17 TIPS FOR BEING THE BEST SECOND SHOOTER EVER

If you’re a photographer who is wanting to get into shooting weddings, at some point you’re going to want to be a second shooter. If you don’t already know - a second shooter is (in the context of weddings) a photographer that the main photographer hires to come and assist them in shooting a wedding. This can be because the couple has requested (and paid for) a second photographer to be present or just because the main photographer wants someone else to be there with them!

Second shooting can be a lot of fun but if you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to being a second, it can be really stressful. I put together some tips/advice for all of you out there who are thinking you might want to second shoot a wedding. Being the second shooter isn’t nearly as much work as being the main photographer but it’s still work and there are things you should know! Let’s get into it:

BEFORE THE WEDDING

Make sure you get details far enough in advance for you to plan accordingly. This one is major and there are actually a lot of details that you’ll need to know. DO NOT wait until the day before the wedding to figure out these details!

  • Where is the wedding (ceremony and reception)?

  • Where are they getting ready? sometimes the getting ready location is different from the ceremony location and you’re going to need to know where to be!

  • How many hours is the wedding + how many hours are you expected to be there? sometimes the main photographer doesn’t need you the entire time and they will either have you come late or leave early

  • What time do you need to be there? Take whatever time they say and plan to be there 20-30 minutes before that. Don’t be late!!

  • What time will you need to leave?

  • How much $ will you be making? some photographers pay by the hour, some pay based on experience, and some pay a base rate.

  • If it’s far from you, are you getting paid for travel? in my opinion, if the main photographer is being paid to travel, you should too, but it’s ultimately up to the main to decide.

  • If you’re going to need to stay overnight, are you responsible for that?

  • Are you allowed to use your images for your own marketing? What is allowed? website/social media/private documents/blog? this varies from photographer to photographer. some let you use the images you take for whatever you want and some won’t let you use any of them at all. if you’re trying to second shoot to boost your portfolio this one is going to be a big deal.

Look at the main photographers work to get a feel for what they like. Take the time to figure out if the main photographer really likes to shoot more candid or if they prefer a lot of posing. Pay attention to how they use light, angles, etc. and try to emulate that in the work you do for them.

Ask what kind of gear you need to bring. This is mainly for photographers who don’t have much gear. If you only have 1 lens you might need to ask the main if it’s ok if you borrow whatever they aren’t using or if they will need you to borrow/rent gear on your own.

Exchange phone numbers. It’s likely that you got the second shooting gig via social media and while that’s awesome, you’re going to want their phone number. What happens if your’e running late? What if you get lost? What if you get to the venue and can’t find them? Trust me, get their phone number BEFORE the wedding and give them yours.

taken while second shooting for  susan alyse photography

taken while second shooting for susan alyse photography

DURING THE WEDDING

Ask photographer how they like to shoot (camera settings, posing, etc). I always like to ask the person I’m second shooting for how they like to expose their images so that I can try to get close to that and make editing easier for them later.

Ask if they want you to shoot on their card or yours. I personally like to shoot on my own cards so that I know I’ll get my images back but sometimes the main photographer will want you to shoot on their card so that they don’t have to deal with getting a card back to you. This is especially true if you don’t live in the same city so just be aware and maybe ask them before you get started!

Ask if they want you to shadow them or work on your own. Some photographers treat the second shooter as just purely a backup and you go everywhere they go. Other photographers hire a second so that they can cover twice as much ground in a short amount of time. That could mean that while the main is shooting the girls getting ready, the second is shooting the guys. It’s always a good idea to ask when you get to the venue so that you know what they expect of you.

Figure out where you should stand during the ceremony: game plan. I always always always ask the main photographer where they want me to stand during the processional part of the ceremony (when everyone is walking in). Most of the time I’ll stand at the very end of the the guests seats and will take the first photographs of the bridal party walking in while the main photographer is standing toward the front getting the more straight-on and up-close shots. After the processional I just try to stand opposite of wherever the main photographer is so that 1) I’m not in their shots and 2) we get different shots.

Try to shoot different lenses/angles/lengths. Sometimes I’ll be editing a session and realize that every frame is vertical. UGH. Mix it up! Be sure to get a wide variety of shots, angles, closeness, etc. When you’re able, shot everything both horizontal and vertically!

Get the main photographer water/carry their bags/grab their gear when they need it. You are there for them, not for you. Go above and beyond and make sure that they have everything they need throughout the day/night!

Unless they tell you not to, be close by for family photos. They’re probably going to need you to help get the right family members in the right place, so don’t wander off after the ceremony!

Don’t let the anyone boss you around (do what the main wants you to do). Someone is inevitably going to start being a little bossy and telling you what to take pictures of and that’s fine, as long as it doesn’t conflict with what the main photographer has asked you to do.

If you’re in charge of the solo photos for one group, make sure you know how the main likes them done (i.e., groomsmen, flying v, horizontal, vertical, walking, serious, etc.). There’s one photographer that I second shoot for frequently who has a pose she likes to use with every group of groomsmen so once I realized that, I started using it every time she asked me to take the guys photos. I know it’s her style and since I’m working for her and not for me, I do it! You can either ask the main what their style is or, better yet, ask them to send you a few galleries to look at so that you can spot any recurring poses.

taken while second shooting for  susan alyse photography

taken while second shooting for susan alyse photography

AFTER THE WEDDING

Don’t post images of the wedding before the main photographer does. Sometimes the main photographer will tell you this and sometimes they won’t but just know, it’s a HUGE faux pas to post images of the wedding to any of your own social media accounts or blog before the main photographer has posted any. If you’re wanting to blog the images and it’s been months and the main photographer hasn’t blogged them yet, just reach out and ask if it’s okay for you to do it or not.

When you post images, always specify that you were the second shooter. Don’t try to be sneaky + take credit for shooting a wedding that the couple didn’t hire you for. You can still show off your work - just make sure to note that you were working for the main photographer and tag them + link to them whenever you can!

Send a thank you card! This is such a nice personal touch to reach out to the main and say “thank you” for hiring you!

Ask for feedback so that you can be better. I try and do this with every new photographer I second shoot for so that I can always be improving and getting better for the next time!

taken while second shooting for  susan alyse photography

taken while second shooting for susan alyse photography

There you have it! My sort of neat-and-tidy list pf 17 tips for being the best second shooter ever! Remember to get out there and have FUN!

If you want to see some galleries of weddings I’ve second shot you can check them out here:

Dream Point Ranch Wedding

Daffodil Hill Wedding