I’ve frequently been asked what it takes to be a high-quality second shooter on wedding days, and I figured it was the perfect time to share little snippets of wisdom I’ve learned from my time as a second shooter as well as what I personally look for in a second when I am the lead photographer.
My first (and quite possibly most important) piece of advice to becoming the best second shooter EVER: be teachable! Your lead photographer oftentimes has years of experience, a certain way they prefer to tackle a wedding day, and expectations of how they want a second shooter to work and represent them. They will be able to provide great snippets of advice during the day (when they’re not in the middle of something important), and even just observing them in their element will help you learn something each time you’re on the job. Sometimes they may have constructive criticism during the day or after you’ve delivered your photos to them, and that’s ok! It will help you grow as a photographer!
BE KIND AND THOUGHTFUL
A little bit of kindness goes a long way. During the wedding you are there to serve the couple more than just by taking photos. Be on the lookout for if the couple seems stressed, exhausted or dehydrated. Always make sure they are well cared for the entire day. Sometimes even an encouraging word can help ease anxiety. They will likely forget to drink water and eat, so keep stuff with you to offer when needed.
The lead may need some of that kind of thoughtfulness during the day too, so stepping in to help whenever you may see a need is a great thing to remember. Help carry the bags for goodness sake, the lead photographer may not always have the time to grab everything in between each event during the day.
As a second shooter, you will be capturing angles that the lead shooter will not have the opportunity to capture, so get creative! The only thing that we ask is that you make sure you are aware of not stepping in front of the lead shooter or take command unless given the freedom to do so. Always double check with the lead to see what their exact expectations for you regarding must-have photos. Other than that, they typically are quite grateful for something different than the straight on shots!
CHECK YO ATTITUDE AT THE DOOR
Photographing a wedding has no place for ego or hurt feelings. You should never be snap at the lead shooter during the day, or be rude to the clients or guests. Be professional and treat others how you’d like to be treated regardless of how they’re behaving. If guests are crude or inappropriate, always let the lead shooter know and they will handle it. They often have a clause in their contract to handle those types of situations. If you have a difficult time taking direction without your pride getting in the way, then second shooting may not be the choice of profession for you.
WEDDING DAY ATTIRE
Dress sharply, but not stuffily. Wear something you’d wear while interviewing for your dream job while also being able to squat, sit, stand and dance for hours on end! Each wedding may be different, so be sure to ask for specifics if you’re not sure.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
Last, but certainly not least, for the love of all that is holy DO NOT let the only time you pick up your camera be during the wedding day. You will not get better at flat lays, portraiture or flash photography on the handful of days you get to second shoot. Grab a friend or a couple and go photograph them out and about. Lay out some plants, jewelry or other details to practice flat lays. Turn off all the lights in your room and practice using your flash. Only from consistent practice will you become a more qualified photographer, and you’ll impress your lead by how you give them countless usable photos from each wedding day.
Grab some photos of the lead photographer while they’re in action. They rarely get photos of themselves, so it’ll be a nice surprise at the end of the day! They’ll be grateful and likely will credit you for it too!
Have you second shot weddings? What are some pieces of advice that you would have for your fellow photographers?