It used to be said that the divorce rate for National Geographic photographers, with their frequent travels, was close to 100 percent.
I’m not sure if that was ever true, but I’ve read and heard plenty of sources that confirm the divorce rate for professional photographers is significantly higher than the national average.
I’ve also noticed that quite a few of our most famous photographers have never married or had children.
Balancing Work with Family
None of this should come as a surprise, considering how many photographers not only travel, but also work weekends or unpredictable hours for their jobs. And the most well-known photographers are often the most prolific, with the most demanding schedules.
I’m not married and don’t have kids — yet. But I do find it sad that so many photographers seem unable to balance career with family life.
When I come across photographers that are successfully striking this balance, I sometimes ask them how they do it.
While their strategies differ, the one constant I’ve found is that they put their families first. Their life starts with family, and everything else grows from that foundation.
Five Tips for Striking a Balance
Based on what I’ve learned from these conversations, here are five ideas for balancing your photography career with personal relationships:
- Set aside at least an hour a day and one full day per week for family. I’m talking about uninterrupted time — no stepping away to do some Photoshop work on Saturday. If it was that important, you could have gotten it done on Friday. Sometimes we work on weekends simply because we aren’t disciplined enough with our work schedules during the week.
- Keep in contact while traveling. With improved cell phone reception and Internet access, there is no excuse for not keeping in touch with the people in your life. Take your mind off the work for a few minutes to call or text.
- Travel with the important people in your life as often as you can. One photographer I know is required to travel frequently for his job. However, he makes a point never to be gone more than two weeks at a time. And when school’s out, he takes his whole family along on assignments.
- Find a photography niche that keeps you closer to home — or to the ones you love. Two of my photographer friends are stay-at-home dads while their wives work corporate jobs; they find time to work in the afternoon or late in the evening. Two other couples run husband-and-wife photo businesses and travel during the winter months by RV.
- Be there (and be engaged) on big occasions. Sorry, but there’s no excuse for skipping birthday parties, parent-teacher conferences, anniversaries, graduations, holidays and other red-letter days. This is a no brainer.
Finally, tell your family you love them and that you appreciate their understanding — and do it often.