4 Ways to be a Better Second Photographer | Friday Chatter

Photo by Savannah Smith Photography | savannahsmithphotography.com

Raise your hand if you too are doing a little happy dance that it is FRIDAY! We finally got some warmer weather here in DC, and it felt so good to get outside in something other than my giant puffy coat this week.

Today’s post is something that I don’t think I have ever shared about before— second shooting! Some of y’all may already know this, but I absolutely love second shooting. I think it is an amazing way to learn and grow as a photographer, and it is also a really fun way to support another photographer! I have loved growing my professional and personal community through second shooting over the last couple of years.

When I was getting started in weddings a few years ago, I knew that I wanted to act as a second photographer as much as possible before I photographed a wedding solo. I found a lot of second shooting opportunities on the Honeybook Community, and I can definitely recommend this platform for connecting with other photographers that are looking for second photographers. I recommend commenting on posts from photographers looking for other second shooters. I’ve found just from scrolling myself that posts advertising yourself as a second photographer tend to get lost in everything online.

Last year alone, I second shot 22 weddings. I learned so much along the way and had so much fun cheering on the women that I got to photograph alongside! As a lead photographer, I also got to work with a lot of amazing second shooters too. From being on both sides of the relationship, I wanted to share a few of my favorite tried and true tricks to help you be a better second photographer!

Whether you are just getting started as a second photographer or are looking for a few ways to improve after a handful of seasons, today’s post is for you! I hope you find these four ways ways to be a better second photographer helpful and encouraging!

Set and stick to the guidelines your lead photographer gives you— this includes both before, during & after the wedding!

This one is huge, friends! When you agree to be a second photographer for anyone, you should understand that there is a huge element of trust between both you and your lead photog! Like you would with any session or event, you need to sign a contract. Typically, this will be initiated from the lead photographer that you are working with, but if they don’t offer to send you a contract or agreement, I don’t think it is the worst idea to ask. Being on the same page right from the get go is a great way to kick things off and to guarantee a smooth and easy relationship.

Outline what your responsibilities are. Detail your start and end time and daily rate. Understand what you should wear to the wedding, bring to the wedding, and what your role will be as the second photographer. Define who will retain the copyright of images. Agree upon an appropriate post-wedding image sharing plan. Have it ALL in writing.

I have been so blessed by having the opportunity to work with so many amazing women that have supported both me and my business! It was so valuable to be able to learn from so many talented people while I was just getting my feet wet in the industry here in DC! It was also so great to be able to share images from weddings online after the fact. Not only was I learning, but I was also building my portfolio too!

What is important to remember though is that not every photographer will have the same set of “rules” when it comes to second shooting, especially post-wedding sharing. It is absolutely vital that you respect your lead’s requirements and contracted wishes when it comes to everything from the wedding, especially when it comes to sharing images! It was really helpful to have everyone’s contracted wishes laid out in contract form, especially because I have worked with so many different photographers all at once! (You can refer back to documents if you ever have questions!)

If you take anything from this point, it should be this: going the extra mile to respect another photographer really stands out!

Know that your day won’t be all about photography…

… and that is perfectly okay! When I second shoot, I look at it as a chance to make life easier for the lead photographer. Chances are good, as a second photographer, you will be fluffing dresses, grabbing water, corralling family members and wedding party, running gear to the car (you get the point), all while photographing alongside the lead photographer!

Whenever I second shoot, I always make an effort to see what I can do to make the lives of those around me easier. As a second photographer, the pressure on on me is far less than what the lead photographer is taking on. Yes, photography is a very important part of the day, however, that isn’t your only role. If there are any odd jobs that I can take on to free up brain space for the lead, I look for those. After working with someone a few times, you’ll recognize their rhythms and equipment, and this will become far easier.

While you will be photographing a lot of the day, do know that a significant amount of your day may be dedicated to some not-so-glamours tasks. It is all good, and it is all part of the experience as you dive into the field of wedding photography 💕

Love the clients in a similar way as the lead photographer.

Everyone is different… everyone’s business is different… everyone handles wedding days in their own way. I’m just going to lead this point by saying that. However, I think it is really important that you take the lead photographer as an example and love their clients in a way similar to them. After all… the client hired them for a reason!

Think about it this way… if your lead photographer is a little more quiet and subdued, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense for you to be super loud and boisterous! It goes the other way too! The differences in personalities might confuse clients or may be off-putting, reflecting poorly on the lead. Be yourself, yes, but do take their lead when it comes to client and guest interaction. It should always be obvious that the second photographer is the one in charge!

Personally, I love when my second photographers use my clients’ names, laugh with the group, and go the extra mile to make sure everyone feels cared for— I want everyone to feel like my second photographer is simply just an extension of me and that they can trust them the same way they trust me. I have always had amazing second photographers that do just that! They truly are such a valuable part of my team!

When in doubt, take the lead photog as an example— when it comes to client interactions, wardrobe, shooting style and overall demeanor. Being a chameleon is one of the most vital skills a second photographer, and sometimes that does mean adjusting your personality and stepping back for a few hours!

Photograph for the clients’ gallery, not for your portfolio.

This may seem confusing at first glance, but it is so important to keep on the front of your mind. Yes, you are there to photograph a beautiful wedding, and that is a ton of fun and beautiful and amazing and exciting! BUT, you are also there to ensure the clients are receiving a full gallery from their day. This goes back to the above point. Love the clients in a similar way as the lead photog. (This extends beyond your personality!)

It is important to keep in mind that, as a second photographer, you are there to grab different angles and to be taking on parts of the day that the lead photographer may not be able to tend to (Think: getting ready images while the lead photographs details, slice of life detail shots during wedding party photos, collecting family members for group photos, taking cocktail hour grip and grins while the lead photographs the reception space, etc.). This may mean that you aren’t shooting the most “stunning” parts of the day, but more likely than not, the photos you are taking of the couple’s friends and family will be just as important, if not more important, to the couple! You are there to help the lead photographer deliver a full gallery to their clients. Sometimes that means taking on some not-so-glam parts of the day.

When it comes to shooting together during the day, DO ensure you are photographing different angle from the lead. Try your hardest to avoid photographing over the lead photog’s shoulder. Throughout the day, I’ll typically check in with the person that I am second shooting with to ensure that I am using a different lens than they are! This is a really easy way to change the look of what you both are getting from one time during the day.

Bonus: If your camera allows, you should definitely be shooting to two cards!

Before starting a wedding day, you will definitely want to check in with the lead photographer about the program for the day and their expectations. Definitely take some time to review whether or not you should be shooting in RAW and check in with your camera to make sure that your settings and date stamp are comparable to theirs.

Beyond that though, I have found that it is SO helpful to be photographing in RAW to two cards. This is something that I would recommend to anyone to do all the time, but it really is helpful too when you are second shooting! Not only does recording to two cards ensure that you have a guaranteed backup of your images in case a card goes corrupt, but it also allows more flexibility at the end of the night!

Sometimes offloads take more time than you want at the end of a long day, and it is so much easier to be able to hand off the full card (while still having a backup to hold on to!). I’ll always mail my second photographer their card the following Monday or Tuesday if we need to use this option 😊

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  1. Deborah Fox says:

    Wonderful details and advice. Thank you so much.

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