Second shooting weddings is often considered a right of passage and an entry point into the competitive world of wedding photography. As a second shooter, you support a primary photographer throughout the wedding day. Second shooters are often hired to capture unique angles, cover different parts of the event, help set up lighting/gear and be ready to take over for the primary photographer if they need to run to the restroom or if (God forbid!) there is any accident that prevents them from shooting the event.
I’ve second shot quite a few weddings (and I still do today alongside my primary shooting roles!) and I really enjoy it. It allows me to experience a wedding day in a different way, with fewer of the primary photographer responsibilities. Throughout my experience second shooting, I’ve learned quite a few things that I think every second shooter needs to know going into a wedding day. Read below for my most important tips to make sure you are showing up in the best way possible for your lead photographers and their clients!
1. THIS DAY ISN’T ABOUT YOU GETTING PORTFOLIO WORTHY IMAGES…
so don’t make it about you! Sure, we all want to leave a wedding with images that are Knot worthy. But, what should always remain #1 priority is pleasing the couple and being flexible and attentive to your primary photographer (after all, they are your boss on this day!).
For example, it’s tempting to want to run towards the main vantage point during the ceremony (who doesn’t want to be right in front of the couple when they have their first kiss?!). But, as a second shooter, you need to remember that you are there to capture unique perspectives, reactions and backup. Let the main photographer direct you and be flexible, even if you end up shooting guests more often than you are shooting the couple. You are gaining important experience and that’s WAY more valuable than a photo that, in your mind, is the money shot.
2. …BUT, YOUR TIME IS VALUABLE
so you need to make sure that you are getting compensated fairly. I don’t think that compensation necessarily always means money. When I was first getting started in weddings (literally, I had ZERO experience with weddings and I had only done senior portraits up to that point) I tagged along as a third shooter to a wedding and worked for free (or almost free) for a few other weddings before I started requesting pay.
At that time, the experience of shooting a wedding and getting my feet wet in the industry was adequate compensation to me. Then, when I had the experience to prove that I could second shoot weddings, I started seeking paid second shooting experience! The bottom line is, make sure it’s worth your time. Every second of your life is valuable and there is nothing worse than feeling like you’ve been taken advantage — that happened to me a lot early on in my photography career. You need to protect your time and be open to opportunities that help you grow!
3. COMMUNICATION IS KEY.
Whenever possible, I like to speak on the phone with the primary shooter I am working with. Being able to speak to them before the wedding day is helpful in gathering information (such as level of formality in dress, what time the photographer wants to meet to sync cameras, if you should be using your own SD/CF cards or if the primary will provide them). Make sure you properly communicate to the primary shooter well before the wedding day as well as day of. It will make both of your lives easier!
4. IT’S NORMAL TO FEEL NERVOUS.
If you feel those nervous moments and those feelings of self doubt, take a deep breath and realize that is TOTALLY NORMAL. Of course you are nervous — photographing someone’s wedding is a big deal! There are no re-do’s and the day can feel frenzied at times. Buy into those nervous feelings and use them to drive you to be the best you can be on every wedding day! And remember, you’re nervous because you care…that’s a good thing!
5. RESPECT YOUR PRIMARY PHOTOGRAPHER.
After all, it is their name/brand you are representing! Make sure you sign a contract with your primary photographer that states their expectations on how (and when) you can use/post the images as well as any asks they have such as tagging. Also, take cues from your primary photographer! Are they shooting behind the scenes on their phone? Ask them if it’s ok if you do too! Chances are, they will say yes!
So remember, go out there and shoot! You are capturing someone’s life changing day — enjoy that privilege!
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[All of the photos used in this post are taken by me and second shot with Shannon Zurawski of Sunshine Shannon Photography! She is an incredible photographer, artist, friend, dog-lover, and ray of sunshine. You can find her at www.sunshineshannon.com or on Instagram at @sunshineshannon]