As a wedding photographer in North Carolina, I don’t always have a second shooter on hand and often prefer to shoot solo. However, there are times when it is critical to have a second photographer on board. Whether you’re trying to build your portfolio and need the wedding experience OR you just prefer to shoot and not have to worry about customer service and the business side of things, knowing your role and responsibilities is crucial in helping the lead photographer.
A second photographer allows the lead photographer to perform at their highest possible level and makes planning the day more effective. They help keep the lead on track, assist, and support the lead. A second shooter brings a different perspective, has different artistic ideas and interpretations, and captures moments that might otherwise go unnoticed.
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Communication is key. There are a lot of specifics to work out, and many photographers handle their second shooters in different ways, so you want to be as prepared as possible. That’s why you need to talk to the lead photographer before the wedding day and ask questions like:
What are you allowed (and not allowed) to do with your images after the wedding? Can you use them in your portfolio? Do you need to mention the lead photographer when you post the images and do you need to state that you were the second shooter? How long should you wait before posting the images? Will the lead shooter credit you when he/she blogs about the wedding? When and how you will get paid? When and how you should deliver the images to him/her?
Be a team player. As the second shooter, you are representing the photographer you’re working for – you are never representing yourself or your own personal business. Your number one priority throughout the day is to represent the lead photographer and their brand. Sometimes this means capturing images that aren’t always the most exciting.
There are the obvious things that make for a good second shooter – a creative eye, familiarity with professional-grade equipment, and Photoshop/Lightroom skills. But beyond that, photographing a wedding comes with a huge level of responsibility and trust.
We must have the ability to anticipate and interpret every moment and every person, in order to get the most authentic results. Some moments call for us to be directing, others call for us to seem invisible. Second shooters must be mature, composed, happy, leaders, in addition to artists.
A second shooter must be able to understand the story that we need to tell. We do that by providing images that capture the smallest detail, images that capture emotions, and big images that can all but tell the story of the day in one shot. It is a dance, and we must both be confident in one another that we know our parts.
Do you want to be an exceptional second shooter?