October 16, 2020
When I first started my wedding photography business I didn’t immediately have a fully booked calendar or amazing photography skills. Actually, I knew very little about how to capture wedding days and pretty much everything I learned was thanks to working as a second shooter!
For those not familiar with the term, many photographers will bring along an assistant photographer or second photographer to help them on the wedding day. These photographers help capture parts of the day when the lead can’t (i.e. things happening at the same time) and add a wider variety of angles to the end gallery. Overall, it’s an excellent way to get your feet wet if you’re just starting out and learn how to photograph weddings.
To this day I still second shoot for my friends and other photographers I admire! It’s a great opportunity to learn from others and continue to grow my portfolio! Below are a few of my favorite images I’ve taken while second shooting along with my top 5 tips for being the best second photographer!
Before you second shoot for any photographer make sure you’re taking time to thoroughly prepare. Start by reviewing their work, looking at angles and shots they often repeat and noting any stylistic differences from your own work. When second shooting for another photographer you’re going to want to provide images that compliment their own work well. You’ll also want to study the timeline and any shot list provided by the main photographer so you’re prepared for the day! Make sure you know how everything’s flowing, when you’ll be shooting solo vs. with the other photographer and what things are most important to this couple and the main photographer. If the photographer doesn’t provide this information right off the bat reach out and ask! This will show how well you’re preparing for their wedding day!
On the wedding day come prepared as if it was your own wedding day! This means arriving a few minutes earlier than listed with all of your gear fully charged, cleaned and ready to roll. You should also show up in a formal outfit (some photographers also prefer you wear all black so check ahead of time) in comfortable shoes that you can walk in for hours. You also need to show up with an excited, positive attitude! Just like the lead photographer you’re in charge of reassuring the clients and keeping the day running smoothly.
While there are some parts of the day you’ll be photographing solo there are many times during the day that you’ll be capturing the same moments as the lead photographer. During these times it’s vital to make sure you are taking DIFFERENT images than the lead photographer. Stand apart so you’re capturing different angles and when possible use a different lens than the lead photographer. This will insure that you’re capturing images that will make a well-rounded final gallery.
This tip is honestly the hardest one to learn – especially if you’re new to wedding photography! It is so easy to fall into the temptation of wanting to capture all of these beautiful details and moments happening around you for your own portfolio. But that’s NOT why you’re there! At the end of the day you’re there to capture images for the lead photographer and their couple. Serve them well! They don’t need duplicates of the shots that the lead photographer is capturing. They need your creative angles or to cover less exciting parts of the day while the lead is handling portraits. These will still be really important to them. They’ll love looking back on cocktail hour photos because they were off taking wedding party images. It stinks sometimes to miss parts of the day you think are fun, but work hard and really wow them by showing how well you can photograph less glamorous parts of the day.
If the lead photographer is allowing you to share images you’ve second shoot in your portfolio or on social media start off by thanking them! Not all photographers allow this so it’s an extra perk if you can share the images. Then make sure you’re giving credit where credit is due (all images in this blog post were shot while working for Corrin Jasinski Photography!). You wouldn’t have been able to capture these images without them so make sure you’re labeling these photos as “Shot while second shooting for xxx” or “Taken while working for xxx”. Those photographers worked hard to build a brand and book the clients. They deserve credit for it!
Second shooting is not just a great way to earn some extra money – it’s also an incredible tool for improving your skills. While you’re second shooting you’ll often find yourself working for photographers with more experience than you. Ask them for feedback once they’ve had the chance to review your images and take notes of any critiques they give you. They’re doing it not just to help any images you may take for them in the future, but also to help you! Your photography and wedding day skills will grow by learning from them!
I'm a Virginia wedding photographer serving the DMV and worldwide. I strive to balance the composed with the candid and capture vibrant, timeless images for my couples.
Six years of wedding industry has taught me a lot! This quick guide is designed for you two to get your wedding experience started with just a few easy steps!