I once had my lead shooter’s bride reach out to me after their wedding...

Insert RED FLAG emoji here! Alright so let’s break down how it all happened; names will not be shared! Get ready for lots of unnecessary capitalizations and exclamation marks!


I was hired as a 2nd shooter (assistant photographer) for a wedding in North Charleston, SC. The entire day went great, and the couple was absolutely amazing, sweet, and extremely kind; as was the lead who hired me. This was my first year in business and one of my first few times 2nd shooting. A few months passed since the wedding and the lead photographer had delivered the full gallery to their clients [Rule #6]. I already edited some photos from the wedding and decided to share them to my website and social media. One of the photos I posted was of this cute onsite mobile photobooth. I posted the photo to social media and tagged the owners of the photo booth [Rule #7]. They ended up sharing my post which was ultimately seen by the bride (as she follows their business). The bride sent me an email complimenting my work and asking if she could pay me for any of my edited images. I’m not going to share her email (I will share my response below) but it was extremely kind and professional. It did NOT have any negativity towards the lead photographer. For her, their day was just incredible, so she thought 'cool more photos from different angles to enjoy from our wedding day!' I immediately communicated this to the lead photographer for many reasons. First, trust builds relationships and respect! I wanted to get ahead of this in the event that she, the bride, sent the same email to my lead photographer. Second, I am all for the golden rule. I would want to know if my client was communicating with another photographer about their completed wedding and have clarity. Third, back then I honestly didn’t know how to respond and wanted to run my email draft by my lead to make sure we were on the same page!

Now if your first though was “I don’t see what the big deal is, whatever, just give her the photos”, let me know so I can be sure not to reach out to you as a second shooter. Shade? Yup! If this bride shared my photos and tagged me it would look like I shot her wedding. Also it would look like I stepped over my lead, communicated with their client’s behind their back to get referrals or poach referral clients. That’s not on brand for me so NO thank you. Also, let me pause here and say loudly for the people in the front and the back back: the lead photographer was NOT upset with me at all! They understood that I was still learning and because we have a good relationship, they knew my intentions we’re not to overstep. They let me know that my email response was good and respectful, and together we decided moving forward I would NOT tag vendors or venues. Honestly, I should have known this but sometimes ya don’t know until ya know! Here’s the thing; it was really easy to weigh my options here. Was undermining and communicating with a colleague’s (and friend’s) client worth losing a well-built business relationship that has given me a premium amount of resources, training, and experience? That’s a big ole NO! I have worked with this lead photographer on more than a dozen weddings moving forward, and it’s been the best time!

If you’re wondering how to respond to a situation like this, I’ll share my response below:

Dear ______, 
Heyyyy Mrs. ________! 
Good to hear from you. Thank you so much for the compliment about my work that means so much to me. It was an honor getting to work with __________ Photography (I referred to my lead photographer here immediately) and be there for your wedding day. As a Second Shooter photographer there are some unspoken guidelines that we abide by. I've hired 2nd shooters myself and have these same sets of expectations. A lot goes into a Lead photographer obtaining a client. Advertising, product cost, preparation, obtaining clients, scheduling, months of communication and coordinating, along with many other behind the scenes duties. That being said when hiring a second shooter it is a guideline that they (2nd shooter) not advertise or poach clients while accompanying a lead at a wedding. I absolutely know that is NOT the case here but I want to make sure I tread lightly as I love ___________ and have worked with them a lot and have more collaborations scheduled with them in the future. 
Soooo regarding your request for photos... because of how sweet and kind you were I would be happy to offer a few photos to you with a few guidelines:

1. I would NOT charge you as I have already received compensation from ________ and feel it would be unethical to profit off of one of their clients. 
2. I would ask that you NOT tag me in any photos. Honestly, I may be nervous about even posting them - maybe just say "bonus photos taken at our wedding". I know that this is a weird request because we usually say "always tag your photographer" but again I want people to know your wedding was shot by ______________ Photography. 
3. I actually have only edited 10 photos from your wedding as I have had a busy season this Spring/ beginning of summer. Things are just slowing down. I can add the 10 photos I've shot (mainly just details of the reception) but would not be able to provide a full album due to conflict of interest. 
Please know that I am in NO way offended that you reached out. Your wedding was an absolute favorite! Small, intimate, family/close friends oriented. Just shoot me an email back that says something along the lines of "agreed", "deal", or "you got it dude" lol and I'll go ahead and send you those photos. Thanks again for reaching out and for letting me come along on your wedding day! 


So, what other spoken or upspoken rules should you follow as a second shooter!?

Here are 8 rules every second shooter should follow if you want to be invited back!
Rule # 1: Professionalism

Be punctual, ask if there is a dress code (some photographers want you to wear all black, avoid shorts, or something specific – it’s their brand on the line so be willing to follow this), keep an open line of communication, and be kind at all times (this includes language both verbal and nonverbal - fix your RBF). Always remember you are being trusted to represent their business, do not take this lightly.

Rule # 2: Follow the lead…literally

Follow the cues from your lead photographer. If your lead is shoes off on the dance floor and in the mix encouraging bridesmaids to take shots and telling the groomsmen to get the soul train line going; then get on in there and join them from a different angle! Don’t be shy! Match that energy and break it down, heeyyyy! On the other hand, if your lead is more hands off and patient with letting moments happen organically then take a step back and keep your eyes open. The moments will come just stay ready. If you have an idea whisper it to them and allow them to decide if it’ll be executed.

Rule # 3: Be present

Communicate your location and check-in often. That means keeping your phone charged. Sometimes I sit back with the bride while the lead sets up the groom for the first look. She will call or text me when it’s time to walk out with the bride. If my phone’s dead or if I’m lost in conversation with the MUA then I’m not being helpful to the flow of the day. Same goes for breaks and cocktail hour or reception. Always know where your lead is so if you see them in need or looking around you can jump in and be available for whatever is needed. This isn’t just a job it’s one of the most important days of someone’s lives. Be present andy ou’ll walk away with an unforgettable experience.

Rule # 4: Be prepared

Remember your couple’s name! Know who you’re serving. Also, many lead photographers will ask your equipment list prior to hiring you. Nothing like telling a lead you shoot on-camera flash or continuous lighting then showing up with dead batteries. Charge all the things and then triple check! Pack snacks (I pack back up mixed nuts or granola bars for my lead photographer was well)! I’m such a mom so I’m always reminding my lead to hydrate and eat! Another way to be prepared is to ask if there are any dynamics you should be aware of. I 2nd shot a wedding where the MOB and FOB’s new wife could not be next to each other. So, if you’re told to grab a few family shots it’s important to know the dynamics.

Rule # 5: Hand over that SD card

This one could almost go side by side with being as important as rule #1! All of your hard work can easily become pointless if you forget to hand over, or God forbid lose, your SD card. When I show up to 2nd shoot, I have a camera body with dual card slots. The lead photographer will give me their SD or CF card to shoot on and I will back up the images with one of my cards in Slot 2. Imagine me clapping with every word on this next sentence. At the end of the night give the card back to your lead! You never know how soon they need those images and you don’t want to be the reason their workflow is slowed. I have only forgotten the card swap once, and I guarded that little card with my life until I drove it to the lead’s house the next morning!

Rule # 6: Delay the post

This is another example of follow the Lead. After the day is over, make sure you wait until the FULL gallery is delivered to the clients before you post your photos. Read that again FULL gallery. When the lead posts sneak peeks, that’s not your moment. When the lead posts reels or behind the scenes, that’s still not your moment. Ask your lead what their turn around time is and wait until THEN to post any of your photos to social or website or anywhere else. This may be a debate, but I think it’s important and it doesn’t allow any comparison coming from the client to the lead if the client happens to stumble on your page. Remember you did not acquire this client. You simply got to show up and shoot (much more than that but you get what I’m saying). Respect the work your lead put into marketing, communicating with, and onboarding their client. Let them shine and just be honored you were trusted to be along for the ride!

Rule # 7: Tag you’re NOT it

As a 2nd shooter you should NOT tag the clients, vendors, venue, or anyone else related to the wedding. See my mistake above. That means you are NOT tagging the florist, DJ, planner, couple, family members or guests, venue, caterer, MUA, violinist, not even the officiant! Just don’t. Ask yourself how you would feel if you shot an entire wedding and worked hard for months and months and when you showed up someone else got the credit!? Yea don’t be that guy. You get to take photos and advertise and use to show potential clients but don’t step on any toes by trying to pouch. Your time to shine will come.

Rule #8: Follow up!

If this is your first opportunity 2nd shooting with this person, I highly encourage sending a thank you email, card, or small gift to your lead. I went to brunch with the lead from the above story and brought them a beautiful orchid (shoutout to Trader Joe’s)!

Shoot me a DM and let me know if there are any 2nd shooter guildelines you would add to these 8!