Balancing Family and Photography / Workflow Part 1

Welcome back to another week of everything to do with landscape photography. As falls slips into winter most photographers take this time to focus on other things, such as family and other things that we shouldn’t have ignored but photography has a way of doing this to us. We know family is the most important thing but one excuse and another and before you know you are so wrapped up in getting out that we put everything else on the back burner. Anyways, it is important to find a balance between family and photography. I know I am guilty often of tunnel vision and think only of getting that shot or getting back home and getting online with all the photo forums that there is to explore. I must admit many of my hours spent at home are on the computer either post processing images, checking out other images, or conversing online with other photographers. Trying to take me away from this can be almost impossible and if I am not doing this I am obsessed with what I am missing. I guess it has got to the point I feel guilty if I am watching TV, I am thinking of how I could be spending this time more productively with photography. It has got to the point I now need to force myself to get away from the computer no matter what it is that I am doing. I need to realize that the computer will still be there when I get back. As many of you this is hard to do as the world of digital photography online moves so fast it is hard not to think what I might be missing out.

So this month I am doing everything in my power to get away a little from photography. This means like anything it is time to find a new hobby. So this is the time to try new things and one of those things for me is working out again. This was something I used to love before I found photography so maybe there is hope for me still.
I encourage others who might be going through some of the same concerns to do the same things. Anyways, if you have any suggestions how I can put photography into perspective I would love the suggestions before I lose my mind and not the least my family.

Now onto something photography related. One the most important concepts in photography is consistency and when we are discussing photography this means workflow. I am going to break down a series of workflow patterns in the next couple of blogs that I believe work for me. Repetition and consistency make up habits that lead to a predictable workflow that increase productivity in photography. The importance of a consistent workflow is vital to the success of your photography. When does the workflow start, where does it end, and how important is this to experiment. This are some of the things I am going to try to discuss.

Workflow transcends throughout photography and begins the moment you pick up a camera. Basics are important to photography, but continuing to follow a plan that works for you is how you are going to take your photography to the next level. A simple but effective and consistent plan involves pre visualizing the scene before it happens. Check the internet for the area you are shooting at. Are there better times then others, is it a sunrise or sunset shot, where is the sun going to rise and where will the best light be. I am not condoning you go out and copy other people’s images but look for how others might have photographed the area before. Take some of those ideas and improve upon that. For example, could there a better composition, better perspective, or even a better time to photograph the scene. A great place to start with this is a google search or even better go to the photo site Flickr and type the area that you are interested in. Once at this point you have three choices for an advanced search which includes relevant, recent, and interesting. I always choose interesting as this gets me straight to the great photos and also the images others seem to also like. From this point I have a good idea of what, how, and where I am going to go when I get to the scene. Obviously, this can change as light means everything when it comes to landscape photography. But this technique gives me a good head start so when I get there I have a good idea of what I am looking for. This is part of my workflow that never changes and is always done beforehand. The other half of this process includes arriving early enough at a scene to explore all options and really finding out what moves you about each scene.

The night before I always check my bags, charge my batteries, and clean my camera for those pesky dust bunnies. One thing that many people forget to do in this process is to clean your tripod legs and make sure they are lubricated so they move effortlessly. Many times then I would like to remember I get out where I need to be and the tripod legs will not work because I had taken them out to the beach previously and sand, dirt, or grime got in parts and locked everything up. So make sure to give it a good rinse so when the time comes you are not fussing around trying to get the legs to move. Another part of my workflow is to make sure I have erased all my memory cards from the previous shoot but make sure that you have it copied, backed up, and backed up again before you erase. If you wait to you get out the next time shooting you can double check to see you have the images backed up. So always check your memory cards are backed up and then erase and format your memory cards.

The last thing to do before going out to shoot is check the internet for weather, and times when the sun rises, and sets. I am always on the lookout for partly cloudy forecasts, and weather that indicates that a storm is moving out. These are ideal situations when it comes to favorable weather conditions. When it comes to sites to search for when it comes to weather they are many that do a good job but the one I go to when I need the most reliable forecast is NOAA which can be accessed here at In my past experiences not only has this provided the most complete forecast but more then often has given me the most up to date forecast.

All of these habits make up my preparation every time I go out and shoot. This is the beginning of my workflow and something I do every time. If you do this consistently the habits will be ingrained and will become second nature. Although the habits seem minimalistic they make up a more important workflow that leads to patterns that will go a long ways to improving your overall goal of photography.


~ by kevinmcneal on November 17, 2009.

10 Responses to “Balancing Family and Photography / Workflow Part 1”

  1. Life is definitely a balancing act. I try to balance work, family,kid activities, and of course photography. It is not easy. Two things I try to do are to combine activities and include my family. For example I take l
    photos at my daughter’s soccer games and then put together an end of season project

    My husband enjoys photography also. We often go out on photo shoots together. Only problem is we are sharing the good camera. My kids like photography too; they are satisfied with their cameras for now. Sometimes I can convince them to go online with me to check out other’s work. They have their own perspective and opinions

    If I didn’t also have my job, I would set up specific times to “work” on my photography. I would treat it like a job.

    Thank you for sharing your talent and insights.

  2. Kevin, regarding photography and family… you commented that you feel compelled to stay connected. What we tend to forget that in this digital age, even if we do take a break, it’s all still there when we get back. That tweet, that picture, that compelling discussion are all there — archived digitally for us to review some other day. So far, photography is my hobby (my passion, too). I understand your drive and commitment, but we all need to take a break, refuel, and be inspired something new. Inevitably, that inspiration seeps back into our work making us all better photographers in the long run.

  3. Kevin,
    Great to read about your workflow. I will have to give NOAA a shot for weather. Also a treat to see more great Zion images!

    As for balancing family, for me the difficult balance is photography and my health! I tend to work out less and I don’t eat quite as well when I get stuck on the computer. My photography is reliant on me hiking hundreds and hundreds of miles each year so I have to stay in shape. That’s my challenge!


  4. As you state above, this is a balance. For me, it has been the other way this year – FAMILY. Photo sales were not good at all, but I still needed to prepare for the shows anyway. This cut into my (little bit) extra time so that there was practically zero extra time to shoot. Two little ones at home demand a lot of time! Then there’s work, too.

    From your side of things, what you don’t want to do is burn out. Doing something else for these upcoming slow months could be mentally refreshing, even if completely unrelated. I do believe that photography is not only technical, not only art, but also a state of being, in the sense that if you’re not having a good day at home/work, you won’t be at your best in the field.

    Right now, for example, there’s nice webshows on photography, esp some interviews with Art Wolfe. It’s especially nice to see how other photographer’s “see.” That helps to inspire me to go out and take photos. My wife says take photos for my enjoyment, and she’s right, but I also want something that is more than ordinary.

    Good luck this winter. Working out at home or the gym is a good idea. You’ll be better for it. Don’t forget, you can work out in the SNOW, too! And you can practice your indoor/flash photography on your fam!

  5. great post Kevin.
    so true about being hooked on the internet photography sites!
    i’m shocking also.

    good to read about your insight into pre planning for a trip too. with things such as google, google earth it is a lot easier these days to study for locations we’ve never visited before! 🙂

    absolutely love the 2nd image here, the foreground is magical, and then the peaks bathed in that light is stunning!

    it’s hard to critique someone such as yourself- but with the last image I really like it, but i feel it’d be improved without the brighter rock at the top of frame. i find it distracts my eyes from the fantastic water flow and swirls.

  6. guess what! last night i watched T.V. for almost an hour~! it was FUN! granted~it was Storm Chasers on Discovery Channel and they were trying to “capture the shot” of the century~ but, it was still a break from the computer and flickr and facebook, etc.

    ok~that’s all:)))


  7. wow kevin, i know just what you mean with balancing act. photography is my hobby so i dont have to do it but it consumes me. i’ve been making a concious effort to not get on my computer for editing or forums or anything else til the family is in bed, i’ve missed a lot of hours with my kids at home so i’ve taken drastic measures to not miss any more unless it’s necessary. see’ya, jeremy

  8. Thanks Jeremy for the email and sharing your story. It is not easy sometimes and it is good to hear I am not the only one going through things like this.

  9. You ever thought about breaking up your blog posts to just one image & story at a time?

  10. You are absolutely correct on that one and if I ever start up the blogs again – I will be revising to be a lot shorter but more posts. Thanks Jon for the feedback !

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