Second Shooting

Taken while second shooting for Isabel March Photography this past summer

I thought I would dedicate a post to second shooting specifically on how to get opportunities, tips to keep in mind when serving as a second shooter, and some helpful tips when serving as the primary in dealing with second shooters.


1. Network.

I can not stress enough how important networking is to your business. People often overlook it, thinking that fellow photographers are competitors and not colleagues. We are here to help each other and learn and grow from one another. All my second shooting jobs were gained through networking. I was very lucky to have taken Isabel March’s wedding photography workshop last year where I met a host of photographers  that would later become my friends and with whom I would second shoot for throughout the wedding season. Get out and go to local photography events in your area and don’t be shy about making friends with fellow photogs.

2. Have a base portfolio to show

You need to have some way to show your past work and what you are capable of to photographers you want to shoot with. I recommend starting a website whether it’s as simple as a Tumbler site, Blogger blog, or Flickr photostream but at least have some form of portfolio to show.  I understand that having a limited portfolio may be discouraging and work against you (obviously you are trying to second shoot to expand your portfolio … duh!), but choose some of your best shots and highlight them. Explain where you are in terms of experience and what you are hoping to get out of second shooting. Some photographers only hire seconds that have ample experience, however, there are many that are willing to work with less experienced shooters in order to help them get a foot in the door.

3. Have the correct equipment

You don’t have to have a full multitude of lenses like a pro but you should have a pro or prosumer body and at least two professional quality lens and a flash. If you don’t have it then rent it, but chances are slim of you landing a gig with only a kit lens and an entry level DSLR.

3. Ask

There is never any harm in asking area photographers if you can second shoot for them. The worse someone can say is no. You may not get an opportunity to be a second shooter, but they may ask you to be a third shooter or an assistant for the day.

4. Be flexible

If you can’t second shoot on a wedding try being an assistant or second on a portrait session. You can still gain invaluable experience from shadowing on these types of shoots


1. Leave the ego at home

Second shooting is a humbling experience. You are there to make the life of the primary shooter easier, which means sometimes carrying bags, playing gopher, being the wrangler, carrying lighting, etc. You are in a nutshell the assistant for the day.  So be prepared to do all of this with a BIG smile.

2. You are a representative of the primary shooter

How would it look if  an employee of the Gap showed up to work wearing Anthropologie? A big no no. Think of second shooting the same way. You are there to represent the primary, not yourself. So no self promotion, no passing out of cards, no direct contact with the client after the wedding. I make no mention of my photography business when second shotting, I only talk up the primary shooter. I am their cheerleader for the day. I will hand out cards and speak praises of them. Also no networking with other vendors there at the event. Those networking opportunies belong to the primary.

3. Details. Details. Details.

Look for the details of the day, not just in objects but also in moments. Details that the primary may not be able to get to since sometimes their focus is on the capturing the larger picture –  like a shy flower girl peeking behind a bridesmaids dress, the mother of the bride wiping a tear during the ceremony, etc. I like to think of it as the primary shooter is giving the client an awesome yummy cake and the second is the person who provides the sprinkles on top that gives it that extra special touch.

4. Pay attention

Pay attention to what is going on. Notice what lens the primary shooter  is shooting with, if they are using a telephoto than maybe use a wide or normal lens. Try to give a different perspective as the primary.

While the primary is doing portraits or group shots, look on the sideline for interactions between family members and the bridal party. These are perfect opportunities to capture candid moments.

Also try to stay out of the frame of the primary shooter.

5 Do something different

Second shooting is a great opportunity to stretch yourself creatively. The primary shooter is always going to get the main or “easy” shot. Getting a different perspective is sometimes incrediblely hard but challenge yourself to do it. The primary is not looking for duplicates of the same shoots they got.

6. Ask upfront the stipulations and terms

Ask what the terms of the contract are for second shooting. Will you be compensated? What restrictions are there in using the photos?  And these terms should all be laid out in a written contract/agreement the primary provides to you.

7. Ask for feedback

You are there to learn from the experience. Ask the primary a couple of days after the event for constructive feedback, what you did well, what are areas of improvement, etc. Sometimes in the rush of the day you may not be able to ask technical questions, save them till after the event and ask the primary then.

8. Be honest

If you don’t know how to do something say so , so the primary is not relying on you for something critical that you are not able to do. But this falls into clearly explaining your experience in background before hand so the primary has realistic expectations of your capabilities day of the event.


1. Be organized

Provide a schedule and detail of the event as far in advance as possible. There is nothing worse than walking into a situation blind.

2. Communicate clearly and level set expectations

Clearly convey what role and responsibilities you want the second shooter to perform the day of the event. I know sometimes things change on the fly , however, if there are certain things you know ahead of time that you want the second to cover or capture let them know.

3. Provide feedback

If the second is a newbie, give constructive feedback from the day. Don’t just take their pics and say goodbye. I am sure the feedback would be most welcome.

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