You better really like your spouse, if you’re going to run a business together.
Mark and Ally Tatem have learnt that in the two years since opening Two & Quarter Photography.
They’re together almost 24/7.
“We have friends who say, ‘You guys are crazy, how do you spend so much time together and stay married?’,” said Mrs Tatem.
The couple believe good communication is the secret to it all.
“Because we have to spend 24 hours together we are very good at communicating how we are feeling or what we need from each other,” said Mr Tatem.
They believe this carries over into their wedding photography.
“If we don’t have good communication with our couples, then they don’t know what is going on and we don’t know,” said Mrs Tatem. “We have to use good communication to get them to pose the right way and to find out what they want from us.”
And their approach seems to be working. They won the 2017 Couple’s Choice Award for Photography in Bermuda from global online marketplace WeddingWire, for the second year in a row.
They attribute the win, partly to the time spent getting to know their clients.
“They are going to get back images that reflect who they are,” said Mr Tatem. “We try to really relate with our clients and try to establish lasting relationships with them.
“If they have a good experience they’ll come back for their newborn and family photos. We try to keep things as relaxed as possible. A happy, relaxed couple is much easier to photograph.”
They met in 2009 during Queen Elizabeth II’s royal visit.
“It was my first day of work as a photographer for [the Bermuda Government],” said Mrs Tatem. “Mark was working for The Royal Gazette. We were in the same media van. We were friends for over a year before we started dating.”
They bonded over similar photography styles, and a “purist” attitude to photography. They both trained on film. “We both believe a photograph should be a photograph and shouldn’t be over-processed,” said Mr Tatem.
Three years ago they married at the Registrar’s Office in Bermuda and had their ceremony in Georgia, where Mrs Tatem graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Being on the other side of the camera was “super awkward”. Their photographer was a woman Mrs Tatem had interned for in college.
They restrained themselves from taking their cameras along. They wanted to be focused only on themselves and their special day. “We told our photographer, ‘We trust you, just do your thing’,” said Mr Tatem.
They learnt a lot from watching her, particularly the way she handled group photos.
“She was really like a drill sergeant, telling everyone where they needed to stand,” said Mrs Tatem. “Getting the group shots done can be one of the most stressful elements of shooting a wedding.
“But we were glad she was being so bossy because it really helped to get the less fun element done quickly. Afterward some of our family members went up and thanked her.”
The couple do try to spend time apart. Mr Tatem likes fishing and tinkering with old boat engines; his wife takes Pilates and Barre classes.
“We still have our identities outside of being a married couple,” said Mrs Tatem. “But we really like spending time together.”
Their passion for photography follows them on vacation.
“We don’t buy trinkets,” said Mr Tatem. “We go to antique stores and buy old cameras. We keep some of them on display at Two & Quarter. We try to buy working ones so we can still use them.
“I like my speed graphic. It is from the 1940s. It shoots on a four by five negative. That is very much a press camera.”
Mrs Tatem prefers a Hasselblad or Leica.
“The film has a certain feel about it that you don’t get with digital,” she said.
Sometimes the demands of the job make it hard to maintain relationships with friends.
“They will call us in the middle of wedding season and ask us why they haven’t seen us in five weeks,” said Mr Tatem. Said Mrs Tatem: “The hardest thing is establishing that work-life balance. I think that’s the same for any entrepreneur.
“It’s tough because your work is your life, especially when it is both of you.”
Last year the couple decided to take Sundays off to spend more time with each other, family and friends.
“Ultimately, work has to be work and home has to be home,” said Mr Tatem.