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What’s it really like to not only be married to a wedding photographer but also work with them on a regular basis? For this episode, I invite my wife into the studio to talk about life over the last five years being married to me and the challenges of adapting to my unconventional lifestyle.
We’ll talk about how she first started shooting weddings with me and her own interest in weddings and photography, as well as how our relationship has changed over the years both inside and outside of the business. She’ll share some of the frustrations of living with a wedding photographer and their unconventional schedule and how she has adapted to it.
She’ll also offer some tips for other partners of wedding photographers out there who might be considering assisting or second shooting and how you can be as supportive as possible during the busy peak season.
For something a little different, I wanted to offer my listeners a bit of a behind-the-scenes of what it’s like to live and work alongside me. Who better to give their insight than my wife, Charlene, who I’ve not only lived with for the last 6+ years but has second shot with me more than any other photographer.
We hope that this might speak to others out there who are partners of wedding photographers and address some of the challenges (and perks) of the lifestyle.
Perhaps you’re a wedding photographer and your partner is in a more conventional job or visa-versa and there might be some things you can relate to or take away when it comes to making these two different lifestyles work.
When you’re married to a wedding photographer or small business owner, it’s much different from a conventional lifestyle when you have a 9 to 5. While you can turn your work mode off at the end of the day, maybe they can’t and it can be difficult in the beginning to adjust to one another’s lifestyle.
The first time Charlene assisted me was back in November of 2011 and the following year she second shot with me. That was what got the gears in motion for her to become my go-to second shooter and she ended up shooting dozens (100+) of weddings with me.
“At first I was just curious to see what the day was like through the eyes of a wedding photographer and how Henry ran the show. I wanted to help however I could, although at the time I didn’t really know what he needed from an assistant.
I’ll never forget the first time I second shot with Henry. I was so nervous and I didn’t want to disappoint him.
I had to shoot the guys getting ready at a different location while trying to remember about lighting and using the right equipment, as well as finding that right balance between being assertive but not authoritative.
But after that, I knew he needed someone more consistently that he could depend on and I wanted to be there for him, so I shot at almost every wedding. I had my profession and worked with him on weekends.
It was crazy, working almost every day. But it didn’t feel like that. It was a lot of fun to be part of a couple’s special day and his world.”
Charlene has worked as a pharmacist for the last 8 years at a local medical center from Monday to Friday, 8AM to 5PM. She loves to spend time with her family, friends, eating out and traveling, as well as being a mom to our newborn baby girl, Ellie.
When asked whether she was interested in weddings and photography before she met Henry, the answer was “Yes”.
“I love the concept of people coming together to celebrate love and all the details. I also had a vested interest in photography and had dabbled in it prior to meeting Henry. But never to the extent that I know now after working as a second shooter.”
“I would say that it’s definitely your business and your lifestyle and profession. I wouldn’t say we’re a husband and wife shooting team. I’m there to supplement it in any way and be as supportive as possible.
I want to make sure the couple is feeling comfortable with me and I’m reflecting well on the business”.
Do you think there’s ever the risk of having arguments about roles in the business and how can you prevent that from happening?
“You need to have clear and open communication. Always plan ahead. It’s never been an issue for us as Henry is a great planner and always checked my availability ahead of time.
Make sure you’re upfront and honest about what you can commit to so you don’t compromise the business by having him need to find someone at the last minute”.
What are some of the challenges of living and working with a wedding photographer?
“In the beginning, you’re excited to get to know one another and you can do no wrong. But as time goes on, you have to adapt to the lifestyle and just how unconventional it can be.
A small business owner doesn’t have set hours and is solely responsible for the success and failure of their business. It can be difficult to draw the line as to when they are available. Even what time dinner might be!
In the beginning, it was a huge adjustment to understand and see from his perspective how different things were and I took it for granted that I can just clock in and clock out.
Yes, he can be flexible in his schedule but he’s often working after hours. I knew that I needed to give him the time he needed to be successful and thrive.
Sometimes it was frustrating as he put so much priority on his business and it was difficult to figure out when it was time for me.
Sometimes I think I got into second shooting just to spend time with him. It was a way to bond and have those memories together.
Sometimes weddings fall on anniversaries, birthdays and holidays and it was very frustrating to find out he wanted to shoot a wedding on these pivotal days.
But at the same time, it’s an opportunity to make money for the business and you rationalize that you can celebrate on another day. But will it affect our child in the future if he shoots on her birthday? I don’t know.
So yes, it can get frustrating as our lives revolve around his business and I have to work around that. But I’ve adapted to the environment and it’s definitely got better through the years.
As a wedding photographer, you’re always worried about if you’ve booked enough weddings and that can be stressful. Earlier on that was an issue, but he’s adapted well and he’s a lot more confident in himself.
He’s much less stressed out, even though he’s taken on so much more with his educational efforts and being a father."
A year ago we found out that we were expecting and Charlene stopped second shooting with me a couple of months after she found out. So what is it like being a mom and married to a wedding photographer?
“Being a mom is very rewarding and I had an easy pregnancy. No morning sickness so it was a joy to be pregnant. The great thing was that Henry was able to go to every single appointment with me because of his schedule as a wedding photographer.
He wouldn’t have been able to do that in a conventional job and that was really special."
But one of the most stressful things was having weddings around the due date as you just never know when the baby will arrive.
Any tips for other partners of wedding photographers?
“If you’re not into wedding photography or passionate in some way, it’s going to be really difficult to work with them in their business. You need to have a vested interest in the couple or they’re going to pick up on that.
It’s long days and can be stressful, so if you’re being forced by your partner to do it, it could affect your relationship.
If you’re considering it as a significant other, take some time to reflect on whether you're really interested in it as you might end up resenting your partner otherwise.
Always maintain good communication with each other and be open about what’s on your mind and your schedule. If you’re considering helping out at a wedding, be clear about what you’re willing/not willing to do.
Not everyone is going to be super enthusiastic. It was just fortunate that I was.
Be understanding of each other, respect each other and try to walk in your partner’s shoes. It can be frustrating if they are constantly working on their business and not knowing when you will have time together.
But try to be patient during the peak wedding season and do what you can to help relieve their stress.
And if you’re the wedding photographer that gets caught up in their business, make sure you set aside some time for your partner as they’re just as important."
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