Life As A Hobby Photographer With Two Small Children
I'm a photographer. I don't get any money from it so I'm what you would call a hobby photographer. I've had this hobby for, at least, 13 years ( I'm super old at 30 now ).
A bit more than 3 years ago I had time to go out and shoot whenever I felt like it. I could choose any place. Any amount of time ( Within reason. I might not get away with a month long photo project where I sit alone in a room and take photos of an ever increasing pile of beer bottles. For art reasons. ). Not that I always took advantage of that - but the opportunity was there!
Three years ago my daughter was born. And two years further - my son. This impacted things somewhat. They might not appreciate walking all day on hot city streets where I try to take this black and white photo of a woman walking over a road ( because as a street photographer - you must ). And I might not appreciate spending the night trying to take a picture of stars in the sky next to an abandoned building ( because as a landscape / astronomy photographer - you must ) when I can't spend the next day sleeping.
Most of the time that I'm not working is spent with my family. And don't read that as a complaint. It truly is great. But sometimes...sometimes I want to take pictures and call them art to everyone ( mostly just my wife - but my daughter has taken interest in my photography as well now! ). I could just go and "do photography" when my brain tells me that it is required - but my wife might not appreciate having to keep spending time with kids alone. And my children might not appreciate me not taking them on my trips just to come back with a picture of a flower with an insane bokeh background.
I also have other hobbies that are not really relevant for this site. But because they also require me to stop spending time with my family - I had a bit of an internal "creativity" crash as I couldn't express myself as I was used to.
Luckily ( for me and photography in general! ) photography is quite flexible. Whilst I couldn't partake in the art of photography like I used to - there were new ways I could explore the photography world and keep the time with my family.
GAS! GAS! GAS!
The first approach for me was GAS - Gear Acquisition Syndrome for you who are lucky enough to have not suffered this truly hard to treat infection.
It's a scary street in a photography city. But oh so wondrous! Just be prepared to pay the entrance fee. But it's so nice to walk on! And walking fee. Look at that building! And looking fee. And the air is so fresh. And breathing fee. And...
I've always liked physical things. To find out how they work. What are their flaws? Their best assets? And so I started buying photo gear. You don't really need much time for this. Just a couple of hours on Ebay and credit card. Hardly takes any family time. If anything you'll get more time as you won't be cooking as you won't be able to afford any food after GAS takes you on this trip.
Sure - the family participants are not very involved with you on this. But they enjoy seeing how I open the boxes! And they can build forts with boxes now! And other things from boxes! In reality I'm doing them a favour by doing this - just think of the possibilities with those cardboard boxes! And bubble wrap!
Yeah, so I was buying cameras. And that really helped to scratch my photography itch. I was mostly buying older cameras. Comparing them with other cameras. Reading of similar cameras online...and getting them as well. And as nice as it was - there were some issues:
- It doesn't really require any creativity from you. You get a thing that someone else has made and you obsess over it. Sure you could buy broken gear and try to fix it up ( and I did do that as well ) but ultimately that turns into a separate hobby that's different from creative photography.
- At some point - there's too many boxes.
- Just a slight issue with cost. Yeah. Slight issue.
So whilst GAS is enjoyable - luckily I felt the need to explore some other avenues of photography.
Next natural step for me - knowing that I had all this gear - was to go into film photography. I had done film photography in the past and have been known to shoot film from time to time. So I started shooting mainly film and also started developing it. I had done film development in the past as well but that was 10 or more years ago.
In terms of time investment - it's very easy to just develop a film or two when children are sleeping. Just look at the thermometer and flip development tanks whilst listening to a podcast discussing next cameras you need.
This sadly involved the little brother of GAS - gas. I had to buy all development gear, some films and chemicals. So still buying stuff but at least this resulted in more than just gear worship. Actual photographs were taken as I didn't really want to develop an unexposed film. Which leads to...
This is the approach I recommend to other people in my situation as it's the most beneficial to your photography progression and doesn't require any money investment ( no GAS, all brakes ).
It's just documenting the life around you. It's not purposeful photo walks or trips with the intent of taking pictures - it's just living your life as you already are...just with a camera near you.
This means I can spend all time with my family and just supplement it with some pictures.
I initially resisted this because today almost all people have a camera always ready to be used - the smartphone. People take so many photos that it's easy to drown in them. You get bored of seeing the smartphone photos because ultimately - they are largely all the same just with different faces. There's nothing necessarily bad in that - they can still hold value to the people taking them ( and maybe even to some of the people they get shown to ) but to me this seemed like a boring way to take photos and the results were even more boring.
Luckily something clicked in the brain and I understood that you can still be creative in taking documental family photography. Just don't burst shoot all interesting moments. Try to make ordinary things more interesting in the photos. And generally just try to think of interesting ways to make everyday life interesting in pictures. And that truly seems creative for me - or at least the itch doesn't scratch anymore.
Sometimes though, just staying in the relatively close area around your living space does get "photographly" boring and it starts to feel that you're documenting the same shots again. This is where small trips, not too far away from your living quarters, come in.
So we just look at the map and the world wide internet to try and see some interesting places to visit which are family and small children compatible. Maybe it's some small local town. Maybe it's a lake. Maybe it's a random field that looks interesting on a map.
Sure you might not go there in the golden hour. It might be harsh sunlight. It might be dreary and gray looking. But that doesn't matter - it's always possible to take at least one somewhat interesting photo and the whole process of it makes "at home" documental work fresh again as you reset.
Keep in mind that it's easy to go overboard. These trips might start to feel like old times where you go to a random place and spend the day shooting it. So you might start to ignore your family whilst out just to take some photos. You might choose a place a bit too far away where people get annoyed in the car. You might choose a place that might not be small children compatible ( swamps and strollers don't typically go together well I "have heard" ).
But if you're mindful and focus more on the documentation of the trip instead of taking photos of the place - it's fine and it works well.
A Healthy Mix Of All
Ultimately - I just mix all of the above in reasonable amounts. It's like constantly playing with control sliders. And I don't think there's one perfect mix as you are a constantly changing creature so sliders need constant adjustment.
I still buy the occasional camera or lens ( I just try to also sell things ). I still try new film emulsions and developing techniques. I still take daily shots of my family. We still go on trips. And more...
Similar to how using a limited camera makes you think differently and may actually lead to you creating more interesting shots - forcefully limiting your creativity output pathways can lead you to finding new ways for expression.
I doubt that I would get so into analog photography if I didn't have children. I just wouldn't think to try it so deeply.
Similarly another expression of this creativity is this website. It's something I can do at home and free time slots. And I don't think I would've started it if not for my children. I can use the GAS for some good and give out some ( potentially controversial or wrong ) opinions about the gear that I have used. I can express creativity by writing ( which I don't think I'm that good at - but on the upside it can only improve ) and by creating this weird looking website "design".
I hope that others will find this website interesting and will gain something from it.
At the end of all this I realise that I likely am more photography-diverse than I was before and the graph of my photography skill spiked with the birth of my children.
Having small children meant that I couldn't spend time on my photography like I used to. Where some doors close - new ones open. I have found new ways to express photography that has made my photography experience more diverse and interesting. This website is one of those doors that have opened. Now read the whole thing.
Biggest thanks to my family for supporting me in my photography related troubles.