Teaming Up – Getting Your Feet Wet

For Photographers

May 12, 2015

If you’re thinking about becoming a husband and wife team or if you’re already one and you’re looking for help navigating that part of the relationship, this new series is for you! I’m actually surprised I haven’t blogged much about this already…I’ve written and shared over 600 posts and nothing yet on one of the most transformative changes of my business! So crazy.

The first thing I have to say, just to get it out of the way, is that not every couple is meant to work together. And that’s perfectly fine! The key is finding out what works for you as a couple, and what DOESN’T work. Sometimes figuring out that something doesn’t quite work is more powerful information than learning about what does, if that makes sense! Don’t feel like you have to force something that isn’t working, because unlike a regular working relationship, you have your marriage to protect in this situation as well. Our relationship comes first, so if us working together ever came to harm that, we’d have to figure out something different. And, end disclaimer.

Photo by Katelyn James

So now that that’s out of the way, here’s some tips for getting started as a married photography team!

Ask yourselves some questions. Why are you doing this? Why is this important to you? What do you want your partner’s involvement in your business to be?

Talk about your expectations. You’ll want to take the time to sit down and get all of your expectations out there on the table. What do you expect your partner’s role in your business to be? Second shooter? Second shooter and financial guru? Or do you envision them becoming more of a full blown business partner? You should also find out what your partner expects. Do they envision themselves helping out every weekend? Or do they only want to commit to two weekends a month? Lots of people who bring on their partner have a partner who still works full time during the week. Is it a long term goal of yours for your partner to join you full time eventually? All important things to think about and discuss. You’ll also find that maybe after a while your vision for what the working relationship looks like evolves over time, so it’s important to continue this conversation as time passes. This isn’t a one and done discussion.

Think about your finances. A lot of people have the misconception that working with your spouse is actually cheaper than working with contracted second shooters. It really isn’t! In addition to paying your spouse (I’ll cover that more in my next point), you also need more equipment than the average one person photographer business.  I’m not saying you have to run out and buy a second copy of every piece of gear you already own, but you will definitely need to invest in a third camera (so you have at least one backup) and another lens. John and I both have 50mm lenses (we shoot with those 80 percent of the day) and our own flashes, but we share the rest of our gear throughout the rest of the day. Depending on your shooting style, you may want to consider investing in more key pieces. Besides gear, other things cost us more money too…like food before and after events, any workshops or conferences we go to together, airfare, train tickets, etc.

Figure out compensation. I think it’s very important to pay your spouse/partner if they’re going to be working for you in any capacity. Why wouldn’t you pay them just because you’re married to them? Especially if the extent of their work for you means they are giving up their Saturdays for all of the nicest months of the year. I also think it’s important to pay them because it establishes a DISTINCT working relationship in addition to rewarding them for their hard work. You’d be paying a second shooter anyway, so paying that amount to your bestie (What?? Not everyone refers to their husband as their bestie??) should be a natural transition.

Do a trial run. John and I started working together at the beginning of our 2013 season. Prior to that, he had been assisting me at weddings…mostly carrying my things or going to grab something for me when I needed it. Our first month or two shooting together was something we considered a trial to see how things went. Maybe John would decide weddings weren’t really his thing after all, or maybe for whatever reason, it just wouldn’t work out the way we thought it would. You can’t know after only one wedding if something is working…some weddings go PERFECTLY and some are more stressful, so trying it out over the course of several weddings is important.

Another very important piece of bringing your partner into your business as a photographer is ensuring that they’re able to produce quality images you’ll be able to deliver to your clients. Next time in Teaming Up – Tips for Married Photographer Teams, we’ll talk about how to teach your partner to shoot…AND how to teach them how to shoot like you do!

Leave a Comment

  1. Ravyn says:

    This is a great post. I LOVE the last point!!! Just because you CAN work together doesn’t mean you should … If you’re doing it for the sake of convenience, you’re doomed. Only do it if you can create wonderful work TOGETHER!! So many awesome points!

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