Last week I chatted to my brides about how important it is for me to have a second shooter at every wedding. They provide essential help and support to my clients and myself. Second shooting is NOT just for beginner photographers! Though, of course, that is a great way to start. Us photographers need reliable, professional, and skilled second shooters just as much as a bride needs that in her lead photographer. I love second shooting for so many reasons! It allows me to watch other photographers interact with their clients. I can try out new creative angles when I’m not the one getting the “safe” shots. And so much more! My hope for second shooters everywhere is that they feel appreciated and valued. BUT! This means that they must take their job as seriously as we do! So today, here is the ultimate second-shooter checklist that every lead photographer wishes their second would follow.
There are a few bases that need to be covered before the wedding day even begins. Open communication between you and the lead photographer is key! If they don’t tell you this information on their own, then be sure to ask questions like:
How would you like your images delivered to you? Should I be shooting on my own card or one of yours?
What can I use these images for? Can I post them on social media? If so, how would you like that handled?
Do you need me to sync my camera’s timestamp to yours?
How much will payment be and when/ how will I be compensated?
Don’t be afraid to ask these questions. They’re important to discuss before you agree to a job.
Usually, the lead photographer begins the day with the bride, while the second shooter begins with the groom and his groomsmen. If you’re a woman, it can be intimidating to walk into a room full of guys – especially when they are all hyped up on wedding day emotions! This can be one of those “fake it til you make it” scenario’s. Show up with a game plan, help those boys stick to the schedule, and be a professional. It’s okay to joke with them! But don’t forget, you’re helping run the show here. Act like it! Most people respect (and listen to!) those that demand to be respected through kind yet firm direction. This is also just one of those situations where the more you do it, the easier it will get!
Obviously when you are with the groom, you’ll be taking shots of his wedding day details, such as shoes, cufflinks, tie, etc. However, sometimes when the schedule gets tight or the timeline runs late, us lead photographers need our seconds to run ahead to the next scene. Whether this be getting detail shots of the ceremony location before guests start arriving, or perhaps getting reception photos while the lead photographer finishes family portraits. If you feel this is a weak area of yours, practice! Start looking at reception or detail shots you love and study them. Set up your own sweetheart table at home and shoot until you get angles and images you love!
You would just be the best second shooter ever if you kept us lead photographers hydrated! Remind us to eat a snack or take a sip of water whenever there is a down moment. Help us remember our gear – or better yet, carry it for us! During the reception, offer to cover dancing for 20 minutes so the lead can have a break or eat something! Those little things mean so much and genuinely help the day go smoother (and makes us lead photographers feel a little less chaotic!).
Regroup and make a game plan before each major section of the day. Together, decide where you’ll be shooting from, and who you will focus on, during the First Look, the Ceremony, Portraits, and the reception. Sometimes you can only communicate via head nods and finger pointing, but if it’s something you discussed beforehand, then it’s much easier to understand your lead’s needs!
Sometimes, second shooting means you’ve just got to put your pride aside and remember this is not your client. Today, you do not serve the bride and groom. You do not serve your own business. Today, you’re serving the lead photographer, their brand, and their business. This means, you show up looking like they would want you to – even if that is somewhat different from what you normally wear to weddings. You remind the bridal party, family members, and the couple to always look at the lead photographer (not you) unless they tell you otherwise. When guests ask, you only give the lead photographer’s information, not your own. Never hand out your own business card! Being friendly and polite to guests is okay, but complaining or spending too much time chatting with guests is not okay. Avoid looking at your phone too often (or at all!). Look busy – not bored.
If you follow this second shooter checklist, I can guarantee you’ll have lead photographers contacting you to shoot for them over and over again! You’ll be contributing to making a couple’s wedding day even more special – and you’ll also leave with greater experience and knowledge to bring to your own business! It really is a win-win for everyone.
If you like this Second Shooter Checklist, be sure to check out my other posts For Photographers, such as What to do Before Shooting an Engagement Session. Or, if you need more reasons on why we LOVE our second shooters, check out Do I Need a Second Shooter?