What Should Second Shooters get Paid?

What Should Second Shooters get Paid?

150 150 Erika Hammer

It’s a pretty common question in forums, facebook groups and anyone where wedding photographers seem to unite: what should second shooters get paid?

Before you start yelling out “$30 an hour!” or “$50 an hour!” the reason for this article today is to provide not only a little insight on what an average seems to be but also explain what deciding factors make up said rate.

A second shooter should get paid according to a few things:

Experience as a wedding photographer in general.

Weddings are dynamic days, you have to be able to capture beautiful and meaningful candids, portraits, formal family photos, detail and still life images and work in a variety of lighting conditions – some of which are downright horrible (can we say outdoor portraits at noon?  Blah.)  Being able to navigate through a wedding day takes skill and while a background in portrait photography may have given you experience in portraits, if you’re newer to weddings you’ll require a lot of training and this is factored in to your rate.

Experience with that particular company

Do you have an existing relationship with the photographer you’re wanting to second shoot for?  Have you been working with them for a while and know how they shoot?  Can you anticipate their next move and be a beautiful compliment to their talent?  Or is it your first time shooting with this person?

Overall quality of work

A primary photographer will review the portfolio of the second shooter and use the overall quality of their work to help determine what they feel a reasonable rate for your services is.

Versatility

Are all your natural light photos absolutely stellar but anything indoors that requires flash iffy at best?  Or can you rock it regardless of lighting conditions?  These are things a primary will factor in when determining the rate of pay they feel is appropriate.

But the most important thing that to remember is…

Your experience and your skill, that’s based on what the primary photographers perceives it to be.  It’s not based on what you perceive it to be.  You may have your friends cheering you on and saying “OMG YOU’RE AMAAAAAZING!” but when a primary assesses your portfolio, they may feel like you’re perfectly adequate and that you’re deserving of a standard wage.

In the Toronto area, I’ve seen average rates range from $25-$35 per hour with exceptions here and there with some photographers paying up to $40 per hour.  The actual rate you will be paid, however, is based on everything mentioned above.

What are you paying second shooters? What are you getting paid to second shoot? Comment with your location and going rates.

Erika Hammer
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Erika Hammer

Hi, I'm Erika. I'm a Toronto wedding photographer and I've been at this almost a decade now. I've seen it all; both on wedding days and within the industry. I've seen fads come in and fads go out and I've seen those who have created sustainable businesses and those who I've said goodbye to as colleagues. I'm a firm believer in being true to yourself as a person and as an artist and that being a great business person is just as (if not more) important as being a great artist. My original background was in Radiation Physics before becoming a wedding photographer and in 2014 I went back to school to get my adult education certificate in order to be a better teacher for my peers. All that being said, I'm also a crazy cat lady who can speak entirely in Simpsons quotes.

All stories by:Erika Hammer
2 comments
  • Black Lamb Photography January 30, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    I’m surprised at the average rate that 2nd shooters get paid in Toronto. It’s lower than in Ottawa, which is surprising, considering that photography package rates are usually much lower in Ottawa than Toronto.

    • The thing with second shooter rates is that they actually aren’t THAT much lower than a primary rate when you break down what the primary makes hourly for shooting. A lot of primary photographers, once you break down their packages and separate out cost of doing business, taxes and any other cost associated with shooting a wedding and then divided that remaining balance from the number of hours they put in (everything from correspondence to shooting to editing to running to the post office to drop off a USB) a primary can be making anywhere from $35-$75/hour but from a lot of the mentoring I’ve done, I see $45-55 being a number that comes up quite often.
      The problem is… most photographers don’t actually calculate their pricing in a detailed manner so they aren’t aware of what each and every hour of their time is worth. Why would I pay my second shooter more money per hour than what I’m actually making? I was mentoring an individual last year who, after breaking down their packages and costs, found out that they were paying their second shooter $10 more per hour than what they were effectively making…. and they had twice the experience! Unfortunately, that’s what happens when you’re working in a industry where so many people base their package pricing on “what looks right” rather than calculating it thoroughly.

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Erika Hammer

Hi, I'm Erika. I'm a Toronto wedding photographer and I've been at this almost a decade now. I've seen it all; both on wedding days and within the industry. I've seen fads come in and fads go out and I've seen those who have created sustainable businesses and those who I've said goodbye to as colleagues. I'm a firm believer in being true to yourself as a person and as an artist and that being a great business person is just as (if not more) important as being a great artist. My original background was in Radiation Physics before becoming a wedding photographer and in 2014 I went back to school to get my adult education certificate in order to be a better teacher for my peers. All that being said, I'm also a crazy cat lady who can speak entirely in Simpsons quotes.

All stories by:Erika Hammer