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Protect your business when it gets busy - PPA Today

Protect your business when it gets busy


Dear PPA Member,

We will shortly be in prime time for photographing high school seniors and weddings. Even in a slower economy, there may be times when you need a second hand. Face it, even you can’t be in two places at once. If and when you need a second shooter, take a few minutes to make sure you are protecting yourself and your business.

When would you need a second shooter / assistant / independent contractor? Yes, the legal and payment aspect can be an added pain, but it’s often worth it. Consider the following:

  • Do you need an extra hand for an event (someone to help with lighting, client relations, etc.)?
  • Would you like to offer a different photographic style to your clients? You often need a second photographer to give good traditional and photojournalistic wedding coverage.
  • Do you want to mentor others and help promote the professional photographic industry?
  • Would you like to even the “price playing field”? Student photographers and hobbyists charge significantly less than you pros; and unfortunately, their clients get lower quality images and you lose business. By offering mentoring or independent contractor / assistant positions within your studio, you nudge the amateurs to become more professional while getting the client.

Once you decide to hire a second shooter, you should do some precautionary planning. Figuring out these issues will help prepare you legally (and mentally). So before you hire—and often before you even look for an assistant—plan ahead:

  • To Hire or Not to Hire: If you plan on hiring the second shooter as an employee (even part-time), there are local and federal issues that may need to be addressed. If you are thinking of hiring someone, contact Studio Management Services (SMS) to answer questions about running your business (888-851-0405).
  • Customer Files: Decide how you want to handle your customer files and keep your customer base safe. There are horror stories of assistants and independent contractors “stealing” customers, so decide how you will control access to these lists/clients.
  • Image Ownership: Many assistants and second shooters will work without monetary compensation for the right to use the images they shoot under your client contract. Your contractor agreement should state who owns the copyright for the images that your assistant / second photographer shoots. Clearly state in the written agreement if the independent contractor can use any images shot by them.
  • Non-Compete Agreements: This type of agreement states that the independent contractor / assistant cannot offer or accept work as a photographer within a certain geographical location for a certain amount of time after a contract is signed. It’s difficult to incorporate a non-compete agreement into an independent contractor scenario because they work as “independent contractors,” meaning that they will be looking for work after that particular event and most likely will not want to limit their ability to work at a location. For more information, read the Non-Compete and Non-Solicitation Agreements in the Members-Only section of
  • Independent Contractor Agreement: An agreement should spell out expectations and deliverables. You wouldn’t shoot an event without a contract signed by a client, would you? Take a look at the Independent Contractor Agreement in the Members-Only section of Modify it to meet your needs. 
  • Orientation session: Spend some time with the assistant / independent contractor before you work with them in a client setting. Not only do they need to know what you expect from them, but you may find that they are not capable of doing the work you need. (You don’t want that to happen during a portrait session on the beach or in front of the wedding guests!)

Ready to look for a second shooter? You want someone you can trust, so start with people and organizations you know. Here are some sources to consider:

  • Browse the Student Photographic Society’s Assistant database, which lists student photographers (members of SPS) in your area who are available for work.
  • Reach out to local hobbyists who are looking to hone their skills.
  • Check out forums (post to find out if anyone is available in your area).
  • Ask your local affiliate if they can recommend someone.
  • Contact your own network of professional photographers to see who they work with. You never know, you might even be able to share the same independent contractors.

No matter how large or small your business, you may need an extra assistant sometime. Planning ahead may help you be ready to find (and hire) those last-minute backup shooters. Just remember that PPA, as always, is serious about helping you get what you need…in the safest way.


Al Hopper
Director of Membership, Copyright & Government Affairs

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by published on May 22, 2008 3:08 PM.

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