Over my career, I have worked as a second shooter for well over thirty different photographers. I’ve also had the pleasure of having many of those same photographers work as a second shooter alongside me at my weddings.
If you’re not familiar with the term “second shooter”, let me explain. A second shooter is an outside contractor that professional photographers hire to help document a wedding day. In my case, my second shooters are established, professional photographers who run their own business and have a very similar style to my own. They are not junior photographers and the ones I’ve worked with (many for over 7 years) are amazingly talented!
As you can imagine, covering a wedding day is a big job – so it’s essential to have clear communication between you and your team. If you’re looking for ways to set better expectations with your second shooters, or up your game as a second – this post is for you!
Have A Contract
I cannot stress enough how important this is for both parties. Contracts are legally binding documents, but more importantly – they set the expectation for what will happen on and after the wedding day. For example – can your second shooter use photos for their portfolio? If so, in what ways and does credit to you need to be provided? Will they be using your memory cards to shoot on, or will you download theirs at the end of the night?
In my experience having all these variables agreed upon before the wedding will help both parties to feel prepared and respected. If you are second shooting for someone who doesn’t ask for a contract, proceed at your own risk, and at a minimum, make sure you are both clear on some of the key points I listed above.
Set A Game Plan From The Beginning
I like to take my second shooter out to breakfast or lunch near the venue right before we start our coverage. This way we are both fueled and have some time to chat about the timeline and plan for the day. Not everyone does this, but it really helps to set the tone and foster a great relationship. If you can’t fit in a meal – schedule a phone call or arrive at the venue early to go over the key points together.
Help Fill In The Gaps Of Coverage
There is no point of having a second shooter who stands to the side of you and photographs the same thing from a slightly different angle. If the main photographer is documenting details, then the second shooter should be looking for candid moments with the guests. Have your second shooter use a different lens, and find areas throughout the day that the main photographer may not get to.
I love when my second shooter gives me images of special candid moments, group photos of guests together, environmental shots of the location, photographs of me working behind the scenes, and details of the food and beverage to name a few.
Get Them Water
This may seem obvious, but when you’re in the middle of family photos and you’re dying of thirst on 100-degree weather you can’t walk away to go get yourself some water. A great second shooter can predict this and is on standby with water for you!
Ask Where To Stand For Key Moments
A second shooter should talk to the main photographer ahead of time about where they want you to stand for ceremony processional/recessional, grand entrance, first dance, etc. Everyone’s preferences are different so your second shooter having a good understanding is key before these moments take place.
If you’re a second shooter and unsure about something – ask for clarification. There is nothing worse than downloading your second shooter’s photographs to see they didn’t understand your directions clearly. During slower times, it’s also a great chance to ask the main any questions about their approach, gear or anything else you’re curious about.
Don’t Make It About Yourself
A second shooter’s job is to help the main document the wedding – that is it. In my opinion, it’s a great way to learn from someone more experienced, and earn some extra money. This is not your opportunity to build your portfolio. Yes, some photographers will allow you to use photographs from the day, but it’s much more important to support the main and what they need to give the couple the absolute best coverage. In addition to helping the main – a second shooter can look for ways to help others involved in the wedding. Sometimes this means holding purses during family photos, or helping groomsmen with his boutonnière – this is all part of working in the wedding industry.
A second shooter is such a great asset to my business. Not only do they help me give my client’s the best experience, they challenge me to up my game in both my photography and mentorship skills.
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