Recently I worked as a 2nd shooter for the first time and I wanted to share what it was like – and what you can do as a second shooter to be as useful as possible to the main photographer. The second photographer works for a different purpose, but mainly to get a feel of what wedding photography entails. Being a second shooter really helps you to learn the ropes, and to make you feel comfortable when being the primary photographer for weddings.
Personally as a Wedding Photographer London I love having a 2nd shooter at my weddings, there are many benefits of having a 2nd photographer at your wedding:
A second photographer allows the primary photographer to perform at their highest possible level. When I know I have a reliable second shooter covering the additional details discussed before the wedding, I can do what I do best: create beautiful art from the moments of the day. The 2nd shooter helps keep me on track, assists and supports me.
A second shooter brings a different perspective. The second photographer cannot physically stand in the same place as the lead shooter, so I am going to get two different perspectives (at the very least). More often, second shooters endeavour to bring different artistic ideas and interpretations, and to capture moments that might otherwise go unnoticed.
A second shooter allows me to capture more special moments. Any given wedding day is brimming with special moments and memories. A 2nd skilled photographer allows me to capture more of those for my couples.
A second shooter makes planning my day more effective, requiring fewer total hours of coverage. Before the ceremony, the lead photographer would need additional time for shooting all the details; following the ceremony they would need additional time to do both the portraits and all the details. This additional time would stretch wedding planning, unnecessarily prolonging the day. With a second shooter, I can create a simple, effective wedding schedule with no unnecessary delays.
It’s a huge benefit not only for the first photographer but for the one who is assisting/shooting. Many photographers only work alone because they don’t like the idea of sharing ‘their ways’ with anyone else, and they do have a point there.
There are a lot of specifics to work out, and many photographers handle their second shooters in various manners, so you want to be as prepared as possible. That’s why before the wedding day, you need talk to the lead photographer:
What are you allowed (and not allowed) to do with your images after the wedding, can you use them in your portfolio, do you need to mention the lead photographer when you post the images, do you need to state that you were the second shooter, how long should you wait before posting the images, will the 1st shooter credit you when he/she blogs about the wedding, when and how you will get paid, when and how you should deliver the images to him/her… etc
Be a team player
This is a golden rule. When you’re the second shooter you are representing the photographer you’re working for, you are never representing yourself or your own personal business. What this means is that your number one priority throughout the day is to represent the main photographer and his/her brand. This definitely means putting away your pride and grabbing images that aren’t always the most exciting.
Don’t promote yourself
When you’re second shooting it’s a great time to see how someone else works. It can be annoying if the 2nd shooter starts questioning your lighting technique/suggesting alternate shots. Equally, the clients will have likely hired the primary photographer for their specific style, so unless requested by the primary, it’s usually best not to try to set up shots, pose the couple, interfere with the job.
You are proudly representing the primary photographer who has likely worked hard to book the wedding/build relationships with the clients and other vendors. Don’t bring or pass out your own business cards. Don’t encourage the couple to friend you on Facebook. Don’t put together a sample album for the venue. Most importantly, be polite to the couple, their families and other guests. So please remember, this isn’t the best place to advertise your own photography.
Take care of the leading photographer
During the wedding day the primary photographer will be shouldering a lot of responsibilities to make sure the day goes as perfect as possible, so if they don’t have an assistant, help them out in any way that you can to make their day easier. Bring them water during the hottest parts of the day and make sure they get served food at the reception. Hand them lenses when they need a quick lens swap and carry their bag when they’re working with the couple. This is the most impressive thing you can do for another photographer, and will be highly noticed and recognized. You are there to serve them and their business, and that is the mentality you should always carry with you.
Keep Your Distance
Don’t hover too close to the photographer. Part of your job as the second shooter is to capture candid moments, and different shooting angles than the main photographer. You need to do your best to photograph everything they do, but with a different spin on it, so that if the photographer does accidentally miss a key shot, your photo will save the day! Always be conscious of where the other photographer is standing while they’re shooting, along with what angles they’re grabbing and even what lens they’re using. You never want to duplicate shots – you’re there to provide a creative variety of images, not to duplicate the primary photographer’s images. Also, be sure to capture the detail shots – flowers, centerpieces, programs, etc.
Don’t over shoot
When shooting, resist the temptation to hold down the shutter button and over-shoot the event. Remember that the leading photographer has to process your images along with their own, so the last thing they need is to go through 3,000 of your images to pick out the best ones. Instead, just be thoughtful with the shots you’re taking as you take them. Remember, you can afford to wait for the perfect moment as a second shooter – the primary photographer will always be grabbing the safe, go-to shot, so don’t take 20 frames when only 3 to 4 are needed.
Sync your cameras with the primary
Date and time on your camera needs to be synchronised with the leading photographer, do not forget about it. Also, it will be awesome if you agree what white balance will be the best, the higher ISO, the lowest shutter speed or aperture.
This is a time for you to explore your craft creatively and try shots and angles that you wouldn’t normally attempt. This means you have a chance to get some incredible images that will push you further creatively AND make the primary photographer look like a superhero.
Believe it or not, guests look at the photographers when you’re least expecting it! It may feel like they aren’t aware of you, but subconsciously they are seeing you. You’ve heard it a thousand times, but really, be sure to smile. Nobody is going to want a frowning, seemingly frazzled photographer taking their photo. Just relax, stay focused, and have fun!
If you do a great job for one primary photographer, not only will they hire you again, but they will refer you to other photographers that need reliable, excellent assistants. So I hope my tips on how to be a super second shooter will help you a lot.
When you’re hired as a second shooter it’s not about you, not about your portfolio, not about your likes and dislikes and not about your brand. You are a gun for hire – you have work to do, you’re not there to spend most of the day on your phone or chat up bridesmaids. You should be motivated to give your 110% creativity yet remain in the background and enjoy the lack of major pressure of getting the key shots.
Being a second shooter is a very valuable experience, if proper arrangements are made it can help you to create a portfolio and gain an array of skills, otherwise – if you’re already experienced – it’s a good source of extra money that is hard to earn in the photography industry.
If you have questions, comments, or want to add something to the list above, please leave a comment below!