I was so tired. The day was long and the evening longer. My feet hurt and so did my back. But it was the most fun I had ever had on a job. A wedding photographer invited me to tag along at a wedding to see if I’d like it. After that wedding day back in October 2008, I was sold.
When I’m not photographing my own clients weddings, I love to pick up a few second shooting jobs. In fact, I hadn’t even realized it, but as I looked back on projects from 2011, I found out that I took on 20 weddings through second shooting. I highly recommend newer photographers who are thinking about getting into weddings to start with second shooting if you can. I think it’s one of the best ways to learn the ebb and flow of the wedding day and get comfortable with weddings.
How to find second shooting gigs
But how do you find the second shooting jobs? Sometimes easier said than done, right? I’ve received emails about this subject, and figured it needed a blog post.
Well, if you are like me and moved cities without knowing anyone besides her husband, the prospect of picking up a second shooting position can seem totally daunting. First, I recommend seeking out other photographers in your area. This is what I did. I connected with them on Facebook, or invited them to coffee or lunch, or left comments on their blogs. Social media makes it really easy to connect, but the key is to connect in person. Offer to carry bags or assist with lighting. Be willing to do what it takes to snag a job. You may be working for free, but you’re picking up experience. From there, especially if you click with the main photographer, opportunities will pop up. Let me say that it is WAY easier to pick up a second shooting job if you know the main photographer in advance and if they know you do great work.
5 Tips to being an AWESOME Second Shooter
So what makes you an awesome second shooter?
1. Check your ego at the door. For real. Being a second shooter is not about you building your portfolio. Well, it is, but your main priority is working for the main photographer. On days when you are the second shooter, you listen, follow instructions, and fetch things. Be ready and willing. Be helpful. Remember that this is also a learning experience for you. And remember, NEVER hand out your own business cards. Ask the main photographer for a few of their cards in the event that a guest asks you for one.
2. If the main photographer says “jump”, ask “how high?” Okay, this probably won’t be the case, but if the main photographer asks you to set up lighting, do it. If you are asked to grab something from their car, do the errand with a smile on your face. This is the main photographer’s client, and you are working for the main photographer. If you want to be an awesome second shooter, you need to be ready and willing to do whatever they ask. And do it happily.
3. Be psychic. Sort of. As you second shoot more, you’ll be able to do this more and more. Learn to anticipate what the main photographer may need. Sometimes it may just be a bottle of water or moving bags, adjusting the position of a light, or running to the reception space to get photos before guests arrive, but anything you can do to help, is greatly appreciated.
4. Take care of the main photographer. This goes hand in hand with the previous tip. Be sure to do whatever you need to to take care of the main photographer. Whether that’s having their back during the first kiss and shooting what you can, or getting out of the way (sacrificing a potentially awesome shot) so that the main photographer can shoot. If this is capturing the guys getting ready and some group portraits, do it.
5. Capture what you are asked to. As a second shooter, you are there to capture alternate angles and help out the main photographer (especially if there’s no additional assistant, which is usually the case). Don’t get upset if you don’t get an epic shot of the bride and groom. Photos for your portfolio are merely a fringe benefit. In addition to capturing what you are asked to, remember to shoot what you think would benefit the client’s gallery. Sometimes that might be a photo of grandparents or the bride’s college friends.
6. Bonus! DO YOUR BEST. This may seem obvious, but it’s true. Whatever you’re doing, do your best. Put out your best effort and show your value to the main photographer. You never know how your efforts will pay off. Perhaps it’ll be that you get another second shooting job with that photographer, or if that photographer is booked, they could pass you some referrals. Never look at an opportunity thinking it’s worthless. You never know!