Would You Teach Your Partner to Become Your Second Shooter?

Would You Teach Your Partner to Become Your Second Shooter?

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. 

A father taking an image of his children

One of my partner's favourite images to date.

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. 

Feedback

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. 

A child playing on his mother's lap at a wedding breakfast

From staged photos to a documentary approach to fit in with my own brand.

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!

Groomsmen getting ready before a wedding

Reviewing your images together goes a long way to improve in the future and start creating more experimental work.

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. 

Final Thoughts

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.

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11 Comments

Cristian Perotti's picture

I am currently doing so. Since a couple of months ago, my wife has been my assistant (without camera yet). In the meantime, I am teaching her photography. I have already taught the basics to my daughter and she works with me as my second shooter for behind the scenes shots of certain photoshoots (not weddings yet). It is great to keep everything within the family.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

How do you find the transition from spouse to business partner?

Cristian Perotti's picture

I guess it all comes down to what kind of relationship you have with your spouse. I guess that not every couple could do it. We have this rule that we established from the moment we started doing things together (work related), and so far we have a magazine coming up, I assist her in her area as well (she is a nurse at home, so I drive her to the patients´ homes) and now photography. The rule is: we can talk about work related things when we are working. Any time that we have off, we can´t do it. That rule has worked fine so far, and it keeps work and personal life somewhat apart. Also, above everything, we are best friends, so we do not get bored with being with one another almost all the time, we actually enjoy it, always cracking jokes etc. On the business side, there are advantages, especially financial ones, because all of the money comes home.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I tried to involve my other half in my pro photography...

"I'll never support you with your business" she said.

Now she's my ex. :)

Cristian Perotti's picture

If my wife didn´t support me, i would have done the same :)

Luckily for me, she does. I believe that in our craft, the support of your spouse is of paramount importance. In my case, for example, it is. It is very difficult to find (where I live) a woman who is comfortable knowing that her husband constantly shoots beautiful women (more often that not they are more beautiful than she is under the current standards of beauty). So I am grateful for that :)

Chris Silvis's picture

Reads to me like your wife not only trust you, but the relationship you have together. It also seems to be she is confident in herself, albeit quietly, and knows you care deeply for her. Hence the lack of concern she has about you having an "affair" with one of your models. Or......she just keeps all her fears buried deep inside and isnt the type to share her feelings. Either way, cherish the gift you got and dont throw her away. Great work btw.

Tyler Jacobs's picture

Very valid point about the jealousy - being a second shooter should happen before considering marriage lol.

amanda daniels's picture

I have taught my husband a few things, still lots to teach him, but he has been my assistant many times (holding my gear, etc). I also have had him second shoot with me 3x so far. He thought he would hate it and thought that he had no creative side to him, but when I had him being my assistant he came up with great pose ideas and that is when I knew he had more of a creative side then he thought. I don't do many weddings as that isn't what I specialize in, but I love having him as my second shooter or even as my assistant. I only do photography part time for now as I this past year was only my 1st full year as a business, but the goal is to become full time and I would love for my husband to work right along with me. He is also much better at the "actual" business part of things, so we balance each other out really well. I think there are so many benefits to this. I assume most partners vibe well together & know each other pretty well, I think this is a huge advantage in shooting together vs trying to find a second shooter that you can vibe well with.

Thomas Campbell's picture

We initially started our consumer photography brand with the intention of my wife working as a second shooter, however, we found that it would be more successful if she focused on correspondence, albums, and editing rather than shooting. As we progressed, we are very happy with that decision because as we had children, my wife no longer had any desire to spend all day Saturday and sometimes Sunday out shooting weddings. With her focus on the editing and correspondence side, she can stay home with the children, which is her preference.

Anete Lusina's picture

That's a great way of working together! I know a few couples who do exactly the same and it works great for them.

I used my then-SO for wedding help but except giving her my third body and a 480 EX II and saying "Get what you can when you can if you can" I did not use her for any real or strategic shooting. On the other hand, she made huge contributions in staging and posing ideas.