So you are not quite ready to go solo, you really want to learn (and maybe build your portfolio on the side) and you’ve heard that second shooting is the way to go.
So how do you get started, who you do ask, what do you do if they say no, and more importantly, HOW CAN YOU BE A FANTASTIC SECOND SHOOTER, so that that photographer wants to work with you again.
I am writing on behalf of many a wedding photographer, who has maybe had not the ‘best’ experience working with second shooters in the industry, and to be honest, I am writing this post to past me, who had no idea how to be a good second shooter, or what it actually meant to be a second shooter at a wedding.
First off – it’s not about you
Yes, you want to learn all the things, and maybe if you are young and naïve, you want to prove that you are good at what you do (That’s great) but you are there representing the first shooters brand.
So how you conduct yourself is pretty darm important, because their brand and reputation is also linked to you
You are there to serve
As photographers, as cool and fancy as our lives might look on the gram sometimes, our job is to serve our clients, and your job, second shooter, is to serve not just the clients, but to be an awesome extra pair of hands to your first shooter.
Offer to carry bags, bring them a snack, or grab a bottle of water.
Your job isn’t to get all the same shots as the first shooter – but often to get the photos of moments where you first shooter can’t be (venue shots when the candles have been lit before the guests walk in, canape photos while the first shooter is busy with the couple, the cake that wasn’t ready, small details and extra’s that make a killer addition to the gallery) be ready to anticipate needs, be present in the moments and try to think of ways you can not only make the first shooters life better, but how can your presence make the couple’s day even better.
For us, it’s work, not a party
It took me years to be comfortable enough (as a first shooter) to even think of having a glass of champagne of wine during the reception. I was terrified that the couple would think I was there to ‘party’ and not work.
Years later I am confident enough in my craft, and more open to having a glass of bubbles with my couple.
So what am I trying to say?
The party might have started for the guests, but you are very much still on duty.
I’ve heard horror stories from photographers that told me how their second shooter treated the reception as an excuse to party and get hammered.
If you are unsure of how to handle yourself, take the lead of the first shooter. If they aren’t having alcohol, maybe you shouldn’t either.
Credit the photographer if you post the pics, but don’t post anything before they do.
Man, this is where I kick myself when I second shot for the first time. I had no idea there was some type of protocol here, and I was quite selfishly posting pics as if I was the first shooter.
If you are unsure if you can post any of the pics, ask the first shooter how they feel about it (maybe even chat about this before you work with them) and if they are cool with it, post it with a small disclaimer saying “shot while second shooting with @”
Why do this? Because your first shooter did most of the work to find the couple, book the couple, build a relationship with the couple, and showing respect for that role is a really big deal.
Also – you are under no circumstances allowed to contact the client, send them your pics or promote yourself at the wedding.
Ask Questions after the fact
Chances are, that your first shooter is in ‘work more’ and ‘focusing on the moment’ mode during a wedding day, and their main objective is not necessarily to educate you and answer all your burning questions during the wedding ceremony.
I know that they really want to answer any questions you have but know that there is a time and place for that, so wait until there is a quiet moment during the day, maybe during dinner or even on the ride home.
Most photographers in the industry, I have found, are pretty cool people, and are all for helping newbies, but just be respectful of the moment and the day.
What do you do if a photographer says no?
So you mustered up the courage to message a photographer that you’ve admired for years, and they tell you “I’m sorry, I don’t work with second shooters”
Well, respect that.
I know of photographers that only work with second shooters that have a certain amount of experience under their belt (aka at least 40 weddings) and this is their right.
They have worked really hard to offer a certain level of service to their clients, and they reserve the right to say no, without meaning to offend you. It’s usually not personal.
If you found this post helpful, feel free to share it with someone else in the industry, or if you have any questions that I maybe didn’t cover – ask it below.
PHOTOGRAPHER, EDUCATOR, BOOKWORM and soon to be mamma
about the blogger
I'm a coffee loving, introverted, plant buying and dog hugging human, who loves to travel and taking the road less travelled.
I love that wedding days are love stories, wrapped into one day. I believe moments matter and I love helping other photographers flourish.