You’ve been a photographer for years; you know your stuff, you’re working and tearing it up. Your spouse has a day job and one day asks to tag along for a wedding to see what you do. Fast forward a year or so and they’ve quit their job, geared up, and are shooting with you full-time. You’ve got your favorite person in the world right by your side, both in the field and in the office, working together as creatives! Sounds awesome, right? Not so fast. Your favorite person in the world is now around 24/7, and you suddenly realize maybe you didn’t mind having something just for yourself.
When I met my wife, she had been shooting part time for several years, and I was a newbie with only a history in graphic design and punk rock as my experience. We began working together around 2010 and through our experiences, we have managed not to kill each other and have learned a great deal which can help you navigate a sometimes difficult decision.
Before you start throwing MagMod Spheres across the room at each other, read these tips to keep you both from losing your minds!
1. It’s not a competition
Ok, it can be, as long as you keep it light, fun, and don’t make it personal. It’s great to engage in friendly competition with your spouse, which helps to push each other to make better art. You want to make sure you know and understand your significant other, so you aren’t hurting their feelings with your playfulness.
Some people love to compete as couples, and others are a bit less into the idea. This is where open communication becomes so important. Read their body language, know if your playfulness is being taken the wrong way, and dial it back if need be. But if they’re game, let the games begin!
My wife and I love to have a friendly competition at weddings. We will shoot a shot and then show the other person all while giving them a ribbing about how it’s the best shot of the day so far! But we also make sure to champion each other’s shots as well, and provide assistance to one another so we can make great art for our clients while we have fun.
2. Focus on what matters
Why are you a photographer? Why do you own your own business? Like most of us, you probably have a mix of reasons; the creative outlet, the financial rewards, the pride of being in business for yourself, the ability to schedule your life around your family and friends…the list goes on.
Working with your spouse means you should share these goals, which will make working together even more rewarding. You want to be working to achieve your dreams, not swimming upstream because your spouse has a different idea of how the business should be run. So lay it all out there, discuss it at length, and decide if this path is going to work for your future together.
It’s easy to let work create a rift between you and your partner, so it’s better to hash everything out in advance than to have regrets or resentment later.
3. Learn together
Share with each other, take critique, give critique, attend workshops, classes, and conferences together, all of these experiences make us better artists and people.
We have found huge enjoyment attending conferences together, building mutual friendships, fostering old friendships, and learning as a couple. Each time we leave a conference, we feel so refreshed and happy having spent the time together learning, sharing, laughing, and loving.
Navigating critique of each other’s work takes a bit more finesse. Feelings can easy get hurt when the one person you count on for everything somehow finds a flaw in something you’ve created. It takes a lot of perspective and understanding to be open to critique from a spouse, but it’s really important to learn to be giving and accepting of critique with grace.
Sometimes budget won’t allow for the two of you to attend a class, conference, or workshop. If that is the case, one of you should still attend, as you can then share some of what you learned. And even though it isn’t the same as being there in person, a little bit of the lesson does transfer. No matter what, even one of you getting the experience is better than none.
4. Shoot for Yourselves
Take time to shoot something that makes each of you happy as individuals, such as personal passion projects. This helps with showing who you are and expressing yourself.
Last year, my wife took time away from our paid work to photograph the daily life of a young woman fighting a battle with breast cancer, along with her family. As the year went on, it became apparent she was losing this battle, so my wife set up a time with her to do a video interview project. She died just days after Christmas. The film turned out amazing and has been a treasure for her surviving family. Her children, once they are old enough, will truly appreciate the photographs and video my wife created for the family.
These are the kinds of projects that will revitalize you and help recharge your batteries when you’re feeling burned out from the day to day grind. Take the time to give back to your community, or work on that project you’ve pushed aside, you won’t regret it.
5. Remember why you’re here
You fell in love with photography, owning your own business, etc. It’s ok for your spouse to fall in love with photography as well, and it shows a genuine interest in you and your talents. Give each other space to grow, to create, to love what you do. Don’t forget how important you are to each other, and why you are together in the first place.
Your life as a working couple will grow and foster a wonderful passion, and having someone by your side who knows the struggles, knows the triumphs (and can share in them), is really valuable.
My wife and I have spent years working together, and we hit our own roadblocks at times, but nothing makes us feel better about our relationship and our work together than overcoming these roadblocks as a team and seeing the wonderful changes we make in the lives of the people we photograph. This is what keeps us going and always pushing to get to the next level.
For all of the difficulties we go through as creatives, as business owners, as entrepreneurs, it’s important to know our spouse supports us, and it’s even better when we support each other. If you work with your spouse, you can support each other through your mutual enjoyment of photography and business, and through your mutual respect for each other’s time, space, and creativity!