As many of you know, I work alongside my wife Jasmine Star as her second shooter. Together, we’ve shot hundreds of weddings and transformed a pipedream into our dream business. It’s been an amazing experience working with her—not many people get to spend all day alongside their significant other and get paid to do so! That said, I haven’t always shot with Jasmine, and I’ve learned a lot during my career as a second shooter—both directly from and independent of my wife.
Like most aspiring photographers, I was thankful for whatever job I could book when I was first starting out. I didn’t ask many questions, kept my head down and tried to do the best job that I could. Sounds like the perfect second shooter, right? No. As a second shooter, you need to ask your employer key questions to avoid confusion regarding payment, ownership, and even legal issues. The following list of questions is not my “top 8 questions you should ask,” but the “vital questions you MUST ask.”
1. What am I allowed (and not allowed) to do with my images after the wedding? Can I use them in my portfolio?
This answer changes every time. Some photographers will allow you use the images for a lot of things including blog posts and general portfolio use. However, other photographers take a hard line—if they own it, they own it fully, just as someone who pays a writer to ghostwrite owns the piece outright.
2. Do I need to mention you when I post the images? Do I need to state that I was the second shooter?
Make sure you know how the main photographer wants to be credited. Sure, it’s entirely possible that you will shoot the best image during the event, but you were paid to shoot it by whom? The main photographer! Their money, their work.
3. Can I edit my own images?
Just as a photojournalist is limited to what he or she can edit, so is the second shooter. If the principal photographer owns your photos outright, then they have their name attached to the product whether it’s edited or not. They may choose to take your memory card the same night as the wedding. They might also provide you the memory card and take it back immediately.
4. Will you credit me when you blog about the wedding or if you get published?
At the end of the day, you did help them shoot the event. Sure, it’s paid help, but they know the power of word of mouth marketing and if you have a positive experience with them, you will most likely refer people to them in the future.
5. When and how will I get paid?
Lock down the details. Will you be paid in cash? When? Does payment depend on a delivery time of your photos?
6. When and how should I deliver the images to you?
Each photographer is particular about the form that you deliver images. Make sure to talk about this before the day of the event.
7. Would you like me to shoot on your cards or my own?
It’s great if they provide you memory cards, but this usually means you won’t have access to the images later. However, if you don’t ask the question, and there aren’t enough cards on the big day, you’ll be the one in big trouble.
8. If something were to happen and you couldn’t make it, would I become the lead photographer? In that case, What would my compensation be?
This is my favorite question. Why? Because it accomplishes two things. One, it shows that you’ve thought of everything. Two, it shows you are responsible and willing to take more responsibility if the price is right.
If you want to learn more about how to become a second shooter, JD and Jasmine have a workshop on creativeLIVE August 6-7. They will go into the role of a second shooter in detail and even take you through a photo shoot with a bride and groom!
About the Authors
JD and Jasmine are international wedding photographers, educators, creativeLIVE instructors, and entrepreneurs based in Southern California.
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