ADHD and Photography

Written by Guy Walsh

Tuesday 23rd August 2022

This blog post is also featured on my photography website.

Just over a year ago, at 41 years old, I discovered I have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Thanks to a two-and-a-half year NHS waiting list I’m still not formally diagnosed, but the more I looked into it, the more it made sense:

The number of jobs I’ve had in my life.

The creative energy that can go as quickly as it arrives.

The inability to focus on anything that doesn’t fully engage me.

The dedication to authenticity at all costs.

I could go on. All of these are the results of a brain that does not behave as it should.

Reading that list, you may have seen these traits in yourself. This is what makes ADHD so difficult to diagnose. Many symptoms of ADHD can adequately be described as “something that everyone does from time to time”. The most frequently-used example is walking into a room and forgetting why you are there. You’ve probably done that numerous times, right?

The difference is that for those of us with ADHD, this is a daily occurrence. Multiple times daily, in fact.

Photographer Guy is taking photos of someone, surrounded by studio lights
I was so hyperfocused on my job, I didn’t realise that my friend was taking photographs of me!
Wrestler FLX with a studio light behind them
The finished image.

Under the radar

So how did this go undetected for so long?

The answer is that for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be self-employed. In my employee life I was always incredibly organised and, combined with my high-level IT skills, I could complete a day’s work in 3-4 hours. Because my brain always wants new stimulation (i.e. a new task), I would complete the mundane tasks as quickly as possible, often automating them, in the hope that I’d be given some more engaging work.

The problem was that I then had time to kill. Colleagues felt threatened and often wouldn’t allow me to help with their work because they felt it made them look inefficient, and managers would get annoyed with me constantly bothering them for extra work, so I learned the best thing to do was to entertain myself.

This, of course, came with the bonus of added anxiety. If you’re doing things you’re not being paid for (I would write song lyrics, doodle, or research my latest interests on the internet), you constantly feel like you’re doing something wrong. Indeed, colleagues would report me for “not working”, although when push came to shove no one could find fault with my work – either quality or quantity.

I thought that I was just more efficient than everyone else, and so I diagnosed myself with anxiety.

These experiences made me desperate to gain enough experience to work for myself, where no one could tell me off and I’d always be in charge of deciding my next task.

Into self-employment

The combination of being self-employed since 2011, excellent organisational skills, a passion for developing admin systems, and the ability to control where and when I work has meant that my symptoms haven’t been a huge issue for me in my work life, as I have consciously and unconsciously created my own coping mechanisms.

Despite this, I am about to start ADHD coaching, which I hope will provide even more coping mechanisms. I gained funding for this from Access to Work, the government scheme that helps disabled and neurodiverse people continue to work. The scheme includes support for the self-employed.


I’m very lucky in that I’ve found an occupation that enables me to operate at my best at all times.

There’s an ongoing discussion about renaming ADHD because as we have learned more about it, we’ve realised that it’s not a deficit of attention that is the problem – it’s a lack of consistency around it.

That’s why I could complete a day’s work in 3-4 hours, and why, when I’m passionate about something and fully engaged with it, I could go for hours while forgetting to eat, go to the toilet, or acknowledge other basic needs. This is called hyperfocus. I’m hyperfocused right now while writing this blog.

Other times, particularly around mundane, uninteresting or unchallenging tasks, people with ADHD are unable to focus at all. People with ADHD are often described as stubborn and it’s easy to see why, but it’s usually because our brains don’t allow us to move forward. We’re not deliberately being difficult, our brains just won’t allow it. Full stop. End of story. There’s no “just refocus”, “work harder”, or “stop being difficult” – it’s simply not possible.

This is why people with ADHD need to find jobs that stimulate them, and why I am lucky that I have found photography.

During a photoshoot, I’m both visually and creatively stimulated. I’m challenged to constantly improve the image that I am creating. I’m problem-solving. Should I move the light closer? Does this picture work better with or without the busy background? Can I find a better angle? Would a shallow or deeper depth-of-field work best?

At events, there is so much going on that I’m never going to be short of finding a new shot. Plus, of course, I’ll often be working to a brief, which means that there will be enjoyable challenges in obtaining the shots requested.

Throw in the fact that I get to work with interesting people, build relationships, and (hopefully) have fun in a relaxed environment, and it’s the perfect storm for both my personality and my ADHD.

Photographer Guy photographs a person kneeling on the floor in front of studio lights
This was during some work for my Hot Tag Wrestling Photography brand – my job is to help the wrestler come up with poses and bring the best out of the ones they want to try.
A black and white photo of a male wrestler kneeling on the floor, holding two crowbars to make a cross
The finished image.

Other neurodiverse people

If you suspect you may have ADHD and want to explore, there are many free initial tests on the internet – a simple google for “ADHD test” will find dozens. They’re not conclusive, but they’ll start you on your journey and give you something to discuss with your GP.

If you have neurodiverse people (people with ADHD and/or autism) on your team, please talk to them about how you can best help them, and don’t assume that the things I have written here will work for them. Be aware that they themselves may not know what support they need. In a way, I’m a little lucky that I discovered this at 41 because I have developed the communication skills to be able to explain what support I need from people. The challenge for me is more often whether or not they listen and/or are willing to work around these needs.

My generation grew up around a lot of stigma about ADHD. When I was younger I dismissed it as people using it as an excuse to misbehave – an attitude I had inherited from my parents. Now I understand not only is it very real, but there are hundreds of thousands of people out there that are undiagnosed. It’s become clear that a lot of people labelled as “lazy” or “difficult” are actually neurodiverse people with unmet needs – often because they are unaware themselves.

For years I assumed that what was going on in my head was normal, and that everyone experienced the same. Now I realise that’s not the case. Others that have ADHD will experience similar symptoms, but it affects every person differently.  

I’m making it my mission to talk about this more, and I have already managed to help a couple of people just by doing so. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be neurodiverse, and you’d like to talk in confidence, please know that my door is always open.

And if you want an energetic, hyperfocused photographer – you know where to come!

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