What if I drop my lens? What if the lead photographer asks me to do family portraits? What if I reformat my card and lose all my images?!
I stared at the ceiling while running through scenario after scenario until my brain finally conceded and I passed out for the night.
Now, a year and a half later, and I’m the poster child for having “it” together. I know what to bring, how to act, and nerves no longer steal my precious sleep (I’m a monster without at least 9 hours).
So if you’re feeling clueless about second shooting, where to find second shooter jobs, or just want to know how to be better at it, prepare to be educated until your brain fills up. I’m going to give you a glimpse into my super stellar Second Shooter Handbook (not a real thing… please don’t Google it).
Where on Earth do I find second shooter jobs?
I’ll be straight with you and tell you that I found my first two second shooting gigs using the Mecca of cheap furniture and missed connections… Craigslist.
It may not be ideal, but it hooked me up with photographers who were in need (read: slightly desperate), and were willing to overlook my lack of wedding photography experience.
But the real mack daddy for networking with other photographers is Facebook. I’m a member of 2 separate Facebook groups for my area (one associated with our local SMUG group). Whenever someone needs a second shooter (or whenever I need one), we post the date on there to see who is else available.
Facebook groups are a great way to fill up dates that you didn’t book a wedding for… all while making a little extra cash! Try doing a search to find a group in your area.
Before the Wedding
Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Don’t be shy about emailing the lead photographer to the brink of annoyance. There are a lot of specifics to work out, and many photographers handle their second shooters in various manners, so you want to be as prepared as possible.
Here’s a helpful list of questions to ask the lead photographer:
• What am I allowed (and not allowed) to do with my images after the wedding? Can I use them in my portfolio?
• Do I need to mention you when I post the images? Do I need to state that I was the second shooter?
• How long should I wait before posting the images?
• Can I edit my own images?
• Will you credit me when you blog about the wedding, or if you get published?
• When and how will I get paid?
• When and how should I deliver the images to you?
• Would you like me to shoot on your cards or my own?
• What will my roll be at the wedding?
• If something were to happen and you couldn’t make it, would I become the lead photographer? In that case, What would my compensation be?
You want to make sure you have a good grasp of what’s expected of you on the wedding day, as well as how things will unfold afterwards. I make all my second shooters sign a contract that lays out the answers to each of these questions, thus protecting both of us in the long run, and giving them something to refer to if they forget what we initially agreed upon.
If you don’t have a second shooter contract (also called an Independent Contractor Contract), you can purchase one here from the Law Tog (affiliate link).
It’s Time to Shine!
Pack up your gear, triple check your checklist, eat a good breakfast, and get ready to kick some wedding butt!
The Main Objective
The lead photographer hired you because they needed some help. Your main goal on the wedding day should be to make their job easier.
If they need help carrying gear, carry it. If they’re running behind on family photos, help out by wrangling the masses. Even if they just want you to go take boring cocktail hour photos while they’re off gallivanting around town with the Bride and Groom, do it, and do it with a smile.
You need to be everything and everywhere at once. You need to be self-motivated, yet also able to take direction. Be flexible!
Never ever hand out your business card while you’re second shooting. In fact, you should just forget about your business completely that day (consider it a mental vacation). You’re there to represent the lead photographer and their business. Grab a handful of their cards before the day begins so you have something to hand out should wedding guests start asking.
Dress and act professionally. It’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed, but when in doubt, ask the lead photographer what they’re wearing. Be polite, even to the rudest of guests. If you’re unsure how to act, try mirroring the personality of the lead photographer. Take their lead in figuring out whether to be outgoing and bubbly or more of an inconspicuous fly on the wall.
Don’t shoot over the lead photographer’s shoulder. They hired you to have a second set of eyes, not for you to get the same shot they did. Try doing the opposite of the lead photographer. If they’re capturing formals, focus on candids. If they’re using a wide angle lens, use your telephoto.
Just be different!
What to Bring
Remember that a wedding day can be long. Be prepared by packing extras of everything you wear: shoes, clothes, hair ties, etc. I like to pack a makeup bag so I can touch up smeared mascara or pin back annoying bangs if I need to.
Also, deodorant. Trust me.
As a second shooter (and even the lead), there’s no real guarantee you’ll be fed at the wedding. So bring a little cooler or lunch box with some water and snacks in it. Those little wrapped peanut butter crackers have saved me during many long cocktail hours when all the guests are eating and drinking in front of me.
If you really want to impress the lead photographer, put yourself in their shoes, anticipate what they might need for the day., and bring that as well.
Try these items:
• Extra Bottle of Water
• Safety and Bobby Pins
• Step Stool
• Non-Plastic Hanger (for the dress shots)
Paid or Not Paid?
Whether or not to pay your second shooter is sort of a hot button issue in the industry. Many photographers don’t pay their second shooters, simply because the demand is ever increasing. If you have someone willing to do it for free, then why bother paying them?
I personally believe that second shooting should always be a paid gig. As the lead photographer, you’re relying on someone else’s talent, skill, and education, to improve the quality of your own product. It’s only fair to compensate them accordingly.
Whether or not you’re willing to accept a second shooting gig that is unpaid is a personal preference. Perhaps you’d like to second shoot your first couple of weddings for free, until you get the hang of it. After all, if you screw up as unpaid help, there’s fewer consequences.
Did your head just explode?
Second Shooting can seem daunting, tiring, and even unfair at times, but it’s how most wedding photographers get their start. Everyone needs to get experience somehow, and second shooting is, hands down, the best way to do that.
If you have questions, comments, or want to add something to the list above, please leave a comment below!
Image credits: Kelly Benton