Working with your spouse in a photography business can have huge benefits as long as you are ready and able to overcome the challenges. Although freelance work has many advantages, one of the main disadvantages is that a photographer must wear many hats. However, if you are part of a team, you can divide these responsibilities between you and your partner.
The husband and wife photography team seems to be a popular couple specifically for wedding photography. One reason for this is that wedding photographers have somewhat crazy schedules, so it can be good if you’re on that crazy schedule with your spouse. Another reason is that many couples want two photographers, so rather than training a handful of second shooters, it can be nice to work with your spouse.
My husband and I photographed weddings and other types of photography together shortly after our own wedding in 2011. People often ask us how we like working together and it seems like they come from a point of view or of another. Either they can’t imagine working with their spouse, or they are curious about it.
If you find yourself in camp who are curious about working with your spouse in a photography business, I’ll tell you about some of the benefits and challenges. To simplify understanding, I have divided everything into three main categories: schedule, distribution of responsibilities and teamwork. Next, I’ll cover the pros, cons, and best practices for working with your spouse.
A photographer’s schedule
As I mentioned before, a photographer’s schedule is not typical. We have meetings after our clients leave work and we have photo shoots on weekends or at sunset. For our commercial photography, even though we communicate with clients during office hours, we often shoot outside the normal working hours of 9am to 5pm.
Also, our work is somewhat seasonal. We are outdoor photographers based in Colorado, where much of our work takes place in the summer and fall. This means we work extra hard when we’re busy and catch up on everything else, including gaming, when we’re not.
When you consider this schedule, you can see how pretty awesome it is to be on this schedule alongside your spouse. We can take vacations together because our busy work weeks line up. It’s nice to have someone to have lunch with in the middle of the day when everyone is working traditional hours.
For us, we often enjoy doing fun things on weekdays when it’s less crowded. Over the years, it’s been nice to have our hiking and biking trails all to ourselves on our “weekend.” It feels good when you pass a crowded path on your way to work on a Saturday.
However, as our busy work weeks are aligned, it can mean that we are both stressed and busy at the same time. There have been seasons when we keep working and don’t set limits around working hours
It also impacts our social life with all the friends who are in a different industry. Sometimes it’s hard to miss the Saturday barbecues when everyone’s on the weekends and we’re working. We must be intentional in blocking out time for friends and family.
Another delicate aspect is only beginning to become a problem for us. For the first 5 years of our business we had no children, for the next 5 we had young children, but now our children are going to school next year. This means that our children are in school during our off season and during summer vacation during our high season.
Finally, working with your spouse, especially in your own business, means work can take over all aspects of your day. You are having breakfast and suddenly you are working. It can be difficult to turn work mode off.
What can you do to make the most of the photographer’s irregular schedule when working with your spouse?
- Set working hours. They may be different each week depending on the shoot, but the structure helps manage time and stress.
- Do not forget to plan a weekend, if you worked all Saturday and Sunday remove Monday otherwise you will find yourself in burn-out.
- Schedule a night or day date or a time when you don’t talk about work. Otherwise, it can be easy for work to seep into every aspect of your relationship.
- Have a routine to reduce stress and don’t skip that routine when you’re busy. This is when you need your routine the most.
- Build friends and community both inside and outside the industry so that you have people who understand your schedule, but also people with completely different outlooks on life. It will keep you grounded.
- If you have kids, you’ll want to consider ways to fit your schedule into your family goals. For example, we’ve branched out so that all of our work isn’t done in the summer when our kids 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 division of responsibilities with your spouse can be the best or worst part of working together. It’s like any aspect of a relationship. Are you balancing or stepping on your toes?
Photographers are responsible for marketing, accounting, client relations, email, website design and maintenance, equipment upkeep and cleaning, shooting, slaughtering, editing, etc. That’s a lot of tasks for one person. Not to mention that there are bound to be tasks that you don’t like or that you don’t master.
As a husband and wife team, we can divide responsibilities according to our strengths and interests. This simplifies the amount of work each person is responsible for making us more efficient and effective. I find this to be one of the best ways to reduce stress because I get the most stress when I try to multi-task and overdo it.
Sharing responsibilities is usually a pro unless you don’t. At first, we were both managing each other and it was inefficient and insulting. Once we learned to trust each other, we were able to let go of our worries while still being there for support.
A challenge might be deciding who is responsible for what. Fortunately, we balance each other quite well. For example, I love marketing but I miss cleaning and organizing materials while my husband is the opposite.
How can you decide how to divide responsibilities and what are the key things to remember?
- Make a list of everything you have to do in your business. Then let each partner discuss the things they like, hate, and are indifferent to doing and are responsible for. Also consider each other’s strengths.
- Consider outsourcing something if you both hate it or changing who is responsible for it. If not, learn more about it because sometimes we don’t like things until we know how to do them more efficiently.
- Once you have decided on roles and responsibilities, trust and support each other. Find ways to hold each other accountable without micromanaging.
- Communication. Clear and compassionate communication will help you know what the other is doing. This can take the form of a weekly meeting or a brief end-of-day summary.
Work and teamwork as a photography team
Work and teamwork have two different connotations. Work looks like something we have to do while teamwork looks like fun. If we focus on the joys of being a team, then maybe the job can feel a little more enjoyable.
It’s amazing to work towards common goals with your spouse, it strengthens your relationship and your communication.
I mentioned earlier that splitting responsibilities can be nice. One of the benefits of teamwork is that if one 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 managing stress but simply about creating a better job. When we tour together, we make each other better by supporting, encouraging and pushing each other. For example, at a wedding, one of us is tasked with nailing down a strong but sure shot of an important moment that frees the other to try a creative experiment.
And finally, working together in our business has actually prepared us to work together in other aspects of our marriage, like being parents. We use the same principles of mutual support, stepping in when someone is overwhelmed, division of responsibilities, mutual trust and strong communication.
The main downside to working with your spouse is that if you have a tough day at work or a disagreement, you don’t just bring them home, they’re literally already home with you. It is important to treat each other with respect and professionalism. And sometimes you have to take off the work hat and let things go.
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 push your creativity further and better serve your customers.
- Use meetings or recordings to stay on the same page.
- Use tools and technologies to switch work back and forth, such as a shared to-do list or a shared calendar. You can color-code things or find other ways to collaborate.
- Take off your work hat when you get home and keep a strong boundary between work and home.
- Celebrate victories and successes. Communicate your gratitude to each other.
A great adventure in photography and business
If you’re toying with the idea of working with your spouse in photography, know that I highly recommend it. Preparing for challenges by implementing some best practices will help you reap the rewards of having your colleague as your best friend and spouse. It’s not for everyone but it’s definitely a great adventure.
Make sure you understand how the schedule will work for you and where you will need to fill in the gaps. Then, distribute responsibilities in a way that not only is efficient and effective, but also avoids stepping on each other’s toes. And finally, be aware that work and teamwork can get complicated, so make time for your relationship as well.
About the Author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga instructor and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “Love. Adventurous. They are dedicated to telling stories of adventures in beautiful places.
Picture credits: Header photo from Depositphotos. All other photos by Brenda Bergreen.