There are a lot of great blogs out there there detailing ways to be a great second shooter, but I thought I would share my experience as well!
Second Shooting is when you are hired by a fellow photographer to assist with a wedding.
I got my start in photography as a second shooter for Flip Flop Foto in Auburn, AL back in 2005. I was a young college kid that barely knew what f/stop was and had no idea what to do in manual mode. Luckily, Rob at Flip Flop took a chance on me. Little did I know, I would learn so many valuable photography and wedding lessons from him and Alison Cali of AliCaliPhoto.com. Brad and I owe our start in photography completely to them.
Back in 2005, I had barely been to one wedding so I was in for a whole new experience being a second shooter. I remember my first wedding like it was yesterday.
I got up and met Rob at the photography studio around lunch time where I met a fellow second shooter. We followed Rob to a HUGE private family house out in the country, just outside of Opelika, AL. Wearing a pink Old Navy skirt, a black top and PLATFORM SANDALS, I could only imagine what Rob was thinking. Since then, I have learned that if I am to wear a skirt or dress to a wedding, bike shorts and comfortable (but work appropriate) shoes are a must.
Since this was my first wedding, I followed Rob around and he taught me everything from capturing detail shots to knowing that emotional photos are the must have moments to catch.
This particular wedding, the bride rode in on a horse drawn carriage, Cinderella style, while I was positioned out of sight, but up close in the front. My main goal was to capture the ceremony without moving or making a sound. It was hard, and I don't ever care to be a spy...I would make a terrible one, but I succeeded.
As the night progressed, Rob continued to pour his self taught knowledge into us newbies as well as offer helpful tips.
After twelve hours, we headed back to the studio where I departed to go home. The next morning, I woke up with the dreaded wedding hangover. Except - no alcohol was consumed. It's what photographers call feeling like you've been hit by a truck the day after a wedding. Your body aches and you need the entire day to recover. It feels exactly like a hangover, but you burned calories the night before instead of consuming them.
Since then, I've learned how to minimize the hang over. Supportive shoes, hydration and ibuprofen help.
Since that wedding, I have second shot well over 50+ weddings (in addition to all the weddings Brad and I have done as Strouse Photography) and I've started to narrow down what makes a great one.
1. Serve your photographer
My love language is Acts of Service so this is my favorite thing to do. Whatever my main photographer needs, I am their gal. From snagging water to keep the main photographer hydrated to carrying bags to running to the car 7 times (like I did Saturday for AliCaliPhoto.com). I do everything with a smile.
2. Be prepared
Before the wedding, touch base with your main photographer so you know what is expected. Ask the dress code, what their expectations are for you, what the time line is, etc. This is so helpful when you show up because they don't have to worry about you.
3. Respect their wishes
A lot of people second shoot to get experience and build a portfolio. While that is great, sometimes your photographer has in their contract that your images are for them to use and not you. This is completely normal so be respectful of their wishes. You are hired to be part of their company so your work is theirs. Some photographers allow you to use some of the pictures for your portfolio. If so, find out exactly what you are allowed to use, how to post it and when you are allowed to use it.
This also means - don't advertise your business. Don't pass out your cards. Don't post pictures of the wedding couple on your social media. You are part of the main photographer's company for the entire time you are second shooting.
For us, we have a specific style and our own work so we rarely ask to use weddings we second shoot in our portfolio. We want our potential clients to know that the work they see on our blog, website and social media is from weddings and clients we work with directly.
4. Absorb as much as you can
But don't ask questions in front of client and guests. You want the main photographer's attention 100% on their client. During dinner or a quick down moment, ask away, but make sure you help your main photographer focus and try not to distract while you are trying to absorb.
I use every second shooting experience to learn something new. Brad and I have been shooting for over 12 years, but we still learn something new with every wedding, client and shoot. Whether it is a workflow technique, customer service method or a new wedding trend, we treat every second shooting opportunity as a training experience.
5. Keep a positive attitude
You are a 100% reflection of your main photographer's business. Shower everyone from the guests and couple to the other vendors with kindness, respect and a positive attitude. You want to make a lasting impression and help establish your main photographer's business as an incredibly professional company.
Also, your main photographer may have a different method on something. Don't question in a way that is accusatory. ("OMG, why did you do THAT?") It's OK to ask privately when you are genuinely curious because you could learn something new. Everyone has their own workflow and rhythm so although it may look different from what you do, it could help you improve an area of your business.
Those are the basic tips we've learned over the years. What are some other tips you've picked up on how to be an incredible second shooter?
(From the wedding I shot this past weekend with AliCaliPhoto.com! She had two seconds with Carter and myself.)