How to work with your spouse and stay married.
When Bobby and I met in an office nearly nine years ago, I never would have imagined we’d end up married and running a photography business together. We were working at a small startup company in Charleston, and we’d both recently graduated from college. My background is in visual communications—I was the “creative director.” Bobby’s background is marketing and business management. He was the “marketing director.”
We shared a small room for 40 hours a week and worked on projects together. We’ve always agreed the best part of that job was working together as a team—and going to lunch together to talk about music and shared interests. We only worked together for six months before I was off ered a job in Blacksburg, Virginia. While living there I started my portrait and wedding photography business, Emily Porter Photography.
By May 2010 I’d moved back to West Virginia and Bobby and I were officially a couple. He joined me at our friends’ wedding, and I gave him my backup camera to pass the time. He’s shot every wedding with me since.
People often remark they could never work with their significant others. “We’d kill each other,” people say. I think our success as a married couple running a small business has everything to do with our complementary backgrounds and personalities and the natural evolution of operating a business. Most of the lessons we’ve learned along the way are things we would have learned simply by managing a business, married or otherwise.
Share the load
We began as a team while shooting, but it didn’t take long for our team effort to spill into the administrative side of the business. Even during our busiest months of the year, only 10 to 20 percent of this job involves holding a camera. Bobby’s background in business management quickly became just as important as his skills as an award-winning photographer.
So as Bobby became more of a co-shooter and co-inbox manager, our roles started to balance out. People started calling us the “Oberports,” a combination of both of our last names, Bobby OBERlander and Emily PORTer. It took a few years to talk Bobby into making the moniker offi cial, but I got tired of taking all of the credit for only doing half of the work. It only made sense for the business’s name to reflect our partnership.
Open dialogue is important
We both have grown as creatives by being very open to critiques from each other. Our creative process has a lot of accountability built into it—we both go over every photo and album design before sending them to clients, and we occasionally even double-check each other’s emails. When my photos are especially crooked, Bobby calls me out on it. When his emails are too dry and business-y, I call him out on it. Being open to critiques has been important not only in a creative capacity but also as business partners and as a married couple.
Don’t forget to enjoy life
Working together gives us more accountability to make sure we don’t book too much and get overwhelmed by a daunting travel/ shooting schedule. Even during our busiest stretches of the year, we make sure to sprinkle in a few days out of the office.
It’s cheesy, but we joke with each other that every day is a date. We genuinely love working together. It helps that we love the job. Documenting people during the happiest moments of their lives is incredibly rewarding. It’s the kind of job that makes you more appreciative of all of the relationships in your life, not just the one with your significant other.
Emily Porter and Bobby Oberlander (The Oberports) are a married photography team based in Charleston. During the last seven years they’ve photographed more than 180 weddings together and have both won international wedding photography awards. When they aren’t working, they enjoy cooking, spoiling their two cats, and going to baseball games.
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