Shooting a wedding and having a second shooter at your side can be a great help, bringing another dimension to the coverage of the wedding, as well as in terms of backup and technical support. Yet, it is not always a pleasant experience as it brings about many issues related to expectations, qualifications, rights and responsibilities. We thought it could be good to have a look at second shooters best practices, and try to shed some light on a subject we so often tend to ignore.

Working With A Second Shooter

When I first started shooting weddings I used to work alone. There is a funny thing about Indian families and wedding photographers. The bride and groom’s families often hire separate photographer for each side, so a photographer might sometimes have to deal with another team that interferes with his work. I have experienced a team of 11(!) once. Way too much! Having had enough of that eventually led me to how I work today. I have come to a decision never to take an assignment where another team of photographers is expected. Instead I work with my own team of second and third shooters, which led me to look at the work relationships with these photographers.

The Second Shooter

An Assignment With A Brief

When you join another photographer on a shoot you must remember that this is an assignment with a brief. Stick to the brief of course, but also shoot what you see and like. I do not expect you to be a camera holder, but a photographer with a vision. Let me see what else you can bring to the coverage in order to make it better.

Ownership Of Images

Unless otherwise agreed in writing, a second shooter is defined as work-for-hire. This means that the images you shoot on assignment as a second photographer are copyrighted to the lead photographer, and he/she can publish the work under his/her name WITHOUT giving credit to the second photographer. However, some photographers, myself included, choose to credit the team photographers by name. We do however require that the following will be preserved:

  1. You will represent the brand you work under and will not be handing out your own personal business cards under NO circumstances.
  2. You should not mislead potential clients to think that the assignment was your own. Always mention on your post or social media that you were a part of a photography team with {photographer name} as lead photographer.

The Lead Photographer’s Agreement

The terms and conditions of the original agreement between the lead photographer and the client apply to you as well. This means that you will only publish your images on your website AFTER, and only IF the lead photographer did so, and only with the lead photographer’s approval.

How I Work

Every photographer has his/her way of using the second shooter. I divide the scene into circles that are the responsibilities of different people; The 1st circle, which is the bride and groom and their immediate family, are the responsibility of the lead photographer. I always want to be right there where the couple is, unless events happen simultaneously at different locations. This is where the second shooter comes to play to handle the other event.

The 2nd circle is what happens away form the couple. ‘What are your friends doing when you are getting ready’ kind of shots. What is going on away from the stage? How does the Polo match is going on while you are having your hair done?  This second circle enables me to tell a wider story, which the bride cannot experience first hand.

The 3rd circle are the guests and their requirements. All the request shots and group shots are covered by the third photographer. He is also responsible for the wide angle decor shots, while the mood and close up shots are done by myself, or the second shooter.

I love shooting the dance floor myself, and I prefer to work with a lighting assistant who can anticipate my position, and how I shoot. Someone who knows my style of work, and what I want the light to do. This is why I don’t give this job to a ‘lighting guy’ who only knows how to hold, but to someone I trust and know well.

Deliverables

There are many other practices that vary between photographers. I prefer that photographers use my cards, which they give back at the end of each day. I don’t mind if you shoot on your own cards in case you want to keep the images, but I cull and back up all the team’s cards at the end of every day.

I do all the post production myself so the submission is homogenous and looks as much as possible like one body of work. If you keep the images and wish to use them for your own promotion, I prefer if you do the post in your own style. I believe this works well for everyone.

SILK PHOTOS 2nd Shooter Agreement

Working through SILK PHOTOS agency means that all that is discussed is backed up by agreements that define the rolls of both sides. The agreement with the second shooter is meant to establish good working relationship that will enable a pleasant experience before, throughout, and after the wedding.

Feel free to have a look at the second photographer agreement from SILK PHOTOS. You are allowed to download and use it, or make changes that will fit your requirements. We would love to hear from you, and start an open discussion that will hopefully help photographers in India establish a benchmark for working with a team.

See you in the comments…

P.S Oh yea, one more thing that is always nice is that the second shooter takes photos of the lead photographer at work. This can be great promotion content. In the last few days we’ve asked wedding photographers to share images of themselves at work, and credit the person who took the picture. We’re going to do something quite exciting with this, so please keep sharing your pictures with us by email or on our Facebook page. Tag these images #SecondShooter

Sephi Bergerson

13 Comments

  • In my case I click my second photographer more than he clicks me, I guess he is a better subject. 🙂

    I believed that that the copyright remained with the second shooter as our pictures are ours even when somebody hires us.

    Reply
    • Maybe he is better looking than you! 🙂
      I’m afraid you are incorrect regarding the copyright! When you are hired as a second shooter, unless otherwise mentioned in writing, the copyright to the images you shoot belong to the lead photographer!

      Reply
      • I also read somewhere that photos and arts are intellectual properties. Intellectual property rights always remain with creator. Unless he agrees to sell it. So in case of hire n work unless written, should d copyrights will b of second photographer?

        Reply
        • Hi Avinash. This is incomplete information. The situation with second shooter is work-for-hire which means the copyright is with the lead photographer. There’s no question about this. The copyright law is there to protect the artist, but the artist must also be aware of his rights. Please check with a lawyer who will explain this to you, or simply google it further 🙂 cheers

          Reply
  • Many a times when i work as an freelancer in a wedding assignment, for any photography agency or company, I request them to allow me keep my photographs i shoot on that project and if i use those images for my self promotion in any social media website, I will mention in bold letters the agency i worked for and am even happy to use their logo on those photographs.
    So is it unethical to think about your personal promotion as a photographer ?

    I personally try to avoid those agencies which do not give any credit to the photographer for any uploaded images on their wall, as i feel very let down and demoralized on such instances.

    Please do correct me if it’s unethical to do such.

    Reply
    • Dear Sourav, thanks for the comment. It is perfectly ok to want to use your images for your own personal promotion. We actually work like this as mentioned in our agreement. However, what I’m saying is that this must be cleared BEFORE you take an assignment because some clients are not ok with their images going public. If all is clear before the assignment, you can choose to take it or not.

      Reply
  • Good one sephi . A few second shooters have the bad habbit of adding the primary photographers clients in Fb and at times you can see them doing another event or wedding in their family . Had personally experienced this . When trust is broken , it hurts but on a professional front we cannot reduce the price jus for the sake . How do U see this situation

    Reply
    • I see your point Sriram. It is very difficult to control what comes on social media. We cannot stop people from adding friends on Facebook, and can only set an example by individual conduct before we expect others to do the same.

      Reply
  • Just in time!
    I shot a wedding as a second shooter for the first time and we agreed on the following:
    1. I don’t share any images of the couple which have not been delivered to the client.
    2. I will mention the lead photographer on all social media posts.
    3. I don’t share any images till the couple has gotten their album or soft copies.

    I appreciate your point on how it would be beneficial if the 2nd shooter edits the images in his/her own way.

    One thing to note for all second shooters. Always mention the lead photographer cos if it weren’t for them you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to shoot in the first place.

    Reply
  • HI,

    I am a wedding photographer and i have been talking to a friend of mine who is in the event business, she asked if i would like to shoot Asian weddings. Which i, of course, would. However i have zero experience of this. I’ve spoken to a fellow pro who does photograph Asian weddings and he has said to come back to him on a fee for my services.

    Any ideas on what i should charge as a second shooter? i would like to be able to use the images but we spoke about me using my equipment but his cards and he just pays my fee to shoot and not edit.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    nicola x

    Reply
    • Hi Nicola, thanks for this question.
      The fee is something very subjective, and I cannot answer this for you. This should ideally be negotiated with the photographer who hires you, and surely depends on what you bring to the table. Different people pay different fee to second shooters, and I guess it is also related to where in the world the wedding takes place. I hope this makes sense.
      In terms of using the images; you need to remember that as a second shooter your images are copyrighted to the lead photographer who hired you for the job. It is up to your agreement if he allows this kind of usage, or not. Like I said, different people have different practices. Bring it up, and see what he says.
      Good luck

      Reply

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