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Become a photographer while having a full time job - The Photography Express

Become a photographer while having a full time job

Become a photographer while having a full time job

I get it, photography is your passion. You work a full time job but living every other second as a photographer. Each time you post pictures on Facebook you immediately get great feedbacks. Your friends are even thinking of asking you to photographs their kids, maternity photos, high school senior photos and even engagement shoots. You want to become a photographer (at least make it a side business for now) but you have so many obligations in life that are holding you back. Most importantly, your feel your job is keeping you away from your family, your husband/wife, your children, your parents, and basically people you love. You want to bring your kids to school everyday instead of getting stuck in traffic every morning on commute to work. Right now, you are trying so hard to work your way to become a photographer while having a full time job.

The sad thing is, you have no time to pursuit this dream.

You work on the career that you studied for so long. Got a 4 years degree in college plus a master and even got yourself a professional license. The 5 + years of hard work seems to be paying off. You get the job you wanted, you impressed you boss, your family, and even some of your friends envy you in this position right now.

Yet you are hiding this feeling deep inside your heart. You feel empty when work gets quiet. You lost count of how many overtime hours you worked in office. You feel your brain cells are dying faster than ever each day it passes.

You tried to cheer yourself up by saying: “at least I put food on the table”. Then you go back and keep working on a job for others that you found no purpose of doing…Everyday.

To make things even worst, this cycle comes back every day at 6:30am sharp. The alarm wakes you up and the rat race starts all over again.

You feel your photography passion is dying inside your heart because the reality doesn’t let you make that leap of faith. There are too many insecurities involved.

Perhaps financial security, or the feelings you are not good enough, may be you are waiting for approval from somebody before you head for your dream.

So how do you work your way to become a photographer when you have a full time job? Where do you find the time and energy to do it?

The short answer is: You don’t need any extra time and energy. You just need to plan it well to fit in your lifestyle.

In this post I am going to share with you what you need to do in order to work your way to become a photographer while having a full time job. The recipe is simple yet I am sure going to keep your photography journey moving no matter how crazy your schedule gets.

I hope this post is going to brighten up your day 🙂

One quick note before you keep reading: You don’t need to do all these tips at once, but promise me you start acting on at least ONE goal starting TODAY. Now to the long answer!

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1) Listen to Podcasts

If you are going to forget everything I said in this post just make sure you remember this one.

Podcast is the number one way for any full time working individual to learn photography skills without interrupting their schedule.

On your commute to work, instead of listening to radio host yelling all the time and disagreeing on everything people said (that’s their job), turn on your podcast and give yourself an ear candy and learn something new.

Technology these days let you drive you a car, work out at the gym, or even take shower while listening to podcast. So leverage this technology and blend it to your schedule.

A lot of great photographers out there are making podcasts. They want to get their names out there and they are giving their best content out for free!

I’ve a number of podcast for recommendations but if you are not in the podcast world yet grab your phone now and go to the podcast app (or other related apps depending on your smartphone.

Subscribe to the following podcasts:

1) Sprouting photographer – the number 1 business photography podcast.

2) Improve photography –  lots of Q&A that will have your question answered. Also great for landscape photography.

3) So you want to be a photographer – great for portrait photographer

4) The ultimate portrait and wedding photography podcast – as the name mentioned it’s best for wedding and portrait photographers

5) Phototips by BC photo – James is half retiring this website/podcast but he keeps it as a hobby site. It is less frequently updated but all information are golden.

6) FroKnows Photo – photography talk in a special way

7) Also digital photo experience, photography tips from the top floor, martin bailey photography podcast, this week in photo etc

The list goes on and on but the above listed some of my favorite podcast that I am listening right now. Without spending an extra second you have at least 7 podcast in your library for you to consume. Ok we are 1/8 done let’s keep moving!

2) Watch video tutorials

Educating yourself is a requirement if you are serious in photography. I can’t stress enough that just day dreaming to become a photographer without actions won’t get you anywhere.

So educate yourself with online tutorials. I am sure you are familiar with Youtube so start from there watching photography tutorials. Below are some of the best photography online courses you can find outside Youtube:

Some of these site above requires monthly payment to access the content. So if you are not ready to commit to a monthly payment you can start with free videos from Youtube as suggested above, or find an online course that you can purchase for a one time fee.

Now the question comes to how do you find time to do it?

I did a quick unconfirmed research and it said an average person spend about 11 minutes per day on Youtube. That means more than 5.5 hours a month!

An average online photography course I’ve done so far is about 6 hours in total. That means if you use those time you can almost complete 1 photography course done a month. That’s 11 photography courses done in a year!

Ok, I’ll be more realistic and say you only have 5 minutes free per day watching online videos. Doing this for 30 days now you have 150 minutes per month. That is 2.5 hours of time you can spend learning photography and you can finish an online course around every 4 months. That’s still pretty good!

So instead of watching 10 minutes of cute funny cat videos or other non-photography related videos, why not spend 5 minutes on something that is building up your goal? The time adds up so make it worthwhile.

3) Read many Books (business/entrepreneur/photography books)

Almost every aspect in our lives is related to business. Including photography. This is especially true if you are planning to create a photography business one day. Reading books is one of the best way for you to equip with skills you need on business side of photography while working a full time job.

I highly recommend signing up to audible.com and listen to entrepreneur books. This is almost a no brainer to join since they are giving you a book for free when you sign up the first time at no cost. Similar to podcast listen to audio books at the gym, on your commute to work, when you are mowing the lawn or basically anywhere when you are free to listen.

Here are a list of 5 books I highly recommended getting started with first:

1) How to win friends and influence people – By Dale Carnegie

2) The ONE thing – By Gary Keller

3) The 7 habits of highly effective people – By Stephen R. Covey

4) The Dip – By Seth Godin

5) Book yourself solid – By Michael Port

I personally don’t read hardcopy books anymore but listen to audiobooks. From my experience on an average week (5 workdays that means 10 round trip from home to work), I can listen to 8 different podcast and half a book that’s 400 pages long. This may sounds ridiculous at the beginning but I listen at 1.5x speed and sometimes 2x so I can consume faster.

Image after one month you listened to 32 podcasts episodes and finish 2 books. That means in one year you can listen to at least 384 podcasts and read 24 books! Don’t forget the 150 minutes you spared from the above point!

Feel how much time you can spend now? Do you feel you now have ample of time to do the things you love? Work your way to become a photographer doesn’t seem so bad for now. But wait we have more, let’s keep going!

4) Practice taking pictures with your phone everyday

Most of us take pictures with our smartphone everyday. Why not use those time to practice ‘observe light’ instead? Whenever you go out for lunch breaks, waiting for the bus or walking home stay alert on the lights surrounding you and practice taking pictures with your phone.

If you can’t find a subject and desperately needed a model, bring a lego or Styrofoam head with you. Yes I really mean to bring a lego or Styrofoam head as your model! You can read how I started doing Legography a year ago and recently I added a Styrofoam head as my second model whenever I need to find to practice with light.

I understand that a smartphone is not a DSLR but you can learn composition and light no matter what gear you are using.

5) Organize your weekend photoshoot in your downtime

When you are eating lunch, instead of checking facebook or gossip with others why not spend 5 minutes to schedule your weekend photoshoot.

There are no shortcut to be a better photographer so actual practice is inevitable. If you are only free on weekend then use lunchtime to plan out your weekend.

Contact your friends if you want to find a practice model, go to meetup.com for local groupings, check out model mayhem for professional model hiring.

Search for local photography class that you can go in person or text your photography friend to go out for a shoot. Do something to keep your photography passion going. The time adds up.

Also, don’t forget to find a photographer mentor. Preferably someone who is in this profession for a while that need assistant help. Offer to help the photographer for event (even if you don’t get paid) to get the actual experience.

6) Work on DIY projects

DIY projects are fun. It can contribute to your photography skills and even make to take better pictures. For example, I recently made a photography lightbox for product photography and it greatly enhanced the pictures I took for my toys.

If you are in JoAnn (a crafting store in USA), see what materials you can find for your backdrops for building your home studio. I was at the dollar store the other day and brought a shower curtain to make the photography lightbox mentioned above. I also heard in home depot you can find diy material to do light stick.

So next time on weekend when you are at Home depot, JoAnn, Hobby Lobby or other stores use those times to find potential materials for your next photography project.

7)  Spend time wisely on social media

Facebook, twitter, pinterest are black holes sucking out your life if you don’t use it wisely.

Instead of checking up your friend’s latest vacation video (you can do this later) spend the time first on your photography goal.

Join photography groups in Facebook to find answers to your questions. Like the pages from your favorite photographers for inspirations and talk to them. Most importantly, ask questions and engagement with people’s content.

I’ve a few pages to get your started if you are not already in this space. This is not the comprehensive list but good enough for you to started with for now:

1) Peta Pixel facebook page – Great for the latest photography trend and news.

2) SLR Lounge facebook page – Great for the latest photography trend and news.

3) Scott Kelby facebook page – There is no reason no to follow him if you are a photographer.

4) Digital photography school facebook page – My favourite page for tips and techniques

Social media could be wasting your time like I mentioned above unless you are using it to leverage your photography experience. Other than facebook also get yourself inspired on Pinterest and connect with other photographers on Twitter.

Use those social media platforms to find answers, support, and update for your photography knowledge.

Many people nowday said social media is a waste of time. But if you spend it wisely you can get better answers than searching on google yourself for your next photography question. Give that a try yourself, be open and don’t be intimated by putting yourself out there on social media (it’s not a big deal anymore to show your face online).

8) Read my blog + the most important tip!

Ok this got to be the biggest reason and you are doing it right now so that’s great! Yes and that is spending time reading my blog 😀

I know this is not the best blog out there but I seriously think what you learned from my experience will speed your learning process in photography.

One more thing I must mention, and probably the most important one, is to bring your spouse onboard with this journey. Nothing is easy if you are walking this photography journey alone.

For example in this blog, I cannot do it by myself if my wife doesn’t help with the Pinterest graphics. All these beautiful featured image you see in this blog and Pinterest were done by her. Without my wife I wouldn’t have enough time to produce content and press the publish button everyweek for you. A huge shout out to my lovely wife Melonie!!!

So if you have a significant other right now, bring him/her onboard with you. Spend some time learning photography each day and remember the time adds up.

To sum all these up, no matter you agree or disagree with me that no extra time is needed, I personally are doing all these steps above and seeing huge improvements in my photography journey. I work a 9-6 job (sometimes a lot longer) and I don’t feel I spent an extra second out of my day doing these. The action steps I talked above basically became natural to me.

So I really hope you can join this journey with me. Spend time on things you love and have more time to spend with your love one. Feel free to share this post to people who you think will find it beneficial. If you have anything you want to add or share, be sure to connect with me on social media or post your comments below.

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About Gary

A passionate photographer with goals to fulfill your photography passion and motivate you to take pictures even when life is busy!


  1. Shout out to you for an article extremely well done. I was leery about signing up for your posts and invitation to get info. But I am beyond favorably impressed. So much Light, enthusiasm and guidance was shared with us. You have a true gift to inspire photographers or anyone that wants to excel. Great tips. Tell your wife I am grateful to her support for your endeavors to lead us in a complicated hobby.

    • Hi Suz thank you so much for your kind words! You made my day! I totally understand about worrying signing up my blog because there are so many websites just want to sell without building relationship with people. I really want this blog to help those who needs guidance in photography so we can enjoy the journey together. At the end, it’s always better to spend time behind the camera instead of the computer.

      I told my wife and she said thank you. We had a great dinner today at a Korean BBQ restaurant and she even hand-made a cake for me! Awesome day, awesome wife, and awesome audience like yourself 🙂 Once again I really appreciate your comment and look forward connecting with you again soon!

  2. These are such great tips!!! Small steps of faith and chasing your dream is always time well spent! Thanks for the reminders and great info.

  3. Oh man, I really HATE this post. And by hate I mean it hits a nerve. Your first few paragraphs about the drudgery of the day job really hit home. Thanks so much for the advice. I will try some of your tips and check out some links you have offered up. Good luck to you as well, moving over to the creative side of life. Really appreciate this post will check out your blog more too.

    • Hi Carol thank you for your feedback! Yes this post can be very hateful especially if you are in this shoe right now. All the best with your creative side of life and let me know how it goes! Look forward to hearing back from you 🙂

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