FAQ : Second Shooter Value + Copyright

Business

Dear Jasmine

I’ve started second shooting/assisting for a wedding photographer and I’ve only helped her at one wedding but she is going to take my photos and give them to the bride and groom and I’m not being paid anything. I understand sometimes to learn you have to make sacrifices but it’s really a confusing topic and I vacillate on what I believe. I want to learn but at the same time, my photos aren’t really being valued. She said she would give me credit if she decided to blog any of them but since the pictures are going to the bride and groom, if they get any of my photos printed, they’ll never know they were taken by me because the main photographer gets copyright in the contract. Wow. I’d love your opinion because no one else seems to be of any help.
Thanks,
Under Valued

Dear Under Valued
Of course second shooting is a confusing topic…you’ve likely never been a situation like this before getting into the photography world! Vacillation is totally normal, so don’t worry about the ebb and flow of your emotions. I am, however, going to have an opinion on your idea of being valued. Oh…yes…you knew this was coming.

Before I get into specifics, I want to emphasize every photographer has his own way of doing things. What I’m about to write may only apply to one photographer, but I want to paint the dreariest picture so you can make a decision based on what could be–in your mind–the worst thing: not getting credit for the photos you captured. But before I address that (yes, there’s a lot of befores up in my hood), you need to understand there are thousands of photographers who wish they could be in your shoes. Unpaid and all. The main photographer (let’s call him X) gave you a cherished opportunity, wrapped in a shiny bow. Seriously. Every wedding you shoot with another photographer is an opportunity to learn, grow, and see what mistakes to avoid…and there’s no risk to you because your name isn’t on the business card. X’s is. If the photos are wonderful/awful, he takes the responsibility.

And with responsibility comes the right to use photos produced under his name, for a wedding he booked, and the risks he assumed. As far as I can see, the second shooter is sitting pretty. A day of shooting, learning, and no legal responsibility? Sounds like a sweet deal…sign me up.

I’ve second shot 50+ weddings and never (not once) has a photographer attributed photo credit to me. Not only is that a logistical nightmare, it’s confusing for the bride and groom as they don’t want to bogged down with the specifics of every photo. I outlined this in great detail in Exposed, but I’ve mentioned I worked for free when I first started…and continued second shooting for free for anyone who’d allow me to join on the wedding day. As my portfolio grew and my skill set strengthened, I began getting paid for my assistance but never dreamed of requesting photo credit because I understood I was–for the wedding day, at least–an affiliate of the main photographer.

I firmly believe you need to define what it means for your photos to be valued (e.g. getting paid for your second shooting services, photo credit, public acknowledgement from the main photographer, etc) then measure it against what’s currently available for you. And here’s the best part: there isn’t a right or wrong answer. You get to define it. Once you figure what you want–how you feel valued–create an agreement between you and the main photographer to ensure you’re on the same page. Before I shoot with another photographer, I understand the terms of our agreement to ensure there’s no misunderstanding and feel mutually comfortable with the terms. However, I caution you to research industry protocol before you ask for something most photographers wouldn’t permit, not just X.

I wish you the best as you pursue your dreams, but, more so, feeling valued as you define yourself as an artist.

Stay Fabulous,
j*