Tips for Second Shooters on the Wedding Day

February 18, 2018

If you’re just starting out in the photography industry, you probably hear a lot about “second shooters” and see a lot of requests for them. Basically, as a second shooter, you are providing extra coverage and support for the lead photographer you are working with. I LOVE working as a second shooter and try to take on a number of second-shooting gigs each wedding season.

I absolutely adore this girl in the middle there—Nikki Schell. She’s so much fun to work with and I’m so proud of how her business has grown these last few years! Can’t wait to work with her again in the 2018 season!

On a wedding day, you can probably expect to help carry bags and equipment, capture photographs from different angles and perspectives, help organize the bride and groom’s family during portrait time, and more! On a portrait shoot, you might not be taking many photographs, just mainly making sure the lead photographer has all their equipment or holding reflectors/managing other lighting gear.

Now that we’ve laid out a little of what you can expect if you’re second shooting, I want to give any photographers who are just starting out some tips about second shooting specifically for the wedding day.

1. Remember that you are there to SUPPORT the lead photographer.

I know how hard it can be when you’re just starting out to want to use anything you can to build up your portfolio. Trust me, I went through the same thing! But as a second shooter, you have to remember that when you’re starting out that these opportunities are for observing and learning. Some photographers will let you use the images from your day, but others won’t. It’s merely their preference, and there isn’t an industry “standard” that guarantees you can share and post the images you take as a second shooter. Make sure to be clear UP FRONT with the lead photographer who has hired you about all the rules and guidelines for the use of your images. Some questions you can ask are:

  • Can I share an image on the same day of the wedding?
  • Can I use these for social media, on my blog, or in my website galleries?
  • Can I tag the other wedding vendors?
  • What kind of credit should I give you (the lead photographer)?

Again, I know that it can be very hard to initially build up your portfolio, but having a behind-the-scenes look at how the wedding day progresses from a photographer’s standpoint is so incredibly valuable. With second shooting opportunities, you have a chance to support a peer’s business and serve their clients and still learn A LOT—even if that means you can’t use the images yourself.

2. Consider using the images you take to practice your editing style.

If you can’t use the images you take as a second shooter on social media or on your website/blog, don’t feel like those images are useless! There have been a few times that I haven’t been able to share the images that I capture on a shoot, and I learned that they can actually be good practice to work on discovering editing styles.

Chances are, if you’re starting out, you might not have an editing style that is uniquely yours. But now you have these images—and no one is waiting to receive them, you don’t have pressure to edit quickly and deliver them to your client. Use this time to play around in Lightroom (or whatever other software you might be using to edit your images). See how different sliders affect the light or the colors. I’m sure you get my drift here. Determining your style early on in your business will be invaluable as you grow!

3. Come prepared with printouts.

Before the actual wedding day, your photographer will send you a lot of information to make sure that you are informed about the important factors of the day. These will primarily include important addresses (getting ready locations, ceremony site, reception site), names, and timelines. Print out the timeline so that you have a copy with you at all times, or save a screenshot saved onto your phone for easy access. I would recommend creating a personalized “notes sheet” print out for yourself that includes all of the important addresses, driving distances (or times) to each location, and the couple’s names and names of any other important members of the bridal party if you have that information.

4. Use the opportunity to build relationships with other vendors, most importantly with the lead photographer.

Before I dive into this one, remember that you are there to support the lead photographer, not necessarily network for your own business. Leave your business cards at home! But don’t be a fly on the wall either! Try to get to know the other vendors you are working with on the wedding day.

Talk to the coordinator when there is downtime (there sometimes is!) and ask if you can do anything to help them or if there are any specific images you can help ensure are provided for them. Talk to the videographers and learn more about how they got started or what their favorite part of the wedding day is. Start to get to know other vendors on a professional and personal level, and gain practice for when you are the lead photographer at a wedding. Making connections in the industry can help you build up a referral network and possibly work together with another vendor in the future! They key here is to try to make genuine connections.

I’ll say it one more time, that you are there to support the lead photographer, so support them by getting to know them! Take behind-the-scenes images when you can, ask to hear about the story of how they started their business, ask about their families and hobbies outside of photography… you get the point! Take this time to gain both a friend, but also a potential mentor who can help support you in the future!

5. Have fun!

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but I wanted to include this because second shooting is a great way to be part of a wedding day and learn more about the industry and the craft WITHOUT the pressure that comes with being the lead photographer. The lead is responsible for ensuring that the important moments of the day are captured, and there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that responsibility. As the second shooter, you should always strive to create your best work and to ensure that the couple receives a wide variety of images in addition to what the lead photographer provides, but the pressure is much less than that of the lead photographer!

If you’re new to the wedding industry and are looking to begin second shooting or even have a few second-shooting jobs already on the books, then I hope you will find this information valuable. Do you have other questions about second shooting or being a backup photographer? Leave a comment because I would love to chat more with you!

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