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So You Want to be a Second Shooter?

August 23, 2022

Second shooting is a great way to experience what a wedding day is like prior to taking the leap and role as a primary photographer. It provides the opportunity to troubleshoot on wedding days and see what the most common pain points are for brides, grooms, and primary photographers. Ultimately, this will make you an even stronger primary when you decide that you want to take on that role.

But before you put your name into the ring for potential second shooting jobs, please be sure you are well-prepared to serve the primary photographer and their clients! These are the some of the basic requirements I want all of my second shooters to have:

  1. Full-frame camera.
    • Shooting with a crop sensor camera can severely limit your indoor shooting capabilities. One of your main responsibilities will likely be photographing the groom getting ready, which often happens in a small hotel room. Even if you’re shooting on a 35mm, it will be really difficult to get have enough space to do the space justice and give the final gallery variety.
  2. Variety of lenses.
    • I don’t need you to have every single prime and every single zoom lens known to man. In fact, I shoot on four lenses all day (90mm, 85mm, 50mm, and 35mm). But I do need you to have more than one because the situation varies so much on any given wedding day. Discuss this beforehand with the primary photographer!
  3. Basic knowledge of light.
    • I am not expecting every shot from my second shooter to be perfect, but I do expect my second shooters to have basic knowledge of most lighting scenarios. There will be some points in the day where you will be working independently, and those are images that I will have to include in the final gallery.
  4. Basic knowledge of posing.
    • Some primary photographers will send out inspiration boards for how they want their grooms posed and which types of detail shots they would like taken. I don’t hate this strategy, but I also want my second shooters to feel like they have some artistic allowance when posing groom and groomsmen. Please, please have basic knowledge of posing prior to applying to be a second shooter though! We don’t want any awkward grooms in our final galleries!
  5. Ability (and confidence) to shoot in manual.
    • This goes hand-in-hand with the aforementioned “basic knowledge of light” bullet point. If you aren’t shooting in manual, you are likely not ready for wedding day coverage. And that’s okay! Just use that as a goal to get to where you need to be. Wedding days are fast-paced and it is easy to become flustered when manipulating camera settings, as the light changes, and the bridal party progressively gets rowdier!
  6. Some knowledge of flash.
    • Notice I did not specify on-camera or off-camera flash. I just need some knowledge to work with! Often times I have my seconds shoot only with on-camera flash, otherwise there can be too many light stands and safety becomes an issue. However, be open with the primary photographer on your limitations with flash, especially in the reception or other dimly-lit scenarios. It is better to have the discussion and get some guidance in the moment, than for the primary to get home, look at the files, and be discouraged.
  7. Awareness of primary’s shooting style.
    • I love when second shooters ask me specifically about my style. I find that this allows for consistency throughout the gallery! Ask specifically about average aperture throughout the day, as well as how they do their white balance in camera! These are two questions that will be sure to get positive attention from the primary because they know that you know your stuff and want to serve them and their client to the best of your ability.

Some of my favorite images have come from second shooting. Second shooting pushes my creative limits because I am not in the “routine” of getting all the must have shots. Instead, I have the freedom to try and capture something that the primary photographer can’t…which allows great results for both of us!

The biggest piece of advice I can give you about second shooting for any photographer is communicate. You are there to serve him/her and his/her client. So keep that in mind as you navigate throughout a wedding day!

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