What is a Second Shooter?

A Second Shooter is the title given to a photographer when they are hired, or contracted, to work for another photographer. This is very common in the Horse Show Photography sector of Equine Photography... a niche, within a niche, within a niche! Depending on who you're working for, and the size of the show, the role of a Second Shooter can vary. Sometimes you are the sole shooter while your "boss" is doing another task such as backdrop/award photos, portrait sessions, admin work, etc. Or sometimes you're working alongside your "boss" to cover an additional arena at the show or a different vantage point in a single arena.

Second Shooting is a great way to learn the ropes of Show Photography before venturing out and securing your own shows/clients as an Official Photographer or Private Client Photographer. Being a Second Shooter is also a great source of income in slow periods, or even as a steady gig throughout the year if you photograph with multiple photographers. Every model of Second Shooting has it's pros and cons though; and I believe it is very important for any Equine Photographer looking into Second Shooting to consider both sides before diving right in.

AQHA Horse Show Photographer

What's an average day like when Second Shooting?

When you are photographing for someone else, under their business name, they are your boss for the contracted period of time. Your personal errands, tasks, and business do not take priority during that time. While you are working for someone else you should have a contract in place that clearly lays out expectations, and even restrictions, of what you may or may not do (highly recommend reviewing contracts for a possible non-compete clause).

So, with horse shows in mind, your day could start as early as 6 or 7am and go until the end of the final class which could be incredibly late depending on what kind of show you're at (my longest day second shooting was 7am to 3am the next morning...with a 7am start back time). You're often on your feet for a majority of that time and are at the mercy of your boss on whether you gets breaks. As far as images go, either throughout the day or at the end of the day you will hand over your memory card for your boss to download the images and therefore copyright as their work.

What's the pay like?

Pay can either be a day rate or hourly, but the amount varies greatly on your skill level, length of day/size of show, who you're working for, what kind of show it is, if you're using your own equipment, and your tasks. Keep in mind whether your food, travel, and lodging are covered up front, at the end, or even at all. From my experience I have seen/heard of day rates as low as $80 a day all the way up to $500 a day.

What should I keep in mind when considering who I'll be working for?

Your goal should always be to work for someone you admire and want to learn from... but you shouldn't be blinded by working with your idols and forget to ask these important questions:

  1. Do I get access to the images I take for portfolio or marketing use?
  2. How strict is the non-compete clause in the contract?
  3. How much and when will I be getting paid?
  4. Is food, travel, and lodging covered?
  5. Will I be using my own equipment? If so is that factored into my pay rate?

The answers to those questions can definitely start to show you if it's going to be a good opportunity or not. To further weigh out your decision though I have compiled my list of Pros and Cons when it comes to being a Second Shooter.

PRO: You gain knowledge with every experience. With every photographer I have worked for I have walked away with something learned either about equipment or how I want to run my business.

CON: Your business gets put on the back burner which could be difficult to juggle if you're at a long show.

PRO: Networking opportunities with photographers, equestrian brands, and potential clients.

CON: Possible strict non-compete clause in your contract.

PRO: You get to photograph talented equestrians and horses.

CON: No credit for the images you take since your name doesn't end up on them/they no longer belong to you.

PRO: No stress with dealing with image management/delivery after the show. When the show is done, you're done.

CON: Long days, with the potential of short breaks (or no breaks at all).

PRO: Learning new equipment setups and lighting techniques.

CON: Wear and tear on personal equipment.

PRO: Travel to some cool places.

CON: Is there even enough time to check out the cool places? LOL

I did my best to make that list even! I obviously encourage everyone interested in being a Horse Show Photographer to start out by Second Shooting. It's a great way to learn the ropes and earn money doing so. At a certain point though I think it's best to keep in mind your goals... Every weekend you're photographing a show for someone else is one less weekend you're investing into your own business.

Tips to be a stellar Second Shooter:

  1. Be self sufficient. Have fully charged spare batteries, have extra memory cards, stay hydrated.
  2. Know how to read patterns/courses and establish where to place yourself to get the best shots.
  3. Ask ahead of time what the preferred settings are (aperture, white balance, file naming, etc).
  4. Cull in camera (some photographers don't want their Seconds Shooters to cull but if they say you can delete any that are out of focus or blurry, do it).
  5. Stay organized with equipment and image cataloging.
  6. Know what the "ideal" shots are for whatever kind of show you're at.

Do you have questions about being a Second Shooter? Feel free to email Miranda at mirandataylor.photography@gmail.com

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