If your partner is not involved in the photography or videography industry, you may not have thought about teaching them to become your assistant or second shooter. But what if this could be a great addition to your photography? Let's look at how this could help you build your business!
Sure enough, you may think that your other half who is likely to be working in a completely different field may not have the creativity and flair for creating images suitable to represent your business, but what if they were? Initially I was hesitant in considering my partner, who is a very technical and fastidious software engineer, to help me out with weddings. Surely, you need to heavily engage with your creative part of the brain, correct? Turns out, speaking from my experience, it is very much possible to train up someone, whose professional and personal life is not linked to creative fields in any shape or form, to become a crucial part of your photography business.
Where to Start?
Teaching photography to someone who uses logic to deal with everyday tasks in their profession is actually quite beneficial because it will force you to compartmentalize what you intend to teach and why it is necessary. They will ask questions that help them understand how you go from dealing a particular light situation to how you prefer to frame your images, and how the camera settings correspond with what the final image shows.
When I started teaching camera controls and explained ways of dealing with different light situations, I realized that for my partner it's necessary to know exactly what I want and how I want it, which then allows him to inject his personality, creativity and humor in the work thereafter, instead of starting with artistic ways of approaching an image. As someone who is used to working to guidelines, plans or scripts, this was the major starting point he needed.
I am hardly technical so I sometimes struggled to put into words the knowledge I have acquired over the years because I am a self taught photographer, however, this was not an option because we wanted to get him trained up fairly quick. The first practices we did at the comfort of our home, followed with a third shooting at one of the weddings. This meant, the second shooter and I acquired everything we wanted for the final wedding gallery, while he had the opportunity to experience a real wedding and had the freedom to practice shooting alongside us. This was followed with several smaller weddings where he had the chance to try his hand as a second shooter, while I ensured I have enough material on my own to deliver the final gallery.
It's important that you do not simply take their images, cull, edit, and deliver within your gallery. Make sure you set time aside to look through what they have shot combined with what you shot yourself. Look at the different ways you both approach things, discuss the settings you used and why they chose certain compositions. This part is just as important because you can discuss ways you can proceed in the future and things that may need changing so they seamlessly fit in with your brand while keeping their own stamp on the images they photograph.
Seeing the way you process images also allows them to start visualizing what is possible in post-production. For someone who has never edited a photograph in their life, certain moments may slip away undocumented because they may assume it's not possible to save them, for example, in a very badly lit scenario. However, we all know that sometimes there are precious moments that are technically imperfect but carry emotional value.
This is not something that happens overnight, however. You both will need to set time aside to work on it if you want it to succeed, and if their opinion and questions are welcomed, it'll make them feel as an important part of what you do and encourage to self-improve. This is another reason why constructive feedback is necessary for both of you to advance further.
What Are the Benefits?
Firstly, the cost. The fee that you pay your current second shooter will remain in the family unit. Whether you choose to issue payments to your partner or if they help you out for free, the money will stay with you both. Similarly, sharing car journey will become more simple because you can swap driving duties, you only have to pay expenses for one vehicle and you will be setting off from the same location. Same goes for any accommodation costs - you will not need to cover an additional room because you can just share one!
Occasionally working together, when their work schedule permits, can also give you extra time spent together. It won't be the same as going down to the beach or jetting off on a holiday, but if you travel for weddings, nationally or internationally, it can give you both a shared experience. If you travel further away, it's also possible to combine work with an extra day off to enjoy the local area before or after the wedding. Obviously, this is not something you can do with every wedding, but it can be a nice change for both of you once in a while.
When you know someone's body language and general personality quirks, it can become easy to communicate with them. A quick glance and they'll know exactly what you mean while you both are stood on either sides of the room. Having that close person with you during stressful weddings and events can also give you comfort and support that you may not feel the same coming from a second shooter, whom you occasionally work with or who may be a total stranger altogether.
Furthermore, it helps your partner see the ins and outs of what it's like to run a photography (or videography) business. They'll be able to understand better what goes on behind the scenes and exactly what it feels like to be on your feet all day, engaging your body and mind to deliver your best every single time.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
Of course, this kind of arrangement is not for everyone. Some may not wish to be a part of your business and that's fair. Others may struggle to go from seeing you as a partner to seeing you as a boss for seemingly little or no reward, You need to evaluate and discuss what kind of relationship you have and whether it'd work for you both.
Although sharing travel and accommodation costs sounds like a great bonus, equally if you have children you will need to find someone to look after them while you both are away shooting a wedding. Again, you need to assess what is more cost efficient for you and your business.
Personally, I'd prefer to try something and then judge whether it is something that works for me, us, and my business. For me, it has worked well so far because I now have a great circle of other professionals who can help me out on a shoot, but I also have the opportunity to ask my partner, especially if it's a last minute booking and he happens to be free on the set date. It has been an enjoyable experience to work with people, both friends who are professional photographers as well as my partner, who are honest, hard-working and a pleasure to be around. It makes the job so much more enjoyable.
Have you taught your partner to help you out in professional capacity? What are your experiences?
Images used with the permission of Alex Macaulay.