Before I photographed a wedding on my own, I worked as a second shooter for a couple of different photographers, just to get a feel for what wedding photography entails. The second-shooter experiences really helped me learn the ropes, and now, I am completely comfortable being the primary photographer for weddings. My husband is also a photographer, so when I shoot a wedding, he is my second shooter, and when he photographs musicians (his specialty) I second shoot for him. If you have been hired for a second shooter job, here are a few tips to make things run smoothly, whether you are photographing a wedding or a different type of special occasion:
1. Do Your Research – Getting to the venue early and having a grasp on the lighting and scenery will help you work out any kinks that might affect your photos. If it is a large venue, you’ll know you need your zoom lens. If the lighting is dim, then you’ll be prepared to adjust your cameras settings ahead of time, and possibly set up any lighting you may need. With this approach, you’ll be sure not to miss any of the action while you are problem solving.
2. Coordinate – If you are shooting a wedding, the wedding coordinator will be your best source of information. They will be able to tell you the exactly where the bride will be entering, and give you details on the post-wedding schedule: toasts, first dance, bouquet toss, etc. Be sure to relay this information to the primary photographer, because they may not have a lot of time to cultivate a rapport with the wedding coordinator.
3. Corral People – This part is very important! The primary photographer is going to be very rushed and preoccupied during the formal, posed portraits, so as they are photographing friends and family, be sure to have the next set of people lined up and ready to go. Time is a very precious thing when shooting a wedding or big event, so you want to make sure that everything moves as quickly as possible for the photographer. Having a few minutes left over for a breather here and there will keep you from getting tired early in the event.
4. Keep Your Distance – Don’t hover too close to the photographer. Part of your job as second shooter is to capture candid moments, and different shooting angles than the main photographer. You need to do your best to photograph everything they do, but with a different spin on it, so that if the photographer does accidentally miss a key shot, your photo will save the day! Also, be sure to capture the detail shots – flowers, centerpieces, programs, etc.
5. Be Ready – Even if you are keeping a little bit of distance between you and the photographer, keep your eye on them in case they need anything – new filter, lens change, new battery, or a new set of people to photograph.
6. Dress Code – Even though you’re second shooter, you should make sure that you are dressed professionally. As second shooter, you are not only representing the photographer who hired you, but you’re representing yourself to potential clients.
7. Speaking of Clients – This is not the best place to advertise your own photography. If you have been hired as a second shooter, you owe it to the photographer who hired you to let this event be their moment to network, so do not hand out business cards. Your time to network will come, but for now, just concentrate on the learning experience. It can be humbling to be a second shooter, because naturally, you want to promote yourself, but for now, just enjoy the experience of second shooting.
8. Have Fun – Believe it or not, guests look at the photographers when you’re least expecting it! It may feel like they aren’t aware of you, but subconsciously they are seeing you. You’ve heard it a thousand times, but really, be sure to smile. Nobody is going to want a frowning, seemingly frazzled photographer taking their photo. Just relax, stay focused, and have fun!