Legal Differences between an Associate and a Second Shooter

I'm so excited to introduce this guest post written by Paige Griffith of The Legal Paige. Paige is a lawyer who specializes in working with photographers and other creative entrepreneurs. I think incredibly highly of Paige and her team and cannot recommend their products highly enough!

When I was thinking of guest post topics, one area that I see repeatedly misunderstood by client photographers in my consultant photographers is the legal differences between an associate photographer and a second shooter. From a financial end, they affect your business quite differently. Therefore, I figured this was the perfect topic to get Paige's take on.

IDiscounts are rare, but they do happen one or two times a year. I've spent over $4,000 on contracts from The Legal Paige. I can personally vouch for the Adventure Elopement Photography, Birth Photography, and Coaching Contracts.


Guest Post Written by Paige Griffith, J.D. of The Legal Paige

Are you a photographer that desperately needs help during weddings? Wondering whether you need a second shooter or an associate photographer? We here at The Legal Paige are going to explain the difference between the two.

A second shooter comes on board usually on a one-time basis (or an extremely limited quantity) when you need help with an event as a secondary person to capture images and angles with you still being the primarily lead photographer. An associate photographer is used as a way for you to expand your business by making them the full lead replacement for you at an event. Associates usually book out with your company months or years in advance, book multiple events with you, and have their own photography business on the side.

The good news is that legally both a second shooter and an associate are usually independent contractors. Meaning that you don’t have to bring them on as W2 employees. But, associates sometimes are considered employees if you harbor too much control over them. So, be sure that when hiring associates they still can book their own clients through their photography business, have their own gear and equipment, send you invoices, and have their own business insurance and license.

Now, let’s break down the key contractual differences of each so you know exactly which contract to use in each instance.

Second Shooter Contract

A second shooter contract is a type of independent contractor agreement but one that has more specifically tailored legal language in it for hiring a second photographer for events or weddings.

  • A second shooter contract includes clauses related to the scope of work including, hiring the second shooter on a case-by-case basis, with no minimum hours per week/month.

  • The contract also has additional clauses regarding the fee rate which you will be paying the second shooter (whether that’s per hour or per job) and the working relationship between your company and them as an independent contractor.

  • The contract further has language regarding the second shooter honoring commitments, which explains that they are responsible for showing up when they are supposed to. Additionally, this clause covers that if there is a reason why they cannot be a second shooter anymore they must give notice at least 30 days beforehand.

  • One of the most important clauses in this contract is called “Photographer Exclusivity”. This clause acknowledges that your second shooter can engage in separate photography services but those services cannot interfere with their commitment to YOU! This clause also states that while the second shooter is conducting services they understand you are the sole, exclusive company working at the event and they cannot solicit or advertise their own business!

  • Your second shooter should also have the highest level of professionalism when working under your company. This is why a Professional Standards Clause is within this contract. This clause informs the second shooter that they must dress appropriately, professionally, and with good taste as well as conduct themself in an appropriate manner.

  • This contract also should include a Photography Project Requirement Clause. This should include all of your expectations for how the second shooter will shoot on the event day and how/when you want your photos culled and/or delivered.

  • Other clauses like the Non-Solicitation Clause, Non-Disparagement Clause, and Confidentiality Clause are ones you definitely want to include.

Associate Photographer Agreement

An associate photographer does more than just help you shoot an event. An associate can be hired as an independent contractor or an employee. Hiring an associate means you can assign full events to them to photograph as the lead without you being there. Although the customer interaction, editing, and management of the gallery stays with you and your company.. your associate takes over shooting your event so you can focus on growing your business (or be at another location at the same time).

  • Overall, think of an Associate Photographer Agreement as an upleveled second shooter contract! It, of course, has the same general clauses related to shooting for your business such as use of images, professionalism, insurance/licenses, confidentiality, non-disparagement, and non-solicitation.

  • This contract should also include a clause regarding protecting your work product and copyrightable works. This is important since your associate will be taking photographs for your business.

  • This contract also has specific clauses you would not see in a second shooter agreement like updating the associate’s calendar with events booked through your company, travel fees, referrals, an incentive program, hiring their own second shooters, honoring commitments, etc.

The Bottom Line is both an associate photographer and a second shooter can help you grow your business. If you are ready to boss up and book multiple events at a time an associate photographer is what you need. But if you just want a secondhand for an event then a second shooter will work great for you.

Whatever you need The Legal Paige makes it so easy for you to help expand your team with its Second Shooter Contract and Associate Photographer Contract!