Working with your spouse in a photography business can have huge advantages as long as you’re ready and able to overcome the challenges. While there are many benefits of self-employment, one of the main drawbacks is that a photographer has to wear many hats. However, if you are part of a team then you can divide those responsibilities between you and your partner.
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 they come from one point of view or another. Either they can’t imagine working with their spouse or they are curious about it.
If you find yourself in the camp that’s curious about how to work with your spouse in a photography business, I’m going to talk through some of the advantages and challenges. For simplicity of understanding, I divided everything into three main categories: the schedule, dividing responsibilities, and teamwork. Then I’ll address pros, cons, and best practices for working with your spouse.
The Schedule of a Photographer
As I already alluded to, the schedule of a photographer is not typical. We have meetings after our clients get off work and we have photoshoots on the weekends or around sunset. For our commercial photography, even if we communicate with clients during business hours, we’re often shooting outside of the normal 9-5 work schedule.
Additionally, our work is somewhat seasonal. We’re outdoor photographers based in Colorado where much of our work is in the Summer and Fall. This means that we work really hard when we’re busy and catch up on everything else, including play, when we’re not.
When you consider that schedule you can see how it’s pretty awesome to be on that schedule alongside your spouse. We can take vacations together because our busy work weeks are aligned. It’s nice to have someone to have lunch with in the middle of the day when everyone else is working traditional hours.
For us, we often appreciate doing fun things on the weekdays when there are fewer crowds. Over the years it’s been nice to have our hiking and biking trails to ourselves on our “weekend.” It feels good when we drive by a crowded trailhead on our way to work on a Saturday.
However, since our busy work weeks are aligned that can mean we both are stressed and busy at the same time. There have been seasons where we just keep on working and fail to set boundaries around work hours
It also impacts our social life with any friends that are in a different industry. Sometimes it’s hard to miss out on Saturday BBQs when everyone else is weekending and we’re working. We have to be intentional about blocking out time for friends and family.
Another tricky aspect has only started to become an issue for us. For the first 5 years of our business we had no kids, for the next 5 we had small kids, but now our kids are going to school next year. This means our kids are in school during our off-season and on summer break during our busy season.
Lastly, working with your spouse, especially in your own business, means that work can take over every aspect of your day. You’re eating breakfast and suddenly you’re working. It can be hard to turn off work mode.
What can you do to make the most of the irregular photographer schedule when working with your spouse?
- Set work hours. They may be different every week depending on photoshoots but structure helps with time management and stress.
- Don’t forget to schedule a weekend, if you worked all Saturday and Sunday take Monday off otherwise you’ll find yourself burnt out.
- Plan a date night or day or some period of time when you don’t talk about work. Otherwise, it can be easy for work to leak into every aspect of your relationship.
- Have a routine for stress reduction and don’t skip that routine when you’re busy. That’s when you need your routine most.
- Develop friends and community both inside and outside of the industry so that you have people that 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 make your schedule work with your family goals. For example, we have been diversifying so that not all of our work is in the summer when our kids are on break. We want to be able to spend time with them camping and so forth.
Dividing Responsibilities when Working with Your Spouse
The topic of dividing responsibilities with your spouse can be the best or the worst part of working together. It’s similar to any aspect of a relationship. Are you balancing each other out or stepping on each other’s toes?
Photographers have to do marketing, accounting, client relations, email, website design and maintenance, gear maintenance and cleaning, shooting, culling, editing, and more. That’s a lot of tasks for one person. Not to mention there are bound to be tasks that you don’t like or aren’t proficient at.
As a husband and wife team, we can divide responsibilities based on our strengths and interests. This simplifies how much work each person is in charge of making us more efficient and effective. I find this to be one of the best ways to reduce stress because I’m most stressed when I’m trying to multitask and do too much.
Dividing responsibilities is mostly a pro unless you don’t do it. In the beginning, we were both micromanaging each other and it was inefficient and insulting. Once we learned how to trust each other we were able to take worries off our minds while still being there for support.
One challenge might be in deciding who is in charge of what. We luckily balance each other fairly well. For example, I enjoy marketing but am bored with cleaning and organizing gear while my husband is the opposite.
How can you decide how to divide responsibilities and what are some key things to remember?
- Make a list of everything you have to do in your business. Then, let each partner discuss the things they love, hate, and are indifferent about doing and being in charge of. Also factor in what each person’s strengths are.
- Consider outsourcing something if you both hate it or rotating who is in charge of it. Alternatively, learn more about it because sometimes we don’t like things until we know how to do them more effectively.
- Once you’ve decided on roles and responsibilities, trust and support each other. Find ways to hold each other accountable without micromanaging.
- Communication. Clear, compassionate communication will help you both know what the other is doing. This might be in the form of a weekly meeting or brief end-of-the-day summary.
Work and Teamwork as a Photography Team
Work and teamwork have two different connotations. Work sounds like something we have to do while teamwork sounds like fun. If we focus on the joys of being a team then maybe work can feel a little more enjoyable.
It’s incredible to be working towards shared goals with your spouse, it strengthens your relationship and communication.
I mentioned above that dividing responsibilities can be nice. One of the advantages of teamwork is that if one person is overwhelmed they can ask for more support from their teammate. If I need to take something off my plate I can ask for help.
There are also times that it’s not about dealing with stress but just creating better work. When we shoot together we make each other better by supporting, encouraging, and pushing each other. For example, at a wedding one of us is in charge of nailing a strong yet safe shot of an important moment which frees the other one up to try a creative experiment.
And lastly, working together in our business actually prepared us for working together in other aspects of our marriage such as being parents. We use the same principles of supporting each other, stepping in when one person is overwhelmed, dividing responsibilities, trusting each other, and strong communication.
The main con of working with your spouse is that if you have a rough day at work or a disagreement you’re not just taking it home with you it’s 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 willing to ask for help and lean on your teammate if you’re carrying too much.
- Work together in order to push your creativity further and serve your clients better.
- Utilize meetings or check-ins to stay on the same page.
- Use tools and technology to pass work back and forth such as a shared to-do list or a shared calendar. You can color code things or find otherwise to collaborate.
- Take off your work hat when you go home and keep a strong boundary between work and home.
- Celebrate victories and successes. Communicate gratitude for 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 yourself for the challenges by implementing some best practices will help you reap the rewards of having your co-worker be your best friend and spouse. It’s not for everyone but it’s certainly a great adventure.
Be sure to figure out how the schedule will work for you and where you’ll need to fill gaps. Then, divide responsibilities so that you’re not only being efficient and effective but are avoiding stepping on each other’s toes. And lastly, know that work and teamwork can get complicated so take time for your relationship too.
About the author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga teacher, and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “love. adventurously.” they are dedicated to telling adventurous stories in beautiful places.
Image credits: Header photo from Depositphotos. All other photos by Brenda Bergreen.