Feature photo by Karlee Hooper
Recently, as part of the #MyFujifilmLegacy project, I’ve been mentoring a fellow photographer looking to make more time in her busy life for photography. My mentee is Ryan Ward, a mother of four boys and the wife of a U.S. Marine who moved from Kansas to Japan in the middle of our mentoring period. To say she is short on time is an understatement. I wanted to share my advice on how I manage my limited spare time to make time for my photography but at the same time, I kept feeling like I might not be the best photographer to help her.
The truth is that I don’t always manage my time well. If I choose to edit photographs, I skip unloading the dishwasher. When I take the girls on an evening adventure to the beach to play and take photos, then the laundry doesn’t get folded. Who am I to give advice on fitting it all in, when I don’t?!
Pick up your camera.
I’ve spent hours over the past few years talking to Ryan and others about photography. I have been asked how I learned, how I make time for photography, what it means to me and what advice I can offer others on how to be successful. I’ve always said, “Just pick up your camera.” Do it, over and over and over! Take classes, connect with other photographers, share your work (even if it is just with one person) but most importantly, pick up your camera.
I was recently listening to a podcast by author Elizabeth Gilbert about following your curiosity; her words made me stop and consider the things that make me WANT to pick up my camera in the first place, more so than actually doing it. That’s an important distinction.
The reality is that not everyone can make time to learn, shoot, edit and share photos every day, especially not for the long term. In four years of daily shooting I have not found the magic formula to perfectly juggle it all. However, I always have time to recognize the pieces of my everyday life that inspire and capture my curiosity, and so can you.
How to make time for your photography when life is busy and crowded with other responsibilities
1. Begin by seeing the beauty in your everyday life.
Start by looking for things that catch your eye, the details you want to touch, smell, or remember! As Ryan reminded me in one of our discussions, the best camera you have is the one you have with you. For me, that’s a compact and light Fujifilm mirrorless camera with a small zoom lens that I always carry with me. It’s a tiny, versatile powerhouse that performs great in all situations and makes it easy to shoot anywhere, anytime. I tell Ryan (and myself!) not to stress about the outcome! Simply follow the bits of light, color, texture and emotion that spark your interest. Value those tiny little moments enough to notice and hopefully capture them.
I do this in my own life by taking at least one photo every day. I don’t edit, print or share most of those photos, instead I focus on being aware of the moments that speak to me. Taking just a few minutes to acknowledge and capture them has, one day at a time, made me a better artist.
Claiming 5 minutes every day to practice my passion has allowed me to appreciate how I see the world. Giving myself permission to be more than just a mother and wife has taught me to value my individual voice and outlook on life. I promise, no matter how busy your day is there is always enough time to notice the swirl of your baby’s hair or the way the light dances on the wall in the late afternoon.
Your life is never too busy to take a minute (or five) to be aware of the details that make up your reality. Even if all you can do for a period of time is be aware, you are honing your eye for when you are able to pick up your camera. The more you make time to focus on the things in your life you want to capture the more you will be motivated to use your camera. Once you begin to use your camera more, that effort will snowball into a greater passion to learn and grow.
“Giving myself permission to be more than just a mother and wife has taught me to value my individual voice and outlook on life.”
VIDEO: Here’s how I see art in the moments of my everyday life, even when I’m busy, even when I’m with all my kids and the lighting isn’t perfect or the location isn’t ideal (6 min.):
2. Be mindful and brave in photographing your life.
We can start the process of growth as an artist by accepting that our lives are busy and by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.”
It might seem a bit far-fetched, but this technique works for photography as well. Making time in your day is never going to be convenient. Don’t wait to feel like you have enough time.
I was inspired by how Ryan managed her move to Japan with four children without forsaking her art.
Together, we discussed the importance of being brave with your camera and taking photos out in public. For Ryan, this meant grabbing hold of the few minutes she had amidst a busy move to take photos of her boys amongst the moving boxes.
For me, I was brave by taking a few minutes after I filled the car up with gas to get in the frame with my girls (my husband makes a great tripod). You’d never know this photo was taken next to a busy corner gas station!
Don’t try to fight your busy schedule; simply allow yourself to be aware of your surroundings in the present moment and take a few minutes to capture what you notice.
VIDEO: How to be brave and take your camera out — even in parking lots and public spaces. (7 min.):
3. Find time for photography every day.
I never set out to be a teacher, to get published or to get paid to take photos of my kids. During a phase in my life that seemed pretty bleak, I wanted to see and create beauty. Focusing on the light (literally and figuratively) that was hidden in the loneliness of postpartum depression was healing. I didn’t realize it at the time but by choosing to make time, sometimes a lot of time and sometimes only a few seconds each day, I was finding potential.
For example, I would reach out to fellow photographers to ask for help or say yes to opportunities that scared me. On the hard days, it was as little as pointing out some beautiful light to my daughter that kept me growing as a photographer.
My brain no longer functions like it did before I became a mother. I get distracted easily, my focus shifts from one child to the next without notice and I find it harder to focus on the task at hand. Even when I have time I am not as productive as I once was. Instead of wasting time berating myself about this, I just make time for art when it shows up in my world.
The other day, I was putting away the dishes and noticed how the pink kids’ plates and the pink flowers my husband had surprised me with matched the pink diaper my baby girl was wearing as she sat at my feet in the kitchen. I ran and grabbed my camera (which is always close at hand), moved the flowers to a better location, got down low so you couldn’t see the clutter on the counter and took a few shots.
To me the most important thing wasn’t the resulting photo, it was that the repeating pinks sparked my interest. If you can’t take a photo of at any given time, writing down the things you want to take photos of can be very beneficial. The list I build always inspires me at a later date when I do have time to shoot.
Can you spare 5 minutes a day? Commit to one full week — seven days — of taking your camera with you everywhere you go. When you see something that catches your eye (interesting light, parking lot retaining walls or bright colors) take out your camera and take a shot!
Post your daily photos to IG using #MyFujifilmLegacy to inspire yourself (and others!) to keep going.
VIDEO: Here’s how (and why) I make time for photography every single day, even when I might only have two minutes (6 min.):
8 Ways to make time for photography everyday:
If you want to continue growing as a photographer but like me, can’t seem to juggle all the moving parts in your busy life, here are some actionable exercises that should help you to make time:
1. Keep your camera nearby and bring it with you everywhere. For me this has meant using a mirrorless Fujifilm camera and an affordable, light lens so that both fit easily in my purse. This has been a game-changer for me.
2. Take time to notice at least one beautiful thing each day. Write it down or, better yet, take a photo with whatever camera you have handy.
3. Speed up your workflow. Try not to overshoot to limit the amount of culling you have to do. Create presets/actions for edits you do to almost every photo to speed up your post processing and to help keep your final results consistent.
4. Be brave enough to shoot in public. This is a great way to multi-task as you can get your errands done while also incorporating your art.
5. Put together a set of 5 to 10 of your own images that make you feel proud. Use them to inspire you to keep shooting.
6. Give yourself a deadline for specific photography goals. This provides a little extra motivation to make time to shoot and edit regularly.
7. Change your perspective. If you don’t have time to tidy up, try shooting from above to minimize visible clutter.
8. Pick up a camera as often as possible. This may seem counter-intuitive but taking just a few minutes a day to actually shoot will make you faster and save you time in the long run.
I often say that I am on borrowed time when I get a few minutes to myself during the day. However, a small amount of borrowed time each day is all we really need to keep growing as photographers. Even if we don’t always manage our time flawlessly, devoting just a small amount of time to our art each day allows us to become better artists. I can’t wait to see all the beautiful images my mentee Ryan will create in those few borrowed minutes for capturing her boys.
Photos by Karlee Hooper were taken with Fujifilm mirrorless cameras and Fujifilm lenses.
This post is part of the The Fujifilm Legacy partnership.