How to be a good second shooter

Whether you’re using it as a route into full-time wedding photography yourself, or just like shooting weddings with less responsibility, being a second shooter can be great fun. But there are responsibilities that come with being a second shooter, especially if you want to be invited back to shoot again!

As a professional wedding photographer, I love having a second shooter I can trust at my weddings, it means that I know I don’t have to worry about the candids so much, I’ll have an assistant for setting up my lighting in the evening or corralling people into the space that I need them for any formal shots.

But for you both to get the most out of the arrangement then there are some simple things to keep in mind.

Before you start

Agree any rules and expectations up-front. As a second shooter do you want to be able to share the images in your own portfolio? This is more common when you’re second shooting for free in order to build experience, but some photographers don’t mind you sharing images in your own portfolio either way.

My rules are simple for image usage:

  • The second can share them, as long as they state they were the second shooter and not primary
  • They can’t share any images until the clients have seen the main gallery
  • They shouldn’t tag the clients in the images
  • Any images they want to use should be communicated with me *before* the gallery is delivered so I can include them. This is so that the clients don’t see “extra” photos online than they were delivered.

You should also be agreeing payment terms up front and how you will get images to the primary. Are you shooting on their cards? WeTransfer? etc.

Don’t Shadow

During the day, you want to make sure that as a second shooter you’re not shadowing the primary photographer. Your goal is get candids throughout the day from a different angle than the primary. Not just more of the same.

Always try to be conscious of where the primary is and try not to get in their shots. Especially during the ceremony. During the ceremony, I generally ask my second to stand on the same side as me, so if one of us is at the front and one at the back, we will both be to the left-hand side of the registrar or vicar. This means when shooting diagonally across the couple, we both know our backgrounds will be clear.

Get in sync

If you can, meet up on the morning of the wedding and sync the clocks on your cameras. Or do it over the phone, if you can’t do that, take a picture of your phone showing the time at the start of the day, this will help the primary time-sync the images after the fact.

Nothing more frustrating than trying to edit a wedding when everything is out of order!

Dress code

It doesn’t matter what you’d usually wear to a wedding, you’re representing the brand of the primary photographer. So ask them what their dress code is, dress to match (hopefully not identically though!). You need to stay on-brand with the primary so you look like a unit.

Remember you’re not you

Going along with above, keep this in mind for the whole day. You’re representing someone elses brand. Not yours. So smile, have fun, *don’t* hand out any business cards. Don’t set specific shots up for yourself unless asked to, while you may be welcome to use images in your portfolio, don’t use it as a portfolio building day.

If you start promoting yourself, not only will you not get invited back by that photographer, but word will probably get round to other primary photographers they know as well and you may find yourself short of offers when looking for second shooter gigs.

Have fun

Most of all, just have fun! Being a second shooter is great, and although you have some responsibility, it all finishes at the point you hand your images over. Be helpful to the primary all day and you can pretty much guarantee you’ll be asked back in the future.

Even with a successful wedding photography business of my own, I still love to second for others for the freedom from the admin and editing that comes with it, just being able to concentrate on capturing beautiful moments then going home and putting my feet up, is great!

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