Why are you passionate about this topic?
We wouldn’t say that it’s passion to work together that drove us to start our business together. Our passion for photography came from different places for each of us. For Stephanie, she started film photography in college, and after college it fizzled since she no longer had access to equipment or a dark room. For Chris, he has always found it important to take photos of important and fun events in his life. These were mostly snapshots and never amounted to portraiture in any way. Once our first child was born, and we were able to make the investment into a nicer camera for personal use, each of us experienced a spark for photography, which lead us to better capture our amazing little baby boy. We watched videos, read books, purchased basic props, all in an effort to improve our skills to make the most of our new camera and have better photos as he grew up. Shortly after our daughter was born, family and friends took notice of our photos and asked us to begin shooting for them. We had so much fun working together and decided to take it to the next level and see what happened! After a cousin’s wedding and a brother’s newborn, the rest was history!
When did you realize you wanted to work together as opposed to individual businesses?
It was never really a question for either of us. The decision to do it just clicked for both of us. We both loved taking pictures of our children, we were both contributing ideas, we were learning together, and supporting one another. It wouldn’t have made sense to do it any other way. And Stephanie is hot! (She’s blushing now!)
What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to achieve this?
- Like making babies, don’t go into business with each other to improve your marriage. Haha! You need a solid foundation. Disagreements will happen, just like in a marriage. It’s hard to separate the “personal” from “business” because they are so intertwined. And it’s OK to get upset with the other for a business decision, but you can’t take it into the person. And like everything else, you work it out, things move on, and the relationship gets stronger.
- Apply your particular skills to certain aspects of the business. Not everything has to be done by one person. One of you will always be better at one thing and worse at another. So utilize those strengths where possible and try not to duplicate the work. In our business, Chris handles most of the day to day communications, scheduling, etc. He also handles most of the reveals and ordering. Stephanie shoots primarily newborns, children, and families. We both shoot weddings and seniors together, when possible. We, generally, both edit our own sessions because while our styles are very similar and cohesive, our workflow is very different from one another.
- Be in agreement on jobs, donations of services, and other time commitments. Especially when you’re working around your children’s schedules, it’s important to make sure that your time is distributed evenly. It’s easy to commit to shooting charity events and donating services to this or that cause, but at the end of the day the goal should be to spend more time with your family and put food on the table. Don’t feel compelled to give to everything to “get your name out there” or to “get exposure”, because your time would be better spent staying at home with the family, or, at the very least, a paid shoot. Each of us have things that move our hearts and make us want to give of our time, but a limit needs to be set for the business, not just for each of us.
- Buy each other photo gear! Surprise each other with things when the budget allows. (But still buy each other personal gifts, too!)
- When shooting large jobs, like events or weddings, delegate the responsibilities beforehand, not in the moment. We are guilty of this at times. Not frequently anymore, but it was definitely a learning curve in the beginning. Not only does it feel awkward in front of the client, but also very unprofessional and can spur disagreements later.
What were the challenges for you in the beginning?
Communication is absolutely the most important thing. It will always be a challenge. Communication will make or break both the business and the personal relationship. That doesn’t mean we always agree on everything, but we allow each other the flexibility to make decisions even when the other doesn’t agree. Like marriage, it’s a partnership, not a boss/employee relationship.
About the photographers:
Chris and Stephanie are a husband and wife team based out of Lafayette, Indiana. Their three children are the absolute center of their universe. They specialize in weddings, families, and newborns, but truly enjoy every type of session they have the opportunity to shoot. When not working, they spend their time with their littles, teaching them to savor life one moment at a time.
Photo credit Nicole Speer Photography