Business + Marketing

Photographers Discover A Better Work-Life Balance

June 18, 2020

By Jacqueline Tobin

One thing that self-isolation and quarantining at home seems to have accomplished during the COVID-19 pandemic—besides helping to flatten the curve, of course—was that everyone had more time on their hands to discover a better work-life balance, tackle projects they never had time for, revisit old goals, new photo skills and focus on the self and family.

For photographers, this extra time allowed for more discovery of what made them tick, what they wanted to strengthen personally and professionally, and a rediscovery of various photographic software, tools and techniques that could push their skills even further.

In our survey to the Rangefinder + WPPI audience on how they have been meeting the challenges of the pandemic, 160 people responded to the question: “With more time on your hands, what have you (re)discovered in your practice—from a piece of gear to an artistic technique, marketing strategy, community platforms, etc.—that has been meaningful to you?” Here’s what we discovered when it came to discovering and achieving a better work-life balance.

[To read the responses to our other survey questions, including how photographers are pivoting in the face of the pandemic, visit the Rangefinder + WPPI community survey homepage.]

Meaningful Discoveries—Old and New

Roughly 44 percent of survey respondents said they enjoyed having time to discover old interests or invest in new ones. Twenty people went back to shooting with film again, 15 enrolled in online courses and listened to more educational podcasts, and 15 more started dabbling in video and exploring imagery using their iPhones.

“Honestly, the beauty of iPhone photography, even when it’s through someone else’s phone, is pretty incredible,” said one participant. “To see what you can make through looking at the light and directing people—I think if anything, this time has forced all of us to think outside the box, and also be grateful for what you have. That’s exactly why I turned my
room into a little studio. I have rediscovered how beautiful my space is and how I really have everything I need here to make photographs. I would’ve never probably done something like this if I wasn’t forced to stay inside. It helps you really take a hard look at what’s in front of you and brings out parts of yourself you never even knew you had in you.”

Discovering what “those parts” were, for those answering the survey, included falling in love with photography again as art, bolstering marketing strategies via learned business techniques, and discovering true values by focusing on what’s important.

“I try to stay away from saying ‘more time on my hands,” wrote one respondent. “I have a daughter that I now have to help with school work six to eight hours a day, and on top of that try to stimulate my own creativity, and run a business. So, I feel that in that way, the times I specify for work or creative endeavors is much more focused. As far as marketing, I am posting consistently on social media (which I wasn’t doing before) and I’ve been redoing my website (I love what it’s coming to be), and I’m strategizing on what type of sessions I can offer when I’m not able to offer complimentary hair and makeup to my portrait clients during Phase 1 of my state’s reopening.”

(Re)Discovering Tools & Techniques

More time on photographer’s hands also resulted in rediscovering old photo tools they had either put on the back burner or techniques they never had time to fully learn in the past. Fifteen respondents picked up previously purchased lenses—including a Sigma Macro 28mm and 105mm lenses, tilt-shifts, zooms and a LensBaby—and took the time to really experiment with them. Twenty were grateful to now have plenty of time to practice lighting and techniques—including different speed lights, modifiers, macro and ring light—and better understand the inner workings of their equipment without the added pressure of finishing a job quickly.

“I have been working really, really hard on some educational content related to wedding photography and using lighting and off-camera flash,” offered one participant. “It’s my first time putting something like this together, and it has been fulfilling, fun and educational for me to create.”

Most surveyed also said they used the time to take a deeper dive into their business models and the types of packages they were offering clients.

“I’ve been re-working our website and changing price points on our collections that we offer for our wedding and portrait clients,” said one participant.

While one respondent admitted to forcing themselves to use lenses they rarely use but keep around anyway, they said they also rented some tilt-shift lenses and LensBaby lenses to try. Another wrote, “I’ve actually learned to scale back on my gear and focus on using my two favorite lenses. Less is more.”

A Better Work-Life Balance

At the end of the day, what 12.5 percent of respondents hope to achieve or attain is a more balanced mix between work and family, which for those surveyed included creating more connection with clients on a personal level. Talking with them about family and mental health and exploring one’s own balanced state was also of great importance among respondents.

“I discovered that when I approach something from my true values and who I am, that people rally around me,” one shared. “It’s a super power that I forget about when I get busy and transactional, but during this time, I’ve rediscovered that when I am authentic and personable and take the time to just sit and chat, my sales are higher and my reviews are better.”

Click here to read more about how photographers are meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About this survey: In April and May we emailed members of the Rangefinder + WPPI community to ask how they are responding to the pandemic. We also shared the survey in our weekly email newsletter, via our social media channels, and on the Rangefinder and WPPI websites. The goal was to create space to share ideas, insights and resources. One-hundred-ninety people answered at least one of the five questions we asked. Special thanks go to all of the members of the community who participated.