October 13, 2020
When I started second shooting for people, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I tried to stay out of the way, but sometimes ended up in their way. Sometimes I wasn’t involved enough, other times too involved. I had no idea really what was expected of a Second Shooter and just ran with it.
Fast forward to now and I’ve had the chance to second shoot for a variety of photographers and to have many different photographers second shoot for me and I’ve learned so much more of what to do, and what not to do!
So here are 5 do’s and 5 don’ts of being a Second Shooter!
Get shots not only of the Primary shooting, but also get shots of them interacting with people!
The Primary photographer is the main photographic focus of the day. Even if they have a killer pose set up that you are dying to have the straight on photo of, that’s not your job. Put that pose in your mental file cabinet for your next gig, and work to get a creative angle to their shot.Get up higher, shoot off to the side and zoom in, or even wide angles can give a completely different look to the same pose, giving the Primary more options when it comes time to deliver the gallery.
Here are some of my “tricks”:
If there is a way to get a higher perspective quickly and safely (on a small hill, tree trunk, or wall), I like to try and get these angles while the Primary shoots straight on.
Sometimes the Primary will direct one of the subjects to look off to the side, so I like to go get in their line of vision and get a side portrait.
Stand 90 degrees to the Primary and get some distance shots. I don’t ever just take off a ways away so that if the Primary needs me to do anything I’m still close at hand.
Being the Second gives you a chance to try some creative shots and some shots that maybe you wouldn’t have time to try during the session as the Primary. This one above I was off to the side while the Primary shot them straight on, but this gave me a chance to play with the architecture to form a frame and guiding lines.
If the veil is tucked funny, the train needs fluffing, or there’s a branch in the way, help the Primary out with fixing those details quickly. The less they have to pause and break their mindset to smooth a funny tuck, the faster and more efficient it all goes!
If the Primary photographer is anything like me, they are constantly shooting. They get not only the posed shots, but try to sneak in candid shots as much as possible as well. This is hard to do if they are hauling around armloads of bags! Help them move equipment from one location to another so that their hands are free to get those in-between moments!
Often the Primary photographer will be with the Bride and Bridesmaids for most of the day and will need their Seconds to cover the groom and groomsmen until it’s time to bring everyone together. Look up groom detail styling ideas, how to pose groomsmen, learn their names ahead of time if possible, and be prepared!
As I mentioned in Do #2, no matter how beautiful the pose setup is and as much as you want the same shot the Primary is getting, that’s not the job of the Second. Don’t shoot over their shoulder. Give them space to move and to get their shots.
The one exception is when you’re next to each other but getting totally different shots. For example, my Second and I were side by side for the two photos above and below, but one of us was getting the shoes while the other was getting him buttoning his sleeves. Two different shots, but we were both in a similar position. The key is to communicate. “While you get the cuff shots, I’m going to grab the shoes really quick.” That’s all that took, but it let them know what I was doing and alerted them that I was down to the side so we wouldn’t trip over each other.
Seconds, this isn’t your gig. And it can be SO HARD to not chime in, I know. Most of the time the Primaries will give their 2nds a chance to direct the couple and to get a shot. Bide your time until then and then gently direct the couple, take your shots, and turn it back to the Primary. So hard sometimes, I know. But use this time to learn new ideas, take in new tricks, and to make mental notes for the future!
Side story: My good friend was second shooting for me and while we were switching up locations she told me about a pose she saw and thought would look neat for me to try out. Instead, I gave her leave to take direction and direct it. I love the delicate shot she got! While she did this shot, I worked on getting detail shots of the face and veil. If you have an idea, you can ask the Primary in a good transition time (not ever bluntly in front of the couple).
Almost inevitable someone is going to ask who you shoot for or for a business card. Most of the time people assume the two of you work together under one “studio”. Take that chance to build up the primary. You can ask for a few of their cards ahead of time to give out if asked for them. Never give them your business card or promote your business name. “I’m Marquette Mower, I’m here shooting under The Sunshine Picture Project. Erin is the head photographer actually. She’s fabulous!” Turn the attention away from you and to the main photographer, always.
Most Primary photographers have contracts for their Seconds to sign now stating when, where, and how you can post images. If you have questions about whether or not it’s okay to post something, contact them first! If you didn’t sign a contract, make sure you know what the Primary is comfortable with. Everyone is different. Some are okay with posting after a week, some wan a month, some want 6 months. Some are okay with social media and blogs, some only blogs. Make sure you know! When you do post anything you shot as a Second, be sure to give credit back to the Primary, and don’t tag any of the clients. Again, you want to direct as much attention to the main photographer as you can.
Even though it’s “not your gig”, don’t dress down when second shooting. How you act and how you dress will reflect on the Primary. Some have very specific guidelines to follow for dress and appearance. For mine I usually just ask them to dress professionally and modestly. No yoga pants or bed head. No jeans (unless it’s a western casual wedding and you know the Primary is dressing similarly).
You don’t have to dress super fancy, in fact simple is perfect.
I hope these help you! I love Second Shooting. It is such a fun way to build relationships, try out shots I wouldn’t normally try as a Primary, and learn. If you’re dying to try being a Second Photographer, or if there’s a Photographer you’re itching to shoot with reach out! The worst they can do is say, “Thanks, but I’m not looking for a Second right now.” Have fun!!
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