Tips + Techniques


6 Ways Photographers Can Proactively Avoid Isolation

January 4, 2018

By Jerry Ghionis

Photos © I Heart New York Photography

Detroit-based photographer Shawn Lee takes a group selfie at WPPI 2017.

The idea of being a business owner and working for yourself is very appealing to most people. It allows you more freedom and choice, the ability to make more money and the opportunity to have more quality time with your family and friends.

The reality of having your own photography business often means that you do not actually have more freedom (you may make your own hours, but how many hours do you spend working?), you can make less money (particularly when you are just starting out), and you aren’t spending more time with your family and friends because starting and running a new business requires a lot of time and investment. And by the time a business does become profitable, we have already created a routine of working long or odd hours, and it’s very easy to keep following that pattern.

Worse can be the isolation that comes from working at home or working on your own. Humans are, by nature, very social creatures. Some of us are more social than others, but we all need some amount of social interaction for both our mental and physical health.

Although we might have frequent interactions with our clients, it isn’t the same. It can be challenging to be the one who always has to make the decisions, never having the luxury of bouncing ideas off of and brainstorming with someone. Sometimes it’s nice to have some daily light banter with someone about life in general. It’s the same phenomena that new moms or dads feel when they stay at home with their kids to care for them. You just crave that adult conversation or nice chat with someone that understands what you’re going through as a photographer.

WPPI 2017 attendees relax and network in the F-Stop lounge.

6 Ways to Avoid Isolation

1. Keep yourself on a strict schedule.

Even if you work from home, you should keep yourself accountable, just as though you were working in an office environment. That can be as simple as making sure that you wake up at a particular time, take a shower, get dressed, have breakfast and have all of that done before the time you have set for yourself to begin working. Working in your pajamas every day may sound like a real perk, but it can have a profound effect on your mental state and how efficient you will be since it automatically puts you in a lazier, more relaxed state of mind.

2. Get out and exercise.

It’s a fact: Doing regular exercise has a profound effect on your mental state. It helps clear your head and forces you to change your perspective (literally), which can then get you to see tasks you are working on with a fresh set of eyes. Push yourself to set a time to exercise a certain number of times per week. It can be as simple as just making sure that you set the alarm for 2 p.m. every day so that you get up and walk around the block. Just get up and get out. That will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to finish your day on a high note.

3. Schedule social activities.

Even if you are naturally shy or introverted, it's incredibly beneficial to have some social interaction. Plan a coffee date with a friend, a family member or a local photographer, or arrange for a regular lunch date or after-work drinks with other photographers. There’s a group of local photographers in our area who get together once a month for breakfast. It’s purely social but invariably, the conversation turns to work and sharing ideas as well as getting to vent to each other. It’s healthy and social, it creates friendships, and it’s so nice to realize you’re not alone.

4. Work in a different space.

Sometimes seeing the same walls day in and day out can add to feeling isolated. There are many, many options now where you can work in a communal space for a minimal fee (and often for no fee at all). It allows you to work in an environment that is productive and busy with other people. This isn’t so that you can talk to each other all day long but rather change your environment to give you a fresh perspective, boost your motivation and get you feeling energized. There’s a community center about 5 minutes from where I live with space in an oversized, quiet room with large tables and workstations, and I often find students studying side-by-side with professionals working on their laptops and older people reading. It's a way for everyone to just be together instead of alone.

5. Be wary of social media.

Social media is often one of the most common ways that business owners feel connected to other like-minded people and the rest of the world. However, social media avenues like Facebook can be a tremendous block to your productivity. You may not even realize how much time you’re losing by continually checking Facebook or Instagram. It also breaks your concentration; you have to remember where you left off with work and then find your flow again. If you see that you are wasting too much time just surfing on social media, there are some great programs that you can purchase online that will block social media programs for up to eight hours per day so that you cannot log into them during that time: focusme.com, getcoldturkey.com and selfcontrolapp.com (Mac only) are all good ones to check out. Chances are, without these distractions, you'll soon see your productivity soar. And remember, what you see on Facebook is not always “real” but rather glamorized versions of what others want us to think their lives are like. Focus on yourself.

6. Attend trade shows and conferences.

If you’re looking for an in-person way to connect with other photographers, a significant advantage we have over other industries are the fantastic conventions and conferences each year such as WPPI and PPE. Many people wonder why they should attend a convention when they can learn online. For photographers who take the time and make the effort to go every year or as often as they can, they’ll probably say it’s for the inspiration, camaraderie and meeting like-minded people that are doing the same thing, facing the same challenges and experiencing the same joys. It’s that support system that is vital to any professional. See you at WPPI next month!

Widely regarded as one of the best wedding and portrait photographers and educators in the world, Jerry Ghionis is a USA Nikon Ambassador and has won more awards than any other photographer at WPPI where he became the first Grand Master.

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