Six Principles of Time Management for Photographers

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You have reached the archive of articles posted on my personal blog. This blog is no longer updated, but you can read my latest articles at my new website The Creative Photographer and find my photography ebooks at my new store.

Thanks for reading! Andrew.

Time management for photographers

Managing time is essential for photographers. The better you manage your time, the more of it you will have for taking photos, processing Raw files, learning new photography techniques and all the other enjoyable aspects of our hobby.

Managing time wisely also frees up more spare time for important activities such as spending time with family and friends.

So, how does time management for photographers differ from time management practised by other people?

It’s a good question, and one I’m going to answer by explaining some of the things I’ve learnt about it.

Creatives manage time differently

The first important concept to understand is that photographers and other creatives use time differently to other people.

Creatives work best when they have a single important task that they can tackle. For me, that may be working on my latest ebook. For a hobbyist, that may be processing files.

We need time to warm up and get into the flow. We need to take breaks and ponder things. We work best when we don’t have other things occupying our minds.

With that in mind, here are six useful time management principles.

1. Single tasking

Single tasking is where you focus all your attention on one task until it is done. It’s a highly effective way of reducing the amount of time you spend on any given job.

Think about what happens if you interrupt what you are doing to do something else. It takes time to get back into the original task and pick up from where you left off. This is wasted time.

You can see how single tasking fits in neatly with the way that creatives manage their time.

2. Low information diet

Don’t waste time watching or reading news. Do something more fulfilling and positive with your time instead.

For example, read a photography book or a blog (or get to work on my Lightroom projects). Instead of absorbing the negativity of the news, and having to deal with the negative emotions it creates, you will be filled with the positive energy generated by reading about your hobby, and inspired by the beautiful photos you see.

Imagine the difference that this would make over ten years. Compare the effects of watching 30 minutes of depressing news for a decade with reading about something positive and uplifting. The effect is cumulative. It compounds. That simple decision could make a huge difference to your mental attitude and the joy you get from life.

This is the low information diet in action. For more information, read The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris.

Why is watching the news so harmful? It’s because much of what is reported is outside your circle of control. There’s nothing you can do about it, except feel helpless. It’s not good for your state of mind, and it won’t help you get things done.

Instead, the key is to concentrate on the things that are inside your circle of control. These include things such as becoming a better photographer. It will help you feel more confident, positive and in control of your life.

3. Finding meaning

In The 80/20 Manager, Richard Koch says that meaning comes from creating or doing something using your unique talents and abilities. Happiness comes from fulfilment and purpose, rather than money and status.

For photographers, this simply states something we already know. We enjoy photography, and doing it makes us happy.

What does this have to do with managing time? If you enjoy something, and it provides meaning to your life, then you will be driven to do it. If you’re driven, you will create time for it.

If you lack drive, then perhaps you should look for a project that gives your hobby more meaning. Long-term projects give you purpose and enjoyment as you see the results come together to create a body of work.

The portrait at the top of this article was taken as part of a long term project about circus performers.

4. Understand the creative cycle

Creativity works like this:

  • Start with a problem (perhaps it’s the question of how to process a particular photo).
  • Seek information (reading articles and books about Lightroom)
  • Forget about the problem. Let it pass to your subconscious mind while you are busy with other things.
  • When you’re relaxed and in the right mood, answers will appear in your mind.

It may sound magical, but it works. Understanding the creative cycle lets you work with it. Ultimately, you save time by tackling photography related problems this way.

5. Manage email and other distractions

Smart phones, tablets and computers have so many apps sending notifications that it’s possible to be distracted by them all day. Turn them off. Take control by checking your emails and Facebook messages when you choose to, not when you are notified of them.

It’s all about single tasking. Don’t let notifications distract you from the task at hand. You’ll break the flow and waste time picking up where you left off.

6. Simplify

If your life is too complicated, preventing you from spending time on photography, then simplify it. Get rid of some of the distractions. Consider cutting out anything that isn’t making you happy or interferes with what you really want to do.


All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings

Ultimately, the key to managing your time is to consciously decide how to spend it. We all have things we have to do during the day but we can exercise choice in our free time.

Get in the habit of asking yourself whether what you’re doing, or thinking about doing next, is a wise use of your time. You’ll find yourself becoming more aware of the way you use time. Practise the principles in this article and you will free up more time for photography, hopefully making you a happier and more fulfilled person in the process.

Further resources

You can learn more about time management for photographers with these articles:

Single handle every task

The low information diet

How big is your circle of control?

Be more creative

Eliminate all but the absolute essential tasks




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4 Responses to “Six Principles of Time Management for Photographers”

  1. Thanks for these tips, especially #1, 2 and 5. I get easily distracted by things that take me away from getting my work done.

  2. Great tips, #1 & #2 describe what I’ve been thinking and up to a point, doing. Point #5 and #6 are point I realy have to work…

    I’ll take time to explore the workout of #4, but it fit with something read in the book “Pragmatic Thinking & Learning”.

    Also… I’ve referred your article on my blog!

    • Hi Serge, glad they were useful to you. The fourth is definitely worth spending some time on. Thanks for the reference! I will look up the book you mentioned, it sounds interesting.

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