How To Be An Amazing Second Shooter


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I have been a photographer in the Delmarva area for about four years now and I have loved every minute of it! I have captured over 150 weddings, events and families and I can easily say I have learned a lot along the way. However being mainly a second shooter, but also being the main photographer I have learned that a second photographer can make or break wedding coverage.

Why Do You Need A Second Photographer

Most people define a second photographer as just that, a SECOND photographer in the sense of a main shooter and then an extra shooter, someone who JUST does extra things here or there. Many second photographers capture the groom and not a lot of emphasis is put there and then they typically get detail coverage and then take extra shots here or there throughout the night.

You can be THAT second. You show up, get coverage, turn over your card and get paid. Congratulations, you are the union worker of the wedding industry. Low five for making a decent amount of money for minimal effort and in no way crafting a skill and ignoring any chance of professionally or personally developing yourself in any way. If your happy with this there is really no need to continue reading. However if you want to be the second shooter in your area that EVERYONE wants and kicks ass at weddings and dominates the day, please read on.

How To Be Better

Before we really go anywhere with this you have to look at what you do in two different categories, your photography skill and your service skill. When second shooting you are doing both and it is totally okay to work on one skill at a time and since photography is not learned over night I do think service and the service mindset can be. But the start of being “better” is to try. It’s not hard to try, it’s not hard to apply yourself and it’s not hard to go out of your way to be a better human. So let’s figure out how you can be better in both instances.

Photo Source: Sarah Michele Photography

Photo Source: Sarah Michele Photography

Be A Better Photographer

Yes, you may know how to balance your meter, compose a photo and use aperture correctly, but what else can you do? (If you do not know how to do those things, you need to learn them asap) I think the best way to be a “great” photographer is to SHOOT WITH INTENTION. This may seem like overkill but think of this with ever photograph you take. Are you in the grooms suite? Cover it the same way you would a bridal suite. Get all the details, the drinks, the game they are watching, them getting ready, the jokes, the mishaps everything. But take it one step further, are you taking this shot just to take it or are you creatively and consciously capturing a memory? Say you are capturing details, yes you should get every and anything that consists of that day, but how are you capturing them? Exactly. Shoot with intention. What if the brides grandmother is in the hospital and cannot attend the event? Little do you know lilies are her favorite flower and the bride intentionally decorated the whole reception with this in mind. Shooting with intention is what creates an amazing mindset for a photographer.

Another great asset for a photographer is their ability to learn. You should be continuously open to direction and the knowledge of others. As a second especially, if your first says you should do something a certain way, you need to do it that way. You do not have to do it like then forever and always, but at least when you are working for them you do! Also, weddings are a great time to DISCREETLY ask questions or for tips from your first photographer. Typically they are willing to help as your knowledge and know how will reflect in the photos you take.

The last thing that marks a great photographer is how often you use your skill. Are you only breaking out your camera for weddings? Does it collect dust during off season? That’s a huge no no. You grow as a photographer by using and perfecting your skill, and when do you not have a lot of down time - during a wedding or session. So get out and use your camera! Offer to photograph your friends, or take your pet outside. I have even photographed cracks in a side walk to work on focusing and composition.

Give A Better Service

Before shooting weddings I assisted wedding photographers by carrying bags, styling and gathering family and I have been a third shooter and both things have given me a huge advantage. I get to see other people work! I can now quickly tell the difference between someone who delivers a service and who delivers a great service with a cherry on top. Bare with me, but just giving a little bit of yourself is literally the key to delivering great service, but here are some great ways to really make a difference.

-Show up on time. If you can be early, but not to early because then what makes it important for clients to pay for certain amounts of time. By being on time you already seem reliable, which creates a level of trust.

-Be prepared. Did you not read the timeline beforehand? Why not, it takes two seconds. If you did you would’ve known the bride’s mom recently passed and you wouldn’t of asked where she is five times in the bridal suite.

-Introduce yourself. Better yet a GOOD main photographer will introduce you when they introduce the team. But a simple “Hey guys, I’m Melissa and I am your second photographer today. I take a lot of candids so pretend I’m not here, but if you would like something posed feel free to ask! If you need anything from tying your tie, to pinning on boutonnieres to needing a band aid please ask, I’ve shot over 100 weddings and at this point I’ve seen it all and I probably can help find a solution!” I literally say this word for word in every grooms suite because they get a run down of candids and posed photos, that I am there to HELP them and my experience helps define my skill level and normally helps aid in conversation if they feel it’s necessary.

-Be on THEIR side. Is it an amazing sunset and the photos could be used to rebrand your website but they would rather dance the night way? Yeah, let them dance. Does the bride not want to wear her veil and asks if it has to be in photos? Consider it gone if she doesn’t like it.

-Be their to confidently help. Small positive comments and gestures are going to go a long way. Complimenting brides on their appearance, telling grandma it’s okay she moves slow and offering to hold the maid of honor’s emergency bag is a great way to be nice. However I have assembled cupcake towers when caterers went AWOL (see the photo below), driven groomsmen to the venue when their car broke down, carried the brides baby when they were getting couples photos and even set up about 100 chairs at a venue because they were understaffed. Yes, you are there to take photos, but you are also paid for a service. Blow your client’s or main photographer’s mind.

-Help find family. During family formals try and “make friends” with some family from each side that can help you find the family on your formal shot list. Then get ready to yell out family member’s names and have your next shots lined up. The quicker family formals are done the quicker you can get back to photographing bridal party and couples portraits!

- Say goodbye. Before you pack up your things, five minutes before your exit time say goodbye to the bride and groom, but also ask if there is anything else they need. Sometimes they may have a final shot that want with a family member that you’ll need to capture, but also checking in with them is what will define your service and leave a good taste in their mouth and a great close to your service.

Photo Source: Sarah Michele Photography

Photo Source: Sarah Michele Photography

The wedding industry is hard and tiring, but it is also really rewarding and the fact that I get to make a living photographing beautiful events is an amazing blessing. I take a lot of pride in my work and I WANT to be better and I want to be an amazing second shooter. These points hopefully help you look at your own work and see where you can do better, but I am in no way an expert or a phenomenal photographer who works perfectly at every wedding. I am far from that, I simply think that even trying to give more and work better is the start of a great change!