Five Tips for a Second Shooter

This is a guest post from professional photographer Robert Vanelli.


There are many factors to consider in deciding if you should be a second shooter for another photographer at an event. Here’s how to avoid damaging a friendship or a business relationship.

1. Don’t talk directly to the client

All communications should begin with the lead photographer talking to the client. Once the lead photographer introduces you, it’s only natural for the client to talk to you. If the client has a question about pricing or wants something special, refer them to the lead photographer. Don’t undermine the lead photographer by telling the client what you would do.

2. Promote the event and the lead photographer

If you are shooting an event—not a wedding or a private function—it’s a good idea to post it on social media. An example could be: “I’m excited to attend the Photoshop World Conference this year. Rickie Acevedo invited me to join his team and shoot the event. If you’re attending, stop by and say hi!” This will generate publicity for you as a photographer, the event and give credit to the lead photographer for hiring you. If you snap cell phone shots at the event, include the team you are working with. After the event, ask permission to post a few of your favorite images. Include a thank-you to the event and the lead photographer. If a watermark is to be added to the image, use the lead photographer’s watermark, not your own. Remember, it’s a work for hire—you were paid for the event. This is a subtle way of showing people and the event your work.

3. Don’t pass out your business cards

As a second shooter—not a collaborative shoot—you are representing the lead photographer’s business. You are being paid as an employee. The lead photographer should have right of first refusal for any business generated from the event. If you have worked along side the lead photographer and you offer a service they don’t provide, the lead photographer should build you up and turn the request over to you. Normally a referral fee is given.

4. Turn your images in on time without a watermark

The lead photographer has a deadline. If you are hired to shoot and edit the images, make sure you meet your deadline—the lead photographer’s reputation is on the line. Most importantly, do not watermark your images unless you have negotiated it ahead of time with the lead photographer. This is a work for hire and your images are the property of the company. The company is taking a risk on you shooting the event. You are representing the company—your actions will have a positive or negative affect on their reputation.

5. Think twice before accepting the job

If you are an established photographer—shooting the same style as the lead photographer—think twice about accepting the second shooter position. Normally this position is for an assistant or an intern just starting out that needs experience. The pay and recognition aren’t that great. An exception could be if you and the lead photographer work out a deal where they help you when you need help if you help them for this event. This is a win/win and the public will see you as part of a team.

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