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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Weddings & Other Family Events Talk 
Thread started 31 Oct 2014 (Friday) 21:58
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Second Shooter/ Assistant Pay

 
hang ­ your ­ cross
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Jan 02, 2015 23:06 |  #16

Man, making $250-400 for 6 hours as a second shooter; who is hiring? :lol:


Some of my feedback

  
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UmphreyBogart
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Jan 04, 2015 14:19 |  #17

hang your cross wrote in post #17363259 (external link)
Man, making $250-400 for 6 hours as a second shooter; who is hiring? :lol:


No kidding. I either really need to check my rates or never use another 2nd shooter. :oops:


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Peacefield
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Jan 07, 2015 06:31 |  #18

I generally try to pay ~$50/hour in the northern NJ area, though typically, the second photographer is also doing their own PP.


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douglala
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Post edited over 6 years ago by douglala.
     
Jan 29, 2015 22:35 |  #19

The second shooters I know make about $200 for a 10 hour wedding. And that's with the main photographer only doing 2-3K packages... so a lot of variable including the main photographer's price points....




  
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douglala
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Jan 30, 2015 09:00 |  #20

I'm also available in the CT area if anyone is looking for a second shooter!!




  
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jimeuph1
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Feb 01, 2015 10:24 |  #21

It sounds like you are getting paid to organise equipment, take photo's and hand over the cards.

US minimum wage is $7.25 for jobs like shelf stacking. You are getting paid twice this.

Your employer is finding you work, paying for advertising, meeting clients, paying insurances etc. Taking all the risk.

If he is doing 40 weddings and you are attending all of them you are getting $8000 for 40 days work. Which is a nice little bonus on top of another job.


As others have said if the guy is using a lot of your work in his portfolio, (like 30%) then he obviously values your work.

Either use that to negotiate a slight raise, say an extra $50. Or get out from under his wing and start getting your own clients.

If however he is only using less than 10% of your work in a portfolio, then you are just canon fodder and can easily be replaced. Really he should not use any of your work in a portfolio as it is not his, but that's a murky line if he has done the post processing.

If he is charging $1000 then you are already getting paid fairly and couldn't really negotiate higher wages.
If he is charging $3000 then you might have a little wiggle room.

Your first few weddings alone you might have to charge $200 just to get the first few clients. That comes with all the extra work and risk, working for a lot less than min wage.




  
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mikeinctown
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Feb 02, 2015 09:42 |  #22

jimeuph1 wrote in post #17410023 (external link)
US minimum wage is $7.25 for jobs like shelf stacking. You are getting paid twice this.

You also orget that he has to pay taxes and other expenses out of that money as well. If the person is getting $200 and the primary is booking for $3k, then I would say a nice bump is in order. Otherwise I'd walk. His services are obviously valued or he wouldn't be with the same guy all this time.




  
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Charles ­ Brown
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Post edited over 6 years ago by Charles Brown. (4 edits in all)
     
Feb 02, 2015 12:03 |  #23

Reducing the original post into key words:

mdripper wrote in post #17244847 (external link)
- successful wedding photographer
- three years
- working 10-12 hour days
- setting up equipment.
- groom and groomsmen shooting
- shooting additional angles of everything
- using all of my own gear
- 5DMIII, 135/2L, 17-40/4L, 50/1.4


Reviewing those key words with the key words of a few previous responses:

memoriesoftomorrow wrote in post #17248560 (external link)
- “Equipment is cheap”

Really?

The professional class gear list in the OP’s signature costs over $5,000 to replace at B&H today. Even with rebates, CPW, Greentoe, eBay, or grey market, it’s still $4,000.

What if this equipment gets stolen at the wedding while the OP is busy setting up the main’s equipment? Or damaged by a drunk guest? What if the shutter blows? Pay a $500 annual insurance premium, with the revenue of $200 a wedding, that won’t even cover half of the deductible? And since $200 a wedding can’t buy a home, is there likely to be homeowner’s insurance, which won't even cover equipment that is used for to make money?. So who is absorbing the risk?

jimeuph1 wrote in post #17410023 (external link)
“Your employer... is taking all the risk”

Really?

Just renting that set of gear would cost $256 for the weekend at lensrental dot com (round trip shipping included). So in this particular situation the main photographer is not only getting this extra equipment brought to bear at his wedding for below market rental rates, he is getting it with none of the hassle, while bearing none of the risk.

And he is getting an operator of the equipment thrown in for free. Less than free. And this free operator is entirely responsible for all risk of loss or damage or malfunction of this equipment.

jimeuph1 wrote in post #17410023 (external link)
“ US minimum wage is $7.25 for jobs like shelf stacking.”

Really?

How many of these shelf stacking workers have to buy and bring their own forklifts and pallet jacks to the job?

How many of them also decide, entirely on their own, what to stack?

When the OP enters the stock room (where the grooms men are gathered) the OP must bring to bear executive decision making about how to stack the random and fleeting human moments scattered all over the room into an organized memory bank on a two dimensional shelf that is accessible to the emotions of the customer.

This isn’t a matter of fronting and facing Brawny paper towel rolls in the cleaning products aisle. Apparently, the OP gets the power and poignancy of how to stack memories and moments, because the main, a “successful” wedding photographer, has been “using” (in more ways than one) the OP for “three years” now.

And apparently the main regards the OP’s competency to be sufficient to set up the main’s equipment, in addition to his own, while also covering alternative angles of the ceremony. This all takes some level of competency with understanding light, color, balance, noise, as well as the flow and cadence of the event.

I would suggest to the OP to continue to earn while you learn with your original main, while recognizing that it is indeed reasonable to raise your rate consistent with the value that you deliver. It just may not be realistic to do with your original main, because that person may always perceive you as his apprentice.

To be paid like a “journeyman”, sometimes you have to “journey out” elsewhere. Seek out other wedding photographers to offer your higher skill set to, and charge more. Book a currently uncommitted weekend with a new to you photographer at $300 a day. Then, when your regular main calls you to see if you are free to work on that date, you can say no, I’ve already committed to work for a different photographer.

If not at the first instant this happens, at least by the second time your original main will eventually find a delicate or direct way to ask you what this other photographer is paying you for a day rate. That will say it all. You are an independent contractor. Act like one, and you will be in a better position to raise your rates commensurately.




  
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jimeuph1
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Feb 02, 2015 14:34 |  #24

Charles raises some good points regarding equipment, that in itself is a risk. But the OP should already be paying for at the very least equipment insurance.

But if the OP accidently knocks granny over and she pops her hip out, who do you think will get the grief? The guy who they hired to do the job. Who hopefully has employees liability insurance. But even so he will probably have his reputation destroyed.

Those types of risks where, the blame ultimately lies on the main photographer, is what I was referring to.

Those minimum wage shelf stackers get their $7.25 an hour and then have to pay tax on top of that the hourly take home rate is more like $5.50.

They also do have to make decisions on what to stack, managers do not stand behind them telling them every little thing to do, its more autonomous than that!

The OP gets his $16-20 an hour and after taxes takes home $12-16 per hour. Up to triple minimum wage! He is receiving a wage for his "creative" input.

The OP doesn't state if the main has increased his rates in the last three years, or what those rates even are. If the main has had a wage increase then it would be fair to increase his second shooters as well.

The people who think the OP is being underpaid are assuming that the main is charging thousands of dollars. What if the main is merely charging $900 and providing an 50 page album and custom designed flash drives. What if the main only takes $200 for himself and is actually paying the OP an equal wage? If the OP would give some numbers, perhaps telling us how many of his photos end up being given to a client? Or is it just the grooms getting ready pictures?

The OP is not providing finished work just raw data, we all know how much work goes into post processing, and very often a file and the finished product are very different things. He doesn't put additional hours into the job beyond the 12 hours.

Charles your idea to the OP regarding "cheating" on his main with another photographer is one that is very cut throat, it might work though, assuming that the main is indeed charging thousands of dollars and could actually give a wage more proportionate to the clients final bill.

The main could actually have 3 assistants on call, be doing 60 weddings a year and calling the OP for 20 of them, the OP throws a spanner in the works and the other 2 assistants get an additional 10 weddings each.

If the OP thinks he is worth more then he always has the option to go it alone. But seeing how he hands over the cards at the end of each wedding... He will be starting with no portfolio, at the very bottom of the heap of craigs listing photographers. With three years experience he should quickly rise out of that pit though, so all is not lost. Providing he can source the clientele of course.

I think the general consensus here is go and ask for a raise, but be prepared for NO to be the answer, and have a plan of what to do if that situation arises.

You would of thought that after THREE years that you would have a rapport with your main, certainly enough to at least broach the subject.




  
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Charles ­ Brown
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Post edited over 6 years ago by Charles Brown.
     
Feb 02, 2015 18:00 |  #25

jimeuph1 wrote in post #17412118 (external link)
But the OP should already be paying for at the very least equipment insurance.

"Should be".

But what is the economic reality of most part time occasional weekend assistants?

jimeuph1 wrote in post #17412118 (external link)
Who hopefully has employees liability insurance.

"Hopefully".

But what are the odds that the main is simply paying the OP $200 as an "independent contractor", to avoid paying Worker's Compensation Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Social Security Taxes, quarterly filings and deposits of employment taxes, etc etc... and thus the OP really isn't an "employee" but rather an Independent Contractor, using his own equipment to provide a service executing a trade skill without specific step by step direction, all under the rules of the IRS definitions of what distinguishes an employee from a contractor.

jimeuph1 wrote in post #17412118 (external link)
Those minimum wage shelf stackers get their $7.25 an hour and then have to pay tax on top of that the hourly take home rate is more like $5.50.


How is the OP not liable for the same taxes? How is the OP exempt from self reporting his income? Especially since the main is skirting the onerous paperwork of reporting by shirking the responsibilities of taking on an employee, and rather choosing to hire a contractor on as needed basis.

I'll tell you how the OP is not liable for the same taxes. Because the depreciation alone on the equipment he bought to do the work exceeds the income he is receiving at $200 a wedding. This guesstimate is using the slowest method of MACRS depreciation (straight line), under the longest construable class life of the property to be depreciated (seven years). So the only reason why the OP wouldn't have to pay income taxes is because there is no income to report. Only loss. After loss. After loss. Year over year. Until the property is finally depreciated, by which time new digital equipment needs to be purchased just to keep up with the new expectations of lower noise, higher dynamic range, increased frame rate, and data interchange.

jimeuph1 wrote in post #17412118 (external link)
The OP doesn't state if the main has increased his rates in the last three years, or what those rates even are. If the main has had a wage increase then it would be fair to increase his second shooters as well. The people who think the OP is being underpaid are assuming that the main is charging thousands of dollars. What if the main is merely charging $900 and providing an 50 page album and custom designed flash drives. What if the main only takes $200 for himself and is actually paying the OP an equal wage?

Do you mean that in addition to setting up and taking down gear, and shooting the wedding, the OP is expected to also serve as a financial and marketing advisor to main, managing the main's business affairs also? All inclusive photography and business consulting services for $200 a wedding?

In my opinion, it's none of the OP's business what the main charges the client. That's the main's business, not the second shooter's. The second shooter has their own job to do... which is to bring everything their mind body and soul can muster to do the best damn job they can to make great pictures that the main can sell.

If Budweiser spends north of $12 million dollars to air a 30 second spot on the Superbowl, and for whatever reason, for the next 6 months most people decide to drink Corona instead, should the warehouse guy stacking pallets of unsold Bud Light volunteer a pay cut? Out of understanding? After all, the poor schlep can see that Bud Light hasn't been selling well, because he keeps having to find places to "creatively" stack all these pallets of unbought beer.

But was the opinion of that warehouse worker asked when the decision was made to dump 12 million dollars into 30 seconds of TV time? Does the warehouse worker have any control over the negotiations between Budweiser management and the client, whether it be distributor or drinker? No, the warehouse guy's job is to not bash the forklift tines into the stacks of cans, and to make sure those cans get on the delivery trucks when they do get ordered. If Budweiser management makes mistakes in marketing that curtail the profits of Budweiser, then it is up to Budweiser to lay off staff, not up to staff to evaluate their worth as a beer can stacker based on Budweiser's quarterly P/L statement. If "canned", the warehouse worker can go apply his skills at Coors.

The point is, the OP has no control over how the main establishes and maintains his cost of doing business, and that isn't the OP's job to meddle in.

I shoot as a second, my day rate is at minimum $500 a day, plus expenses. All expenses incurred to execute the job I'm hired to do. I care deeply and passionately about the success of the people I shoot for. I want them to make thousands upon thousands from the product I produce for them. But I do not charge more if they made more, nor less if they made less, for their lack of charging enough. I'm not in control of any of the constellation of factors that go into their business, because it is THEIR business, not mine. I have my hands quite full minding my own business, so that's what I do. Mind my own business.

I DO charge less when I do or don't do something that can be construed to cause them to loose more business than they would if I had done or didn't do whatever was done that had the deleterious effect. That's taking responsibility for my own contribution to the detriment of their business. But even that is entirely irrelevant to what they charge the client. It is not my business what they make from the client. It is only my business what I caused them to potentially lose, if I messed up. I make sure that the main feels our deal between US is fair. Whether the deal between the main and the client is fair is none of my business. And I suspect the same would be true for the OP, or any second shooter really.

jimeuph1 wrote in post #17412118 (external link)
Charles your idea to the OP regarding "cheating" on his main with another photographer is one that is very cut throat.

Cut throat? Hardly! It is per the Internal Revenue Service rules concerning the validity of Independent Contractor status. One of the acid tests is that the contractor do jobs for more than just one company/client, otherwise, the IRS will construe the relationship as "work for hire" which then would make the main photographer liable for employment taxes as well as hefty fines for trying to avert them in the first place. This isn't "cheating" on the main. This is HELPING the main in more ways than one.

1. First, working as a second for more than one main helps the mains establish their case to the tax revenue authorities that their use of the second is not an employee-employer relationship, but is a hands off contractor relationship with an independent provider of services.

2. It helps the second establish a business intent and profit motive, which substantiates the purpose for depreciating the business/hobby property in pursuit of an eventual profit within the multiyear windows that the IRS reviews when that intent is challenged on audit.

3. It expands the skill set of the second, because when working for another individual, new tastes and methods are learned, which when adopted under one's own skin, can evolve into a more complex execution of the craft, all of which benefits the original main when the second returns to shoot for him/her again. Sort of an ooh baby, where'd you learn that move... which is an appropriate segue to:

Cheating? Ha! One can look at it that way, if one is predisposed to view the relationship of the main to the second as one of codependency and control, where the OP does not exist as a photographer outside the presence and purview of the main. But that would call for counseling to resolve. On both party's parts. In the real world, the OP is likely capable of figuring out how to sustain himself without being a suckling on the main's teat, and the main cannot likely sustain the OP for 40 weddings or 60 weddings a year.

Who here reading this thread shoots, edits, and albums 40 to 60 weddings a year? Perhaps you should speak up with your perspective, because the real world wedding photographers I know of consider themselves quite busy with 20 - 25 weddings a year, not all of which even require seconds.




  
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jimeuph1
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Feb 03, 2015 05:53 |  #26

I am in England, your rules etc. are not the same as mine. I assumed he would get around 20% of his income from the weddings taxed. I was also assuming, that he wasn't trying to live on this income, and had another job to support himself, or living with parents.

The OP and the main need insurances, if the main doesn't have any the OP should not be working with him. It would of been one of my questions to the main three years ago.

The OP can afford $5000 worth of equipment, he can afford insurance, or rather he can't afford to risk losing $5000's worth of equipment, he should not be working in a public space with clients without it.


Going on the mains website could reveal pricing... It might not, but if the OP is always going to really swanky locations, that also would give an indication of what the main is charging, $100,000 weddings generally don't even consider $1000 photographers. The OP only has to use his eyes to put two and two together on this question.

No the OP is not there to offer financial advice or meddle with the mains business plan. But using his common sense he could determine if there was room for negotiation.

If the main is so cheap that the OP is a huge expense, then finding another main who charges more and therefore can pay a higher wage would be in the OP's best interest.

If the main is just being cheap, then the OP needs to ask the main.

It is most likely that the main agreed a $200 rate three years ago, and because the OP hasn't asked for a raise he hasn't received one.

"Cheating" in quotation marks, was tongue in cheek, the OP is entitled to do exactly that, it was a good idea.
Be prepared for failure, a new photographer might hire the OP once, not like his work or personality enough to hire him again.
The original main might find a new replacement, or go it alone, and might prefer the replacement or working alone and the OP loses both opportunities.

Or the plan works and it's happily ever after.

Your IRS rules seem to make it compulsory, in England if you are a sub contractor and only have one contract and that contract isn't enough to live on, you are just a lousy businessman, file for loss and move on.

OP feel free to chime in with more information, is you main being a scrooge? or is he just barely keeping himself afloat?

After three years, you should be starting to build your own business along side your second work, use any profits from the seconds job to fund your fledgling business with websites, advertising etc.

You need to have copies of your work, it is your intellectual property, by all means you can give him your raw files, but you also need them, so that you can work on them to develop your post processing and build up a portfolio. The fact that you hand cards over was the biggest red flag on the whole arrangement.

I would question why this hasn't already happened, especially if you felt that after the first year you didn't learn anything new. That would suggest that the main is either stagnant, doing the same thing each wedding, or you stopped asking questions.

Ask the main if you can sit in on a few consultations with clients, actually take your raw files and work on them so you can get an idea of workflow, and build a much needed portfolio. Look for album companies and get a feel for pricing and quality, find your own clients, then you can dictate your own wages.

So far the OP has only been involved in a rather small portion of a wedding workflow. There is more too it than just taking pictures on the day. Those lessons need to be learned and it will cost you a lot of money and time to do so.

Many technically poor photographers, have enough business sense to make a modest living from this, if you feel technically competent then you need to be exploring the business side of it, rather than moaning that you are not getting paid enough to, as Charles so eloquently put it "suckle at the teat of the main"

You are in the land of freedom and opportunity, but only if you get off your arse and do something about it!




  
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joshuaraineyphotography
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Feb 16, 2015 17:02 |  #27

Definitely depends on location and what the main photographer is charging. If you're using your own gear I would say you should be making about 1/3 of what he is charging for your services. What does the main photographer's hourly rate break down to on a basic package? $1600 for 8 hours with one photographer and $2400 for 8 hours with two photographers, (for example). Your services are $100/hr so you should make about $35/hr. That's just my calculations for profit and being reasonable to my 2nd shooters. Cheers!


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pawelgawel
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Feb 23, 2015 07:52 |  #28

from personal experience, I make $25/h (Toronto).
Ive been with same photog for over 2 years now, and I do think Im underpaid considering the amount of my work being used, I have my own gear, and I do use my own car.... many give compliments and I receive ZERO credit, even though Ive been promised a close partnership. I don't ask for more because I'm thankful for this opportunity and I've learned plenty from him.
But like I said, I do believe Im underpaid, should be about $35 at this point and with the skills ive acquired. $400 for 6h of work is very good in our region. I work from morning to midnight, usually 16h on a wedding day.


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