How to make the most of your free time

Canon Ambassador Ilvy Njiokiktjien holding a Canon camera.
Canon Ambassador Ilvy Njiokiktjien uses any downtime to catch up on admin tasks, such as updating her archive, adding keywords to images and translating captions.

Even the most successful photographers and videographers occasionally find themselves in a quiet spell. Downtime can come for many reasons – plans change, assignments fall through, events are cancelled… And when these things happen, you can find yourself at a frustrating loose end.

Times like these can be tough, especially if photography is your main source of income. But there are positives too. Free time offers us the chance to adapt, catch up on aspects of work that we've neglected and reflect on future projects.

Here Canon photographers and Canon Ambassadors share their tips on how to use quiet periods effectively to further your skills.

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1. Get on top of admin

When you're caught in the cut and thrust of day-to-day work, and trying to squeeze in time with friends and family, it's very easy to let tasks such as admin slip. But as beauty photographer Tina Eisen points out: "quiet periods are an opportunity to finally tackle that backlog of work-related emails, retouches and chores you've been putting off".

These little jobs can quickly mount up in busy times, so downtime is your perfect opportunity to get through some of them. "I try to update my archive, translating captions from Dutch to English and adding keywords in both languages," says photojournalist and Canon Ambassador Ilvy Njiokiktjien. "These are things I dread doing!"

Documentary photographer and Canon Ambassador Mashid Mohadjerin agrees. "I always hope to find time to reorganise my archive, send images and stories to my agency and update my website – but that time rarely comes!"

A photobook open on a table.
Why not use any unexpected free time to explore additional income streams, such as creating a high quality photobook to showcase your work or sell to clients.

2. Look for new income streams

Being a professional photographer isn't just about taking and selling the shots. Whatever sector of the industry you are in, there are plenty of other ways you can make money – and these moments are a great opportunity to explore them.

Photojournalist and former Canon Ambassador Georgina Goodwin has been using downtime during the Covid-19 crisis to expand the services she offers customers. "I've been sharing my photography knowledge by providing critiques and training on various photography and art online platforms," she says, admitting that she uses tutorials like this to expand her own skills with programs such as Lightroom.

"I've also been earning a small income selling prints online and reaching out to my clients to see if there are any images that I shot for them that we can republish – which I will get paid a license fee for."

Tina has also been taking advantage of the opportunities that online learning offers. "Live streams, tutorials, podcasts – all of these allow us to share our creative thoughts while giving back to and connecting with a community of peers," she says.

Daniel Etter sitting in the sun outside his farmhouse.
Photojournalist Daniel Etter relaxing in the sunshine – during quiet spells he tackles jobs on his farm and describes the work as a kind of meditation. © Daniel Etter
Daniel Etter's farmhouse surrounded by trees and rolling hills.
The view from Daniel's farm. Photographing your surroundings is a great way to pass the time during a quiet spell, and can help you to develop new ideas for projects. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/1000 sec, f/3.2 and ISO100. © Daniel Etter

3. Seek new inspiration

Recharging your batteries between busy periods is always important – and can sometimes lead to new creative ideas for future projects and assignments. Without the pressures of working on your current job, it's a great chance to let new ideas develop.

"I think one of the really important things is to spend time looking at the work of people you admire," says Georgina, saying that this is often how she finds inspiration. "The more you can immerse yourself quietly in a space where you want to be, the more you'll be able to replicate that and have that in your life."

For photojournalist and Canon Ambassador Daniel Etter, working on practical jobs on his farm gives him time to think. "I do a lot of gardening – pruning fruit trees, planting shrubs and veggies, chopping wood. It is almost like a meditation. When I'm here I try to read as much as I can, get inspired and develop my ideas for future stories."

A man leans over a desk and points at an image of a woman's face on a monitor. A Canon camera and lenses are also on the desk.

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4. Make and maintain professional relationships

Something that many of the photographers that we talked to agreed on was the importance of contact with other creatives. Quiet periods are the perfect chance to reconnect with old colleagues and forge new connections by reaching out to photographers and videographers who you admire./p>

"I am thoroughly enjoying conversations with fellow photographers around the UK and the world at the moment," says travel photographer Lottie Davies. "So many brilliant groups have sprung up, or created online versions of themselves. I feel that I am having more conversations about photography, photobooks, photo education and general inspiration than ever before."

For Ilvy, the pressures of working on global assignments can make it difficult for her to keep in touch with the people she works with regularly, so she relishes the opportunities when they come. "Usually we are all around the world in different places shooting," she says. "So in quiet times I try to meet up with colleagues to sit down and talk about life and work as much as possible."

Georgina Goodwin playing the piano with her baby daughter on her lap.
Photojournalist Georgina Goodwin playing the piano with her baby daughter at home in Nairobi, Kenya, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Unexpected free time is an ideal opportunity to hit the pause button and learn new skills or pick up old hobbies. © Georgina Goodwin

5. Pursue other passions

Easy as it is to get wrapped up in your job, do remember there is more to life. If work has hit a bit of a pause, it's also a good time to pursue your other passions and to recharge.

"I try to get at least 20 minutes of swimming or yoga in each day," says Georgina. "During my current downtime I'm taking the time to explore different types of cuisine and I'm getting back to playing the piano after 20 years. Above all, though, I'm delving into the precious moments with my husband and new baby."

And don't feel bad in moments like this. "Remember, not every day is game day," says Tina. "Times like this are the perfect chance to find some new non-work related interests or simply to allow your hard-working mind to relax a little… If you don't feel like crushing your career goals every day, that's OK."

Autor Will Salmon

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