Rockstar Second Shooter: Tips for wedding second shooters

Hey friends,  Living in the beautiful PNW where I'm slammed with weddings May-Oct, "Wedding Season," is in full swing. It has me doing a lot of reflecting on what kind of things I've learned and what of lessons I could teach to other photographers.

Over 10 years, I worked as a 2nd shooter and as a lead photographer at tons of weddings. I've worked with amazing photographers who really blew me away with their quality of work and I've worked with budding newbies who have a long ways to go. Either way, I've found that communication is key. If I didn't communicate my expectations upfront, it's my own fault, if things didn't work out the way I'd hoped.  So finally, after all these years, I've written out what I think all 2nd shooters should know...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    P C: Rachel Konsella

Let's get to the good stuff.

It seems so silly to have to advice this but I've had second shooters show up with out doing any preparation and it shows in their performance and quality of their images. Have your batteries charged. Your lenses and camera body should be clean. Clean the mirrors and sensor too.  Update your Firmware for your camera body. Format your memory cards and make sure you have plenty with you if you are expected to use your own.  (I personally like to have my 2nd shooters use my memory cards)
Organize your gear in your camera bag so that you know where things are and are able to get to them quickly when you need them ie; batteries, speed lights, reflectors etc.
Know what your expectations are. Is there a contract between you and your lead photographer. Is there a shot list for you as a 2nd photographer. What does your lead photographer need your help with? Research the location so you have an idea of what type of lighting and environment you will be working in.

2. Know how to use your gear.  If you need help quietly pull your lead photographer aside fo help. If the bridal party or guest see you struggling with your camera equipment they will loose confidence in you as a professional.  If you are not confident in full sun, or low lighting this should be communicated to your lead prior to the event. If you are expected to use flash- Use it! and know when and how to use it. I've seen so many awesome moments wasted because they were not well lit or exposed properly. If you need help or are not sure, ask your lead photographer.
Shoot in RAW and don't delete photos from your cards. You never know if it's something your lead photographer can use and even if it's not a perfect exposure it might be savable.

3.Dress Professionally:
No ripped jeans, no dirty shoes, no mid drift hanging out.. Invest in your personal appearance. It's a wedding. If you are not sure what to wear ask your lead photographer.. I've seen vendors show up in basket ball shorts and flip flops and it looks very unprofessional no matter how great they are.

4. Sync your Camera Time
It's so much easier if you do it before you start photographing the event and helps with workflow and culling later. Don't forget to remind your lead photographer to do this right when you arrive on site. They will thank you for it!

5. Shoot less (and wait for the moment when possible) and Shoot more when necessary:
This one can be debatable but because my camera has dual memory cards and I'm not worried to much about missing a shot or loosing images, My 2nd photographer is not my insurance policy for the day..and I'm ok with them shooting less.
I use about 10% of the images they give me and 90% of my own images. When a 2nd photographer over shoots, it adds to my workflow and it can be pretty down right annoying to go through 100 images of the same shot. Recently I had a photographer hand over nearly 7500 images... Yep that's right 7,500 images!  I culled it down to about 400 images from their collection. It seems wasteful, doesn't it? and I'm talking about my time, not the photos!
Find a different spot, shoot something new, creative, different. If your lead is getting the best shots, from the best spot, it's ok. Just do your best!
Shoot more- when shooting through the moments. You know the ones that are meaningful that you can't miss. During the ceremony, The kiss, First dance, cake cutting etc. It's important to capture those moments and tell the story. But no one needs 100 shots of 1 pose that are exactly the same. Try instead to take 3-5 incase someone blinks or something and move on. No need to get trigger happy folks! It's all about balance with this one.

6. Pay attention to your lead photographer. Make eye contact from time to time. Be there when they need you. I am a very confident wedding photographer and I know I can shoot the entire day alone but if I'm paying someone to assist me, I expect them to assist me.  Don't take over. Don't compete with your lead photographer. If you have an amazing idea, ASK if you can make a suggestion. Your lead photographer will love a few awesome behind the scenes photos of them working too.
Be attentive, help with posing and be a 2nd set of eyes when needed. Fluff that dress, fix the one hair in her face, or best man's crooked tie. Your job is important even if you are not the lead. You are helping to create images that will be a legacy to the couple. If you have to set your camera down for a minute to help out with posing large groups, helping another vendor solve a problem or running to get something for your lead, JUST DO IT!

                                             PC: Cynthia Mercer

7. Be respectful to all guests and vendors. Check your Ego. This is one of the most important days in this couples life-- even if it's not your "wedding gig" it's still very important. Your job includes having a positive attitude, being kind and courteous, smiling, and being respectful. Keep conversations light so that you are not too distracted to keep working. If you have a problem with a guest or vendor you should bring it to your lead's attention immediately, so that they can help you with it.

8. Ask for Permission. When photographing guest during the reception, don't get up in their face. Don't take photos of them eating. Don't do anything that will annoy or irritate them. They are guest of the couple and they are potential future clients. They remember how we make them feel. Simply asking to take a quick photo of them will result in genuine smiles with them wanting a copy rather than "deer in headlights" with a "delete that now attitude." Candids can be great but our job is not to embarrass all the family and friends of the bride and groom. They will remember the photos they love.

9. Help Out! Gather people for group shots, Organize family and make the lead photographers life easier when ever you can. Offer to carry bags or other gear if needed. Run and grab some food and/or water for the lead. Sometimes when I'm shooting a wedding I don't sit down for more than 10 minutes in a 9-10 hour day. I need to be reminded and reassured that it's ok for me to take a break. Water and food is always appreciated. Lord knows I need to drink more water especially on those 90+ degree summer days. Another thing I always need help with is keeping track of my gear. After a long day of shooting my back hurts and I set things down. An extra set of hands is awesome for carrying a ladder and making sure I don't loose lens caps. When the day is done and it's time to pack up, it's super helpful to have a 2nd shooter putting gear away and carrying bags back to the car. If you are not sure how to help... Ask.

10. It's not your wedding: You are there representing someone else brand. Be ok with that! They are paying you! Don't pass out your business cards. Don't contact the couple to offer them your services or images after the wedding. If a guest asks the studio name or asks for a business card always give them the lead's business card. You are there as an extension of them. Be respectful of your lead photographer. Yeah you probably got some cool shots that make you ooze with excitement but sharing them online as if it was your wedding client isn't truthful. Make sure to ask permission first and give credit to your lead photographer when using any of the photos online and remember you do not have a model release from the client to use the images for your marketing. 

11. Be friendly, but don't send friend requests: on facebook or follow the couple on IG or any other social media platform. It's disrespectful to the lead photographer. It could be perceived as you poaching their clients. I get that you spent an entire day with them and it was full of emotion and amazing moments. Just know that you will have similar experiences with your own clients as a lead shooter and be ok with that.  Your lead photographer has worked hard to gain their trust and build a relationship with them.
PC: Brianna Barnes

12. If needed, Be ready to shoot like a lead. 
I've shot 2 full wedding seasons while pregnant. one in the first trimester and 1 in the 3rd. Luckily for me and my 2nd shooter it never stopped me from capturing anything but just incase I always made sure my 2nd shooter was prepared to step in as lead at anytime incase I needed to go throw up or if suddenly I went into labor... Thank goodness neither happened at a wedding. It's always a good idea to be prepared and have a back up plan.  You never know when your photos could save the day!

13. Say No to Alcohol: I know it's free booze and everyone's offering but until you are off the clock and all gear is put away please do not drink. If the photos are not perfect and anyone saw you with a drink, you know they are going to blame it on the alcohol... Just don't do it.

14. Stay off your phone: As a lead photographer I have very little time to check anything on my phone throughout the day.. Unless you are updating my instagram story or reviewing the timeline I expect you to have your phone put away also.

15. You are responsible for your energy. Have an awesome time. The energy you put out there can have a great impact on the entire day. Show up rested, happy, and ready to give 100% your lead photographer needs you and will be so grateful for you doing your best.

I hope you have a fantastic time 2nd shooting. It's such a great way to learn and get experience. It's also a ton of fun. Happy Wedding Season!



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