Time For Photography - Part 1: Finding Time

Time For Photography – Part 1: Finding Time

Copyright Blue2likeyou

It’s time for photography! But for a many of us (myself included at times) the biggest challenge when it comes to the art of photography is not remembering if higher ISO means more or less noise, or if an aperture of f/5.6 will make a background blurry. The biggest challenge is often having enough time to take photos. Or edit and share them.

In this two post series I am going to cover both finding time for photography and making time for photography. There is a clear distinction between the two and a mixture of adjusting for both is needed by many of using pining for more shutter time. If this post on finding time does not ring true for you, I hope my next on making time to shoot will. Because, ultimately, this site is of no use to you if you don’t get out and put it into practice!

Stop Making Excuse

I know, starting out as the mean parent, aren’t I’? But really, stop making excuses for why you don’t have time to shoot. We all have things we need to do to ensure there is food on the table and a dry place to sleep. Some of us have far less leisure time than we’d like.

But you’re reading this blog post, for heaven’s sake. You could be shooting RIGHT NOW! Most of those excuses we make aren’t sincere examinations of where we spend our time or what is important to us. They are easy outs.

  • “The light sucks today”
  • “I can’t think of anything to shoot”
  • “I don’t have the lens I want”
  • “Editing will take longer than I have before preparing dinner”

I’m sure you can come up with more. We all can and it’s not that big of a deal. The difference between prolific photographers and complainers is will power and intent. If what you want to do is shoot more, and that’s a high priority for you, go do it and let something else go. Or simply be willing to admit other items are a higher priority (in my own life spending time with my daughter often preempts bringing my camera to shoot).

When you start prioritizing and accepting there are only so many hours in a day to get things done, you stop complaining because you are doing what needs to be done. You also stop making excuses for not shooting because those excuses are actually very important things in your life. If they aren’t, then it might be time to reexamine priorities.

Lower Your Expectations

That’s right, you’re expectations are one of the key factors to the reason you make excuses. I don’t mean lower your expectations in a negative way, especially not when it comes to the quality of your photos. But if your life is super busy right now, accept that. Then lower your expectation to have time to shoot.

Maybe you crave four hours a week to just hold a camera, wander and shoot. But life is getting in the way. Complaining won’t cure anything, but adjusting your expectation (while not necessarily lowering your overall desire to shoot for four hours) to come in line with what your schedule will actually afford will help. Maybe this week you can only squeeze in a 45 minute window after work one day. Or an hour before bedtime. Be thankful for what you have while continuing to wedge more shooting time into your schedule.

Carry Your Camera With You

The best chance you have for getting in more shooting time is to have your camera available. Those with large DSLRs might find this more troublesome but see Point #1: Stop making excuses. Having your camera at the ready during the day, even when taking the same slog to work, will open up small windows.

I’ve found when I carry a camera with me I don’t often get the stellar images I’m looking for that take time to research and setup. But I do shoot more and I do become more observant which serves me well in general. At the end of a day I might have 15 shots I never would have planned to take and maybe one of those is something worth sharing. That’s 15 shots, taking maybe 15 minutes, more towards the goal of “more time for photography”.

Take 10

Take 10 minutes, after reading this post, and go shoot some photos. We all have 10 minutes in our day when we can stop what we’re doing. Even if it means arranging paperclips and post-it notes in your company’s supply closet into unique shapes and then using a pen light for ambiance, you can find and shoot something in 10 minutes. Will it win you a Pulitzer? Probably not. But it starts a pattern and a desire which helps lead to making photography a more important item on your list the next time you prioritize your day.

Shoot Less, But Higher Quality

Many complain about having the time and inspiration to shoot, but not the time to edit. Often we are our own worst enemy in this regard. Shooting anything and everything can cause an unwanted bottleneck at the computer when it’s time to doing something with those photos.

To help save on computer time, be very selective when shooting. As I mentioned in a previous post on the problems with nearly unlimited photos, time is a big sink when you shoot too many photos.

Be more selective. Shoot only one shot of a scene. Limit yourself. Coming home with four good shots is a lot more fun on the computer than coming home with 40 or 400. All of us could stand to shoot a few less photos. Give it a try.

Shoot In JPEG

I know I might stand a chance of being roasted alive for suggesting this; shoot in JPEG mode. If you are super crunched for time, taking out the need to convert and export your photos will save you time. It will also save time in importing photos (JPEG photos will take about 1/3 the time to import as RAW files). You will lose the benefits of shooting in RAW, specifically having more latitude when editing. So it’s a balance each needs to decide for themselves.

Examine Time Use

Lastly, examine where you spend your time each day. There are a number of websites on time management as well as books aplenty. Take some time (I know, I know….) to first find out where you are spending your time and then, in the second part of this series, we’ll take a look at making time for photography. If nothing else, carry a notebook and record what you do for each 30 minute block of the day. I’m sure you’ll start finding some gaps here and there which will lead to more photo time.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Making Time.

Do you have any suggestions for helping others find time to shoot? Please share them in the comments section below.

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • PaladinPhil August 9, 2011 01:23 am

    One of the last things I grab on the way out the door to work is my DSLR. Somedays I don't take anything on the way to and from work, others I may grab a lot. I never leave home without a camera these days. I have too often in the past kicked myself for not having a camera with me and missing a great shot of something. Excuses are a dime a dozen.

  • Linie-u August 6, 2011 05:52 am

    Really good tips! going for part 2.

  • John Deir July 29, 2011 12:08 am

    In the past I never had time. Being in construction wears you down. Once digital cameras first came out I got one and brought it along...all the time. Used it to document the work I was doing.
    Now, I still carry at least my P&S camera with me. Now with camera phones, no excuses. Its not always the equipment being used, but the moment things happen/come together.
    I've been off work (laid off), 62 now and do not think I'll be going back; life's to short, to much to see, always wanted to pursue a passion, much to learn, appreciate all this info, and I'm learning much and having fun. Why not? In time I'll share mine, but enjoy seeing everyone's window of the world.

  • Leanna July 28, 2011 09:32 am

    How funny. I just posted on FB yesterday that I miss shooting and don't have time. b/c of all my fb wall posts I didn't see this first article but I did see the second which lead me to this. This articles came out in perfect timing for me b/c I have been feeling the need to shot but what I thought didn't have the time to do it. I agree I am making to many excuses and need to just pick up my camera and shot something. Thank you for the article.

  • Colin Mountford July 26, 2011 09:35 am

    Thankfully, you had enough time to write this article.

  • Darlene July 25, 2011 03:18 am

    Good tips. I think he was suggesting to shoot in jpeg if you are using raw as a time excuse for not taking photos. :) ,i especially appreciate the point to have your camera with you. When I used a d40, I carried it around everywhere! But now that I have a big heavy camera, I have noticed that I only carry it to official things or scheduled practices. I need to carry it all the time again, and just enjoy the day-to-day photos again! That's how I really learned.

  • DrMarm July 23, 2011 03:48 am

    Great tips! Looking forward to part 2!

  • Fotograf Pozna? July 22, 2011 11:50 pm

    I bought myself specially to have a Coolpix camera always with me and checked, it turned out that I had a lot of cool pictures. But the SLR is not always handy.

  • carol July 22, 2011 10:48 am

    I'm taking my iPad and connector in the field with me. Anytime I take a photo (while walking, for instance), I can upload it to my iPad and do my editing on the spot before emailing it or posting to my flickr or Facebook account. Sort of a plein air digital artist, but it sure saves time in even having to THINK about editing later. Or downloading later. Or later anything,

  • bill griffith July 22, 2011 10:03 am

    Another great arrticle. Maybe this little piece of time advice may help your time poor readers. As a music teacher who's students often tell me they don't have time to practice, I ask them do they watch television. he answer is always a yes. Now I've got them. I tell them to just hold their guitars. Don't play it, just hold it. Get used to the feel of it. Run their fingers over the strings and frets. GET USED TO I. Then I tell these poor little time starved students that in every half hour TV show there is about TEN minutes of commercials, which, to most of us that is a wsate of TIME. Three hours of TV a night equals THIRTY MINUTES of time wasting which otherwise could be used for PRACTICING, PLAYING, GETTING BETTER.
    No for my own photography skills and PRACTICE I do just this. While watching TV I take pbotos of it and everything else in the room, including ,my wife. Not very happy, but she has had an awful lot of BAD potographs taken of her with and without flash. This system of PRACTICING and taking photographs is great for time strapped people. An one thing for sure, you WILL become an epert at taking photos is low light and cramped situations while still watching, in part, your favourite TV shows.

    jus a thought!
    Bill Griffith

  • David Pettit July 22, 2011 06:09 am

    I always take my camera with me to the office. The one time I left it at home there was a major brush fire along the highway during the evening commute home. Dang it!

    I have started taking "mini" photo safari's during lunch. I discovered a variety new & interesting places. I download the images into Lightroom in the evening. Then I do the editing with my morning coffee. But we never have enough time for our passions. . .

  • Nathaniel July 22, 2011 04:59 am

    Brilliant job cutting to the heart of the matter. More please.

  • Ann July 22, 2011 04:36 am

    I just wanted to say I am really enjoying your web site, some of the things that you say really hit the mark for me. I am new to photography but having a blast. At some point I will entre a photo in your weekly contest. Thanks for all the tips. Ann

  • Fireball July 22, 2011 03:15 am

    I have found that I am always able to make time for what's important in life. To me shooting is important so I shoot in RAW and JPEG and use easy editing tools like Nik Software plugins to save time in Lightroom and P/S or their iPad app Snapseed. It just saves me so much time and allows me creative flexibility. I shoot everything that might even remotely be good and often find that images I thought were lame are actually amazing. Still it definitely takes commitment...but doesn't anything worth it's weight?

  • Marriedin79 July 22, 2011 01:54 am

    If I spent just a small fraction of the time shooting instead of reading articles about shooting, I would be a pro by now. I think I'm afraid of doing it ... why, I don't know because it's not a lack of time or equipment or the need to watch costs (i.e. shooting digital is "free" compared to film). I think I just hit it on the head: I'm afraid. Hmmm...self realization.

  • kerrberr July 22, 2011 12:13 am

    Thanks for this. As someone who still hasn't finished the "31 days to better photography", this rings true. Good point about taking fewer shots. I'll fill up a card, then dread putting them on a computer & having to pick the good ones & fix others. I'm going to try thinking more about composition & the photo techniques I've learned before I click.

  • Shobhit July 21, 2011 02:37 am

    Good Article...

    I try to click pictures almost everyday and upload one on my blog.

    http://365canvas.blogspot.com/ (Comments welcome)

    I'm totally a beginner but enjoying it.

  • Shobhit July 21, 2011 02:37 am

    Good Article...

    I try to click pictures almost everyday and upload one on my blog.


    I'm totally a beginner but enjoying it.

  • Jan P July 20, 2011 11:13 pm

    Talk about a prompt response! Darren, I requested this topic in the questionnaire I filled out just a couple of hours ago.
    My camera is still point-and-shoot, easy to use with one hand while propping myself with my walking stick in the other. Would love to be able to cope with an SLR.
    But I can keep my camera in my handbag at all times so when something crops up, out it comes.
    Great opportunities.

  • THE aSTIG @ CustomPinoyRides.com July 20, 2011 10:03 pm

    Oh yeah I completely agree.

    I do car photography for my website http://CustomPinoyRides.com.

    I have to shoot as often as I can so I can keep my site updated. It has to have the most recent content from recent events, and I have to shuffle doing shoots, managing the Car Photography Club, plus my day job, and family. But I totally agree with what you said because it's exactly what I need to do to shuffle things together. Thanks!

  • scottc July 20, 2011 09:54 pm

    If I'm busy but shooting is still a priority, I'll put it on my "to do" list with everything else and make some time for it. Even just a few hours on a weekend, regardless of time of day or weather, can be enough.

    I also shoot RAW+Jpeg, if the jpeg works then great but I can edit later and repost if I don't have time now.

    Participating in Groups, even knowing you may not make every post, can also foce you to make some time as well as shoot using different techniques.


  • Erin July 20, 2011 09:18 pm

    Love it! Haven't had my camera out in a week, and I've used many of these excuses. Thanks for the kick in the butt!

  • Fuzzypiggy July 20, 2011 06:20 pm

    Can't imagine a weekend when I don't go out. I tend to get up around 4am most days as I have insomnia, so at weekends I head out the door at 4:30am having picked out a destination. I recently drive 135 miles to a particular pier leaft home around 3am to catch the light. While on holiday with the family I am allowed out early, I once left the holiday cottage at 1:30am to catch the Summer sunrise at a lake 70 miles away!

    There is always something to shoot no matter what the weather, shoot he ground or city when it's wet, shoot the countryside and sea when it's nice and shoot either when it's changable. I am incredibly lucky that my wife is so understanding about my obsession, not everyone is that lucky. Think about it though, you you spent all that money on your kit and you are just going to let it sit idle becuase it might rain? No flipping way! Get out, get wet and get some of the best pictures you never thought you would. Nothing fits more with photography than , "Practice makes perfect!".

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer July 20, 2011 01:21 pm

    No doubt finding time is key because without it days or weeks could easily go by without taking a single photo if photography is also not your job. I recently wrote about how breaking habits can lead to photography opportunities. A sudden rain storm interrupted my usual evening walk with my dog so I went out with my camera to make an HDR Florida sunset shot:


    About the tip above to shoot in JPG, I really, really, really do not understand how people still think RAW is anymore work at all then shooting in JPG. If you do zero point zero editing to your shots, then maybe JPG saves time. However, for me, and my workflow, importing 50-300 RAW files into Aperture 3 takes between five and fifteen minutes (2.66ghz Core i7 MacBook Pro) only. Even if it took a few minutes longer, basically I put the memory card into the card reader as soon as I walk in the door, and let it do all its importing while I put away the rest of my gear, wash up, get a sip of Gatorade, etc and then all the photos are there waiting and ready to be edited in Aperture 3.

    Shooting in RAW, at least with Aperture 3, is dead simple, dead easy, no different than working with JPG at all. Just import, let the computer crunch away, and that's it.

  • David Cann July 20, 2011 10:56 am

    Great article thank you Peter. I stopped making excuses about a year ago. Now I make sure I use my camera every day. I carry my cameras (either or both) with me at all times (D7000 and canon s90). I never put them in a case, that's a real time waster (just my shoulder bag). I pick my lens before I go out so there's no stress.

    However, I'd never give up RAW shooting. After shooting for many years in JPEG, I'd never go back.


  • MathGeek July 20, 2011 10:50 am

    FInding time can be tough, and I thought this article was well written... but my personal favorite tip is the "have it with you." There have been so many times I've seen life happen where I WISHED I had my camera with me. Now that I shoot with a Nikon SLR, it's a bit bulky, but I don't mind. The alternative of missing great shots is worse than lugging it around.

    @sumit - I totally applaud your idea of merging plans. It's a different way of thinking about carrying your camera with you when you may or may not be able to shoot. I'll keep it handy next time I wander out. =)

  • Len Moser July 20, 2011 10:34 am

    Peter, good advice. However, I disagree about shooting raw. Raw has saved my but more than I care to admit.

  • Patches July 20, 2011 10:19 am

    I think that the true #1 reason why most people cannot find the time to photograph anything is because for most people on this site, from what I can tell, spend the majority of their days working and not around their cameras. Not many of us have the luxury of using the entire day to hold a camera in our hands. I think that sometimes these contributing editors seem to forget who they are talking to.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck July 20, 2011 10:08 am


    There is always time for photography - you just have to make it happen. I try to force myself to shoot something every day. I disagree with JPG vs RAW - I will always shoot RAW only. I have kicked myself about not doing this in the past when re-evaluating some images only to discover they were in JPG.

    I like this shot of the pelican here but JPG - very limiting in my Post Workflow


  • Sam July 20, 2011 07:59 am

    The above is my site, or one of them. I got called outside to grab things cause we had a tremendus storm just run through. Caught me and my spelling off!
    Many pardons!

  • sumit July 20, 2011 07:58 am

    Shoot RAW+JPEG if you want to save on processing time immediately but would like to fiddle around later. I don't shoot everyday, neither do I carry my camera around. But, I do ensure I get my camera time once a week. Sometimes I make an entire day of it, irrespective of what plans my mates may come up with. Sometimes I merge them. As long am feeling inspired, I'll click.

  • Madison Raine July 20, 2011 07:40 am

    @ Carolyn,
    that's really good :).

    I read what Dough wrote, and I understand. Here it's like up to 99.F, if I even go out side I'll melt.

  • sonorasam July 20, 2011 07:38 am

    When I go to shoot I do 2 things to keep me focused. I have a bad back so mobility is the issue for me especially since I take pictures of bugs.

    1, Have a good idea of what you want to shoot and how. ( Of course don't pass up opportunity! )
    2. Don't load up with gadgets and every lense, tripod, flash. Take only what you need and get better at taking your photos with minimal equipment.

    Personally, I tend to not review pictures when I am shooting. Its tough to tell if they are no good. The computer is for that.

  • Carolyn Chentnik July 20, 2011 07:38 am

    @ madison, haven't yet! Today was Day 224!!

  • Doug Sundseth July 20, 2011 07:36 am

    What's worked for me is to combine exercise and photography. I bring my camera and a brown-bag lunch with me to work and go out on my lunch hour with my camera.

    Given the constraints of how far I can reasonably walk in an hour, I tend to shoot the same areas quite a bit, but I still find things that interest me. In some ways, I think looking for new interesting images in places I've been a hundred times has improved my ability to see, but it's a bit of a relief to take a few hours for a real photo trip on a weekend or an afternoon off. 8-)

    The light at noon in this semi-arid area is just about what you would expect -- harsh and high. This limits what I can do, of course. But since I know I'll be back in a day or a week, I can feel free to experiment and correct my mistakes when I try again.

    I must say that it takes a certain amount of willpower to go for a long walk with a heavy camera when it's 95° F (35° C) outside. But the exercise takes willpower, too, and the camera helps me muster the willpower for both.

    I don't know if it would work for anyone else, but it seems to work for me.

  • Bob July 20, 2011 07:32 am

    Agreed with Tyler. Are the few extra minutes to import a RAW file versus JPEG really stressing out your day? Start the import and do something else, there's no reason to sit there and watch it import.

  • Madison Raine July 20, 2011 07:28 am

    I get my new DLSR tomarror, so I'll defilantly make time to take photos.

    @ Carolyn,
    don't give up! I gave up after a month. But I'm gonna try again. But anyways don't get bored and give up.

  • Tyler Ingram July 20, 2011 07:01 am

    I would still shoot in RAW. If you're computer is a decent one and you have a good card reader, by that I mean something that supports high-speed cards and has a high-speed interface like eSATA, USB3, Firewire then there shouldn't be much downtime in waiting to transfer your RAW files.

    I suppose JPG would be faster, but todays hardware and software you won't have much downtime transfering files.

  • Carolyn Chentnik July 20, 2011 06:29 am

    My Project 365 is guaranteed to make me make time. :)

    my page

  • Dennis Harris July 20, 2011 06:27 am

    Peter some very good advice! I know sort of obvious or you wouldn't have said it. What you point out to me is that we must live intentional lives. Going are complaining doesn't accomplish anything. Just go "do it"!

    BTW I could just tell from spending the day with you in S.F. we had something else in common besides photography. CHOCOLATE!