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What It Really Means To Be a Second Shooter

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Have you ever been asked to second shoot for another photographer? Or have you come across a post on FB for referrals? Have you ever thought about what that really means?

Photographers often believe that what they have to offer exceeds the monetary cost of the service. And, without a doubt, I am one of those photographers. I truly believe in the priceless value of quality images. It is our human way of cementing life and time, two things that we inevitably can’t ever get back.

Second photographers take on the same responsibility. I always recommend seconds to shoot like your business depends on it. Whether the main shooter actually use the images, or just have seconds there as backup, your presence and work can make or break the experience for the couple and the photographer.

Well, what does a solid second photographer look like, you ask? We (photographers) are very nice people. We don’t want to be button pushers, come off as “demanding”, or be micromanagers. Here are some suggestions to help you become an awesome second shooter without being told general expectations.

Over Communicate

Ask all the questions you need to over prepare for shoot day, especially if it is your first time working with the photographer. This may include asking for the details, logistics, and a wedding timeline. This can also be questions on camera settings or equipment to match the lead photographer’s style. If you are unfamiliar with their workflow, ask questions! Photographers will appreciate it. Make sure both sides set very clear expectations from the get-go. There is nothing worse than finding out our mistakes after the wedding day when all could have been prevented. Everyone loses in this case, and the couple is the one who suffers most of all.

Show Up

Once you have committed to a date, please do not cancel on the photographer last minute. This is very poor etiquette and will quickly tarnish your reputation in the industry. Yes, photographers talk. You don’t want to leave bad karma anywhere. If an emergency arise, which happens, it may be understandable. But be sure to take initiative to find a replacement who is just as competent, if not more, than you.

Be Professional

Please arrive before the start time. GYP has a saying that goes, “If you show up early, you are on time. If you show up on time, you are LATE.” Please check with the lead photographer what the appropriate attire or dress code is. In general, jeans are inappropriate for such an event and dressing in dark colors is a safe choice. Also, google any possible traffic delays in the area the night before so you can plan ahead on possible roadblocks, accidents, or detours.

Be Proactive

If you see a great moment or certain shots that still need to be capture, do it. If the bride needs help, or the photographer looks like s/he can use an extra hand, give it. Be totally present and aware of your surroundings. Your job isn’t just to be there and snap photos. Your job is to be a helpful addition to the team wherever help is needed. Check in via eye contact with the photographer once in a while to see if they need anything, need you to reposition yourself, or cover a moment that they cannot get a clear shot of. Always, always make eye contact! Be the kind of photographer that people will want to work with because working with you means the day will be smoother, more efficient, and include more beautiful images. Go above and beyond in what you do, and it will come back tenfold.

Keep a Great Attitude

Always work like someone is watching (because chances are, someone is watching!). Keep a friendly smile and watch out for your body language, words, and behavior. It should go without saying to never talk poorly about any vendor, the couple, or guests at the wedding. We are not there to judge others. Be confident, not arrogant. Be friendly, flexible, and trust yourself. Check in with the lead photographer before every main event and have a great attitude when requests are made. Remember, you are first and foremost there as a resource to the lead, and it’s not the other way around.

Don’t Be Lazy

If there is a beautiful shot that requires some trekking, take that walk and try it out. Don’t just stand in one place for the duration of an event (unless otherwise directed by the photographer). Be creative and explore! If you need to use your phone at any time during the wedding, step away to a private area to check your phone. Print out the schedule or any documents before the wedding so you are not looking at your phone throughout the day. We know we’re just checking the timeline, but the couple and guests do not and it sends the wrong message. Always be professional and mentally present.

BIGGEST TIP (for beginners): If at any point you do not feel confident in taking on the responsibility of a second shooter or covering certain events, please communicate your concerns with the photographer before the wedding or event. Do ask if you can shadow the photographer or be an assistant on a few weddings. Does this mean you’re not good enough?? Absolutely not! In fact, this shows that you are quite the opposite and you respect the photographer’s work. Being a master means you are a well-rounded professional who can take on any role at any time. This is a great opportunity to build rapport with the company to know if you are a good fit. Yes, compatibility goes a long way!

There are so many more tips and tricks we’d love to share with you. Comment below if you would like to see a post on GYP requirements of a second shooter (and some hard lessons we’ve learned along the way!). Subscribe to our newsletter for updates and future photography resources.

Thank you so much for tuning in! May love be with you.

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