Tips + Techniques

How to Strike a Healthy Balance Between Life & Work

February 15, 2019

By Michelle Lange

All photos © Michelle Lange

Back when I was a banking technology intern, long, long ago, I had the opportunity to have a 30-minute call with someone who’s now the CEO of a big bank. I remember asking how she balanced work life and family life, her laughing and saying she didn’t. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant then, but after six-and-a-half years in that industry, seven years running a photography business and three-and-a-half years with children, I get it. It isn’t about balance; it’s about prioritizing.

There is no simple answer to how to prioritize your photo business and personal life, but I can share the wisdom I’ve gained and what I have learned to take into consideration over the years.


I’m not just talking about eating your fruits, vegetables and going for 30-minute walks every day; I am talking about stress and anxiety. Those should be taken seriously. I have had countless conversations with other photographers in the industry about the negative effects it has had on them. Every person is different, and the way their bodies handle stress is different. It is important to be honest with yourself about what that is for you so that you never get to the point where it negatively impacts your wellbeing. I know this is a general statement, so I thought I would share a few ways that I prioritize my health:

1. From 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. on days I am not shooting, I make spending time with my family number one. This is when we go for a walk, make and eat dinner together, have a dance party before bedtime and read stories. I try my best to keep my phone away from my hands and detox my mind from technology during that time.

2. I do not photograph back-to-back weddings. Even for local weddings, I am usually up until 1 or 2 a.m. afterwards backing up images. I have a pretty good idea about how my body handles stress, and this is one of the decisions I have made for my health. I know other photographers that often photograph two or three weddings in a row and it works for them. There is no right or wrong way; there is only your way.

3. I’m signed up for a meal delivery subscription. I am horrible at planning and grocery shopping for healthy meals. I always waste so much time, money and food. After we had our second child, my partner and I were ordering out almost every night. Just thinking about going to the grocery store to scour the aisles for ideas on what to make for dinner stressed me out. I remember seeing someone make a post about HelloFresh, and I signed up for the free week. Since that first week, I have tried four different subscriptions to find the best one for my family: Marley Spoon. Every week, we log in, pick the meals we want and receive a box of healthy stuff with the ingredients and instructions to cook. It is seriously such a time-saver and stress-reliever for me, and it’s something fun for the family.

4. I try to exercise, in some form, every day of the week. I try to get to a fitness class (spinning, yoga, weight training) three times a week, and on the other days, I go for a walk with my kids after dinner in the warmer months or in the morning in the colder months. On days where the weather just doesn’t cooperate, you may find me doing an in-home stretch or bodyweight training session.


For me, September and October are always extremely busy in the Northeast. Not only are they the peak months to get married, everyone suddenly decides they want a family portrait session to use for their holiday cards. Be honest with your ability to meet your delivery timelines and manage your stress. Some good options to help plan accordingly:

1. Think about offering a day of mini sessions if you want to make time for every family portrait inquiries. Pick a weekend date, one location and open up for 8 to 10 back-to-back mini sessions that last 15 to 25 minutes each. This will allow you to schedule multiple family portrait sessions on a single date for a reduced rate and a much smaller image gallery than your normal session offerings.

2. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to have higher rates for weekend sessions, or only offer weekday sessions. Here are tips to raising your prices as a portrait photographer, and here’s price-boostine advice specific to wedding photographers. Your time is incredibly valuable and you need to charge accordingly for that time. Define what that amount is for you. If you don’t want to have a peak season weekend fee, see the next tip.

3. Don’t say yes to everything that comes your way because you are in the business of making people happy. This one is a hard one for most people, but your health is the most important and so are your clients. If you can’t deliver what they are expecting because you took on too much, your business will no longer be making people happy. Again, just because other photographers are booking a session every day in September and October doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

4. Schedule one weekend off every month if you were burnt out last season shooting every single weekend in September and October. Plan ahead for this so that you don’t make the mistake of overbooking again. I have these dates already scheduled on my calendar, and I refer inquiries for those dates to other photographers.

5. Make sure you have an editor on hand during the busy months. If you have never used one before, ask around for recommendations. I found my editor through a photographer friend and am using them for the sole purpose of doing my first round of edits. I still go through every image and make tweaks, but it still saves me a lot of time.


Being in business for seven years, I have a pretty good idea of how long it takes me to properly edit a wedding and family session. One of my top priorities for my business is to set more realistic gallery delivery timelines without sacrificing the quality of my work.

Set that extended timeline up front, because sometimes life happens and you need a bit more time to make the gallery perfect. So you usually need 8 weeks to deliver a gallery? Set the contracted timeline as 12 weeks. Deliver it in 8 and bam—you are a hero. Deliver in 12 because something happened in your life that caused that delay, and you are still delivering on time.

I typically deliver wedding galleries within 8 weeks early in the wedding season and 10 weeks as it gets well into peak season. Contractually, my wedding galleries are due 90 days from the wedding date. And my portrait sessions are due 45 days from the portrait date—I added 15 days on top of what I know I can deliver normally (30 days) for my busiest months.

Be realistic based on your past delivery timeframes, and don’t forget to add these extra weeks to your contract and FAQ page.

Michelle Lange is a wedding and newborn photographer and educator based in Albany, NY. She last wrote about branching out from wedding to newborn photography.


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