Working with your spouse in a photography business can have tremendous benefits as long as you are willing and able to take on the challenges. While there are many advantages to being self-employed, one of the main disadvantages is that a photographer has to wear a lot of hats. However, if you are part of a team, you can split these responsibilities between you and your partner.
The husband and wife photographer team seems to be a popular pairing especially for wedding photography. One reason is that wedding photographers have crazy schedules, so it can be nice when you have that crazy schedule with your spouse. Another reason is that many couples want two photographers, so it can be nice to work with your spouse instead of training a handful of second shooters.
My husband and I have been shooting weddings and other types of photography together since shortly after our own wedding in 2011. People often ask us how we like working together and it seems that they come from one point of view or another. Either they cannot imagine working with their spouse or they are curious about it.
If you find yourself at camp and curious about working in a photography business with your spouse, I will discuss some of the benefits and challenges. For the sake of simplicity, I’ve broken everything down into three main categories: the schedule, division of responsibilities, and teamwork. Then I go into pros, cons, and best practices for working with your spouse.
A photographer’s schedule
As I have already indicated, a photographer’s schedule is not typical. We have meetings after our clients get home from work and we have photo shoots on the weekends or at sunset. Even when we communicate with clients during business hours, we often shoot for our commercial photography outside of the normal 9-5 work schedule.
Also, our work is somewhat seasonal. We’re outdoor photographers based in Colorado, where much of our work takes place during the summer and fall. That means we work really hard when we’re busy and catch up on everything else, including games, when we’re not.
When you look at this schedule, you can see how awesome it is to be on this schedule with your spouse. We can vacation together because our busy work weeks are coordinated. It’s nice to have someone to have lunch with in the middle of the day when everyone else is working traditional hours.
We often appreciate doing fun things on the days of the week when there are fewer people. Over the years it has been nice to have our hiking and biking trails to ourselves on our “weekend”. It feels good when we pass a crowded trailhead on our way to work on a Saturday.
However, as our busy workweeks are synchronized, it can mean that we are both stressed and busy at the same time. There were times when we just kept working and neglected to set limits on working hours
It also affects our social life with friends from another industry. Sometimes it’s hard to miss the Saturday BBQs when everyone else is at the weekend and we’re working. We must intentionally set aside time for friends and family.
Another tricky aspect has just become an issue for us. In the first 5 years of our business we had no children, in the next 5 years we had little children, but now our children go to school next year. This means that our children are in school during our low season and during our busy summer holiday season.
Finally, working with your spouse, especially in your own business, means work can take over every aspect of your day. You’re having breakfast and suddenly you’re working. It can be difficult to turn off work mode.
Recommended course of action
What can you do to make the most of the irregular photographer schedule when working with your spouse?
- Set working hours. They may be different each week depending on the photo shoot, but structure helps with time management and stress.
- Don’t forget to plan a weekend, if you’ve been working all Saturday and Sunday, take Monday off or you’ll find yourself burned out.
- Plan an evening date, daytime date, or a time when you won’t talk about work. Otherwise, work can easily invade every aspect of your relationship.
- Have a stress relief routine and don’t skip this routine when you’re busy. That’s when you need your routine the most.
- Develop friends and a community inside and outside the industry so you have people who understand your schedule, but also people with completely different perspectives on life. It will keep you grounded.
- If you have children, you should consider how to balance your schedule with your family goals. For example, we have diversified so that not all of our work takes place in the summer when our children are on vacation. We want to be able to spend time with them camping and so on.
Sharing responsibilities when working with your spouse
The topic of sharing responsibilities with your spouse can be the best part or the worst part of working together. It’s similar to every aspect of a relationship. Do you balance each other or step on each other’s toes?
Photographers have to take care of marketing, accounting, client relations, email, website design and maintenance, equipment maintenance and cleaning, shooting, weeding, editing and more. That’s a lot of work for one person. Not to mention that there are tasks that you don’t like or that you don’t master.
As a married couple, we can divide responsibilities according to our strengths and interests. This simplifies the amount of work each person has to carry to make us more efficient and effective. I find this to be one of the best ways to relieve stress because I get stressed the most when I’m trying to multitask and overdoing it.
Division of responsibilities is mostly a pro unless you don’t. In the beginning we micromanaged each other and it was inefficient and abusive. Once we learned to trust each other, we were able to take care of one another and be there for support at the same time.
One challenge might be deciding who is responsible for what. Luckily we balance each other out pretty well. For example, I enjoy doing marketing but am bored of cleaning and organizing gear while my husband is the opposite.
Recommended course of action
How can you decide how to share responsibilities and what are some important things to keep in mind?
- Make a list of everything you need to do in your business. Then have each partner discuss the things they love, hate, and are indifferent to and responsible for. Also, consider what each person’s strengths are.
- Consider outsourcing something if you both hate it, or switching who is responsible for it. Alternatively, you can learn more about it because sometimes we don’t like things until we know how to make them more effective.
- Once you’ve decided on roles and responsibilities, you trust and support each other. Find ways to hold each other accountable without micromanaging.
- Communication. Clear, compassionate communication helps you both know what the other is doing. This can take the form of a weekly meeting or a quick recap at the end of the day.
Working and teamwork as a team of photographers
Work and teamwork have two different connotations. Work sounds like something we have to do while teamwork sounds like fun. When we focus on the joys of being a team, maybe work can feel a little more enjoyable.
Working towards common goals with your spouse is incredible, it strengthens your relationship and communication.
I mentioned above that sharing responsibilities can be nice. One of the benefits of teamwork is that when a person is overwhelmed, they can ask their teammate for more support. If I need to take something off my plate, I can ask for help.
There are also times when it’s not about dealing with stress, it’s just about creating better work. When we shoot together, we improve each other by supporting, encouraging and pushing each other. At a wedding, for example, one of us is responsible for taking a strong but confident shot of an important moment that gives the other time for creative experimentation.
Finally, working together in our business has actually prepared us to work together in other aspects of our marriage, such as being parents. We use the same principles of mutual support, intervening when one person is overwhelmed, sharing responsibilities, mutual trust and strong communication.
The main downside of working with your spouse is that you not only take a hard day’s work or a disagreement home with you, you literally take it home already. It is important that we treat each other with respect and professionalism. And sometimes you have to take off your work hat and let things go.
Recommended course of action
How can spouses be better teammates?
- Be ready to ask for help and lean on your teammate if you’re carrying too much.
- Work together to further fuel your creativity and better serve your customers.
- Use meetings or check-ins to stay on the same page.
- Use tools and technology to move work back and forth, e.g. B. a common task list or a common calendar. You can color code or otherwise find things to work together.
- Take off your work hat when you head home and keep a strong boundary between work and home.
- Celebrate victories and achievements. Communicate gratitude for one another.
A great adventure in photography and business
If you’re thinking of collaborating with your spouse in photography, know I highly recommend it. If you prepare for the challenges by implementing some best practices, you can reap the rewards when your co-worker is your best friend and spouse. It’s not for everyone, but it’s certainly a great adventure.
Make sure you figure out how the schedule works for you and where you need to fill in gaps. Then divide responsibilities in a way that not only makes you efficient and effective, but also doesn’t step on each other’s toes. Last but not least, you know that work and teamwork can get complicated, so make time for your relationship as well.
About the author: Brenda Bergreen is a wedding photographer, videographer, yoga teacher, and writer from Colorado who works with her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “love. adventurous.” They have made it their task to tell adventurous stories in beautiful places.
Photo credit: Header photo by Depositphotos. All other photos by Brenda Bergreen.