What to expect when second shooting at a wedding

What to expect when second shooting at a wedding

  • Not everyone is ready right away to be the main photographer at a wedding and take responsibility to get all the key shots and communicate with clients. That’s why second shooting is a good opportunity

Weddings are a beautiful and challenging genre of photography. Being a wedding photographer is a lot of responsibility and requires training and preparation. Second shooting is a great opportunity to get a feel for the genre, watch experienced photographers, obtain knowledge and first hand experience, and enjoy creative freedom at a beautiful event. If you are interested in photographing weddings, being a second shooter is a great place to start.

What do you need to know about the second shooting role?

1. Communication is key.

First and foremost, you need to find out all the details from the primary photographer, including:

  • hours to work
  • timeline
  • what key shots are your responsibility
  • recommended angles and positions (you definitely need to be out of main photographer’s way)
  • pay (it’s possible to be a free portfolio building experience especially if the main photographer wants to check your skills)
  • whether you can use the images for your portfolio (some photographers allow you to use anything right away while others give you a time limit before you can use them, or not allow you to share images at all)

Discuss all these details prior to accepting the job and be sure to arrange a contract outlining all the agreed upon terms of your second shooting role.

Not everyone is ready right away to be the main photographer at a wedding and take responsibility to get all the key shots and communicate with clients. That’s why second shooting is a good opportunity

2. Enjoy creative freedom.

As a second shooter, you have more freedom to move around, see moments unfold and capture them from different angles with a creative eye.

For example, while the main photographer is getting key shots like signing the marriage license and family formals you can easily walk around and capture parents crying, kids playing, grandparents talking or even the bride and groom sneaking a little hug or smile with love in their eyes.

During times like the processional and ceremony, shoot through objects, get reflections, and play with exposure to find a more creative perspective.

Not everyone is ready right away to be the main photographer at a wedding and take responsibility to get all the key shots and communicate with clients. That’s why second shooting is a good opportunity

3. Be smart about lens choice.

It’s helpful when the main photographer and second shooter are using a different focal length to ensure more variety in the final results. For example, while the main photographer is shooting with a long lens like the 85mm or 70-200mm to take traditional portraits of the couple consider using a wide angle lens like the 35mm to capture more of the scene.

Also, don’t forget that you need to have spare equipment: memory cards, plenty of batteries, an extra speedlite, and a backup camera and lenses in case something breaks.

Not everyone is ready right away to be the main photographer at a wedding and take responsibility to get all the key shots and communicate with clients. That’s why second shooting is a good opportunity

4. Help the main photographer.

Your job as the second shooter goes far beyond the role of photographer. You also need to be ready to help the main photographer with holding lights, gathering guests for a photo, carrying bags or chasing down flower girls. Always watch not only the wedding flow but the main shooter, looking for cues that you’re needed to step in and assist in one way or another.

Another important detail is that as a second shooter you are representing the main photographer’s brand. Therefore, it’s really important to dress smart; I would recommend neutral colors and comfortable shoes. You’ll also need to be a people person – friendly, smiling, polite, caring, and helpful. Others around you, including the main photographer, will enjoy your company and you will have a more positive experience if you go into the day with a positive attitude.

Not everyone is ready right away to be the main photographer at a wedding and take responsibility to get all the key shots and communicate with clients. That’s why second shooting is a good opportunity

How long should you be a second shooter?

If you are interested in transitioning to a main photographer role, it’s up to you to decide how long you want to be a second shooter. You can be a second shooter for a few months, a few years or all of your career depending on how comfortable you feel with jumping into the main photographer position. Some photographers even skip second shooting altogether and immediately start as the main shooter, but being a second shooter first will give you invaluable experience and ease the transition to main photographer.

How do you start shooting weddings as the main photographer?

Getting started as a main photographer can be a case of luck, shooting friends’ weddings or friends of friends’ weddings.

It’s helpful if you can get referrals from other photographers and network in local Facebook groups or forums for brides and photographers. Directory listings and wedding fairs are also options for getting your name out there.

And by all means, don’t underestimate the value of good SEO and your online presence. Yes, that includes social media such as Facebook and Instagram.

I wish you a smooth photography journey in this exciting world of weddings!

About the Author:

I'm Olga Levien, a New Zealand lifestyle wedding photographer, wife of kiwi husband and Mama of two little ones. I am originally from Saint-Petersburg, Russia and met my husband overseas in Europe. The next thing I know, we moved to New Zealand (a very beautiful country with wild nature and a great lifestyle). My past teaching experience helps a lot with organising my sessions, I earned my PhD and was a lecture at University. I am a people person, I love to talk and make everyone relax, even in hectic moments! I love to capture beauty in details and harmony in moments. Visit Olga Levien online.
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