How to Reply to a Second Shooter Request

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by nik_ashton, Sep 19, 2016.

  1. Hi all-
    I'm a wedding photographer and have been shooting weddings for about four years now. Recently I received an email with a request to be a second shooter during my upcoming weddings/engagement sessions and I have no idea how to respond to it. Not only are we heading into the off-season for my demographic as far as weddings are concerned, the weddings I do have booked are already contracted and I cannot pay this person for their services, as a second shooter was not part of the contract with my client. I did some research via their website and social media handles, and found that this person in question has very limited (a rather low-quality) work and has never shot weddings or engagements before, and doesn't have much experience with any other photography as well. They have not asked to be paid, they just want to "tag along" and learn from a professional. I'm incredibly flattered by their request but unsure how to respond. I don't want to make my clients uncomfortable, but I also do not want this person representing me and my brand (as a second shooter's work typically would). I also don't want photos of my client's sessions and weddings shot by this individual to end up on this person's website and thus lead to confusion. Any suggestions??
  2. A second shooter is part of a professional team. By your description of this person, they aren't ready for this. I would always meet with the person so see if I even like their personality/professionalism and then maybe invite them to observe and carry your camera bag, but NOT shoot, and not be paid. If you do this, you should also give advance warning to the B/G.
  3. I signed in, and was going to post nearly exactly what is said above!!!! The meeting first. Goes well, the bag-carrying follows. Goes well, the low-budget or practice session. Goes well, 2nd shooting starts....and the big thing is are they willing to invest in the essential gear? That's a qualifier that will disqualify anyone who isn't serious.
  4. Is this person a relative/close friend of the B&G? If so, could be a touchy situation. If that's not an issue, stick to your guns. Tell this person that you work alone and will be too busy to have a second shooter tagging along. If you relent, I suspect the concerns you outlined may become reality. Perhaps you might convince him that roaming around on his own shooting some candid shots would help him test his skills. Maybe you could offer to go over his shots with him sometime long after the wedding is over.
  5. If anybody could fit into your second shooter / apprentice criteria at all: Make a contract.
    Then meet up with the wannabe who mailed you and make up your mind and figure out what is best for you.
    As you told the other has a bit to learn, so why not sketch out what & how and tell them when you 'll be able to book weddings which will permit a second shooter at all? Things take as long as they do and patience is part of commitment to a career... They should be flattered by you taking the time to meet them.
  6. Interview the person and if you like the personality, use him or her as an unpaid lighting assistant. A keen newbie would learn just as much from being around a pro and if they are not keen, they would not turn up again. One last thing, check that your public liability insurance covers a second person.
  7. Well, if you have need of a second shooter, there's no harm in meeting with the person. But if this is your livelihood I'd expect him or her to pay you for the time and accommodation you'd be making - not to mention the fact that you're training a future competitor.
    I'd initially respond with a query - "Why do you want to be a wedding photographer and why did you choose me as a potential mentor?" A lot will be learned from the answer to these questions.
  8. Hi Nicole,
    If a second shooter isn't in your plans and they don't live up to your standards, I wouldn't take them on. I would politely decline and say that unfortunately this isn't a service you offer your clients at the moment, but that perhaps in future you may consider it and wish them all the best in their photography.
    The fact that you've posted this question tells me that you're more than likely a decent person and a conscientious photographer. Don't beat yourself up. Learning to say "no" is a really really important skill in this business as in life.
  9. Personally, I would pass.

    With what you said about the person, it would take a LOT of work on your part to bring him up to speed. Do your have that time and patience?

    For me, there has to be chemistry between me and an assistant or shadow, or it won't work. Because you will have to trust the person. And you have to be ready to let go of him as soon as you see that the chemistry is not there, you can't be "soft." Sorry, but that is just me and the way I work.

    And just "tagging along" can get in your way. You WILL end up having to watch out for him (even if it is only to keep him out of your shots) and, you will end up spending time teaching him. IMHO, if you bring someone on a wedding gig, they need to be at least half competent. You don't want the 2nd/shadow giving your clients a bad impression of you.

    What is he going to give you to let him 'tag along?" He should pay you $$$ (tuition), and be willing to do the dirty work to help you. All is not glory. As was mentioned, part of his $$$ tuition will have to go to cover your insurance covering him during your gigs and at your office/studio, and the legal expense to get a proper contract written up (to protect yourself).

    And by the way, I would NOT let him shoot at any of your gigs, until you feel comfortable and trust using him as a 2nd shooter. This means, like an apprentice, he has to EARN the right to shoot. And that also means that you will have to spend a LOT of time teaching him.

    And as a 2nd shooter, after every gig (at the gig, not days later), he GIVES YOU the memory card. He does not get to keep the pix. If you want to give him a copy, to learn from, put a watermark on the pix so he does not use your gig to represent his work. And make sure that the EXIF data does not have his name as a "copyright by."

    And get an attorney to write up a contract for you, to protect yourself. Including that all pix shot by him at your gigs become your property, and that he will not represent himself as your 2nd shooter (the position/title implies a lot) . . .

    Sorry that I sound so negative, but I have been in similar work situations that just did not work out well.
  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I have had numerous requests like this. Usually from Students studying Applied Visual Arts / Photography, especially where there is a practical component in the course.
    My advice is that you firstly answer this question: 'Do I have the skills, the time and the inclination to be a Mentor and can my business afford it?'
    If NO, then reply:
    > thanking them for their interest
    > indicate that the business model does not have the capacity to have a second person at wedding shoots
    > wish them good luck in their endeavours.
    Put it in your own words, but there is no need to be any more verbose than those three points.
    If "YES", then, by telephone conversation (NOT by text or email) invite them for coffee. Make it on a specific day (in say ten or fourteen days time - enough time for the person to get their act together) and make it at 0700hrs and at a cafe near you. Their reaction to that invitation to the meeting is their first interview response: if they accept the invite for coffee with enthusiasm then make it clear that the meeting is a promise of nothing other than to meet. Ask them to bring a portfolio of their work. Just as Patrick suggested the first question at your coffee meeting should be why they want to shoot weddings and why they want you as their Mentor. Let them do the talking and only ask open ended questions. Keep it brief, about ten minutes should be sufficient for them to sell themself to you - or not. Thank them for their time and tell them that you will be in touch - and do get back to them quickly - that afternoon would be good. Be wise as Mark Anthony mentioned "Learning to say "no" is a really really important skill in this business as in life."
    Obviously if they falter in any manner to the invitation for coffee on that day and at that time, then they have failed their first interview question and I would see little purpose in continuing the process.
    Mentoring a person does not necessarily mean that you concede to their initial requests made of you - it can mean that you could make a counter proposal, if you see that there could be a mutual benefit.
    By the way of an incidental comment: I do not read anything in the opening post that implies that the person seeking to 'tag along' is a male, in fact Nicole seems to have made an attempt to not disclose the person's gender.
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2016; 08:04 p.m.
    I'm a wedding photographer and have been shooting weddings for about four years now. Recently I received an email with a request to be a second shooter during my upcoming weddings/engagement sessions and I have no idea how to respond to it.​
    How did you reply?

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