For Photogs: The Etiquette on Second Shooter Images

I am a part of a few different Facebook groups for professional photographers and recently the subject came up etiquette for the use of a second shooter’s images. What does this mean for the non-photographers reading this post? Frequently wedding photographers hire a “second shooter” to help out with the coverage of a wedding. This person could be the main shooter’s associate, or they could just be a trusted friend/college that the main shooter has hired for the day to help them out. They usually sign a contract with the main photographer stating that they are working for them for the day and that the images essentially belong to the main photographer and that they won’t try and sell them to the couple and some other legal formalities.



(image credit: Kristin Dioguardo)


What’s often not stated is how the main photographer can and will use the images that the second shooter has taken.

So, is it ok for the main photographer to blog the second shooter’s images without giving them credit? What if a blog features the wedding, should credit to the second photographer be given? And can the main photographer use the second shooter’s images in their portfolio without posting that it wasn’t actually themselves that took the image?

Here’s my professional opinion on the topic… (if you’re interested)

Can the main photographer decide not to credit the second shooter? Yes.

I know it can get confusing when a lot of us have our business names as our actual names, but think of it this way. The you are a second shooter that was hired for a job by company ‘abc’. You were contracted for x amount of time and got paid x amount of dollars. You acted as company abc’s employee for that time, fulfilled your job, got paid and went home. The work that you did for company abc belongs to company abc. They contracted the client, they set everything up, they had the brains to hire you to do a good job and you represented their company by providing images. You were a part of company ‘abc’ for that day, so they can use your images however they would like to represent their company. If Kellogg’s hired you to do their graphic design for a cereal box and you did it and got paid, they would put your cereal box design as part of their portfolio and I can assure you that they wouldn’t be giving you credit on the box. If they did, hey, that’s great! But you wouldn’t expect it, and I think the rule applies here too.

So a blog decides to feature the wedding that you second shot, should they credit you? No.

Again, you fall under the umbrella of company ‘abc’ so you were hired by them and thus, by credited them they are crediting you. Sometimes company ‘abc’ will be nice and list their second shooter’s information so that they can be credited, however a lot of times the blog will ignore this and not post it anyway. It’s part of life.

Can company ‘abc’ post your images on their portfolio? Yes.

You again fall under the umbrella of company ‘abc’ so your images are their property. They can post them because you were part of their company for the day so the images are truthfully a representation of their company. I think this part is where people have the most objections. “But they should only have their images on their portfolio or it’s misleading,” I’ve heard. I get it. The company should have a matching portfolio to their talent. But if they want to use a second shooter’s images on their company website, they can. The second shooter was a part of their company, whether it was for the day, the week, the month or year.

I won’t get into whether the company is misleading the public or what ratio of their own images they should have posted and whatnot. That’s not what this blog post is about and frankly, as a second shooter, isn’t really your concern. If you’re concerned with the morality of a photographer’s company, I would advise to just not do business for them in the future.

So what do I personally do as a main photographer?

I give credit on my blog posts. You’ll see under the vendor list who my second shooter was. If I’m submitting a wedding to a blog and have a good mix of a secondary photographer’s work, I will list my second shooter, however I don’t think I’ve ever had a blog publish this information. And lastly, I do think it’s ok to post second shooter’s work on my portfolio. I may have some secondary photographer’s work in my portfolio, however an overwhelming majority of the work on my website is my own. And by that I mean there may be a photo or two that someone other than I shot. And I would never post any image that I was unable to take myself. (i.e. I would not post an image with a technique done that I didn’t know how to do myself). When I second shoot, I don’t expect to receive credit. I do ask that I can use my own images on my own blog/portfolio, but that is something that I set up with the main photographer and make sure that’s agreed upon beforehand. Not all photographers allow this.

A photographer Kathy, puts it this way, “a very wise man once put it this way to me. When you book your SS (Second Shooter) it is no different than booking the gig. It’s your client, it’s your company that did the booking so it’s yours to own. Use all images as you see fit, the credit is yours because you are the one who booked both client and SS. I really agree with this, it took me awhile but here’s the thing. I book a dream wedding, then I book a dream SS, then I do all the work to get dream wedding published! That is all on me. I had never thought of it before this way but I do now bc it makes sense. I did do things a bit different when I was building my business in the beginning and hiring SS that were also building; I would give them credit because it was more about building our business equally at the time. So it’s totally how your heart feels and how you run your business. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way. If your SS is building giving credit is like helping them build, saying thank you for doing and outstanding job, but you can also do that in so many other ways. You could just allow them to use a few images for their own portfolio long after you have done what you needed for them.”

So now that I’ve expressed my opinion (and what I think generally are the industry standards) on the subject, what are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Feel free to continue the conversation…

  • Erica said:

    What if second shooter did not sign anything, such as a work for hire, and the main photographers contract with client did not state they were paying extra money for a second shooter, and what if second shooter was not compensated for their time and work?

  • Erica, Those are all very big issues. I would first take it up with the main photographer and ask them how they feel about you using your images. If you weren't being paid and technically not contracted from them, I would think that you would be able to use your images as you wished. I'd just be respectful of the main photographer and the client and go from there. :)