For those of us who are wedding or event photographers, we know that the second and third shooters are indispensable. While we take our photos from one angle, they are busy covering other angles or details shots. And yet, at the end of the day, once the event is done you’re supposed to get the images from your second shooter because they are your images, right? It may seem obvious, since we did hire that shooter after all. Or is it?

Also, can your second use his or her images for self-promotion, and who gets the credit on the photos?

In reality, unless there is an actual agreement signed by the second shooter, if we are to follow the letter of the law, the copyright still belongs to the second shooter. On top of that, the second can even prevent the first shooter or studio from publishing his or her images if it comes down to that.

And that is why it is important to have a detailed, written agreement signed by the second shooter. Ideally, you will want this to be a “work-for-hire” agreement in order for you to retain the copyright for your second’s images.

What You Need in a Contract Photographer (Work for Hire) Agreement

Along with a well-defined segment for image copyright, here are some important components that you should consider:

    • Copyright and Reproduction Rights: This should be the strongest part of the agreement. You want to include clear language stating that you own the copyright to all the images shot by the second shooter (contractor). You also want to clarify if the contractor has permission to use these images at all, if there is an embargo period, and how you should be credited upon usage. An example of this would be if you allow your second to post the photos on his or her website after a 6 month embargo with credit given back to you and without any of the clients’ names.
    • Independent Contractor: Be sure to say that the second shooter is working as an independent contractor and not as one of your employees. This is important for liability, tax, and insurance reasons, because if you are that person’s employer, you are responsible for a lot of things, including payroll taxes.
    • Compensation: Be sure to explain the payment arrangement for the assignment, as well as any food and travel expenses, if provided. This will not only help to keep track of you budget, but also who gets to write what off. If the client is providing meal, great. If not, make sure you bring it up front.
    • Assignment: This will depend if the agreement is for one specific job or for an open contract for future, unspecified assignments. In either case, be sure to elaborate if there are any guarantees on minimum hours or numbers of assignment.
    • Completion Schedule: In order to make sure you get the images in a timely manner after the shoot, write down the delivery deadline for when your second shooter must deliver his or her images to you. The ideal deadline is right after the event.
    • Confidentiality: Your marketing, price lists, contracts, agreements, and other documents should be stated as confidential.
    • Liability: Make sure you express what you will cover and not cover for any financial loss, injuries, medical emergencies, acts of nature, etc. This also includes any loss or damage to the second shooter’s equipment.
    • Equipment: Finally, write down what kind of equipment you can provide and what equipment the second shooter should be able to provide, including camera gear and digital media.



Of course, we are not lawyers, so make sure you do your own due diligence and also talk to a lawyer when you create your work-for-hire agreement.

And finally, just remember that when negotiating and working with a second shooter, having an open communication and mutual respect will go a long way making sure you encounter fewer headaches. It is better to be up front with what you expect from your second shooter than to leave it to chance. You are both entering what hopefully will be a mutually beneficial and fruitful professional relationship, so make it work and enjoy the partnership!

Beverly Hills Wedding by Lin & Jirsa