Creating More Time for More Creative Photography

Photography: I, Timmy

Whether you’re an amateur, a hobbyist or a professional, we’re certain there’s one thing you just never have enough of…


For professionals and semi-pros, time is money. If you can work faster, you can charge a more competitive price, squeeze more jobs into the month and earn a higher income.

For hobbyists, more time means more fun. It means getting more pleasure from your camera, learning at a quicker rate and producing more images that make you proud.

Usually on this blog, we focus on how you can earn from your photography. But since money and time are so connected, here are five tips that might help you get more out of the time you have available:

1. Spend Less Time on Lists
Look through just about any time management book and the first thing you’ll be told is to take a pen and paper, and write a list.

And the first thing you’ll think is, “Who’s got time for that?”

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, about 30 percent of listers spend more time working on their lists than working through them.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever make a note of what you need to do, but it’s probably not a good idea to assume that just because you’ve written a task down it’s going to get done.

Using your time more efficiently might be more effective.

2. A Time for Everything and Everything at the Right Time
One of the better theories for efficient time management is the idea of “fit.”

Few people ever start a day with eight free hours ahead of them to arrange however they like. You might have a shoot at eleven, a meeting with a client at two and the kids to pick up at four. In between, you could have some post-production to do, some new images to upload to your portfolio and some adjustments to make to your marketing.

And you have to eat as well.

The idea behind “fit” is simply that if you have an hour between two tasks at set times, fill it with a job that takes an hour, not one that takes twenty minutes. Because you won’t waste time stopping one project, taking a quick break, and starting another, you’ll be able to make better use of the time pockets you have available.

It’s a little like the pickle-jar theory in which you first fill the jar with large rocks that represent important, fixed tasks, then add pebbles and sand (the less important tasks) in the spaces between them.

The difference is that you’re planning where to put the pebbles too.

3. Understand the 80-20 Rule
You’ve probably heard of the 80-20 Rule as it applies to businesses. It states that 20 percent of your customers will supply 80 percent of your income.

According to one theory, the rule can also be applied to tasks and time: 20 percent of your tasks will take up 80 percent of your time. If that’s true and you can identify the tasks that are taking up most of your time — and see if there’s any way of doing them more efficiently — you might create more time to do more of it.

In practice, that’s less likely to be the time you spend on the shoot, and more likely to be the time you spend after the shoot.

4. Plan Your Digital Workflow
And that takes us to practicalities.

The simple time management theories we’ve mentioned so far could be used by anyone to create a more efficient day. For photographers though, perhaps the single most important way to be more efficient is to improve your workflow. As Seth Resnick, an award-winning photographer and creator of a workshop on digital workflow told us:

Most photographers are surprised by the amount of work they have taken on without knowing it… You may need to process and refine hundreds of images in a day. Then you have to upload the images via FTP to a web site, create a PDF or burn a CD to deliver to the client…

An efficient reproducible workflow allows every photographer to dramatically improve their image and delivery quality, while reducing the amount of time spent processing digital files.

If you don’t have an effective process to edit, archive, keyword, store and retrieve your images, you have room for improvement — and space to put more time into your day.

5. Turn Your Mind to Water
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, talks about the importance of having a “mind like water.” That might not sound like the best way to get things done but the idea is that by losing stress — by going with the flow — you become more efficient.

His best-selling book has all sorts of schemes that might help us to do that, but it’s the goal that’s perhaps the most interesting. Follow his strategies and we won’t just free up time, he says, we can also “unleash our creative potential.”

Seth Resnick might agree with that too. When we asked him if his teaching left him less time for photography, he replied:

Ironically, I shoot more now than I ever shot before. I carry a camera at all times and I probably produced far better images since I started to cut back on assignment work and started to shoot for myself.

And that might be the best way of all to get the most out of your time: do more of the things you like the best.

Check out Seth Resnick’s workshop at D65, and tell us what takes up most of your time.

[tags] david allen, gtd, getting things done, gtd for photographers, seth resnick [/tags]

3 comments for this post.

  1. Hans Said:

    6. Spent less time reading blogs.... 😉

  2. Galina Said:

    🙂 following Hans - 7. and less time on forums & flickr groups :))

  3. mike Said:

    8. go outside and actually photograph something

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