Striking the Perfect Work-Life Balance in Photography

By Kyle Wilson

Working in photography is a constant hustle, and “work-life balance” can seem out of reach. It’s a juggling act to manage your career and personal life, but it’s crucial for creativity and long-term success. 

You need sustainable systems that allow you to grow into your future without burning out. Here are some actionable tips to help you maintain that elusive work-life balance, whether you are a seasoned professional photographer or just starting out.

Automate to Give Yourself Room to Breathe

“Creativity is like breathing. When you make stuff, you’re exhaling. But you can’t exhale forever. Eventually, you have to breathe in. Or you’ll be dead.” - The Oatmeal

First, you need to find time in your hectic life to inhale. If you’re constantly exhaling, your creativity suffers. One of the best things you can do right now is automate repetitive tasks to free up your mental space and time. What are you doing over and over?

The idea here is to get all that energy-sucking stuff out of your head and into a simple process.

Streamline Admin with a CRM 

Get yourself a CRM (customer relationship management) tool designed for photography. Platforms like Studio Ninja streamline your communication, booking, and invoicing processes. For instance, set up an automated email response to inquiries so your potential clients know their email was received while giving yourself a time cushion to respond. Stop worrying about sending reminder emails and chasing up invoices. 

When you’re covered by a CRM, you can stop trying to remember the administrative details and focus on doing exceptional work. 

Safeguard Your Work with a Backup System

An easy and foolproof backup process will save you time and stress. Set up diversified storage locations across platforms like your computer, the cloud, and an external hard drive. Test your system until you trust it. Never worry about losing your client’s precious memories or all the work you did to edit their images to perfection.

Knowing what exact steps you will take when you leave a shoot and being confident that it works can save you the time and energy spent thinking about it every time.

Use AI-Powered Photo Culling 

You shot thousands of images; now it’s time to find the best ones. Using an AI-powered tool like Narrative Select speeds up the selection process. No more time wasted agonising over which images are the best. Let AI significantly cut your culling time so you can focus on editing and delivering your final product.

Putting these automation tips into practice empowers you to reduce time spent on repetitive tasks so you can focus on more important things.  

Prioritise: Trim the Fat

Instead of prioritising what’s most essential, try eliminating what isn’t, so ‘future you’ doesn’t have to deal with it anymore.

Delegate Dreaded Tasks

In an interview with photographer Miles Witt Boyer, he told us that a business coach advised him to write down every task he hates doing, identify which are critical, and which he does out of obligation. The tasks in the last category are the ones to delegate ASAP because they are wasting your time and not advancing your skills or career. This is one method to free up more time for working on what actually matters. 

You’re not just cutting fat; you’re sculpting your day.

Remove Annoyances

Another approach is to get rid of things that annoy you on a day-to-day basis. For instance, when you travel, does your rolling suitcase drive you insane? Fix it, or get a new one. Does sub-par accommodation bring you down? Spend extra on a nice place and save the money on what doesn’t matter to you, like a rental car or food. Making decisions about these things stops you from wasting time thinking about them and frees up creative space in your head.

Invest in what enhances your well-being and creative space and eliminate the nuisances.

Choose the Right Tools

You have so much to do, and a million task manager apps are out there to help you keep track. You don’t need three different calendar notifications for the same task, plus email reminders on top of that. Find one task manager to rule them all, even if it’s a simple notebook. Know yourself and what systems will work for you. Get rid of all the rest. 

Future you will thank yourself.

Time Block to Own Your Time

An essential rule of work-life balance: Not every day on your calendar has to be an opportunity to say yes. Take on the power of saying no with time blocking.

It is easy to fall into the trap of always being on, always being available, and working all day every day, especially when you’re new to photography and want to take every cool job that comes your way. This is probably the fastest track to burning out. 

Whether it’s ‘no tech time’ or ‘me time’ or time for creative projects, time blocking will help make sure it doesn’t get squandered from you by things that seem urgent but really aren’t.

Use Focus Modes and Smart Inboxes

Focus modes on your devices are every freelancer’s best friend. Your clients don’t need 24-hour access to you. Silence your notifications and get to them in your own time. Set up smart inboxes to prioritise emails from  your paying clients - everyone else can wait.

Try Co-Working for Productivity

Co-working is a trick to get you to focus on work during work time while having a break from solitude. Meet up with friends at a cafe or host them at your house - if they’re working hard, you likely will too. It’s an extra level of accountability while spending time with other people.

Ritualise ‘You Time’ 

Whether it's a morning gym session or daily breakfast with your family, make routines for ‘you time’ so it remains a priority and doesn’t get overrun by work.  

And when you have personal time, truly invest in that time. Don’t be half in and half out. Shut off work mode and be present.

Future-Proof Your Work-Life Balance

Do things the right way instead of the quick way to set yourself up for work-life balance in future. 

Keep these three things in mind:

  1. You gotta inhale or your work will suffer.
  2. Act now to help your future self. 
  3. Embrace the power of “no.”

Mastering work-life balance in photography is a continual effort, but these tips can help you navigate it more successfully.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” - Ferris Bueller.