How to be the Best Second Shooter you can be!
One of my favourite things to do is to second shoot for other photographers on wedding days! For me, it encapsulates all my favourite things about being present at a wedding (meeting new people, celebrating love & being behind the camera!), without having to do any of the admin after... a win, win!
After several years of doing this and lots of positive feedback, I like to think I'm quite good at it. So, please scroll down for my top tips on how to be the best second shooter you can be!
Thank you to Adam Bird Photography for having me second shoot at this gorgeous wedding at Butley Priory.
1. Nail That Morning Prep
If the couple has requested a second shooter, it's more than likely because they want both wedding parties photographed in the morning while wedding preparations are going on. If you are already a seasoned photographer, you only need apply what you already know! If you are new to wedding photography and using second shooting as a way to get into weddings, it is definitely worth doing the research and asking your main photographer for their preferences and advice. But a few basic things to note are; always use the room with the most natural light, ask everyone to get ready close to windows or open doors, encourage everyone to keep the rooms as tidy as possible and make sure you capture all those details such as the buttonholes, cufflinks, jewellery, perfume, shoes etc.
Oh, and if the rings are with your side of the wedding party, make sure you absolutely get a shot of those too!
If there's time and everyone is willing, make sure to get a 'pre-ceremony' portrait of your half of the wedding party - it's likely your main photographer is doing the same on their end! I was very fortunate to have a great group of groomsmen who were very game for having their photo taken. These gorgeous steps at the Butley Priory cottage made a stunning backdrop.
2. Get Those Establishing Shots
While your main photographer is running around capturing the busier of the two wedding parties, it will likely be your job to make sure you capture the details of the empty ceremony room before guests start filling it up. Co-ordinate with the venue staff and any florists/decorators and snap away as soon as it is finished. Likewise, it is a good idea to take a walk around if there's an opportune moment to get establishing landscape shots of the venue (and the cake if it has arrived).
If the wedding day is happening all in one place, it is likely your main photographer will have done this themselves for their own peace of mind, so communication plays a big part. But, if their preparations are taking place elsewhere, these are shots you have to make sure you capture!
3. Mirror your Main Photographer During the Ceremony
Ceremonies can be quite cramped in certain venues or churches, so sometimes you may end up stranded in the back of images. However, it is your responsibility to make sure this happens as little as possible. When I second shoot, I keep one eye on the ceremony and another on my lead photographer. If they have their lens angled on a close-up of the happy couple, I generally know its safe to shoot from the centre at the back of the aisle. If they move to get more central themselves, (to capture one partner walking down the aisle, for example), you better hightail it out of the way so you don't ruin the shot.
Speaking of the aisle shot, your lead photographer will love you if you can hide to the left and get the reaction of one partner watching their other half walking up the aisle. All the guests should be should standing at this point, which will help cover you.
If a speaker comes up to the dias and your main photographer doesn't have a good angle, this is your chance to jump in and get better framing. If you are present at an outdoor ceremony, there is a lot more freedom for everyone to walk around and the same rules apply. If the main photographer shoots from the left, shoot from the right etc. If you are working with a new photographer for the first time, it's a good idea to have a quick chat about where they expect you to be or where they rather you weren't.
Lastly, this is a great opportunity to get a gorgeous wide-angle shot of the first kiss! Again, check with your lead photographer beforehand, but this is my go-to trick as a second shooter.
4. See Things From a Different Angle
Actually, the above is a good rule to apply for the entire day; if your main photographer is one place, be in another (but always let them know where you plan to be!). Main photographer taking group photos? Go take candids. Is your photographer capturing the Top Table reactions during the speeches? Focus on the guests! This can be especially great during moments like the first dance. One of you can shoot wide while the other captures close-ups.
Your main photographer will often let you tag along for the couple's portraits. Get creative and test out different angles while your lead photographer directs!
5. Become a Master of Candids
Aside from morning preparations, candids are probably the most important part of your second shooter role. You get to photograph the guests entering the ceremony room for the first time, the excitement before everyone sits down and the celebrations at the reception after the I Do's! As a rule, I aim to get a decent portrait shot of each guest, but those who have been doing this a while know there are always some guests who like to play hard-to-get.
The best tip I can give you for candids is to follow the action. Is there a kid doing cartwheels? Capture the cartwheel and anyone cheering them on. Is there a large group of old friends telling outrageous uni stories to horrified guests? Get those reactions and laughter!
6. Know Your Settings
Each photographer has their own style of shooting. If they've hired you, it's very likely its because you have similar styles and you won't have to change your shooting pattern too drastically, but it's always worth checking which settings they prefer you to use. I personally like to ask to look through some of their galleries before working with someone new incase I pick up on anything they might not have thought to tell me. For example, I work regularly for a number of photographers and I know that one of them likes their dance photos to be direct flash, one prefers their photos zoomed out while another likes to keep them cropped in quite closely. One loves a good establishing shot while other aren't all that bothered. Aperture settings are a big one that change from photographer to photographer! I like to stick around the 2.8 f/s mark, but one of my photographers prefers me to be at 1.8 f/s when I'm working with her.
7. You are There to Make the Main Photographer's Life Easier
This is less of a tip and more of a statement. Make sure you have all the details of the wedding before the day arrives, have your travel sorted and memorise those timings. I have my own mental checklist of shots I would usually take and I always confirm with the main photographer either before or on the day if they want me to stick to that list, add more or not worry about certain shots. Communication is extremely important and you should always know what your main photographer expects out of you. Our main photographer's put a lot of trust in us to help the day run smoothly, and if we cause problems by being unreliable it will not only ensure you never get hired again, but could also impact the quality of the lead photographer's overall delivery.
8. Remember That You are NOT the Main Photographer
This kind of ties in with number 6, but it is important to remember that you are not the main photographer on this wedding day. It should be obvious, right? You would be surprised...
This means you should always listen to your main photographer - if they tell you be somewhere, you better be there! You should always take a step back in situations that don't take two of you. For example, if a videographer is present on the day, it will likely be a very tight squeeze for all three of you to run backwards through the confetti tunnel. Your shots are not the priority in this instance, so step back and make sure those two get the footage they need (this doesn't mean you can't take photos, it just means you might not get the best angle, so get creative!).
And if anyone approaches you about sending them photos, wanting to write reviews or a venue asks to feature your photos after, you should ALWAYS refer them to the main photographer and never take the credit for yourself. After all, they are the ones who will be editing the photos, doing the admin, and who got the damn gig in the first place!
I hope you found these tips helpful! And if you are looking for a new second shooter to bring on board, I am always looking for more photographers to work with!