each month is limited as well, and so is the amount of time I work on photos each day. Having a set number of session openings each month and a certain amount of time each day to work on photos ensures that not every weekend and weeknight is spent in front of the computer or behind my camera. As a result, I can focus more attention on the photos I DO take, spend quality time with my family, and enjoy what I do much more.
- Turning down work is okay. If you set a certain amount of time each week for photography, stick to it. If you know that taking on another session will cause you to go over that limit, say no. Saying no will not keep people from wanting to book you for photos. Producing less than your best work because you have spread yourself too thin, however, will.
2. Make Time for Yourself
- There are certain days or weeks in my calendar that are marked as being off-limits to photo sessions because I know I want to spend time with my family and friends or take photos for myself during those times. While I love taking photos for others, the time with those I love and the photos of my own family are the ones I will always love most. During times when I know I will be busy, I make a point to schedule time for my own photo sessions or my own important days.
- Schedule time for the people and things you love. When you stop doing so, you run the risk of turning photography into something you do for the money instead of something you do for the love you have for your hobby. I can always tell the photographers who are only in business for the money from the photographers who are doing what they truly love in the photos they both produce.
- Photography might be a part-time job for me, but it is still mostly a hobby. The money that I make from photography is supplemental. In fact, it primarily gets invested back into my photography business because—let’s face it—photography is an expensive hobby! My shared passion for my job as a teacher is a higher priority than my photography business. If lesson planning, paper grading, or professional development spills over from the regular work day, then my photography time gets scrapped for teaching time. The same goes for my family. They are my ultimate priority, and if my three-year-old is asking for an extra bedtime story while I’m working on photos, I stop what I’m doing and read to him. Having beautiful photos of my family is great, but I want my children to remember a beautiful life with me as well, not a mom who was constantly working.
- If you are a part-time photographer or a hobbyist, like me, try to remember that photography is meant to take up less time than your full-time gigs, like the career that pays the bills or the family and friends who needs your attention. Although doing things that makes you happy is important, try to always prioritize in a way that keeps you from neglecting critical aspect of your life for a hobby.
4. Time Is Valuable, but Money Isn’t Everything
- When I first started my photography business, I priced myself entirely too low. After the amount of time I spent on photos and incurred expenses, I was making much less than minimum wage. I was sending the message that my time was not valuable, I was getting burned out quickly, and the hobby I loved so passionately was becoming more of a burden than a joy. I did not have time to take on tons of work, but I was offering professional photos at cheap prices, which resulted in a high demand. After raising my prices to be more of a reflection of what my time was worth and allowing room expenses, I have seen a decline in the amount of sessions I book. However, the quality of the sessions I do and the amount of enjoyment I get from my work has increased dramatically.
- On the other hand, don’t allow the pursuit of money keep you from donating or gifting sessions, if that’s something you enjoy. My true passion for photography shines brightest when I am doing free sessions for a worthy cause or for those I love as a special gift. I don’t allow people to take advantage of my kindness by always expecting discounts, donations, or gifts, but doing so on occasion has multiple benefits. Not only do those things make me happy, but they result in positive feedback that draws in paid sessions.
When my days end around 10:30 p.m. after interacting with 100+ high school students, caring for my two little boys, trying to maintain a connection with my husband, developing my skills as a photographer, and keeping my relationships with my friends and family healthy, I’m completely exhausted.
But my time has been balanced, and because of that balance…
Lindsay Williams lives in south central Kentucky with her hunky husband, David, and their two rambunctious sons, Gavin and Finley. When she isn’t teaching high school English or spending time with her quirky friends and family, Lindsay owns and operates Lindsay Williams Photography, which specializes in lifestyle family sessions. You can check out her work on the Lindsay Williams Photography website or her Facebook page.