Upload & Sell: On
Does anyone else prefer working alone at weddings?
a) Do you write a contract out with your second shooters? I'd hate to include one in a package then have a no-show.
b) Do you charge exactly what you pay for a second shooter then pay them, or do you upsell? For example, if you plan on paying a second shooter $50/hr, do you bill the client $100/hr then pay them $50? I suppose it doesn't matter, just curious.
c) How did you find your current/preferred second shooter? I'd like to find someone that I can trust and use consistently, but most of the photographers I know are very busy with their own weddings.
d) With a second, do you have them take care of certain shots so that you can focus on others, or do you both work the same moments/shots together? E.g. do they photograph the groomsmen while you photograph the bridesmaids, or do you stick together until the ceremony and during the reception?
I hate working alone at weddings. Having a second simplifies things for me, because I've got a reliable assistant who can handle emergencies, be a second pack mule, and spread coverage when the action is split. A second almost always has a different view than I do, and different strengths, so my end-product coverage is more interesting. I always shoot with a second.
a) I include the second in my contract. I work with reliable seconds. I interview new seconds carefully, and I review their work carefully. I have a few back-up people who, if they're free, could and would come on short notice if something happened, but I've never had to activate the bat-signal. I, too, would hate to have a no-show, and would certainly refund some money if every redundant system failed, but I do at least have a strategy for shooting solo if I have to, and can get along fine.
b) My second is just one cost component, factored into my price. Since I don't offer coverage without a second, I don't have to worry about upsell tactics, so I'm not much help there.
c) I only work with seconds whose work I've seen, and mainly who I've seen participate here on fredmiranda. Jayson Hubbard and Chris Thomas are two of my favorites in the DC area, and I would work with either one of them without a second thought. I have a few others on my short list, and one or two who I wouldn't work with again. I try to shoot as a second for other folks here, as well -- for example, I shot as a second for Doug Stroud last year, and would definitely use him as a second. Shooting as a second allows me to see whether I can get along with the other photographer and evaluate his or her skill and reliability.
d) For morning prep, I almost always send my second to cover the guys while I cover the girls, and then we meet when the two groups come together. The rest of the day, we're together most of the time, with some small tasks taking us in different directions on occasion. For example, I might ask my second to go to the reception early to get detail shots (Chris in particular is brilliant at this) while I shoot the bridal party or do something else.
A couple things to add. My relationship with my second is paramount. I have to be able to trust him or her, and I also want to be sure we'll get along well. It's best for me if I can meet a prospective second before a gig. If I can't, I spend time on the phone, and I communicate in bursts before the gig, to see how responsive and certain the person is. If I'm trying a new second, and I get the slightest hint of unreliability or arrogance, I'll switch if there's time, or bring a third whose work I know. I do not ever want to be in a situation where I have all my eggs in one basket, so even if I'm happy with the work of a particular second, I still switch it up and use others, to broaden my network.
When I look at a second's work, although his or her style has to be compatible with mine at some basic level, I'm really looking for someone who doesn't shoot like I do. Jayson, for example, shoots tilty shots like it's going out of style. Which it may be. By contrast, if I shoot tilted, it's because some kid just ran into me from behind and I hit the shutter while I was going down. In my end product, I can deliver maybe one out of every 10 or 15 of these tilted shots he does. But the ones I deliver are extremely high value to me, because I would never even have thought to shoot the moment that way. In the last wedding we shot together, one of his tilted shots, of the groom, was one of my favorites and the clients loved it, too.