Congratulations! You’ve been hired on as a second shooter for a wedding!
That means that someone out there trusts you enough to help capture
someone else’s very special day and put their own name out there for you
(good OR bad). So now what? Here are a few tips to being the best second shooter out there.
Be a good communicator.
Make sure that you fully understand what is expected of you.
Communication is key – first and foremost. Your number one priority is
to be there for the primary shooter. Whether this means you’re getting
them a drink, holding a flash, getting people in order, making sure the
bride and grooms’ family hasn’t taken off to that open bar before family
photos have been taken… whatever it takes. You’re their extra hands,
ears, and eyes.
Additionally, if the DJ, best man, or mother of the bride tells you
anything, make sure you communicate this with your primary – as soon as
you can, within reason. Don’t make decisions on their behalf. The
vendors and attendees view you and your primary as a whole. You don’t
want to make them look bad by forgetting to mention that there’s a
special moment that’s about to happen or
that the cake cutting got moved up. FAIL.
And this actually goes both ways. The primary should convey to you if
they want you to shoot RAW or not, how they want you to get your images
to them, etc. But don’t assume that they all think to tell you every
detail. If you have questions, ask.
Be a good listener.
And it’s not enough to just listen; you need to be able to understand
from the primary’s view. Again, this brings back communication. Make
sure you are listening to what your primary needs/wants you to do. Don’t
assume that you know what they mean. Ask questions so there is no room
for doubt or miscommunication. You are representing THEM, so make sure
you’re doing this properly and not just what you THINK your version of
So if your primary happens to be laid back and tells you to just have a good
time, that doesn’t mean you should be swinging from the chandeliers (at
least I don’t think it does).
Most likely, your primary may be seasoned enough to do this for you, but
photographers are a mixture of all sorts of personalities, and we’re not
all organized. When I 2nd shoot, I always ask my primary if they usually
have a shoot list, a timeline, or any other pertinent information they’d
like to share. I ask if they need me to bring anything, and make sure I
have extras of what I can – flashes, batteries, etc. Not a must, but
it’s definitely a plus; and if you save the day, chances are they’ll hire you again.
Sure it would be great to get that perfect shot, but make sure that your
primary gets theirs first. Watch where their placement is and make sure
to stay out of their shot. Remember that this is THEIR wedding. I mean,
we know you’re good looking and all, but I’m pretty sure the bride and
groom wouldn’t appreciate you photobombing the majority of their photos.
There is nothing that gets my goat more than being at an event and
having to apologize for my 2nd shooter’s cutting someone off, knocking
down a kid, or the like. Accidents DO happen, but make sure you aren’t
being rude. To anyone. If the bride is starving and you cut off the
waiter who then drops her plate in her lap because you had to get in
there for that perfect shot, I can’t save you.
And the other part of this that gets me is when a 2nd shooter
posts images from the wedding before the client even gets theirs. Or
hands out their personal business card without permission. Or doesn’t
give credit to the primary shooter for inviting them to shoot at the
wedding. Please talk this out prior to the event to make sure you’re both
on the same page. If your primary is cool with it, have at it. If not,
it is NOT okay to do any of those things listed previously. As a 2nd,
personally, I will ask the primary first if they would like me to hand
out their card for them. Some won’t even want to do that. But if they
are, usually if they’re cool with you handing out your own as well, they
will mention it then – you won’t have to ask.
After the primary has presented their images, I check to make sure I can
post some of mine. Some won’t allow it at all. But if they do, I ALWAYS
make sure to mention that I was the 2nd shooter for _____ Photography
and tag their page. And I would NEVER friend or tag a bride or anyone
from a wedding without the primary’s blessing first. Remember, you
wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for them.
Dress and act professionally.
Again, you are representing your primary’s business and name. I always
ask what the dress code is, or at least what they are wearing. You don’t
want to show them up by wearing a suit when they’re more casual, but you
don’t want to look like a slob either. Nice, comfortable dress shoes are
a must, and I always say wear black, or gray, or some other neutral
color so that you blend in, at the very least. T-shirts are a big no-no.
I usually opt for a nice button-down shirt.
Same goes for how you carry yourself and interact with others. Leaning
on the walls (unless you need that balance to get a great shot).
Drinking on the job isn’t usually okay, either. Politely turn down that
shot that Uncle Bob or Aunt Matilda offered you because you’re just so
Because there are so many parts to a wedding, I’m sure I’ve missed a
thing or two, but these are the ones that are most important to me. Like
my mom always says, treat people like you want to be treated. See
things from the view of others, and all should be good.
Cindy Palmer is a 2nd job photographer, military spouse, mom of 2 kids
and one pup, currently residing in San Diego, CA after living in Japan
for 7 years. She recently joined up with another local photographer to
shoot weddings on a consistent part time basis, but her true passions
are food, glamor/boudoir, and concept photography, which she works on
in her (nearly non-existent) free time.
Photo credit: Gwendolyn
Tundermann of Pillow Book Boudoir