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My family, my photography and my other career are three very important and consuming areas of responsibility in my life, yet the reality is what comes first is always revolving between these three core areas to ensure my life doesn’t get completely out of whack for too long. It’s really like an endless game of see-saw to keep things in balance. For those that don’t know I regularly work through the challenges of busy family life, photography business and another career. You might be thinking why would you do this to yourself instead of just dedicating everything I have to photography? It’s a fair question.
Words and images by Adrian Klein
I have done a couple stints as a full time photographer over the years. For a variety of reasons I went back to doing the photo business part time while busy most days doing something quite different than photography. For the last decade I have been working in the technology industry in QA and different leadership roles. I have seen some photographers that present themselves as a full time photographer to the public eye yet when you lift up the cover you see they have a job they dislike, and photography is a way to think less about the 9 to 5 world they don't enjoy. I enjoy the industry I work in and the people I have worked with which is why I have continued balancing out the photography business with another successful career. I have also worked at places that support living an active and healthy life which does help me keep in shape and in turn the ability to be outdoors and capture photos that interest me. While my way of life isn't for everyone I am someone that normally wakes up wanting variety filled days. That is what I definitely have!
The question I have been asked over the years is how I balance it all out. Probably no surprise to anyone reading this, I am here to say there is no special sauce or magic button you can press. It takes a lot of time, putting in effort and being motivated, in order to make it work. If I don’t have all three of these going I know I will cave trying to balance multiple demanding areas of life. Make no mistake; I do understand the need for down time to recharge. When I am rundown I rest to bring my batteries back to full to keep on running.
What is nice to see is when I step back and look at the last decade of photography for me. While there are have been some limitations when compared to someone that is working photography as a full time career I can still say it hasn’t slowed down my ability to produce new work, experience cool places and continue the business side from personal sales to collaborative projects.
Since I know there are many other photographers out there in a similar situation I thought I would share what I have done to help make this work for me. If this can help empower even one person to continue the pursuit of photography while balancing the demands of another full-time career then I will consider my efforts writing this more than worthwhile.
Since I have another career that keeps me hopping with busy family life, there is less time to be jet setting across the planet for photo trips. Much of my time wandering outdoors for photography is in the Pacific Northwest, which fortunately isn’t short on locations to visit in any season. A number of years ago I would spend most of my vacation time on photo trips and teaching workshops. I had to find a better balance as my kids were growing and I wanted them to experience the places I was going. With the increased family trips, there is less time for me to travel further away dedicated solely to photography. While I have been fortunate to work at companies that have great work/life balance, any amount of vacation is easily taken up for new adventures. I also have been able to leverage some day-job work trips to turn them into work trips that included photography. While there are many amazing places on my bucket list to see around the world, I am content for now having a local focus for most of my dedicated photo excursions. My wife and I are already less than a handful of years away from one of our daughters graduating high school. It goes by fast. That said with the family trips we normally get out further away which does benefit my photography portfolio.
When I am heading out for a day trip, or partial day, it’s too easy to be consumed with everything that needs to be done around the house. I have experienced plenty of times before I learned my lesson where I would tell myself “just these couple things” and then I will head out. By then it’s too late and I feel consumed in the vortex that is hard to get out of. Yard work, home projects, run errands, etc. they are always calling. We may not have the most perfect looking yard in the neighborhood but I am okay with not winning the green thumb award when it allows spending more time out adventuring outside the city. Not to mention the longer we leave the flowering clover, scattered leaves, etc it’s actually better for the environment and insects. When I am busy all week at another job and haven’t had a chance to do much around the house it’s easy to feel pulled in the direction to stay home, even if no one is saying I have to do anything. Now days when I am heading out for a day trip, I start the process to head out as soon as I get up, if I haven’t already packed up the night before. Out the door with coffee in hand, and sometimes while the world around me is still asleep.
I am thankful for a supportive wife. She is the primary reason why I can have a very active corporate job, work in photography and still get family time. I have told her and I will say it here as well, people that have successful careers and that are married, often have their spouse to thank as a contributing factor. None of us are doing it alone when there is family in the picture, unless you are the one that doesn’t care to be involved with their family, which I am hoping isn’t anyone reading this.
I have had the question asked over the years on how I am able to balance it all and I said if you are married you need a supportive spouse/partner. Then the follow-up question was what to do if you don’t have one. Unfortunately, I can’t help on that one! In all seriousness the hope is you are with someone that has similar interests.
Not that there's anything wrong with Disneyland but we are not that family, at least not at this point. It was only this year for the first time we can remember that our girls asked when we were going to Disneyland. We said which do you prefer, going to Disneyland or a road trip in a campervan. The answer was the latter which only reaffirmed the trips we are doing together that allow me a chance to be in the outdoors to capture photos is what my family enjoys doing as well.
Not to mention the opportunities that will come up with your kids being in the field with you. While my kids do not have quite the same zeal for photography as I do, they express an interest from time to time, and I use this as a chance for them to do everything from carrying gear to take the photos by means adjusting the settings and clicking the shutter. I am willing to involve them as much as they want to be.
Group or team projects and initiatives are fuel to keep inspiration alive, especially when I don’t usually have the time to forge ahead on my own as often as I would like with various ideas. I have had multiple times over the last decade where I thought life is too busy and maybe I should just stop photography for a bit. The reality is that is the wrong answer. Photography is precisely what I need to help balance out the other pieces of my life. It doesn’t mean I need to eat, sleep and breathe photography 24/7/365 yet I am reminded when I get lost in what I am doing with a camera in hand that not only am I doing what I love but it’s what I need for my mental health.
I am fortunate to be a part of the Photo Cascadia team which has provided much inspiration for me and support simply as good friends. You can read the full story on how Photo Cascadia was born on our blog. We have been going strong for a decade with no end in sight. We normally have one or more projects going on at any given time. From licensing deals with major companies to gallery shows and more, there is plenty we have been able to accomplish because we are stronger as a team.
If you are a part time photographer with many competing priorities outside of photography that doesn’t have balance today, think about what you can do starting tomorrow that would change this for the better. Not only will those around you be thankful, you will likely be thankful yourself.
Speaking of team or group projects Photo Cascadia has recently completed an ebook on where to photograph in the Western United States based on season called Photographing Through The Seasons. You can see more about the book and the opportunity to purchase it by checking out the ebook page on our website.