I recently saw a post in a group on Facebook about the common practices involved in second shooting for weddings. The commenter didn’t understand the logistics of copyright and sharing files. Over the course of five minutes I watched the thread quickly grow with information and varying opinions on the subject. It inspired me to break down the process for those of you who may be starting out and want to get experience by second shooting.
Some new photographers will decide to just dive in to their portfolio building on their own and booking their own clients while some prefer to build a portfolio and gain experience as a second shooter with the guidance of a more established photographer. Whichever you choose, there is an art to doing well at either.
Being a good second shooter begins with knowing and setting expectations with the lead photographer.
A good second shooter will have their own gear, cards and the ability to handle stressful situations as a start. The rest of the qualities a good second shooter should poses will be best formatted into a list below!
The Art of Second Shooting
1. Know your stuff.
Before going into wedding photography as a second shooter you should have some of your own sessions under your belt. Once your work is consistent, then it’s probably a good time to go out offering to second shoot. Over-estimating your abilities or taking a chance on someone’s wedding isn’t the best way to gain experience.
2. Have good gear!
Any lead shooter loves it when their second shooter has equal quality gear. They’ll have more trust in your abilities and likely give you a little more freedom. Plus, if you want to shoot with really good lead photographers, good gear will be expected.
3. Set your rate appropriately.
Knowing how much you’re worth is important. The going rate for a second shooter can vary depending on the couple/wedding/package/photographer but having an amount in mind of what you want to be paid per hour will make sure you’re not under valued. Consider travel/mileage, hours of coverage and what you’ll be doing for each specific photographer/wedding.
4. Know what to expect.
Know how and when you’ll be getting paid. Know the process for file delivery and make sure it works for you. Know the logistics/length of shoot /location ahead of time. Going into a second shooter arrangement last minute or blindly will likely end up being a different experience than you expected which sometimes sucks.
5. Get access & credit.
Ask the lead if you’ll be allowed to edit/post your images from the day. Is there a waiting period to do so? Ask them if you’ll be given a photo credit on their blog or any other places, for example if the wedding gets published on a wedding blog, let them know you’d like your name listed as a second shooter. It seems like this should be a common courtesy but it’s not always that way. As a second shooter you are hired to be a temporary representative of the company you are hired by so the right and credit goes to the lead photographer unless you arrange otherwise before hand.
6. Sign a contract.
The lead may already have one but if not, you should recommend they draft one up or give them one of your own. It should state everything above as you two have agreed to. The couple should also have a copy and understand the terms so that they are aware of your rights/credits to the images as well.
7. Be a good employee.
Though you’re not really their employee, you are for the day so be a good one; dress professionally (our rule of thumb is to dress as a guest but comfortable enough to do your job) show up early, be prepared, hydrate, keep your energy level up, don’t complain, be ambitious, ask questions. It’s also frowned upon and kind of rude to self-promote while second shooting, so don’t do that.
8. Be a good photographer.
Pay attention, document, have your own perspective, shoot through the moments, know the timeline, stay out of the way of the lead, shoot the details the lead isn’t shooting, check in often, blend in, be helpful to the lead, help keep everyone on time, help organize family and kids, get the key moments and get on the dance floor.
9. Be supportive.
Being supportive of your lead photographer before, during and after the wedding will help you get a second gig.
10. Be a part of the community.
If you can get involved in the community of photographers in your area. Many times lead photographers will share second shooters and refer each other to the best people! Getting your name out there along with your work and a good reference is a great start to building your own career!