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For Photographers: What I’ve Learned as a Second Shooter

For Photographers

February 4, 2015

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When I became interested in pursuing a career in photography, I knew I had to get as much experience as possible under my belt. I contacted as many photographers as I could to see if I could work with them, help them in any way I can and get that experience as well as images for my portfolio. I’ve second shot a good amount of weddings in the first two or three years of my business and have learned a lot along the way. It’s NOT easy second shooting and you really aren’t just an extra hand on a wedding day. I look at second shooters as a NECESSITY to my business and make sure Jose or whoever is working with me KNOWS what I expect from them, not just when shooting but throughout the day as well. These are all things I’ve learned along the way from my own experience as a second shooter and things I’ve found to be most helpful for my business now and for the photographers I second shot for.

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1. BE that extra hand – You do have to remember one thing always when second shooting. It is NOT about you and the images YOU want. It is about the main photographer gathering their images first and foremost. I always love to get whatever images I can during Bridal Party portraits or just portraits of the bride and groom… BUT if the photographer needs me to carry a shot list or their bags while they do this, that HAS to come first. They are the ones that absolutley have to get the shot, not me! So be the extra hand whenever you can and as often as possible. Also… get the main photographer water or coke from the bar to refuel! Grab them some food to nibble on from cocktail hour while they shoot the Reception room while it’s empty. Offer to put bags in the car or take them out while they rush out to take pictures in a spot with perfect sunlight. WHATEVER! Just be a helpful extra hand 🙂

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2. Be Two Steps BEHIND the Photographer – One thing I always made sure to be aware of is where I was. It’s pretty much a rule of thumb that if the photographer is photographing the couple, don’t be standing over their shoulder getting the same shot but take a few steps to the side and shoot at a different angle. This can be applied to multiple times of the wedding day. Typically anytime it was cake cutting, the main photographer ALWAYS had me zooming in on the cake being cut and their faces close up while they were the ones getting the FULL shot of them cutting the cake. I never EVER wanted to be yelled at by the photographer for being in their way, either. This does happen occasionally and if it did, I was SO upset with myself for being in the way because that meant that split second was being interrupted by ME. Ugh!! So always just be behind the photographer or way to the side getting the “extra” shots and just never on top of them. And never, EVER step in front of their camera.

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3. Be Pleasant! There is no better word to use than PLEASANT! Wedding days are long and we are CONSTANTLY on our feet as photographers but you are representing someone else and their brand when second shooting so just always be cheerful and pleasant no matter what! If things are running late in any way, don’t sweat it on the outside! Keep texting with your main photographer and making sure you are both on the same page while keeping the bridal party calm and chill. NEVER add any stress upon any situation. If the weather is calling for rain at some point, just be cheerful – even if inside you are freaking out because you didn’t have a backup plan. If guests are standing in your way during the ceremony or reception – BE PLEASANT! Politely tap them on the shoulder to take a step to the side but never be rude or disrespectful! Even if the guests should know better 😉

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4. Be Cooperative – Always be up for doing what the main photographer asks you to do. That is YOUR job! If they ask you to go shoot in cocktail hour, do it! (I have a special approach to this by the way, because cocktail hour is a very tricky time to take pictures. I’ve been yelled at by guests for taking their pics while they have food in the mouths! My tip? Shoot the food and bar first, take your time and come back to cocktail hour at the half hour mark. By this point the majority of people have eaten already and are just starting to drink and feel friendly!) If the main photographer asks you to shoot at the top of the church, go get that shot! Go above and beyond to make sure you are always being helpful and willing!

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5. Be Creative! – I have found the real fun about being the second shooter is at some points during the day… you have the freedom to get REALLY creative! There are parts of the day when the main photographer is totally running the show. This is usually during ALL portraits… bride and groom, bridal party and family. If you find yourself with a moment to shoot and aren’t carrying anything for them, GET CREATIVE! Shoot at a perspective the main photographer won’t get or even see. Maybe you can grab a great portrait of the flower girls while they are off to the side during bridal party portraits? Or you have a GREAT shot of the bouquets from the side point of view? Or you are able to get a candid moment of the bride hugging her grandma while the photographer is changing their card? Whatever!! Magic moments are always occurring on a wedding day so just keep shooting! 🙂

I hope post this helps anyone interested in shooting weddings and getting into photography 🙂

  1. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the tips! I’m trying to get second shooter gigs, but nothing so far. How did you get those gigs? Did you just e-mail every local photographer hoping that somebody would let you come along? 🙂 I’m finding some photographers won’t even respond. 🙁

    • Tina Elizabeth says:

      Hey Melissa! That’s what I did – reached out to photographers that I saw were a bit younger in their businesses and would be open to help. Some recommended me to their friends as well. I’m sorry some aren’t even responding back to you 🙁 but then that means they are not the ones you’d want to work with! Trust me! 🙂 Keep trying!

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