Booked as a 2nd. Inquiry for a wedding on same date--etiquette?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by lauren_s., May 13, 2013.

  1. Gist of my question: I agreed to be a paid 2nd shooter, and received an inquiry for a wedding on the same date. What is the etiquette here?

    Overall question: How does one navigate the waters of working as a primary wedding photographer and booking 2nd shooter gigs for the days you do not have booked? What if you are asked to 2nd shoot a wedding 6+ months in advance--when you could potentially book a wedding for much more money? I am new to wedding photography and while I've read lots of advice on how to be a good 2nd shooter at a wedding, I can find very little on the booking etiquette. I understand not backing out of a 2nd shooter gig at the last minute, but what about far in advance? I can see both sides: obviously the primary wants to have another person as back up/assistant/extra set of eyes, and obviously a 2nd shooter would much rather make $2500k rather than $500.

    Any general advice?
     
  2. Lauren,
    My two cents: If you want to succeed in business (and sleep well at night), don't ask yourself questions like this. This isn't complicated. You agreed to work as second shooter for wedding 1. You agreed, made a commitment. You're booked. End of story.
    Some people might say, Why not ask the first shooter about it? You could make it clear that, if it's a problem for the first shooter, you'll absolutely honor your commitment.
    And in fact, if I was the first shooter and you came to me with that question, I'd be very nice about it. It probably wouldn't be a big deal for me. There are probably a couple hundred qualified second shooters in the Dallas area who are free that weekend, so I could probably find a replacement. I'd let you out of your commitment. I'd wish you well with your gig.
    And I would never hire you again, or recommend you to anybody else.
    Good luck.
    Will
    p.s. I don't mean to sound harsh and I beg your forgiveness if I do. It's better to ask this question and get the advice than to just go out and do the wrong thing without a second thought.
     
  3. As william says, with plenty of notice I'd (as a primary) be fine with you not working the day. Of course you shouldn't expect me to ever hire you as a second again. Or ever give you a second thought again. You'd have burned that bridge with me.
    To me though, this question is kind of like if someone hires you as a primary for the smallest possible package, for which you bill them say $750, and then, a month later, another client wants to hire you to do your most exorbinant package (at, say,$2800) for the same day. The question, the interest, and the resolve with which you honor your prior commitments are the same.
    IMPO, there is only one answer to this question. You have been booked to shoot on this day. You have committed to it, agreed to a fee, and considering that a huge portion of this job is your reliability, and trustworthiness, going back on either is a step (or huge leap) in the wrong direction.
     
  4. Lauren: For you to even think about leaving for a higher paying primary wedding shoot is against my code of ethics. Your services with me would be terminated forever.
     
  5. Thanks for the responses. I am not backing out of anything, but I do realize I may have made a mistake in accepting a 2nd shooter gig 6 months in advance...I have heard from more experienced wedding pros that their favorite 2nd shooter is booked, so they need to find another one. That makes me wonder about how that all works. The timeline..how close/far away to the actual wedding date should one accept a 2nd shooter gig, what is reasonable for someone who wants to book primary weddings, but still wants to fill in gaps with 2nd shooter gigs and work with other pros?
    Is it totally out of line to say "Thanks for the offer, I'd love to 2nd shoot for you if the date is a month (or fill in whatever timeframe) away and I'm not booked" ?

    Believe me, I know about honoring commitments. Last year I was going to turn down a wedding because I agreed to work for free as a 2nd shooter on that date...the primary found out and told me I was crazy to not take the wedding. But I also have a hard time wrapping my head around fellow wedding togs expecting another wedding tog to accept a lower wage without thought to them possibly booking a wedding. Not trying to come off as rude...just genuinely trying to figure out how other 2nd shooters do this.
     
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Noted that you’ve already expanded on your original question, but I had already written this and it might be of some assistance to others who come to this thread:
    The main question being asked is not about etiquette. It is about business. As others have mentioned: once one's word is given that should be a contract. The Lead Photographer has already made choices, based upon that word.
    A question of "Etiquette" would be how best to seek to get out of the contact, with the best business manners, possible: the answer to that question is: 'to be honest'.
    If someone really wants to get out of the job as a Second - then approach the Lead and tell them that you have a Booking Enquiry and you want to be released - and 'Etiquette' would demand that this be done BEFORE proceeding in any manner with the enquiry.
    HOWEVER – someone must also consider what is the Best Business decision - for THEIR own business: and to that end, as already mentioned, a realistic response from the Lead would be "sure no problem" and it is likely that the Lead would never ask again for assistance.
    ***
    The next question:
    Is it totally out of line to say "Thanks for the offer, I'd love to 2nd shoot for you if the date is a month (or fill in whatever timeframe) away and I'm not booked" ?​
    No. I would not find that response “out of line”. I would not be offended by it nor would I hold the person saying it to me, in any less respect. What I would think is something like: “well they seriously need to get their act together”.
    What I mean is – “etiquette” and moral interactions generally between family and friends is probably more based upon emotions than expedience: but in business “etiquette” is more based upon consideration that one’s words and actions are an integral portion of the decision making process for SOMEONE ELSE’S BUSINESS.
    So, for example: at the meal table one might consider to hold the knife and fork in a correct manner for the benefit of the enjoyment of the meal for others at the meal table – at a Wedding as my second you can shoot all your shots left handed and inverted – so long as you get the shots, I want you to get.
    ***
    Often there is way too much over-thinking business choices – emotion often gets in the way.
    And, with all due respect, that is exactly what your last paragraph is describing – emotion influencing or commenting upon business choices.
    To directly address your question – there is NO timeline. It is very, very simple:
    • You are a Photographer.
    • You have CUSTOMERS.
    • You work on Contract and you sell your TIME & SKILL in TIMESLOTS.
    • Sometimes your Customer might be a member of the General Public and at other times your Customer might be a Professional Photographer.
    • You get INQUIRIES from both types of Customers - at the inquiry, if the Customer wants to employ you, then you only have three choices from which to choose.
    • Your three choices are: ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or 'I don’t know’.
    You must make your choice at that point in time of the offer/enquiry - that is what being in business, is all about.
    WW
    (The last “I Don’t Know” is an option, but it is not a definitive answer and I am NOT suggesting that you use it – I merely include it, because it is, literally, an option.)
     
  7. Okay. So if I decline a 2nd shooter gig 6 months in advance because I'd like to try to book a wedding, I am then written off forever by the other photographer because "I need to get my act together"? I see that as overkill and really unfair. We are all trying to run a business and make a living, yet I'm looked down upon because I dont want to give away a potential primary wedding slot immediately for a 2nd shooter gig. I was under the impression that fellow wedding photographers were all about creating good will and relationships in order to help each other be successful, not treating each other as customers. I really have a hard time understanding that, but if that's the norm then my eyes are opened and I am now more fully aware of what I'm getting into.
     
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    “So if I decline a 2nd shooter gig 6 months in advance because I'd like to try to book a wedding, I am then written off forever by the other photographer because "I need to get my act together"? I see that as overkill and really unfair ”​
    No - you have misunderstood what I wrote and/or requoted it differently and then you applied an emotional response to the comment: which is also what I wrote about – confusing business choices by adding emotions to them.
    You asked:
    “Is it totally out of line to say "Thanks for the offer, I'd love to 2nd shoot for you if the date is a month (or fill in whatever timeframe) away and I'm not booked" ?”​
    And it was that precise question I answered - I quoted your words to be exact and precise about it.
    The comment: ‘What I would think is something like: “well they seriously need to get their act together”.’ was in respect of the fact that the person could not supply a definitive answer.
    A definitive answer would be something like: “Yes I can do it." - OR – “Thank you but no I am not available to do it”.
    My comment “getting one’s act together” was about how it appears to other BUSINESS PEOPLE if one is not definitive and/or cannot making choices at the time when an offer is made.
    Being in business is not about answering an offer of work with something like: “well maybe if I am not busy I can do it let’s talk about it a bit closer to the date.”
    The Person making the offer (your potential Customer), cannot run THEIR business based upon responses like that.
    ***
    I was under the impression that fellow wedding photographers were all about creating good will and relationships in order to help each other be successful, not treating each other as customers.​
    Goodwill is created by treating another Photographer as you most cherished Customer - when that other Photographer is indeed your CUSTOMER.
    When a Lead Photographer engages another professional to work for him: how else can it be described? The Lead is a most cherished Customer: he is the person for which you work: he is the person who is paying you.
    To treat the Lead Photographer as anything less than your most cherished Customer would not be etiquette and it also would simply be a very poor business choice.
    WW
     
  9. it

    it

    assist
     
  10. Second shoot as promised.
    I almost always tell the clients who I am using for a second shooter. Assistants are completely different, they aren't necessarily charged with shooting anything, even if they do get a chance to on the day.
    How would you like it if you signed on to second shoot, and the primary called you later and said that a better second shooter had come along so you are out?
     
  11. There was a time back in the 90s where I was taking weekend work from 7 studios in NJ, 3 big ones and four smaller
    ones. When you agree to take work from other professionals you have to be your own union and set up your work
    parameters in advance, not after you've taken the work. I would say that with 5 of the studios I had a similar arrangement,
    and with 2 it was a little different. What I agreed to is irrelevant, that was me and that was a while ago. So, if you don't
    have a preestablished plan to handle issues such as yours, then you need to just shoot what you've committed to and
    renegotiate other mutually acceptable paramaters in the future.
     
  12. Lauren, If I may add " let your yes, mean yes, and your no ,no."If the Lead photographer becomes aware of your honesty and business integrity, who knows if he would remember, and pass work to you ,or reccommend you to other contacts he may have.Please accept this in the spirit it is offered . Best wishes for the future Miken
     
  13. See now, there is also a way to get out of it without loosing what stock you have with the primary. But it depends on your circle of friends, and level of socialization with the primary. In this case, letting it get back to him that you've recieved an offer to primary a wedding, but are intending to reject that so you can maintain your prior commitments may result in him calling you and offering to release you for the day. I know I could be manipulated into doing so, and not feel ill of the person.
    But the question really comes down to 'should I try to get out of it to book this wedding?' iMO the answer is no. However, based upon your responses, you clearly really, really want to find a way to try to get out of seconding to shoot this wedding. You said you were new to wedding photography, is this going to be your first as a primary?
     
  14. Lauren S. writes:
    So if I decline a 2nd shooter gig 6 months in advance because I'd like to try to book a wedding, I am then written off forever by the other photographer because "I need to get my act together"? I see that as overkill and really unfair.​
    "Unfair?" I'm sorry, but what has fairness got to do with it?
    You're a service provider in an industry that has way too many people in it who look just like you. What do you think the first shooter is going to do when you politely say, "I'd love to but I'm hoping to get a gig for that weekend, could you call me back in four or five months?" I'll tell you: As soon as the first shooter gets off the phone with you, he's going to call the next person on his list and hire them.
    Unless you have some other special relationship with the first shooter (he or she is your sibling or best friend or something), he or she is not going to put you on their calendar and call you back in five months to see if you're still available. From your point of view, that might be the "fair" thing to do. From my point of view as the potential first shooter in this scenario, that would be insane. And if the first shooter hires somebody else and that person does a good job, that's the person who's going to get called next time. This is how the world works.
    • • •
    Marcus Ian writes:
    See now, there is also a way to get out of it without losing what stock you have with the primary. But it depends on your circle of friends, and level of socialization with the primary. In this case, letting it get back to him that you've recieved an offer to primary a wedding, but are intending to reject that so you can maintain your prior commitments may result in him calling you and offering to release you for the day. I know I could be manipulated into doing so, and not feel ill of the person.​
    Yeah, I thought about saying this myself earlier. I like to acknowledge that there are sometimes exceptions to the rules. But in this case, it seems to me that the exception almost proves the rule. If I found out that my second shooter had turned down a gig in order to honor a prior commitment to me, I would be impressed. I might even go to the person, and (assuming I knew for some reason that it wasn't already too late) I might release him from his commitment and urge him to take the gig.
    But I'd really need to find that out completely on my own. Not sure how that would happen. If I found out instead that the second shooter had somehow manipulated our chain of friends so that I found out, well, that wouldn't make a good impression on me at all, in fact, it would make a worse impression on me than if the #2 had come to me directly.
    And besides, I find it really hard to visualize how this scenario would play out in reality. Prospective client contacts #2 shooter, who declines gig because of prior commitment. That's pretty much the end of it, no?
    • • •
    As I said in my first response, I just don't think this is complicated. There's no moral dilemma here, nor any question of fairness. You get an opportunity, you either say yes or you say no and then you live with your decision. You might get to postpone saying yes or no for a few hours so you can check your calendar. But that's about it.
    Will
     
  15. When it comes to booking six months out, remember the old adage, "a bird in hand is worth two in the bush." Lots of people would love to know for sure that they're going to make $500 on a Saturday six months from now for sure rather than think they might make $2,000 but then again they might make nothing. Also, the lead photographer who's paying you to second shoot is -- if you play your cards right -- a repeat customer who might be hiring you multiple times each year. Most brides are one-time customers. Even if they refer you to their sisters and friends, no one bride participates in as many weddings as a full-time wedding photographer.
     
  16. The equiettee is simple - you agreed to do the 2nd shooting for a lower amount than you'd get as a primary - you're stuck.
    Whether you're a 2nd or primary - if you're booked on the requested date, you're booked.
    Look at it another way - What if you had booked a small - 2-3 hour wedding on the date - for 1/4 of the price you'd normally get? And then a new client called and said that they wanted you for 12 hours at double the normal rate? Would you call the first client and back out? Would you even ask the of the couple?
    Dave
     
  17. Should be no argument. getting an kind of a wedding gig is hard enough. You made a commitment and you should stick to it.
     
  18. the only exception i can think of is i have asked second shooters to keep a date in mind for second shooting if the job was not so great, this is when i first book the job and say i will check with them down the road. It was generally for jobs where they were not sure if they wanted two, or maybe I was thinking of bringing someone for the second to gain an experience they haven't been in before.
    But if i have someone commit to second shoot for $ 500 that is top dollar for second shooting if you ask me. i would not be happy with a photographer turning their back on that commitment and they would move to the very bottom of my list, maybe off of it.
     
  19. Shawn - good point - I had/have a couple that originally wanted a 2nd but were only willing to pay for 1 hour (of the 2nd's time) - I had someone lined up, told her the deal and also told her up front that I understand if she got another primary or 2nd gig for that date - since the bride was only willing to commit to 1 hour for a 2nd.
    All's well that ends well - the bride, her mother and I talked - went to the location and there isn't enough space / need for a 2nd. And my 2nd got a primary gig on that date.
    Dave
     
  20. There are two types of wedding photographers out there, The ones who run there own business and the freelancers. You can not have your cake and eat it too. Unless you just make yourself available as a last minute replacement photographer then it is possible. You have to make a choice what side you are going to be on. Put your self in the shoes of the photographers who own there own studio and book multiple jobs. No one books a job a month in advance. The studio owners need to know which photographers are available and will commit to a booked job 2 to 6 months and even 12 months in advance. One day you will need to book a second shooter 6 months in advance and you wont like it either if they do what your are thinking now. The key to this is to get a guarantee number of jobs to make it worth while to hold dates that far in advance.
     
  21. Yes, you're booked as a 2nd shooter so you should honor that commitment. I do a lot of 2nd shooting for one photographer. At the beginning of the year he gave me the dates of a dozen or so weddings that he'd like me to 2nd shoot with him throughout the year. He knows that I also shoot my own weddings as primary and that those ultimately make me a lot more $$. We've agreed that I can bow out of 2nd shooting any wedding with him as long as I give him at least a month's notice so that he has time to find another 2nd. Anything less than a month and I am committed to 2nd shoot... I won't even bring it up and will just grin and bear it. You might suggest a similar arrangement with the wedding photographer you work with, AFTER you get through your next wedding. In most cases it's a reasonable arrangement.
     
  22. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I do a lot of 2nd shooting for one photographer . . . We've agreed that I can bow out of 2nd shooting any wedding with him as long as I give him at least a month's notice so that he has time to find another 2nd.​
    That is a reasonable suggestion to make (in advance of any talk of bookings) to a Photographer with whom one has obviously built (or wants to build) a relationship.
    However, making such a suggestion, does not imply that the other party will (or should) agree to it.

    What you have done is good business: and it is a good suggestion for the OP.
    WW
     
  23. Seems so simple to me. Actually too simple. If the photographer wants you, you must take the job. See how simple this is!

    Don't make this into a big deal. We, in this photo group, surely can't give you permission.

    Get another photographer to shoot for you. Book your wedding with the bride and groom knowing that another pro will be there and not you. There's lots of pro's out there wanting to work. Perhaps ask this pro to attend the meeting with the bride and groom.

    Because we hire other photographers and video guys I'm pretty experienced with hiring. You pay them a fair fee and you pocket the rest. There' no reason for you to turn down this wedding. We pay about $500 or so, depending on the length of time the shoot goes.


    It's to your BEST advantage not to piss off just one photographer in your area, but to support all of them and be friends with all. This way everyone will know you are loyal in this small world of professional photography. Word travels fast.

    A dear friend died, our video guy, just last August. Thankfully we are friends with almost all of the photographers in the LA area were shocked and saddened. Well a few of the video guys stepped in and took on the work for us, often for free and gaving the money to the brother for a proper burial.



    Do what you wish? If I knew you were going to flake, even though I have a few shooters I can count on, I'd be far repressed to ever hire you. I'd still be very nice to you and wish you well, but it's a business.

    Hope this helps.
     
  24. I think everyone's in agreement (even Lauren S/the OP on her 2nd post " I am not backing out of anything...") here that the OP will not back out of her agreement to 2nd shoot.
    I also think the OP, being new to wedding photography is basically looking for directions and suggestions on how to tackle situations like this (accepting 2nd shooting and primary shooting) going forward as she realized what just occured to her.
    Of all the responses, I believe only Mitch W comes closest in providing an example of how to approach or handle the balance of accepting 2nd shoot gigs and primary gigs for herself. Most everyone elses' responses felt & sounded 'judgemental'.
    Lauren, don't be dishearted, continue to seek sound advice and learn to succeed. Best of luck to you!
     
  25. It's a gamble. But once you commit you commit.
     

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