By the title alone, you may be thinking that this article has something to do with composition and perspective in photography. While that may be a useful topic at some point, that’s not what this is about… not directly anyway.
I’m speaking more about the big picture stuff here. Life in general.
My life has been in a state of drastic change over the last five months, and a lot of ups and downs have come with that change. The whole situation allowed me to really evaluate what was and was not important in my life. So here are a few thoughts on photography from the viewpoint of a hobbyist.
MY UNINTENTIONAL DISAPPEARANCE
Five months ago, I had no intension of putting the camera down or stepping away from my blogs. But life happens and I wasn’t left with much of a choice. Back in August 2010, I announced that I had packed up from San Diego and moved back to North Idaho where I grew up. That one event sparked a drastic change in my life.
Not only did we move (which is a painful and expensive process in itself), but I also decided that it would be a good time to become self employed as an engineer. It made a lot of sense because we live so far out in the boonies, the commute to the nearest city would eat up several hours of my day. I got all set up to pull work from my previous employer to get me off and running.
But then I started looking for work with other clients — more previous employers, previous associates and bosses, local companies. This takes a lot of time, and I don’t get paid to do it. But I did land a few other jobs via my contacts and I ended up being very busy. Not just a little busy — I’m talking 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week. Of course, that type of thing doesn’t go on forever, but there was a solid month where I couldn’t leave the house, watch TV, see friends, etc. Honestly though, I’m not complaining… the paychecks make it worth the effort.
It hasn’t been all profit though — it takes money to make money. The move alone set me back $15,000 out of pocket between all the house stuff and the move. Then I had to drop another $8,000 on a piece of software for my engineering business. So yeah, a couple hundred bucks for Photoshop looks a lot different to me now. At any rate, I’m finally starting to get caught up with the money situation.
In short, I’ve been busy either working or trying to scrape up future work for myself. I wouldn’t have it any other way though — I absolutely love working from home, setting my own rates, deciding what to work on, and wearing pajamas and slippers all day. So far, it seems to be working out and I plan to continue being self employed as long as I can.
THINGS THAT FELL OFF MY PLATE
With the self employed gig keeping me busy, I really had to evaluate what other activities were important enough for me to spend time on.
My family has to come above all else, so any small amount of time I have off has to be directed toward them. And now that I live across the street from my parents, next door to my grandmother, and within 30 miles of my brother and the in-laws, I have more family to spend time with on a regular basis. It’s great though, I do enjoy being back home (as does my wife).
The next two biggest things in my life are photography and blogging. With everything else going on, I just haven’t been able to justify spending much time on them. Sure, I posted a couple things here and there, shot a few rolls of film from time to time, but nothing at the level I was at before the move. Hell, I even managed to acquire a bunch of “new” film cameras and darkroom equipment in the last few months… but I’ll get into that on the film photography blog later this week.
Part of me feels terrible for letting things go for so long, but I always remember to take a step back and look at the big picture.
BIG PICTURE FOR A HOBBYIST
I’m not a professional photographer or blogger. Not even close. I make about 30-40x more per month with engineering than I do with photography and blogging combined. So when push comes to shove, it doesn’t make sense to spend a bunch of time on my hobbies. The first priority has to be putting food on the table and paying the bills.
I enjoy doing both of these things, and I don’t see myself giving up either of them completely. I just need to come to terms with the fact that they are, and will be in the near future, only a hobby. Just for fun.
The other interesting thing about photography and blogging, for me, is that they continue to make a small amount of money even when I stop doing them for several months. The blogs have been earning consistent numbers for the last five or six months — I even picked up a couple of direct advertisers and saw some spikes in affiliate payouts. Photography has been fairly even too — a couple of small sales plus a signed print.
So I don’t get terribly stressed out when I have to step back from my hobbies for a while… they seem to just keep going on their own at some moderate level. Of course, by taking time off, I’m not growing these hobbies. My goal is to eventually make a decent income from blogging and/or photography so I can decide if it’s a viable career path, but engineering is my primary career and money maker right now.
LESSONS FOR MY FELLOW HOBBYISTS
Most of you can probably relate to having photography as a hobby/passion. And most of you can relate to having ups and downs in your life.
So when you find yourself short on time, don’t sweat the small stuff. Photography shouldn’t come before the really important things, like your family or your job. Even if you have a lot of followers on a blog or on Flickr, most of them will still be around when you get back to it.
And taking a bit of a break from time to time might not be a bad thing. I’m getting to the point where I really want to get back into things — shoot some photos, get the darkroom up and running, post some stuff on the blogs. If you feel obligated to pursue your hobbies in rough times, they’re not fun any more.
Of course, it’s a different story for those making a significant income from photography and/or blogging. They don’t have the same luxury of choice — it is an obligation. As a hobbyist, be happy that you can choose where to spend your free time.
This is getting drawn out, so I’ll end it there. My big message here, is that I’m still alive and I plan on continuing with the photography and the blogging. I’ll be too busy for these hobbies from time to time, but I’m still around.