Dave and I have been working together as a photography partnership for almost 7 years now. It has been a very rewarding venture. We both had our own photography companies prior to joining up (you can learn about our origin story here) but working together has been far more enjoyable and rewarding than working alone.
The only time we ever see photo partnerships is with married couples, never just two regular individuals. With this in mind, we thought we’d share some thoughts for those photographers out there who might be just starting out, or even for those who have been working at it a while and might benefit from what a partnership can do for you.
Double the creative power
Sure, you are creative on your own. No one thinks otherwise. But imagine having another mind in the room that can come up with another angle, another pose, another concept right there on the spot. Someone who shares your artistic view in general but has a different way of looking at things as well. Someone who has an equal vested interest in what you are shooting. Well, that’s Dave and I.
When we work on a shoot together, there is no ego involved for either of us. We never take the approach of “I’m the main shooter, and you’re just the assistant”. If one suggests a different approach, we try it. The person holding the camera at the time may not see a subtle change that’s required to make the shot even better. While holding a light one of us typically spies a location or angle that seems worth a try. Many times instead of explaining our viewpoint, we’ll just grab the camera and do it ourselves. It’s very comforting knowing that the guy grabbing the camera from you is your equal, not just a photography student or something. I trust Dave - Dave trusts me. Simple as that.
Divide and conquer
Running your own photography business can be overwhelming at times. Answering emails from clients, booking photo shoots, managing your social media (Instagram, Twitter, your blog, Facebook), dealing with the finances, getting to shoots, and on and on and on.
One of the biggest advantages of having two equal partners is there are TWO of you! We have found that splitting up the day-to-day tasks makes it much easier to manage it all.
While we have assigned different business areas to one another, it doesn’t mean they are “the boss” of that area. Again, the advantage of two minds working together is that you always have an outside opinion close by that has your best interests at heart - because they are your equal partner. Having that second set of eyes literally looking out for you is huge!
One of the biggest perks of having a photo partner is being able to divide the photo editing duties. In the summer, at the height of wedding season, if I had to edit every single wedding by myself, that would be quite overwhelming. Dave and I have worked out a simple deal that works perfectly. We just alternate weddings. He does one, I do the next, he does the next one, I do the next.
For other shoots, we typically figure that out on a case-by-case basis. If I have a lot of editing on my plate, Dave might edit the next session, and vice-versa.
It is important to note that while we split the money from weddings 50/50, we’ve worked out a payment structure for other sessions that has worked perfectly. We divide the gross earnings by 3 and pay each photographer ⅓, and the remaining ⅓ goes to the one who edits the shoot.
Increased network of contacts
For many photographers starting out, most of your clients are people that you already know. Friends, family, friends-of-friends, workmates etc. So you can certainly imagine the advantage of having double the network, right? Granted, Dave and I share many of the same network since we met while working at the same job, but I can tell you that we’ve each brought clients to the table that the other may not have been able to bring.
This also means our networking capabilities for getting new clients is doubled. We are both out there in the world meeting new people all the time. This can be as simple as posting a story on our Facebook page and each of us sharing to our own personal page as well. That works out to a lot of exposure!
For photographers who also work regular day jobs, scheduling for photo shoots can be a bit challenging. Dave and I both currently have day jobs as well, but having two of us means much more flexibility for our clients. There is seldom a time when one of the two of us can’t make a photo shoot. For sessions like engagement shoots or weddings where both of us need to be there, this advantage doesn’t exactly work, but for shoots like headshot sessions, or some types of events, it works out.
Double photo potential for weddings
As previously mentioned, the fact that Dave and I are both professional photographers is a big advantage. This comes in very handy during our wedding shoots. Not only is it great to get images from many more angles during the ceremony, but when shooting the more formal photos of the couple and wedding party, it is fantastic to have two photographers there to capture the same setup from two viewpoints. It is nice to be able to provide a variety of different looks to our couples.
Carrying gear is not the most fun thing to do in the world. But it is a necessary part of the job. As you can imagine, having another body there to carry things all the time is a nice perk.
Not only is it nice to have those extra shoulders, having an “assistant” on a shoot helps in other ways. If I was to do a shoot that requires lighting on my own, I would need to use a light stand. I would have to position it and reposition it every time I made a change to the setup. It also might blow over on a windy day so I would need to figure out a way to weigh it down (using sandbags can be a pain). But with another person there, the second person holds the light on a monopod and moves according to the needs of the shot. And since the other person is also a photographer (not just a lighting guy), they already have a good sense of where that light should be positioned. When we finish with one location, we just walk to the next spot. No need to pack everything up!
We just recently had a full day of shooting head shots for CBC. Started our session at 9:00am and finished at 3:30. It was great to have two of us. We alternated taking photos so neither of us got too tired. Having that other person to change flash batteries on the fly was nice as well.
Another great aspect of having two of us is that it makes it so much easier to test out our lighting for a shot before we get the subject in front of the camera. To be honest, 98% of my Facebook profile photos are test shots Dave has taken of me on various photo shoots. And vice versa.
With so many positive aspects of working as a photographic partnership, there must be a few things that would be considered negative, right? Sure. Kinda.
As stated earlier, we split the money fairly 50/50. That means half of what each of us could potentially be making on our own as a sole photographer. While this obviously wouldn’t be put into the pros section, it isn’t as much of a con as you’d think.
For all of the reasons mentioned in the pros section, our business is better as a combination of our talents, networks, and creativity. Yes, we’re losing half the profit, but we’re getting business from our combined quality that might not be there on a solo basis. Simply put: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Not often, but sometimes, we disagree. And that means that one of us will not get to do something “our way”. Again, this might seem like a definite downside to working with someone, but we don’t see it that way.
Dave and I are very lucky that, for the most part, we share the same vision for our business. So even if one of us doesn’t get to do things their way, it isn’t like it is miles away from what we wanted. And as pointed out, having a second set of eyes is a fantastic perk to have. I can admit that my way isn’t always the best way, and having that other opinion has clearly steered me in a better direction on many an occasion.
If you are going to go into a partnership with someone, there are a few things we recommend.
Find someone who shares the same (or similar) artistic style as you. This is the key to ensuring your images are consistent across the board, no matter which one of you does the editing. It also helps when out on photo shoots. I don’t think it would be ideal if each of you had a completely different vision for the shoot. A united front is a better approach.
Work with someone you respect. We’ve all heard the horror stories about friends who started working together only to end up practically hating each other. Dave and I started out as friends and our friendship is as strong as can be. We have always insisted on sharing our feelings with each other so nothing eats away at either of us.
Agree on a payment structure right from the start. What if one of you does a shoot entirely on your own? Does the other one get half of that? Spell it out from the start and there won’t be an issue.
Share information. Dave and I have shared Dropbox, Google Doc, and Google Spreadsheets, and especially important, a shared Google Calendar. This makes it easy to access our mutual business information and stay up to date on upcoming photo sessions.
There you have it. The pros and cons of working with someone in a photographic partnership. Joining forces with Dave was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I feel so lucky that I get to do this job with my best friend. I highly recommend this model to any photographers out there.