I have been photographing weddings for over seven years now. In the beginning, the weddings were so small that I didn’t need a second shooter. I learned to do everything myself and get all the necessary photos by shooting solo. Shortly after, the weddings started getting bigger and I started hiring second shooters. With my experience as both a primary photographer hiring a second shooter and also a second shooter for other photographers, I have compiled a list of 10 tips to be an awesome second shooter.
1. Dress appropriately
Find out what the primary photographer is wearing and dress accordingly. I’m not saying you have to match them exactly, but you don’t want to show up to a formal wedding wearing an outfit that is better suited for an outdoor barn wedding.
2. Don’t get the same shot
The primary shooter doesn’t need two of the same photo and doesn’t need you standing right next to them to get the same shot from a less flattering angle. Find out what lens they are using and use a different one. Get different angles. Fluff the bride’s dress. Hide distracting elements. Toss the veil for an epic veil shot. Get creative. The lead photographer’s goal is to get the “safe” shots, which gives you creative freedom to get unique shots.
3. Stay hydrated
That means both of you. The primary photographer’s main concern is capturing quality images for the bride and groom. There are so many things they have to think about all day that they sometimes forget about their own needs. They need you to be in charge of getting water. It’s okay if you forget, but don’t be offended if they ask you to run and get them water. Chances are if they actually ask you, they desperately need it.
4. Don’t advertise your business
A wedding where you have been hired to assist another photographer is not the place to try to pick up new clients. Your job is to assist the primary photographer, be their second pair of eyes, and represent their brand. If anyone asks for business cards, you should hand out the lead photographer’s cards instead of your own.
5. Don’t use the photos in your portfolio
This varies with every photographer, but myself and most of the photographers I have worked with prefer for you to not use the photos you take under their name in your portfolio. The bride hired the primary photographer and expects their brand. If you do share the photos, always share them with the lead photographer’s edits and share that it was taken while second shooting for (insert lead photographer’s name).
6. Leave ego at the door
Don’t expect to get credit for your images. As a primary photographer, I give credit at the end of my wedding blogs. As a second shooter, it is very rare that I receive credit for photos taken while shooting for another photographer, which is perfectly fine. At the end of the day, you are hired to work under the other photographer’s brand. As long as we’re talking about ego, don’t be upset that the primary photographer is taking the epic shots. They wouldn’t be able to take those shots without you helping them set it up behind the scenes. You won’t get to use the photo in your portfolio anyway, so check your ego at the door and do whatever you can to set the primary photographer up for success.
7. Help with the family formals
This is typically where you can be the most valuable on a wedding day. There is a long list of must have family photos at every wedding. I get a list of names and family photo combinations from my brides before the wedding to make the process run smoothly. Help gather family members and keep track of which photos we have taken.
8. Don’t chit chat
The primary photographer hired you to help with capturing a wedding day, not to make small talk with the wedding party when they need you calling out names of family members during family formals. If there is down time, by all means, talk to the wedding party. I look for second shooters that have a servant’s heart and I want you to talk to the couple and the wedding party and make them feel loved – just not when I need you doing a task or getting a specific shot.
9. Sync camera clocks
One simple way you can impress your primary photographer is by reminding them to sync your camera clocks. This will make editing so much easier for them and they will greatly appreciate you for thinking of their work load. I think about this all week leading up to the wedding and the day of the wedding I am full on wedding mode thinking about how I can best serve the bride and groom. I have only remembered to sync cameras a handful of times and each time it has made the editing so much easier.
10. Don’t overshoot
This one is HUGE. The primary photographer is the one editing all the photos, so please do them a favor and do not shoot ten photos of every shot you take. You’re wasting your camera’s shutter and the primary photographer’s time. My second shooters typically shoot about half as many photos as I do throughout the day because they are busy helping with everything listed above.
Grab a few photos of the lead photographer. This isn’t required, but it is always nice to have shots of me working that I can share on social media. Plus, it’s a good opportunity for me to give some recognition to my second shooter if I post the photo they took on social media.
Do you have any tips you would like to add to the list? Share them in the comments!