When I first started photographing weddings, I began as a second photographer shooting alongside seasoned professionals. I worked as a secondary photographer for a at least 5 to 6 different photographers for a few years, and I am SO thankful for each one who believed in me enough to allow me to tag along.
While second shooting, I learned a variety of different skills from each photographer that have stayed with me to this day and have impacted the traits and skills I look for in second shooters and assistants. Though there are many skills that make up a superb second shooter (and lots of preferred skills that vary from primary photographer to primary photographer), here are a few of my top tips for being an outstanding second shooter, all of which I have found in my second shooters and assistants:
1. Have a servant’s heart and mentality towards the wedding couple.
The way to the primary photographer’s heart is through their wedding couple. Primary photographers (typically) want to give their clients THE BEST experience when it comes to their wedding photos, and having a second photographer who is willing to go the extra mile to serve the bride & groom truly stands out (so long as it doesn’t interfere with any work the primary has specifically asked you to do).
2. Have a servant’s heart and mentality towards the primary photographer.
I love photographing weddings, but I’m willing to admit that sometimes they can be a bit stressful. Many times, being a wedding photographer means more than just documenting a wedding day - it means coordinating timelines and keeping the bridal party, wedding couple, and family members ON that timeline, which can be an all encompassing task (on top of trying to make sure everyone looks perfect in photos!). Being a second photographer who goes the extra mile for the primary photographer can go a long way. Asking if the primary needs any food or water, helping with bags, setting up light stands, calling out names during family formals, or simply taking initiative throughout the day helps the primary photographer focus on the day as a whole.
3. Study the primary photographer’s style.
One of my favorite things about being a second photographer at a wedding is the increased ability to be creative! If the wedding day is crunched for time, the primary photographer’s goal is to first get the “safe shot,” and then move on to more creative compositions. But the great thing about being a secondary photographer is the decreased amount of stress to get the “safe shots.” You can take risks and get creative because you can trust that the primary is, at the very least, getting all of the “necessary” shots. But before you shoot with a primary photographer for the first time, be sure to study their work. How do they compose shots? Are they consistent in their use of light, or varied? Do they prefer more posed shots or more candid shots? How does your work compliment theirs? (Or how can you use your style of work to compliment their style?)
4. Ask if there are any specific photos the primary photographer wants you to get at any specific time.
While many primary photographers will let their second photographer know if they need a specific shot (or shots) from them, some photographers prefer to let the second photographer “get what they get,” for lack of better words. As a primary photographer, I always appreciate when a second shooter asks if I’m looking for any specific shots, whether it’s at the beginning of the day or throughout the wedding day. For example, during the ceremony, I’m in the front of the church getting the shot of the bride coming down the aisle. I’m also trying to get the groom’s reaction to his bride. But if I can have my second shooter focusing on getting the shot of the groom’s reaction, I can focus on the bride and her dad – which is always a huge help! A second photographer also is helpful during bridal party shots. While the primary is getting the group shot, the secondary can be snapping little details (bouquets, boutonnières, candids, etc.) to provide a more robust final gallery!
I am so thankful for my second photographers and assistants who help me through wedding days and sessions. They are the ones who have made this blog post possible and the reason why I can share this information – because I see these things so clearly in them! Thank you to my second shooters and assistants for making all of my weddings and sessions 10X better! Without you, this wouldn’t be possible!
Two FANTASTIC people who help make wedding days possible!