So you want to start second shooting...what do you need to know to get started?

Second shooting is a great way to make extra income for your business as well as help grow your wedding photography portfolio and business. Or if you are like me, without the time to commit fully to doing full weddings, but you still love to be a part of the joys and celebration--second shooting can be incredibly rewarding! Wedding Photographers are posting in groups and on boards frequently looking to fill second shooter positions. It is important that you know what questions to ask to make the experience beneficial to both of you. I do not recommend second shooting before assisting as a wedding photographer or acting as a "third photographer" to gain experience first. Take a look at these questions and insights to gain some insights to the expectations of the main you are working under.

What gear do I need to bring?

When reaching out about second shooting opportunities, it is helpful to have a gear list prepared. The type of cameras you use, lenses you have, flash, and accessories are all gear to mention to your main. You will find as you work with different photographers, that there are always preferences. Different camera brands shoot colors slightly different, which is why you often see a brand preference in ads.

Prime lenses are a must for any wedding, and a 50mm and 85mm are among the most common. The 24-70mm is a great versitle option, but some photographers may not like the look of the wider angle photos where distortion starts to occur. Different editing styles often come with different lens preference so it is important to ask these questions.

During the day, it is always good to check with the main to see what lens they would like you to use at any given moment. He or she will likely want you on a different lens than them to create a different vantage point. There are certain scenarios where a very specific lens might be needed. Knowing what venue the wedding is taking place, where the getting ready photos will be, and having an understanding of the space restrictions are really important to prepare for ahead of time. Keep in mind, some churches do not allow photography except from a certain distance.

In terms of SD cards, check with your main to see if you will be using one of their SD cards or your own. For dual slot cameras, I like to use one SD card of the main's and one of mine for backup. Either way, always remember to format your SD cards in camera and shoot in RAW format.

If you are just starting out and have limited gear, there are many places that rent equipment and ship directly to you. This is a great way to try different lens options before you buy. I like to use Camera Lens Rentals and Borrow Lenses.

Wedding dessert table with cake and assorted desserts

How do you like your photographs exposed?

This may seem like a weird question to ask since you are taught to expose properly. However, some photographers like to expose for skin and others prefer to expose for the sky to avoid blown out highlights. A "Dark and Moody" photographer may like to underexpose photos slightly. No matter how your main likes photos exposed, make sure you shoot in RAW in case you under or overexpose an important moment. RAW allows for more data to be saved and that might just save an otherwise unusable photo! It is good practice to periodically check with the main to see what settings they have for certain situations. That is one way to guarantee a more cohesive set of files to edit. Before you begin shooting, you may want to sync your time and date to match that of your mains.

How am I being paid?

It is common practice for seconds to be paid before or on the day of the wedding. Ask your main how they plan on paying you and ask to sign a contract for everyone's insurance. I have read too many horror stories of 2nd's handing over the files at the end of the wedding day BEFORE ever getting paid only to never hear from the main again.

Find out what rate they are paying. Depending on your area, rates may start as low as $35/hr, but I have seen rates as high as $75/hr. I would say $50/hr is a good average across the country, but it depends on your experience and how well the main knows you and your abilities. If you have a few solid galleries of full weddings you have done in the past prepared, you are more likely to get a higher paying gig. Having something ready in advance that shows various lighting situations and details, will show you are eager and ready to get started.

Father of the Bride's first look at bride

How can I use these photos?

Your photo usage should be outlined in your contract with your main. You should never post an image from the wedding if you do not have permission to do so. If your main allows you to share photos on your site and/or social media, do not tag the couple or vendors from the day. It is also inappropriate to share photos of the wedding day before the main photographer delivers the gallery to the couple. Always check with the main and your contract to see the what this timeline is. Some photographers deliver in as few as 2 to 4 weeks, while others make take 2 to 4 months especially during busy season. In any case, a 2nd photographer should never edit and share the photos directly with the couple.

What shots are most critical that I capture?

This is a super important conversation to have with your main before the event. Second shooting can actually add a lot of work to the main shooting so you want to be conscious that you are not duplicating images they are already capturing. A big job of second shooters often includes the groom's getting ready photos and shots of the groomsmen, but they may just want you there while they take them to help assist with keeping things organized and moving with the groomsmen. They may want you to capture the details of the day: the reception, table arrangements, cake and dessert table, signage, etc. Every photographer runs their routine differently so it is important to check with the main to get your expectations.

Along these same lines, it would be good to ask if they want any behind the scenes shots and videos from their phone for Reels or TikTok. This may not seem like something a second shooter does, but in this day and age, these pieces are really important for businesses. Of course, this should not be your main focus of the day, but it is greatly appreciated having these extra images that capture the main in the action.

I'm ready, now what?

Keep in mind, at the end of the day you are working for the photographer and representing his/her brand. Be as helpful as possible! Wedding days are stressful for everyone. Helping keeping the time, grabbing a glass of water, and fluffing the dress can make the whole day go by faster. Put yourself in the main's shoes and think about little things that would be helpful to you.

I have skills in the areas of marketing and graphic design. I am known by others to be a creative and out-of-the-box thinker with innovative ideas. I am knowledgeable in curriculum design and writing and have worked with others across the state to develop new, innovative programs. Additionally, I am looked to by other agents on web design and how to create a website that is easily navigable and user friendly. I have led several trainings on this now. 

Other items to keep in mind...

  • Get a copy of the schedule, know when you are expected to be there and when your time ends
  • Ask for a copy of the family formal list or list of important shots
  • Format the SD in camera if you receive one from the main
  • Sync up your time on all cameras being used and with the main

Table setting featuring greenery, candles, and wine cork nametags
Wedding ring and band in box
Blue couch sitting space in wedding reception space