Y’all already know that I think second shooting is the bee’s knees. You really can’t find a more perfect opportunity- you get to shoot with another photographer, watch them do their thing and (once you’ve covered what the primary has asked you to do) experiment with different settings and compositions, all without the added pressure of being the primary photographer. I spent my first year and a half in the industry as a second shooter and it was the BEST thing I could have done as a budding photographer. Any time someone asks for advice on how to get started, I always suggest they second shoot, and second shoot a LOT. Because if I were trying to jump into the world of wedding photography without ever having done a few practice rounds, I would have had no clue what I was doing.
Typical disclamer- this is all my opinion. Feel free to agree or disagree with me- it’s totally fine if we have differing ideas!
Alright so first off are some lessons that I learned while serving as a second shooter:
1. Second shooting is a humble position. Your portfolio has to take the back seat- you’re there to be a second set of eyes for the primary photographer. Always check your ego at the door- it’s something I definitely failed to do at times and looking back I realize what a wretch I must have been to work with. Poor Mike!
2. Try not to stand where the primary photographer is standing- move around! One of the great things about being a second is that it gives you the opportunity to get creative with your images. Attempt an angle you’ve never tried before, shoot with a lens you may not usually shoot with. It’s a great chance to experiment a bit, as long as you’re still on your game and are producing what the primary has asked of you.
3. Check in with the primary often to make sure you’re on the same page. Sometimes a wedding day schedule can suddenly shift dramatically due to unforseen circumstances like inclement weather, a missing parent, etc. Check in often!
4. Be willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done- if you have to miss portraits with the bride and groom because the primary needs you to go photograph the reception hall before guests arrive, don’t hesitate. Being flexible will put the primary photographer at ease and they’ll be much more likely to ask you to shoot for them again, or to recomend you to their friends. Like I said in #1- you’re here to serve the primary, not to build your portfolio.
5. Check with the photographer (before the wedding) to see if they have any guidelines regarding if/how you can use the images from that day. Mike was really lax with me- I could do whatever I wanted with the images I shot while seconding for him. I’m much more strict with mine, though, so I make sure to explain my policy to my seconds well in advance of the wedding day so that there’s no confusion. If you’re ever unsure, definitely ask!
6. Recognize that you are there as an extension of the primary photographer’s brand- they’re trusting you to present them in the best light possible. This means keeping a stack of the primary’s business cards in your pocket to hand out if anyone asks for your card, refraining from any sort of crude language, and keeping it classy throughout the entire wedding day.
I’ve also learned quite a few things as a primary when it comes to working with my second shooters, so here are some of my tips for the primary:
1. Be very clear on your expectations. If you’re going to have your second shooter use your memory cards, meaning they won’t be able to use any of the images in their portfolio, let them know. For most people this isn’t a big deal, but you want to be clear from the get-go to avoid any hurt feelings or frustrated photographers after the wedding.
2. Know your style and hire only photographers that compliment it. I’ve ignored that rule before and hired photographers who are really dependable for the meat of the day, like the ceremony and reception, but whose portraits don’t fit with my style at all. Not only do you end up throwing out the majority of their images, it also doesn’t give you any sort of creative kick in the pants during the day. One thing I love about shooting with photographers whose taste and style is similar to mine is that we can bounce ideas off of each other, pushing the other to stretch themselves. I LOVE working with Currie because she does just that- pushes me to try new poses, to switch up my settings. It’s almost like a friendly competition!
3. Don’t be afraid to tell your second that you need them to go photograph (fill in the blank). I hate sounding bossy because I want my second shooters to know that I really appreciate them being there, but it’s ok to say “hey, while I’m shooting family formals would you mind heading over to the reception to start shooting cocktail hour?”
4. A continuation to #3- at the same time, do appreciate and respect your second shooter as your peer. I’ve heard stories from other photographers about being treated like second-class citizens whilst second shooting. If your second doesn’t feel respected, they’re not going to work for you again, and it probably won’t do much for your reputation in the world of wedding photography.
5. Have FUN with your second! Hiring someone you like and work well with results in a really fun wedding day. When you’re both exhausted and want nothing more than to take a nap but all of a sudden the Cupid Shuffle comes on? It’s so energizing to have someone with you whose willing to laugh and have fun on top of being a reliable second shooter. I’m really picky about who I shoot with for this exact reason- I want it to be a good experience for us BOTH.