February 18, 2024
Balancing Photography with Family
If you're reading this post on my website, you're likely passionate about landscape and wildlife photography, just like me. I've been capturing nature and my surroundings for years, but it's only been in the last eight years that I've honed my skills to a point where I can produce images that show some competency. For me, it's an addiction, akin to the passion others feel for golf, fishing, or other hobbies.
The growth of my skills coincided with the birth of our three children. While I found myself with some time on my hands to read books and watch YouTube videos, I truly envied the adventures of my favorite YouTubers, who seemed to have limitless freedom to pick up and go.  Once you have kids though, it's crucial to be present and raise them to the best of your ability.
So, how do you balance being present for your family with a passion for outdoor photography?
Finding Time
First and foremost, I'm fortunate to have a supportive spouse who recognizes the benefits of letting me unwind at my favorite photography locations. Honestly, if I couldn't get out for even an hour each weekend to pursue my hobby, I think I'd go stir-crazy. Here are three things I recommend to any parent to minimize the impact of their outdoor pursuits on family life:
Early mornings: This means carving out time from your schedule that doesn't interfere with peak family time. For me, this translates to getting up early before the kids and the workday begin. As a photographer, this works well because I want to be out before sunrise to capture the morning light or early wildlife activity. The only challenge with this strategy is during winter months with limited daylight hours. To maintain your sleep schedule, simply go to bed a little earlier. This strategy also works well on family vacations.
Late afternoons: If you have young children, late afternoons can be another strategic time. Basically, whenever the kids are sleeping or resting is your "go time" to avoid disrupting your ability to be present.
Family activities: I highly recommend blending your hobby into family outings. For example, on family hikes, I might pack a few lenses and a camera body alongside water bottles and snacks. Living in southwest Ohio, this might involve exploring our county parks or the beloved Cincinnati Nature Center. You can pack a macro lens and encourage your kids to help you find insects or amphibians to photograph. Alternatively, use a long lens and ask them to help you spot birds or mammals. Once, during a walk through the woods, one of our kids pointed out a barred owl perched on a branch, and I managed to capture some fantastic photos. Finding ways to get your kids interested in nature and photography can be a great family activity and a valuable tool for finding photographic subjects.
Let Them Shoot
Finally, I highly recommend letting your kids explore photography on their own. This doesn't mean handing them your expensive wildlife gear, but rather providing them with an easy-to-use tool to capture their own images. I have a few older digital point-and-shoot cameras gathering dust on my shelf that we occasionally charge up and let the kids loose with. Letting them use a camera that is inexpensive, durable, and easy to operate is a blast for them. For example, I have an Olympus TG-5 camera that I still use for underwater shots, which is practically indestructible. Our eldest son enjoys taking this camera out and capturing random shots of what he finds in the backyard or along the trail. Encouraging your kids to take their own photos with a user-friendly camera can transform your photography hobby into a shared family experience.
Intentional Planning is Key
Making a conscious effort to find time for your hobbies without negatively impacting family life actually makes it easier to pursue your interests in the long run. Much of what I've mentioned above can also be applied to other pursuits like golf, fishing, or gym time – all hobbies I also enjoy. The most important takeaway is that intentional planning can make pursuing a hobby as a parent smoother and more seamless. Good luck putting your plan together, and I hope to see you outdoors soon!
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