Working with Your Spouse, Part 4

This is part 4 of a 6 part series on husband and wife photography teams. In this series I highlight many of the struggles Geoff and I faced as husband and wife business partners and how we overcame them. Look for the series posts on Fridays.

Separating the Hobby from the Business

One of the biggest pitfalls in professional photography is separating your love of photography from the realities of running a business. It’s a very fine line, and one that many photographers struggle with. The problem is that we all love photography and as creatives, we see the potential art of each and every image. Many photographers get caught at their desk until the wee hours of the night working on one image for hours. If you are being well paid to spend extra time on a certain image-perhaps it’s been ordered as a 20×30 wall portrait, then that is reasonable.

But if you are retouching every single image by hand that every goes out of your studio, I assure you, that’s going to be a real pain point down the road if it isn’t already. It’s those hours lost in photoshop late at night that can take a toll on a marriage. That is time you are taking from yourself, from your spouse.

And the sad reality is, your client probably won’t even notice. There are details we see as a professional photographer that our clients never see. And it’s that last 10% that takes the longest and provides the least amount of benefit to your business. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to reconsider your priorities.

Obviously, I am speaking from experience. I saw how our studio was getting further and further behind in production because so much time was being spent at each and every step of the process. We were literally drowning in production. And the hole got deeper and deeper as we barely inched along in progress. The fact was, Geoff simply couldn’t stop himself. He loved it and got lost in the process of editing, color correcting, retouching and album designs. But it was eating us alive. The business was drowning in past due work, I didn’t want to talk to clients who kept asking when would it be ready, and Geoff barely left his computer, starting early in the morning and still sitting there well past midnight. You can only imagine this wasn’t healthy for the marriage either.

Eventually I was able to convince Geoff to take a step back and let go of the idea of perfection. I began doing the wedding edits (in 4 hours instead of 12) and we started outsourcing some of the production.

This was a huge turning point for us. It took a while for Geoff to let go and to accept my version of an edit, but as I began to take more of an ownership approach to the business, he was able to trust that I would do a “good enough” job that I wouldn’t destroy the reputation he had built for extremely high quality. In turn, this allowed him the ability to take more of a leadership role in the business growth and he wasn’t so mired in the daily grind of production.

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neil mackenzie November 12, 2011 at 5:35 pm

you are 100% correct. I show my wife a print and ask her what is wrong with it,she says its fine! But the guy on the right has his eyes closed and its soft.
Luckly i hate spending time in the darkroom and now time on the computer, so i knock out a wedding in 2 hours, if they where paying $10,000 then you have time to spend touching up the images, and money to outsource
Neil

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Lara White November 14, 2011 at 9:00 am

good comments Neil, I hope the article series if helpful to you and your wife!

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