As a wedding photographer, it can feel like 90% of daily life is around screens, technology and social media. Between editing photos on a computer, planning, scheduling and creating content, communicating with clients, and just being a millennial in the digital era, the overwhelm surrounding tech and social media is real. I don’t know about you but in some periods of overwhelm when I was poorly managing tech in my life, I felt stressed, less creative, less motivated, unsure of my path and ultimately depressed. Sound like you?
In an effort to have more freedom, better productivity, and most importantly, better mental health, I started (and continue) to set boundaries around technology and social media. And before you run off after hearing the word “boundaries,” let me tell you, boundaries are so important for photographers and any small business owner. After setting some of my own, I’ve had so much more freedom! From free space in my brain to free time, boundaries are key to getting more done and having better mental health as a small business owner. Here are 7 boundaries to set around technology and social media as a photographer:
Hear me out. How often do you catch yourself scrolling before falling asleep and the next thing you know, instead of sleeping, you’ve wasted an hour of precious time scrolling through instagram. And then when you wake up tired the next morning (because you definitely could have used that extra hour of sleep), you immediately reach for your phone and check email. Now you’re stressed because you just saw all of your unread emails and already feel behind on everything you need to do today. Want to know the worst part in all of this? You haven’t even gotten out of bed and now you’re running late…
To promote better sleep and relaxation, designate your bedroom as a technology-free zone. Remove screens, like your phone and tablets, even the TV, and create a space conducive to rest and rejuvenation. When there are no phones around, maybe you’ll reach for a book instead! Or you’ll crawl into bed and fall asleep faster than ever. Or have valuable pillow-talk with your partner.
When I did this, my hesitations included wanting to have my phone in the room in case of an emergency and the fact that I used my phone for my alarm. So, I got a real alarm clock (mind blowing, I know) and I made a charging station for my phone in my room, but on my dresser instead of on the nightstand. I take my phone off silent mode, turn up my ringer volume and then set it to sleep mode. This way, if someone called me in the middle of the night, it would still wake me up and be accessible quickly. But not so accessible that I can just reach for it out of habit and start scrolling. When you start and end the day, without screens, you’ll feel more at peace when you wake up and you’ll get a better night’s sleep when you crawl into bed.
I’ve come to the conclusion in my life that very few things are truly urgent. And if it is truly urgent, believe me, it’ll make its way to the surface so you can respond. But otherwise, constant notifications can interrupt your creative flow and obviously distract you. Curious what that means for your productivity? Just do a quick google search for “context switching” and then come back here… It’s not good.
Take control by disabling non-urgent notifications on your devices. Instagram likes and comments, news articles, Facebook updates and promotional notifications from any shopping app should be the first to go. Go into settings and turn them off. Or at minimum, disable lock screen and banners and keep them only in your notifications center. They don’t matter and you’ll get to them, in an organized way that doesn’t suck your time.
For iPhones, utilize different focus modes or “Do Not Disturb” settings to create uninterrupted periods of concentration. I have several different focus modes throughout the day, from work, to sleep, to wedding days. For example, during my work hours on weekdays, my “Work” focus mode automatically turns on and only allows work-related notifications from my team and Asana. Calls from my partner and family come through but not texts. That’s it. Think through your life and create different focus modes if you’re on iPhone or utilize “Do Not Disturb” modes to silence notifications.
Establish clear communication preferences with your clients. Clearly communicate your availability, response times, and preferred methods of communication early on. In my experience, I’ve found that setting expectations with clients upfront is always best. And while I understand the desire to always be available for your clients, you have to protect your personal life and save mental space for other people and things in your life. Otherwise, you’ll be on a fast-track to burnout.
What I can tell you is that I’ve never had a client complain about this. Some will even text me at 9pm now and say things like “no need to respond right now! I just had this on my mind and didn’t want to forget…” meaning they respect my time and have no issue with it. By setting realistic expectations, you can manage client interactions effectively while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. What does that look like?
There’s a few strategies you can totally steal. For one, my automatic email signature includes a small line under my contact info with my office hours and a note on how long they can expect to receive a response. On weekends with weddings, I set auto responders to gently remind people that I’m at a wedding and focusing on my clients for the weekend. My contract also features a clause about communication and email expectations and when I’m onboarding new couples, I mention that email is preferred so I don’t miss anything and can keep everything in one place.
Share your boundaries around technology and social media with your loved ones. Communicate your need for uninterrupted work time or designated tech-free periods for personal connections. By having open conversations about your boundaries, you can gain their understanding and support in maintaining a balanced lifestyle. My family and loved ones know my phone lives on “Do Not Disturb” or some focus mod. They know that in the case of an emergency or if they need an urgent response, to call me (and to call twice in a row to get through the “Do Not Disturb” mode). Otherwise, they trust that I’ll get back to them when I’m free that day.
I know I know. It’s scary. I was terrified to delete the Gmail app from my phone. But you know what? I don’t think anyone has noticed I don’t have email on my phone except me. Constantly checking and responding to emails can lead to a never-ending work cycle. You live in a reactive state, using your day to respond to emails and needs from others instead of proactively managing your time. When I deleted email from my phone, I also set one (yes, one) designated time each day to check and respond to emails. This way, I don’t constantly feel overwhelmed by the non-urgent “to do” list my emails felt like in my head. And by setting a time boundary around emails, I can get in and respond to emails with more focus and intensity, saving time. (And if I ever truly need it, did you know you can still access Gmail in your phone’s web browser?? Again, mindblown).
Designate regular periods of tech-free time each week to disconnect from screens and digital devices. Use this time to engage in offline activities such as reading physical books, exploring nature, pursuing hobbies, working out, or spending quality time with loved ones. These breaks from technology will rejuvenate your mind, boost creativity, and promote overall well-being.
For me, this includes my time to workout and go to the gym or on a run. I definitely have music and my phone with me, but guess what? It’s on “Do Not Disturb” and that one hour is for me and me alone. It also includes at least one phone-free date-night with my partner every week. We plan these ahead of time to coordinate our schedules and prioritize our relationship, and then put our phones away and focus on each other.
Okay, so this ones a doozy and a whole topic in and of itself. Social media can be both a blessing and a curse for photographers. Obviously it’s necessary in business as a beautiful and free form of marketing and networking and a great way to relate to and engage with clients. But without boundaries, social media can easily suck your time, energy, mental space and affect your mental health.
Establish boundaries around your social media usage by setting limits on the amount of time you spend on the various apps. I use the app limit settings on iPhone to alert me when I’m nearing my allotted time. I also try to schedule specific times for engaging with social media each day and I batch content creation days and schedule posts so that I don’t have to pause what I’m doing, make a reel, and then get back to work every few days. And when I’m making reels or content, I use timers to stay focused and on task so I don’t inevitably get lost endlessly scrolling.
Finally, and hang in with me for this, I unfollowed almost all other wedding photographers and vendors, especially those I don’t know that are based in other markets and don’t inspire me. I muted peers in my local area that aren’t close friends of mine but are important business contacts and referral sources. The only photographers I see are those that leave me feeling inspired or close friends of mine. This has had the single biggest impact on my mental health. I don’t suffer from as much imposter syndrome, I’m not constantly comparing my business to others, I can think more clearly about next steps and the vision for my business and it’s made space for more updates of my friends and family’s updates to show up on my feed.
With these 7 boundaries to set around technology and social media as a photographer, you can take control of your tech instead of letting it control you. You’ll free up space (both brain space, energy and time) for the things that matter most in your life and business. Remember, these boundaries aren’t meant to cage you in. They’re here to enable you to focus on what you love most—creating stunning photographs and leading a fulfilling life both behind and away from the lens. So try implementing one at a time in your life and see what happens!