Partner Up!  A Case for Separating Responsibility and Why I Could Not Imagine Building a Photography Business Alone

Partner Up! A Case for Separating Responsibility and Why I Could Not Imagine Building a Photography Business Alone

Business Commentary Opinion

For those of us who came to photography after already working in another profession, we know how liberating a feeling it is to finally free yourself from your original job to pursue your passion.  Why not take that a step further, and truly zero in and direct all your energy into what it is you enjoy most. 

In my previous article that compared working as an architect versus a photographer, one of our readers, Neil Perry, commented:

“The number of tasks that a freelancer has to work through usually means that the actual element you’ve quit the day job for often falls into the background as marketing, accounting, web management, social media, etc. all take on a greater role.”

While some photographers do get an enormous sense of pride from developing their business, many of us would much rather focus on the art of taking photos itself.  Outsourcing specific tasks that don’t interest you is a great way to lighten your load, and I know a lot of photographers that choose to do this.  The issue I find is that if you’re outsourcing multiple tasks/roles to multiple third parties, things can quickly get complicated.   

For me, I’ve chosen to take the outsourcing strategy a step further and partner up with someone that has a broad skill set and can handle all the tasks that I am less inclined to excel at or enjoy.  That person just happens to be my wife, Nicole.  There are, of course, quite a few well-known photography duos in our industry – Hufton + Crow, Doublespace, Roehner + Ryan, all come to mind.  But our partnership is structured differently, with a clearer, more distinct separation of responsibilities. 

For us, the dividing line between our respective roles is that I am focused more on the photography itself, along with business development and marketing, while Nicole focuses on more of the administrative and financial aspects of running a business.  This role separation happens to align nicely with our professional experience and skillsets. Here’s a simple breakdown of how we’ve chosen to separate things, based on what we are good at and what we enjoy doing:

Separation of Responsibilities

While I don’t expect this strategy to be one that everyone out there can replicate, I do believe there are a lot of advantages Nicole and I have experienced and thus felt compelled to share how we’ve set up our business and the benefits it has created. 

More than anything, it frees you up from the frustrations of doing tasks you don’t enjoy, allowing you to focus on what you’re good at and what fulfills you professionally. 

Importantly, having a partner helps alleviate the isolating ‘island effect’ that so many architectural photographers experience throughout their careers.  You always have someone to bounce new ideas off of.  Having a second opinion who has a vested interest in your success can help take your business to new heights.  When you’re completely solo, you need to rely on your ability to self-critique much more so than if you have a partner that you’re working with on a daily basis.  Even the most self-aware of us can fall victim to professional blind spots and having someone by your side to help point those out and hopefully remedy them, is a huge plus. 

Separating responsibility and working towards a shared goal keeps you from becoming overwhelmed and means that you don’t have to do it all.  When something goes wrong, that peace of mind is a very wonderful thing to have.


What about you?  Do you enjoy taking on the diversity of tasks necessary to run a successful business, or do you prefer to delegate some of that work to others?  Let us know in the comments below!

About Justin Szeremeta
I'm an architect turned photographer based in Shanghai with a penchant for tall buildings.
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