Hey photographer friends! I’m here to drop some knowledge. Let’s do this!
For my first year of shooting weddings, I primarily worked for other photographers as a second shooter. It was the most amazing way to gain wedding experience, become confident with wedding photography, and learn from some of the best in the business, long before I ever shot a wedding on my own. I recommend this route to anyone looking to get into wedding photography!
But, all that being said, there are a lot of ways to hardcore SUCK at being a second shooter. Let’s not do that, okay? So today I wanted to share 6 easy, but crazy effective ways to become the most bomb second shooter ever! Let’s go!
In this day and age, I wish being punctual wasn’t something that still has to be emphasized. But GUYS. It’s time to be on time. Not only is showing up late so disrespectful to everyone involved, but the lead photographer is counting on you! Don’t slide in the door right as shooting is scheduled to begin. Show up at least 30 minutes early, get settled in and set up your gear (bonus tip: do yourself and your lead photographer a favor and sync yo’ camera times; it will save them so much hassle in post!), introduce yourself to the bride + groom, and scout out the venue. Show the lead photographer that you’re prepared, respectful, and ready to go!
The lead photographer didn’t hire you to stand over their shoulder and shoot carbon copies of their images. Your job is to capture what the lead photographer can’t. While they are busy getting the money shots and the must-haves and the family formals, see what gems you can capture in the background. Move around, get a wide shot, crop in tight, get a little artsy to give your lead photographer some diverse shots. During the ceremony, look around at the family and guests to see if there are any sweet reactions or happy tears you can capture. But please keep in mind, don’t get in the way of the lead photographer. Don’t get so focused on getting a good angle that you step in front of their camera or totally photobomb all their images. Yikes.
Now that I shoot my own weddings, I totally understand the millions of thoughts that are constantly racing through a wedding photographer’s mind on a wedding day. Is everything running on time? Do the bridesmaids have their flowers? The bride really needs to be in her dress by now. Do I have enough room on these SD cards? Should I go ahead and set up my tripods for the reception? Who has the rings? Wait, do I still have the rings??? It’s exhausting! Part of a second shooter’s job is making sure the lead photographer has everything they need. If detail shots are coming up, start gathering the rings, flowers, veil, etc. If it’s almost time for the groomsmen portraits, run and make sure they have their boutonnieres pinned on. During family formals, start gathering different family groups to be ready. Also, bring the lead photographer water and a snack every once in a while. They often get so busy they forget to take care of themselves!
Remember: when you are shooting for another photographer, you are representing them and their company. Before the wedding, study the photographer’s work, ask them to see a full gallery, so you are familiar with their style, what kind of shots they like, etc. Also be sure to ask the photographer if they have any requirements for how you should dress (some photographers prefer all black). You want to present yourself in a way that is consistent with their brand. When you introduce yourself to people at the wedding, mention that you are with the lead photographer, even if you have your own company. For example, when my husband shoots with me, he introduces himself as, “Hi, I’m Michael with Payton Marie Photography.” Basically, you’re not there to promote yourself. Leave your business cards at home! And always be aware that how you speak and behave in front of the clients is a reflection of the lead photographer. Pay attention to how they treat their clients, and act likewise!
Any photographer loves having behind-the-scenes shots of them as they’re shooting a wedding! Candid shots of them at work are great for their website, social media, and all kinds of marketing. If you have a chance, snag a couple rad shots of the photographer posing the wedding party or dancing at the reception. It will be an awesome surprise for them later as they’re going through your images! Also, be sure to grab some good iPhone detail shots, behind-the-scenes videos, and fun boomerangs for them to post on their Instagram story. Lead photographers are often so busy throughout the the day that they can’t even think about their social media, but they are always thankful to have behind-the-scenes photos to share with their followers!
Every photographer has a different policy regarding their second shooter’s use of the images they take. Some photographers have no problem with the second shooter using their images for their portfolio, others would prefer not. If possible, it’s always best to sign a contract with the lead photographer to have everything in writing. But even if the lead photographer allows you to use the images, there are couple courteous rules to follow: 1) Don’t share any images until the lead photographer does (unless explicitly told different), 2) always tag the lead photographer in your post and mention you were shooting for them, and 3) never tag any clients or vendors in your posts. Again, for the weddings you shoot with them, remember you’re representing them and their brand!
And there you have it! You’ve totally got this. And not sure how to get second shooting gigs? Just ask! Contact local photographers you admire, send them galleries and examples of your work along with dates you’re available, and get your name out there! Take these tips and become the badass second shooter the world needs.
Payton Marie Photography is run by Payton Wilson, a local and destination wedding photographer based in Oklahoma City. She specializes in working with intentional, adventurous couples who are focused on making their wedding day exactly what they want it to be, regardless of tradition. Every story is unique, every love has its own flair. So whether at home or abroad, in a church or on a mountain, she focuses on creating photos that are celebratory, emotional, and unforgettable.