What many people outside the photography industry don’t realize is that when they look at the images captured at a wedding, they’re likely looking at the work of at least two photographers - the primary guy or gal they hired, and that guy or gal’s second shooter.
If you’ve ever served as a second shooter, you know it has its perks, namely, gaining valuable experience under the watchful eye of a seasoned pro. You also know that it’s a relatively thankless job, and one that’s stressful and challenging as well.
But for those of you that haven’t been a second shooter and are thinking it might be the right kind of gig for you, be sure you consult our list of guidelines to help you make it a positive experience.
If your only photography experience is taking photos of your family at Christmas time, don’t sell yourself as being more experienced than that. There are many photographers that are willing to take on a person that might not have much experience but demonstrates a willingness to learn and has natural talent. Just be honest about what you can and cannot do; if you don’t, you’ll never get hired again and the photographer you lied to will be sure to tell all of their colleagues not to hire you either.
A related issue is that if you have a question, ask. Even if you think it’s the dumbest question you could possibly have, it’s important that you clarify any confusion there might be about your role, what you need to be doing, how you need to be doing it, or when. Whoever hires you would much rather answer a silly question than have to deal with the aftermath of you not doing what you should be doing on the most important day of someone’s life.
Have Some Common Sense
As a second shooter, you’re at the event representing the primary shooter. It is not an opportunity for you to hand out your business cards or ask people if they need a photographer for another event. You’re there to do what the primary photographer needs to be done to fulfill their end of the bargain, not drum up business for yourself.
After the event is over, your job is to hand over all the images you shot to the primary photographer. Don’t save a few for your portfolio or post images to your social media sites or your website without express permission from the primary shooter. If you start posting images of the event before the primary shooter does, not only do you look like you’re trying to steal their thunder, but you also make the primary shooter look bad. Just have some common sense, and make decisions that will help your employer satisfy his or her clients. You’ll be much better off in the long run if you do!
Do Something Different
Once you get hired on as a second shooter, your job isn’t to shadow the primary photographer and take photos from the same perspective. Rather, you need to be aware of what your boss is doing, what he or she is photographing, and from where, and pursue other subjects or perspectives.
For example, if the primary photographer is taking candid shots during the reception, and has their camera trained on the happy couple, use that time to photograph the parents of the couple, the bridesmaids, the groomsmen, and the like. This will help fill out the collection of photos and ensure you don’t have tons of shots of the same people doing the same thing.
Take Your Time and Focus on the Details
The primary shooter will be responsible for the big, stressful moments - the posed family portraits, the exchanging of the rings, the cutting of the wedding cake, and so on. Your job is to fill in around those big moments with shots that show the details of the day. Table settings, the wedding rings, people in the audience at the church, the flower girl dancing wildly at the reception, the venue, and candid shots of wedding-goers might be on your shot list for the day. These types of images don’t require you to rush through the process; instead, be patient, wait for the ideal moment to arrive, and snap images that both you and your boss can be proud of.
If you can follow these four easy tips, you’ll be well on your way to establishing yourself as a quality photographer. The experience you get as a second shooter and the lessons you learn from the primary photographer will only help you in developing a career of your own. So, go out, find a second shooting job, and start your journey to becoming a wedding photographer yourself!