Today’s post is part 1 in our mini series talking to photographers who balance multiple photo careers (that is, working for a company, and working for themselves). It’s very common these days to have a day job, go to school, or be a stay-at-home parent, and then to freelance or run your own business in the evenings and weekends. Since this is so common, and can be a challenge to balance everything (and stay stress-free while doing so), I have asked a couple of photographers who are successfully doing this to weigh in on what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and to offer some tips and advice for other photographers in similar situations. Starting off, we’re talking to photographer Raymond McCrea Jones…
What do you do during the day?
I work as a Photo Producer at The New York Times doing mostly web-related stuff. I edit pictures for the website, produce multimedia and shoot as well.
Outside of your day job, what are you doing in terms of photography?
Photography for me is a part of my life. It’s not just a job, a hobby, or something I dabble in, it’s literally as much a part of my everyday life as breathing or walking or seeing is. So, I’m constantly shooting and I’m constantly looking for my next project. Outside of my day job, I shoot weddings and work on long-term documentary projects. Sometimes these projects get picked up by The Times and run on the web and in print, and sometimes I have to find other homes for them.
When do you find the time to work on personal work?
Finding the time to work on photo projects outside of work is not easy, especially when you have a family. I have a two-year-old boy and another on the way, so my time is a very valuable commodity. You have to really prioritize and figure out how much “extra” time you have available and what you want to devote that time to.
How do you balance/organize your time?
I think the most important thing you can do is prioritize. I have personally decided that family is, and always will be the most important thing in my life. So when I’m thinking about undertaking a new project, I always do several things: I talk about it with my wife, weigh the time commitment, and try to figure out what the long-term goal of the piece is. I almost always have only one major, long-term project going on at any given time. I find that this allows me to stay focused and not feel overwhelmed.
|A passerby stops to admire the artwork of two boys at 5Pointz in Long Island City, N.Y. 5Pointz is a public outdoor art space made up of a 200,000 square-foot factory building that has drawn attention from graffiti artists around the world.|
What are the pros/cons of the double photo duty?
As a working photographer we often have to take the assignments that pay. These may not be assignments that move you passionately or strike a chord deep within you, but they pay and we all have to survive. But with self-assigned projects you are in total control. You find or choose the story and you can do whatever you want with it. You choose how to shoot it, in what format, how long to spend on it, and in what medium to publish it. It’s these personal projects that let us grow by leaps and bounds and are usually the most fulfilling.
The down side is time and money. You could say that every minute I spend working on a project outside of my paid job is a minute I’m not spending with my family. But, I would tell you that everything I do is for my family and every decision I make is done with them in mind. I think it’s different for each person. Some people want to be workaholics or just can’t help themselves; like an addiction. I think I’m relatively laid back with my work and have found a good balance.
|Steve French, left, and Colby Smith during a fashion shoot in Prospect Park, Brooklyn in January.|
Do you have any tips for others in a similar situation?
Again, you really just have to prioritize. It can be hard to find the time or energy after a long day at work to go out and spend another several hours shooting or editing on a personal project. But if you really love it and believe in it, I believe the motivation will come naturally. If you have a family, sit down with your partner and talk about new opportunities and figure out what is worth investing your time in.
How do you keep from getting burned out?
I keep from getting burned out by simply not working that hard. I also take breaks. Things for me tend to come in waves. I’ll go through a period of many weeks where I’ll be slammed with work and trying to finish one or more projects to meet deadline. But when I do get it out the door, I’ll take a break, then ease into my next project after I’ve taken the time to catch my breath. I think taking breaks and just not shooting is important. Also, doing other activities that are totally unrelated to photography can help. I ride my bike a lot and race in and around New York City. That allows me another outlet of expending energy that is removed from my job and keeps me fresh.
|Robbins Reef Lighthouse sits in the middle of New York Harbor. It was “manned” by Kate Walker until 1919 after her husband died in 1886. It is said that Kate Walker rowed her two children to Staten Island for school each day.|
How do you stay inspired?
I stay inspired by other photographers around me that are always producing new and refreshing work. When a friend shows me a new story, or I see something on someone’s blog that blows me away, it inspires me to push myself, work harder, and try new things.
How do you stay motivated?
Staying motivated isn’t an issue for me. If you’re struggling to find motivation to take pictures or try something new with your camera or start a new story, then you probably shouldn’t be a photographer in the first place. I’m doing what I naturally love to do. Of course there are times that I’m more motivated than others, but in general, motivation is not an issue because taking pictures is just part of my everyday life.
|Birds playfully fly in circles above the intersection of Bowery and Rivington in Manhattan where I was hit by a truck while riding my bike on April 8, 2008. This was part of an essay I shot for COG Magazine recounting my experience.|
Photographer Bio: Raymond McCrea Jones is a 29-year-old photographer and multimedia journalist based in New York City. Jones grew up in the south and studied visual communication at Randolph Community College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduating, he moved to Atlanta, GA before relocating to New York to work at The New York Times. Jones lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two-year-old son.
all photos © Raymond McCrea Jones