May 4, 2010

tips & advice for the 2nd photographer at weddings

This eye-catching image was shot by a friend of mine, Josh Lynn, who worked with me on this wedding. As such it is perhaps the perfect image to lead this article with advice and tips for 2nd-shooting a wedding. It shows initiative at getting an interesting angle. Exposure is perfect. Framing and composition is great. Excellent timing .. with a little bit of luck thrown into the mix. This image is also a good point for the topic of the second photographer’s business ethics.

For me, a second photographer isn’t merely someone who assists in carrying bags and equipment, and takes the occasional photograph. Rather, a second shooter is a fully fledged photographer working independently, but closely with, the principal / main photographer. A second photographer is there to augment the main photographer’s coverage of the wedding. As such, there are certain things that could be (and should be) expected from a 2nd shooter at a wedding.

articles series – advice for second shooting weddings

  1. tips & advice for second-shooting weddings
  2. wedding photography – tips on improving your technique
  3. tips on improving your photo-shoot workflow

 

1.  photographing the actual event

Much of this part of the topic is common sense really.

Take the initiative. Get something other than what the main photographer is getting, but augment the main photographer’s work. Shoot with a different lens than the main. Get different angles. Don’t merely copy what the main photographer is doing. As a challenge I also instruct anyone who second shoots for me, to surprise me. Get the non-obvious images. Turn around  - there’s a whole other story going on behind you.

Yet, try and match styles where you can. An example: If the main photographer does matted albums, he might really prefer you not to crop too tightly. He would need that 1/4 inch cropping space to mount the print in the album. So if your style is to crop tightly in-camera, you would need to change it up, and allow the images some ‘room to breathe’.

Details, details, details. Make sure you photograph enough details of the wedding day. Every part of it. A good rule to follow is that, “if they paid for it, photograph it.”

Get reaction shots. Look for those moments that tell the story of the day.

This beautifully caught moment of the flower girl raptly listening to the toasts at the wedding, was shot by Elisabeth Millay.

Be aware of the principal’s position. Don’t shoot directly opposite from them. Ideally, we should not appear in the photographs, and neither should other vendors. Get the shot, but make sure you stay out of the main photographer’s way.

Anticipate where to be and how to position yourself. This photo is from a wedding that I second-shot with my friend, Monika Broz, who was the main photographer. I was waiting at the far end as the couple swept down the aisle. A good position to get a more panoramic view of the couple’s exit, with guests looking on … and taking photographs.

 

2.  don’t be more than the principal shooter

This is an important point for me. As the 2nd shooter, you have to take your cue from the main photographer’s behavior, regardless of your own style. Make sure you ask the main photographer how they like to work. Some like it when the second shooter participates and comes up with their own ideas; others prefer the 2nd shooters to stay quiet and not interact much with the couple.

A few examples from my own and from others’ experience:

I had a 2nd photographer who arrived at the bride’s house to meet up with me before going to the groom’s place. He was going to photograph the groom’s preparation. He did a sterling job that day … however, when I arrived at the bride’s house the morning to photograph her prep, the 2nd shooter was already there, flipping pancakes in the kitchen for the bride and her family, while they were seated at the breakfast table. True story! Now, no matter how personable you may think you are, and how great you are at connecting with people, this was just a bit too much. No harm done, but it does intrude on the way I prefer working with my clients.

Another example: A friend of mine works in a photo-journalistic style, but with an accent on the romantic portraits. Very similar to how I work. The idea is to record the day’s events as it unfolds, but direct where you feel is necessary. At one wedding she used a 2nd photographer who also works in a photo-journalistic style, but is very active in his movements. It comes across as being a touch too hyper-active compared to the main photographer, and he then stands out in front of the clients and guests.

I’ve also had a 2nd shooter who, while he is a very nice guy and quite friendly, talks too much. Especially when he engages my client in idle chit-chat while I try to get candid moments.

In contrast though, there are photographers who I love shooting with such as my friend David Mielcarek. Our styles are similar, and we have a way of working tag-team when we photograph the bridal party or the romantic portraits of the couple. While I am shooting, he will find the next spot or set-up to work with. We shoot that, and I allow him to continue while I figure out the next set-up. This way we can shoot very fast and come up with a variety of ideas. But this only really works with someone you have confidence in, in taking charge of your clients in that way.

So not only do you have to match your photography style to that of the principal shooter, you also have to match your behavior and temperament.

 

3.  professional demeanor

Dress code and personal grooming. Find out from the principal shooter how you need to dress. Appear well-groomed and neat. (By the way, this even goes as far as me not using someone as a 2nd photographer if they have a limp handshake.)

Be professional and courteous. Represent the main photographer, and respect all clients and guests. Do look friendly. A constant smile will be overdoing it, but do smile and engage people in that way if they do come in non-verbal contact with you. Glaring at guests as you scan everywhere for “that moment”, makes you a creepy presence.

Be on time!

 

4.  equipment

Be self-sufficient with equipment as far as you’re able, unless pre-arranged with principal shooter. You should have enough fully-charged batteries and enough CF cards, regardless.

Just owning a kit lens isn’t going to cut it. A fast zoom or two, and a fast prime such as an 85mm f1.8 (or better), is necessary.

I would regard a 70-200mm f2.8 telephoto zoom as the staple lens for a 2nd photographer. You’re most likely picking off candid moments, or photographing details or capturing some impromptu portraits. This lens allows you to hang back from the main photographer.

The lens that is essential here, is a fast 70-200mm zoom. I can’t be without this lens. The wide aperture and long focal length will help separate your subject(s) from the background. Both the Nikon and Canon lenses here are outstanding.

 

recommended 70-200mm lenses

 

5.  know your equipment; know the terminology & necessary techniques

A wedding is not the place to learn about how shutter speeds and apertures inter-relate.  After you’ve shot the wedding is also not the time to figure out that shooting portraits in good light with a telephoto zoom at 1/40th @ f8 will give you blurred images. Neither is a wedding something you should photograph if you don’t understand depth-of-field. If, for example, you call shallow depth-of-field, “that fuzzy effect”, then you need to do some more homework before even taking your camera out.

And no, don’t even mention the “everyone started from somewhere” nonsense. Sure, we are all on a constant learning curve with our photography. Even the very skilled photographers. But there are certain things you absolutely need to have a firm grasp of, before even thinking of photographing a wedding. Not negotiable.

The stories I could tell …

 

6.  business ethics

In discussing this topic with a few friends to make sure I covered everything for this article, this specific item was mentioned by every photographer I canvased — the 2nd shooter’s business ethics.

Don’t hand out your own business cards.
It’s not your gig, nor opportunity for you to try and establish yourself.
Don’t befriend the main photographer’s clients on Facebook! (This happens!)
Don’t schmooze with the other vendors.
Don’t pass this off as your own gig.

One of my friends was quite adamant about this topic:
“Get it into your head: when you’re a second you’re not supposed to get business from the shoot in any way. You’re getting compensated for your images and that’s it. Period.”

And this brings me to the final part – use of images. This depends entirely on the principal photographer. Do figure this out before the time. Set guidelines. Better yet, agree to how you can, or can’t use the images, before the actual event, and in writing.

A very broad summary of a topic that has been covered more thoroughly in library-sized mountains of books and articles — Copyright resides with the photographer who took the image, unless a work-for-hire agreement was entered into. However, as the second photographer you don’t have a model release to use the images without consent of the parties involved. So owning the copyright doesn’t automatically give you the leeway to publish the images on your blog … and doing so against the main photographer’s wishes will definitely end that working relationship.

Back to the image at the top by Josh Lynn. I think it is an iconic image. Josh contacted me later on to ask me if he could use the image in his studio. I was fine with that. Nice of him to ask, and in this case, no problem for me to say, “go for it”. I also know that if I had refused, Josh would not have used it. Ideally though, the use of images you shoot at a wedding for someone else, is the kind of thing that is best agreed upon before-hand. Preferably in writing. Set clear terms of how you can use the images, if at all.

 

7. payment for second shooting

The payment you can expect for second shooting a wedding will obviously vary, depending on a number of factors.

    • location / area

For example, Manhattan weddings will generally be higher priced than say a more rural area. Therefore, the fee that a 2nd photographer could command would vary depending on the local economy.

    • how big a wedding it is

Is the wedding a small intimate event, or a more lavish event?  The main photographer could very well have adjusted his prices for the smaller event. It is probably less hard work as well for the second shooter, compared to a sprawling lavish event.

    • how long coverage is needed for

For example, I sometimes just need a second photographer to go to the groom’s house and continue until the portrait sessions. The wedding reception is easy enough for one photographer to cover usually, so I often just have a 2nd photographer for partial coverage on the day.

    • experience of the photographer

This has a huge bearing on how much I pay.
And I won’t pay top fee if I haven’t worked with you before. I’ve been burned by photographers whose websites looked pretty strong, but in reality couldn’t deliver.

    • the equipment the photographer has

I don’t see why I should subsidize another photographer by paying a full fee to second shoot for me, when I have to supply a good part of the equipment. If you only have a Nikon D200 or Canon 10D, then I can’t pay you the same fee as I would for someone shooting with a Nikon D700 or Canon 5D mk2, since I would have to loan you a camera. Expect to be paid less. Actually, expect not to be used as a second photographer at all.

With that, I currently (2010) pay anywhere from $250 to $600 to a 2nd photographer.
As I said, it varies. And it will vary for other photographers in other areas.

It is something you have to negotiate with the main photographer before the time.
In writing is always the best, even if only in an email so that there is some track of it.

 

a final note

I really do enjoy second shooting on occasion for friends. The pressure is off in terms of dealing with the tight schedule and the day’s time-line. And with that, I get to enjoy the photography and have fun with it, and even look for those images which truly define the day.

 

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{ 73 comments. } Add a Comment

1 mike May 4, 2010 at 6:06 am

neil,
great article and especially the use of images part, how about a follow up: going from second photog to shooting your first wedding as the number one….mike

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2 olympus_fotograph May 4, 2010 at 7:32 am

very interesting to see a strictly, harsh NeilvN.
but thats good because somebody must be the “official number one”.
the rules can just only given by ONE, not ending up to a “cage full of fools”.
there must be one leader, he has the full responsibility.
a wedding is just mostly a “one time” event and could not reproduced.
so the expectations are very high.—on fotographers side and bride/groom side.
and they will pay a lot of for good pictures.
*************
maybe i have to overthink a workshop if there is such a strictly, harsh wording (tone)*gg*….not ending up in a boot camp.*lol*.
but on the other hand….with no pressure WS-students will not learn something, just going out and drink a bit*g*….enjoying the easy life….
the life is not every time a walk through the sunshine……
;-)
wish you further a dominantly work and shoots.
take it easy and don´t interpret too much on this text.
thanks again and again for eye opening.
grts
olympus

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3 Barrie Spence May 4, 2010 at 9:29 am

Hi Neil,

Thanks – another very useful article. Having been in the situation that I was maybe going to be an assistant/2nd shooter last weekend, it has covered a lot of the stuff that was going through my head (and at least tells me I wasn’t totally off-beam).

Thanks,

Barrie

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4 Brian Mullins May 4, 2010 at 9:44 am

Hey Neil, great article (as always) and it’s already making its rounds throughout the photographic community. I think you are spot on with all of your assessments and I already follow most of the things you had outlined above when hiring a 2nd. Will definitely make sure to pimp out your link! :)

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5 Yusuf Gunawan May 4, 2010 at 10:01 am

A must read article for any wedding photographer who usually do as a second shooter.
Thanks for the post.

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6 Saso May 4, 2010 at 10:08 am

Nice article Neil.
If I can tell short story too? :) Once I had one unplanned 2nd shooter, meaning sister of the groom, who will do some extra photos just in case (I was told so). Of course, groom arranged that. I did not know it until the wedding ceremony started. I was shocked, since no one told me. But I said, OK, few shots won’t hurt anyone. The problem was, that she had no clue about photography and later I realised that her camera was set to auto mode and her focus point set on some random focus point. But since that point did not always cached the ceremony in focus, you can imagine all the blurred and useless photos. :) But this was not the biggest problem. The biggest problem was, when I took group photos and photos of couples, she was standing on my right side and pointing her “useless” camera like she is taking photos. OK, she did took them, but we know what kind. And here we come to the main problem. Everyone stared at her, since she was some kind of family and everyone knows her. So imagine, how my photos looked like. Rarely someone looked into my lens :D .
OK, I saved the situation by taking additional shots and managed to get most of them to look right. But still, it is just an example, how 2nd shooter can actually ruin your day. I learned it hard way.

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7 Neil vN May 4, 2010 at 10:19 am

Saso, the family portraits and photo session with the bridal party and couple are the times you absolutely need to control the session. Or else, as in your case, you will find that people are looking elsewhere. THis is the main reason why I don’t want any family members to shoot at the same time as I do.

So you need to be assertive in the nicest way during the formal photo sessions.

In your case, this wasn’t an actual second shooter, but rather a guest that didn’t know how to be a guest.

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8 William Good May 4, 2010 at 10:25 am

Neil- well done, well done. I appreciate and affirm your thoughts on second shooters. “Augment” is such a great word to describe the relationship between first and second shooters’ work. What’s even better, from my experience, is building a relationship with your second shooter(s). I have the privilege working with two excellent photographers, and we have such a great relationship it’s almost like we know what the other is thinking before the moment arrives, and that’s great for capturing moments as a first shooter – you know you have a reliable alternative perspective in the bag.

Having said that, there’s also something to be said when it comes to compensation and pricing model, as a second shooter brings substantially more value to an event than a mere “assistant.” In that regard, I am more than happy to compensate my seconds well, and communicate to my clients to take into account they are getting two pros, not just a pro with an assistant.

Great article!

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9 Laura May 4, 2010 at 10:48 am

I just checked out her website and OMG she is an AMAZING photographer – thanks for the link!

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10 Mac May 4, 2010 at 11:38 am

I just shot my first wedding of the year this past Saturday. My wife assists me with gear, crowd control, etc. but I really need to get her taking photos of the ceremony…I just can’t be everywhere at once and I missed some great opportunities.

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11 David Mielcarek May 4, 2010 at 11:40 am

Neil – EXCELLENT article and thank you kindly for the mention! Right back at you!

Olympus – harsh? really? I think it’s very just and really objective. I’ve known Neil for years and yes he can be harsh when it’s needed but this article is really nothing but fair (IMHO).

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12 David Chang-Sang May 4, 2010 at 11:58 am

Great article as always Mr vN ;)

Cheers,
Dave

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13 johnlo May 4, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Neil, great article. thx for writing it and giving your side and tips on 2nd Shooter.

Josh, I know you are reading this… nice shot.

johnlo

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14 Sam Obeid May 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm

As everyone has already said, excellent article. I’ll be sure to direct second shooters who have little experience with weddings right here. Thanks!

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15 MP Singh May 4, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Great Article and a great Read.
Thanks for sharing.
-MP

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16 Elio Hernandez May 4, 2010 at 6:34 pm

What a great article! I had the chance of being the 2nd shooter last week. And I feel even better now after reading your article to have acted in the proper way!

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17 Josh May 4, 2010 at 10:16 pm

My name is Josh Lynn…. and I approve this message. :)

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18 -cr May 5, 2010 at 5:52 am

Neil, your tangents have long been some of my favorite reading on the web, and I’ve also found your book helpful, but this article here is better than good! Outspoken, to the point, comprehensive, … This should be essential reading for every (first time) second shooter. And it wouldn’t hurt to have the first shooters read it, too.

Oh, and to Josh: Woah! Too bad I’m already married, and nowhere near NJ. :-)

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19 Neil vN May 5, 2010 at 6:01 am

Hey hey! It’s not like I am a bad photographer either. ;)

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20 Paul Crawford May 5, 2010 at 6:22 am

Brilliant article – some excellent points and a must read for anyone considering 2nd shooting

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21 parv May 5, 2010 at 7:28 am

Copyright resides with the photographer who took the image, unless a work-for-hire agreement was entered into. However, as a second photographer you don’t have a model release to use the images without consent of the parties involved. So owning the copyright doesn’t automatically give you the leeway to publish the images on your blog .. and doing so against the main photographer’s wishes will definitely end that working relationship.

Is the bit “owning the copyright doesn’t automatically give you the leeway to publish the images” based on laws or court rulings, or unwritten business rules/niceties?

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22 Marco Ricard May 5, 2010 at 7:34 am

Hi Neil;

Sometimes I work as a 2nd photographer and I can say that a love it more than working as the 1st one, because I had no presure, I feel free to be searching for more and I work with my favorite lens (canon 70-200 2.8 Is usm)…

Nice article!

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23 Jay May 5, 2010 at 8:16 am

Hi Neil,

Great post, and timely as I’ll be second shooter at a wedding next month. What advice would you give on using on-camera flash with a 70-200 lens, considering the distances implied.

Thanks
Jay

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24 Neil vN May 5, 2010 at 9:43 am

I’ll keep this as a topic for a follow-up article on Tangents.

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25 May May 5, 2010 at 10:13 am

Great post! I wish you would talk a little bit about compensation…

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26 Peter Salo May 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Great info Neil. As someone who does a fair share of 2nd shooting, everything you’ve said is so absolutely true.

As usual, thanks for sharing your knowledge and insights. Nicely written! I enjoyed reading it and laughed a little as well. :-)

Keep up the great work Neil.

Peter

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27 Bethany Fields May 5, 2010 at 4:00 pm

great article Neil! I am about to start 2nd shooting and needed this advice. :) Love your blog.

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28 Bogdan May 5, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Great advice Neil as usual.
There is a flip side to your article however. I’ve started (long time ago) as a third shooter (the guy the second shooter brought along because he was hired by the first shooter to be the first shooter) with the right to use pictures as my ONLY payment. I did get my feet wet and I took some nice shots that jumpstarted my business so no complaints really. Actually I was grateful for the opportunity (and after all those years, still am).
I do however have a beef with some of the first shooters I we worked with on a few occasions. It is not OK as a second shooter to have to take the lead and step up the game so the couple will get adequate coverage. Is it not OK to be mildly mocked for using Alien Bees by the first shooter yet to have the clients pick most of your pictures and discard most of his. It is not OK for the couple to wait for 14 months before throwing in the towel and turn toward the second shooter for a wedding album. I could go on but being a second shooter was an amazing experience that helped me to gain a good footing in the business. I’ve kept my eyes opened for good AND bad. I’ve learned a lot!
The only advice I would give to starting second shooters out there is: treat the couple and the people present at the event as they are your own clients. Respect everyone and remember you’re there to do the best job you’re capable of.
Just my two Canadian cents.

Cheers!

Bogdan

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29 Barb May 5, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Neil,
Thank you for this article. I’ve just had the opportunity to act as second shooter for my nephew and I think I pretty much followed your advice. I’m looking forward to being second again in the future and will continue to follow your advice. It’s important to me to maintain the good relationship we have and also to give the clients the best images I can. Thanks again.
Barb

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30 Josh May 5, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Is the bit “owning the copyright doesn’t automatically give you the leeway to publish the images” based on laws or court rulings, or unwritten business rules/niceties?

Simple.. The creator retains copyright.. but its pretty much a catch 22.. Just because you took it, does not entitle you to do anything with it.

Say you 2nd shoot something for a studio.. the STUDIO has a model release + contract with the client.. NOT you as the 2nd shooter.

So, Unwritten Business ethics/rules/niceties say you should hand over the files (assuming you were compensated in some form) Because.. well the job isn’t yours. You were just someone hired to take images for the Studio.

Make sense?

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31 Linda May 6, 2010 at 1:46 am

I am not a wedding photographer and have no interest in pursuing that type of photography, but really appreciated this write up. Wedding photography is SERIOUS business! Those aspiring to do this type of work need to hear this information and it should be shared many times over. Thanks Neil!

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32 parv May 6, 2010 at 3:51 am

I can clearly understand if the second shooter enters in a contract that explicitly prohibits the photographer from using the images in any or some form without further permissions/negotiations.

I also acknowledge that use of images (by the second photographer) would result in burnt bridges if the studio or the principal photographer is against such use.

So, other than above stipulations, use of such images on a personal use (say on personal web log/site) would be ok, I think. Sure, all the usual conditions apply to use of images lacking model release(s) for commercial use.

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33 Neil vN May 6, 2010 at 5:47 am

parv .. why on earth would you want to post photos of someone else’s wedding on your personal blog?

The moment you put it on your photography blog, then the case can be made that you are using the images to promote your business. There is financial gain in mind. And since you don’t have the model releases, the couple (with the help of the main photographer), could pursue this legally.

While you (or your lawyer) might then make the argument that somewhere in that “library-sized mountains of books and articles” on this topic, there are reasons why you should be able to use the images …. I wouldn’t want to push this point.

So, however you want to argue this point, and parse the exact meaning of words, and the intention with which the photographs were published by you without a model release … I just don’t think it is worth it. One way or the other.

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34 Dapip May 6, 2010 at 6:31 am

well written guide.thanks it would really help,if one day i get to shoot a weeding.

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35 Tim C. May 6, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Neil, I just wanted to say thank you for this article. Even as an assitant, some of these rules are applicable. Just like you said, it is common sense really. For a guy who’s goal is to graduate from an assistant and to a second shooter, this article is paramount.
You and Josh are fine examples to follow.
Thanks Again!
Tim C.

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36 dave May 6, 2010 at 2:34 pm

great information, thanks…the first image, i noticed the focus is off on the bride and groom, the spectators on the front left of the bride are a lot sharper than the bride and groom..

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37 Neil vN May 6, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I had to go to the full-res file to have a look, and you’re right. The focus is on the people in the background directly behind the couple. Well-spotted on a web-sized image. I therefore had to remove my comment: “The focus is spot-on”, since the couple isn’t quite in focus.

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38 Walter R. May 6, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Hi Neil,

Great article. As a part-time photographer I had the opportunity to work a few times as a 2nd photographer and really agree with all your points. I once had a second shooter requesting my permission to use some of the images on her online portfolio. I admit, however, that I felt a little uncomfortable after seeing them posted on her website.
Neil, what would you say is the usually accepted amount of compensation for the second photographer. A set or hourly fee, or even perhaps a percentage of the amount the first photographer charges?

Thank you,

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39 Sara Wesenberg May 8, 2010 at 7:20 pm

I used to be a second shooter two years ago, before I started my own business. I was able to show photographs in person for new client consultations and I could blog the photos as long as the main photographer’s watermark was on the photos and that I mentioned the photographer. I could also use the photographs on my own website as long as the images were watermarked with the studio’s logo (where I was shooting). I would simply explain to anyone that inquired, that I was the second photographer at the wedding. They saw the quality and skill in the photos I took, and hired me.

The main studio I shot for made a good point that if photos of their bride were floating around on the internet without a watermark, they could end up ANYWHERE and the studio was legally responsible for those pictures. I was lucky enough to be able to use the photos in print and on my laptop during the consultations I had. We met at coffeeshops and when I was starting out building my own portfolio, new clients kindly understood and still hired me. I eventually built up my own portfolio and here I am today :o)

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40 Sandy May 9, 2010 at 8:35 am

a really informative, well written and set out article. Thanks for sharing

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41 Josh May 11, 2010 at 11:28 am

RE:Sara.

That is exactly how I did it.. and how I feel most should.

When people 2nd for me I tell them they can use the images “in house”.. for meetings etc..

The image that Neil started with this post was never put on my website. I do have it on my wall. It has just become common knowledge that I am the one who took it, however this is not how I typically prefer it. When I 2nd shoot I prefer to be anonymous to the client. “Josh” is all they need to know..

Josh

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42 David Nelson May 12, 2010 at 1:50 am

Awesome post. Thank you.

I have a question but first the situation. Last summer I went to the wedding of a couple of my former students who had also worked for me at the school I taught at. Knowing they had a limited budget and not knowing what they had for a photographer I took my Canon 5D Mark II and 70-200 2.8L IS USM lens. The wedding was outdoors. It ended up that they had a photographer who had an assistant who took a very few pictures. I stayed out of the of both and took several pictures of things I didn’t see the photographers take. I didn’t want to cut into the paid photographer’s income so I purposefully waited 5 months before I gave the couple a disk of my images. My question is, was this likely an appropriate amount of time to wait so as to not cut into any sales?

David

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43 Stephanie Zettl May 12, 2010 at 2:08 am

David – I applaud you for thinking about the photographers and their livelihood.

There are countless instances where a guest will shoot the family portraits over the photographers shoulder, run to Walgreens in between and deliver a slip album of poorly exposed and printed photographs. While the extreme, it does happen and it does take away from what the Bride and Groom have paid the photographer to do. To me it’s kind of like showing up with a pot roast at the reception.

However, I also believe that guests should never be prevented from taking photos as long as they are not interfering with my work. I also know that most of my sales happen within the first 3 months, so your time period is fine and very considerate.

As long as you were not shooting over the photographers shoulder or shooting the exact same thing they were, (ie, family portraits) I see no reason to worry about providing photos to the bride and groom.

Stephanie

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44 Charles Gervais May 14, 2010 at 7:02 pm

That is an _excellent_ article! My sincere thanks, I know a few people who I’ll be pointing this way :-)

Chas

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45 Debra Wallace May 18, 2010 at 7:19 pm

This is not directly related, but do you have any recommendations about how to handle releasing reproduction rights to clients. For example if I were to sell a certain number of digital images to a client, what kind of paperwork should I be signing or having the client sign? I would only want to agree to prints for personal use but prohibit online sharing (e.g. Facebook). I recently had a problem with this… which I realize was my fault but I’d like to correct it.

Debra

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46 Neil vN May 18, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Debra .. that is something you would have to specify in the contract, the exact terms of usage.

However, I’m curious why you wouldn’t want your clients to post the images to Facebook? Currently Facebook is one of your strongest marketing tools available to you. It would appear counter-productive to clamp down on a client when they want to show your work. Make sure though that your images are water-marked with your logo.

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47 Ray May 18, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Hey, Neil

With 47 comments ahead of mine, there isn’t much left for me to say, so to stand out, I’m going to tell you that the article sucked! :)

Good job, buddy!

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48 Debra Wallace May 21, 2010 at 9:21 pm

I agreed to sell the digital images and gave them to her not watermarked so that she could print them. She promptly posted them on Facebook without my watermark, or really even giving me credit at all. It was totally innocent on her part, but I lost a lot of leverage. So I do want them on Facebook, with my logo, but I don’t think my clients would want photos with my logo hanging up around their house.

I’m obviously new to the business end of things – how legal does a contract need to be? Do I need to have a lawyer write it or can I do it myself?

Debra

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49 Neil vN May 21, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Debra .. this is one of those instances where it is better to just let it slide. You won’t gain anything by confronting the client. You sold her the disc with images .. and with that, their specific use is out of your control. Doing anything legally after-the-fact will just cause your business harm in bad word-of-mouth. For commercial photographers, it would be definitely be worth it to chase after a corporate client that oversteps on the use of the images. But for us, who rely so much on how people experience working with us, it is probably better to just let this one go.

The actual use of the images is something you could stipulate in a contract. But again, this is harder to enforce once you let the high-res files out. Legal options are also expensive, and usually not a real option.

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50 Josh May 25, 2010 at 11:41 am

For Debra,

When I release files to the clients I supply the high resolution version for printing + a resized low res version WITH my logo for online usage (facebook etc)

The clients are informed, via email/verbal/written document, that they can print the larger files and the low res ones are to be used for online use. Furthermore any publications need a credit.

I noticed once when uploading to FB from the high res file it 1) took forever and 2) FB’s system resized it and it looked like garbage.

NOTE: These files are delivered with the album.

FWIW.. I WANT clients to show off my work.. Truly I do.

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51 Debra Wallace May 25, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Josh, Thanks so much for the tip – that’s a great idea! So do you notice an improvement in quality on FB when you resize it yourself? No one else seems to notice but on FB they always look… well, like garbage. At least compared to the original.

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52 Neil vN May 25, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Debra, Facebook will compress the files as you upload. So the quality will be reduced. That said, I’m fairly happy with the way my images look .. just as I had prepared them for my own blog. No other finessing done to them for Facebook.

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53 Miguel Martinez May 26, 2010 at 4:22 am

Nice text. Usefull to gives the second photographer the rules to keep. Thanks !

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54 Dan May 31, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Excellent article. Thanks

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55 Guy June 1, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. Excellent information every time.

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56 OlaWale June 10, 2010 at 10:19 am

Another excellent article Neil.

Also for Debra,
If you’re ‘friends’ with the client on Facebook, you can make a comment on the images saying how you enjoyed covering the wedding, or some other subtle way of hinting that you produced the images. If you’re not ‘friends’, you can always ‘share’ the album. Post the link on your profile with a message saying it was one of your best weddings or something. You can also upload the same images but this time with your watermark. Another option is to ask her nicely to add a caption to the images that has a clickable link to your website. You can offer her an incentive for doing so but by all means, avoid any animosity.

Logo or no, I say you should milk the publicity for what it’s worth.

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57 jonathan pira June 29, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Very well said master Neil…Straight forward

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58 Ringo July 11, 2010 at 9:27 am

Thanks for a very good overview of how a 2nd shooter should be. I am from the Philippines and i am hobbyist looking at turning my craft into a profession. Your article helps me alot since I am looking at working as a 2nd shooter first to gain experience and knowledge before actually going at it. Thank you very much.

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59 Artur Ocubaro November 14, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Hi Neil! Again, great great article! Amazing how you share everything with us “mortals”. I dont know anything like that in the web. Thank YOU!

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60 Tony January 5, 2011 at 1:22 am

Hi Neil, Thanks for the well-written article. I have a question about image rights: If I hired a photographer to second for me and I paid him fully as agreed, Who owns the rights to the images that he shot during the wedding?

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61 Neil vN January 25, 2011 at 7:22 am

Tony, this is discussed briefly under point 6 in the article.

To expand slightly on this: In the USA, it depends on whether the 2nd shooter is working full-time for you, or is hired on occasion.

If the 2nd shooter is not in your employ, but occasionally shoots for you .. and you don’t have a Work For Hire agreement that clearly stipulates these things, then (afaik), the copyright resides with the actual photographer, (ie, the 2nd shooter). There is the hiccup though for the 2nd photographer, that while they retain copyright, the 2nd photographer doesn’t have model releases, so in theory are not allowed to use the images where they can be viewed.

I am sure the full legal aspect to this is more complicated.

Finally, do check out the Photo Attorney site,
and the book she wrote: The Photographer’s Legal Guide.

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62 Rilan July 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I agree, I could use a ‘how to go from second shooting to being the primary shooter’ article.

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63 Kab July 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Great article and tips. Though I have to disagree with the last in respect to the type of equipment will get a 2nd shooter hired. This is a little biased and aspiring 2nd photographers should not be limited due to the type of equipment they can afford. Having a higher end model doesn’t necessarily make one a better photographer.

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64 Neil vN July 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Nowhere have I ever stated or implied that better equipment makes you a better photographer.

Using higher-end equipment enables you as a photographer. You are not limited then by equipment which can’t match the demands of a hectic day. Simple as that. There’s no arguing around that. It’s about the necessity of using top-end gear when doing work at a certain level.

Regarding your comment about a bias:
Why would I want to hire a 2nd photographer who doesn’t use top-end equipment? Of course I am going to pick solid photographers with great gear when I want a 2nd photographer. Any other choice would be a bad business decision on my part. (I’m paying them after all.) So perhaps, yes, I do have a bias there. A necessary one.

The 2nd photographer’s aspirations isn’t part of my business plan or decisions. That’s their concern.

I hope this doesn’t sound harsh. It’s not meant to be anything other than a very realistic viewpoint from the other side.

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65 Kab July 6, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Wow, I just totally lost respect for you. Any camera in the hands of the capable can render equal quality, if not better.

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66 Neil vN July 6, 2011 at 7:49 pm

“Any camera in the hands of the capable can render equal quality, if not better.”
Better than what?

Kab … I suspect you have a certain agenda here. A certain mind-set which you want proven right, regardless of logic and common sense.

Re-read what I wrote, for I think you are purposely mis-understanding me. And then, in a calmer frame of mind, tell me where I am mistaken.

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67 Trev July 6, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Kab,

I too hire 2nd shooters/assistants who are capable, and “capable WITH top notch gear” to boot. If they don’t have their own on the day, I lend them one of mine, and even with a 20 minute tuition [Canon or Nikon] they can nail the shots I want. Usually using the 70-200 for distance shots while I am using shorter focal lengths.

No way would I get some of the shots I do now than say even 4 years ago, with high-end specs, high ISOs, fast optics, and more crucially, fast focussing which enables photographers to get better results.

Yes, you are right in one aspect though regarding people can get cracking shots with simple cameras, actually I saw a site where a guy in Thailand nailed absolutely brilliant shots with the big 3 C’s [colour, clarity, composition] using a simple iPhone.

They are magnificent, but, I guarantee you there is no way on earth he could get results trying to shoot a wedding, and that’s what 90% of us in here probably do, as the shots of his were all scenic daytime shots, let alone trying to nail church/reception shots, dingy, lousy mixed lighting, movement, etc.

Reading Neil’s original blog about using high-end gear he simply stated it was easier, faster, and more accurate ‘enabling’ the photographer to grab those shots.

Ansel Adams used ‘old equipment’ yep, but damn brilliant “old” stuff at the time, and I bet he threw away more sheets of photographic paper than I do digital frames, to get that perfect shot in the darkroom, no denying that, being a former darkroom user for many years. [Something I do *not* miss btw]

Once again, new techniques, new equipment allows us the luxury to get great results easier and faster.

An analogy would be racing cars, try competing with a 1960s F1 on today’s track, you would be left with mothballs in the eyeballs from start to finish.

Trev.

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68 Lou July 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Hi Niel
Question about hiring a second photographer . Do they help with equipment such as holding light stands or are they there strictly to shoot.

Lou

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69 Neil vN July 11, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Lou … as I mention in the 2nd paragraph at the top, the 2nd shooter works independently from me, and isn’t an assistant per se. However, I would be mightily pissed off if someone refused to hold a light or do whatever it is that needs to be done to have the day run fluently.

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70 Naftoli September 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm

kab it is funny how wrong u r, when a photographer is hired to shoot a wedding they have to produce good well exposed images CONSISTENTLY! a pro photog with a canon rebel and an 18-55 is not going to cut it at iso 1600 f5.6 1/60 of a second! in many situations u will still be underexposed not to mention very grainy due to iso 1600 and soft due to wide open on a kit lens.

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71 Jason August 8, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Great Read Still in 2013.

I think being a 2nd shooter is a great way to learn from the main shooter and get other experience beyond camera skills. Additionally if you are a good second shooter you are going to get more network opportunities and referrals for other work. So while you don’t get recognition directly from the clients (that goes to the Main) thought the shots you took you still get it within the network of other photographers.

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72 Patti Hale August 8, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Your points are all right on target, Neil. Good insight for second shooters, as well as main photographers.

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73 Fern Trujillo August 8, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I can add a few things that should be common sense, but as we know that is something that is quite lacking nowadays.

No drinking, smoking, and by all means no chasing the ladies at the wedding reception.

I have found these things in many a 2nd shooter, or should I say former 2nd shooters.

As far as the better gear question my views are as follows;
Top Notch gear makes a good photographer better, it however does not make a bad photographer any better.

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