How Photographers, Rockstars & Astronauts Actually Spend Their Time

photo graph swiss miss seth godin chase jarvis

This post should actually be called: “How People THINK Photographers Spend Their Time -VS- How They Actually Spend It — it’s not what you think and it’s not too late”. Come to think of it, perhaps I’ll find an even better title… [Done.]

Experience tells me that non-photographers, or amateur photographers often have an idyllic view of the life of a professional photographer. It’s all romping around with a pricy camera, with hot models in ridiculous locations, epic studios, and fancy parties. It’s just not true. That’s not to say there aren’t innumerable awesome perks to my chosen profession, that I don’t count my lucky stars and pinch myself everyday…but his infographic (compliments of Swiss Miss via Seth) tells a different — much more accurate story.

But my real point here is this: every damn profession is full of this stuff. The stuff you’ve gotta do outside the “aura” of the job–whether you’re thinking photographer, rockstar, or astronaut, firefighter or poet– there are ditches the have to be dug, hoops that have to be jumped through, bullshit that can derail the essence of what you do. You can make choices to do more or less of the bullshit…But the way to avoid it? There is no way – you must deal with it. So the way to deal with it? Choose to pursue something you love. Because if you do, those ditches will seem shorter, the hoops closer to the ground, and the bullshit less stinky.

Choose wisely and choose with your heart.

(Share this stuff. I think it’s important.)

58 Responses to How Photographers, Rockstars & Astronauts Actually Spend Their Time

  1. Chris Plante March 22, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Ya but don’t guys like Chase have staff to do all that extra stuff? All we see Chase do is hang outside of helicopters and such. :)

    • anahata photography March 24, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

      or online webcasting with said *rockstars*

    • GILLIS August 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

      I had the exact same thought

    • joe L. August 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

      i think the hanging-outside-of-helicopters bit will be much smaller if you factor in his staff’s work as well, right Chase? =]

  2. Anthony March 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    That green pie section on ‘How Photographers Actually Spend Their Time’ should also include “getting fat”. Ha!

  3. Andy R. Garcia March 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    This was a super sick post! :D

  4. Patrik Lindgren March 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    True that!

  5. Vishwa March 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Very well said. I’m definitely sharing this. “A look behind the lens” so too speak.


  6. John Cureton March 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    Well said Chase!

  7. Przemek | studioelan March 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    I think there is one very important piece missing from the “what they actually do” pie chart, which is: prep work, scouting and thinking – and it should be at least the size of “editing and cpu stuff”…

  8. Dan Oksnevad March 22, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    So very true. If only “taking pictures” could become a bigger part of my pie…

  9. Steven March 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    Some people think all we do 99% of the time is just ‘press the button, it’s all digital these days!’ – easy life!
    plus,,, 1% looking at pie charts.

  10. Frogger March 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    it’s wrong. they spend 50% telling girls they are photographers, and 50% creeping.

  11. Mike March 22, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    I’d like to see the 5.9% section of “Advertising and Marketing” further elaborated on in a future post of yours. Perhaps you could give a few pointers to photographers who are stuck in the purgatory stage between a few clients and tons of clients.

  12. Hilary B. March 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    The pie chart is refreshing especially after so many recent online posts of this topic have been accompanied by really bad photos! LOL

  13. Jaakko Laurila March 22, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    It is easier to be a photographer if you have another, decent job.

  14. JC Ruiz March 22, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    There goes the stigma that I party with models every weekend lol

  15. Dwayne Foong March 23, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    This is a very good representation of how outsiders perceives us and what we actually do. :)

    Like any other business, it is almost as simple as 70% business activities and 30% clicking the shutter.

    Have a good day everyone!

  16. Paul Conrad March 23, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    I still manage to “party like a rock star” about 00.29% of the time!

  17. DanielKPhoto March 23, 2012 at 7:54 am #

    One very beautiful post Chase, I love it and I think you’re totally right. I’m not a professional yet, but if I’ll ever become one then I think I’ll experience just this and I’ll keep this post in mind.

    Thx Chase,


  18. Joe Milton March 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    Thanks Chase. Glad you liked it! Original post here:

  19. Henk Coetzee March 24, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    This goes for pretty much any profession. I’m a geoscientist. If I believe what I see on National Geographic and trashy action movies, I would be saving the world from cataclysmic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on a semi-regular basis and spend the rest of my time hanging out of a helicopter over active volcanoes. As a photographer I should also have most mornings and evenings to devote to landscape photography in dramatic mountains and deserts.

    Funny how sitting in an office in a city and planning the rehabilitation of abandoned mines doesn’t really feature in this public perception.

  20. Dan Law March 24, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    That’s a great post makes me think as its such a large piece of the pie improving picture editing skills might lead to having more time to take pictures.

  21. John March 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    To be fair, there is still at least 1% partying like rock stars.. that’s only 3 and a half days a year. ;)

  22. Kristin Smith March 24, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    This graph is so true. My husband and I have run a photo studio for about 7 years now that is about 40% commercial and 60% portrait (families and dogs). We spend so much time on the hustle of the business to keep it going. The thing is, that I think that is the thing that separates the amateurs from the professionals – actually being able to run a business. Good images are a given. It’s funny, I was at a birthday for one of my youngest son’s classmates and the grandma, the mother and the aunt of the birthday girl all had their Nikon’s with zoom lenses going the whole time. I sat down and chatted with the grandma, “It looks like your family really likes photography.” ‘Oh yes,” she says. “We had a portrait business – natural light – we had some really good backgrounds, we just couldn’t get enough clients event with free session fees, so we closed our business.” The business HAS to be a big part of what we do or none of us will survive or thrive.

  23. nick March 25, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    i love this! i love how people around me are always pointing out the “benefits” that come from being a photographer.

  24. Moritz March 26, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    where is the after party with the cast?? oh hold on, guess thats networking and meeting clients ;)
    but agree, lots of time spend editing, and all the other stuff… but still its a great job and i rather spend only a small percentage shooting rather than spend a huge percentage serving clients food and drinks in a restaurant as a waiter haha.

    just finished my latest blog, behind the scenes of a shoot for US clothing company in the UK.

    have a great week


  25. fen March 29, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    interesting post. Never think about this. sue!

  26. Corporate Headshots March 30, 2012 at 4:57 am #

    very very true- I try and tell young photography students that being a photographer is more about business than creativity

  27. David Wai March 30, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    80% taking pictures and only 5% partying like rockstars?

  28. jeroen April 5, 2012 at 4:03 am #

    some partying and travelling could be involved in, say, networking and client meeting :)

  29. dem April 6, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    The pie chart is refreshing especially after so many recent online posts of this topic have been accompanied by really bad photos! LOL

  30. Mark April 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    good to know! thank heavens i am not a pro photographer (yet). frankly, this is truly an inspiration to take up photography on a serious note, cos the pie chart does not feature any sector named ‘doing bullshit’ like how most of the remaining jobs have!
    love your work chase!!

  31. Charlie McEvoy April 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    As a full-time music producer and hobby photographer, those charts are bang on.

  32. Mike April 15, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Maybe u have to change from right to left an increase partying a bit, the right one seems 2 me like something thats called work. So dont forget to change your life.Now. :-)

  33. Alice April 24, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

    really like it ,so nice .

  34. hair extension training July 12, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    salutations from across the ocean. interesting post I shall return for more.

  35. I do trust all the ideas you have offered to your post. They are really convincing and can certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for beginners. May just you please extend them a bit from next time? Thank you for the post.

  36. Merci July 26, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    between thinking and doing was allways a big difference all over the worlf

  37. goldfries August 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    As a commercial photographer, I have a reputation of taking food photos and what people often think is that
    a) I spend a bit of time photographing the food
    b) I spend the rest of the session gorging delicious stuff that I photograph

    a) I have to photograph fast, because food changes as time passes, regardless of hot or cold stuff.
    b) I don’t get to eat them, even if I do, it’s not all the time. There was one that I was allowed to eat everything, there are other times where you just get a plate (which is still good)
    c) In reference to point b) – nice looking food photo doesn’t mean it tastes nice. It’s my job to make it look nice.
    d) In reference to points b) and c) – food that look nice are often bad for consumption, some are not edible. For example, we add more stuff on the food to make it look nice but it spoils the taste entirely. In some production, you use non-edible substances like motor oil or washing powder. :P
    e) and to make food look nice, it took much effort to understand lighting, and how to position and power the lights to get the effect. It’s not just go in, point and shoot and voila! you get a photo. NO


  38. Derwinism August 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    Not bad… I would have had editing photos at around 40%. I have to get faster at the editing part. Any suggestion?

  39. Ian Baugh August 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Credit for the infographic should actually go to ISPWP, who actually did a survey.

  40. MariusMarius Henning August 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    I am showing this pie to my customers thanks Chase

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