How to Be a Second Wedding Photographer?

Beginner Wedding Photographer

Second shooting is a fantastic way to venture into the wedding photography world. It allows you to practice your skills while also networking with local photographers and vendors. The relationship you build while second shooting can result in lasting gigs with your lead photographers and hopefully even referrals! To ensure you impress your lead photographer and have them come back to you for future work, below are some tips for giving you a leg up!

Being a second photographer is a great way to taste what wedding photography is all about without the pressure of doing it entirely on your own. Second, photographers are super crucial to many pro wedding photographers who want to make sure every detail is covered. But what exactly is a second photographer, and how can you be a good one? You’ll find that expectations vary from one photographer to the next. It gets confusing! Looking for the best Wedding Photographer in Melbourne? Check out our ultimate list here. 

Want to begin a career as a photography assistant? Are you an accomplished amateur photographer and want to venture into the world of wedding photography as a second photographer? Consider these recommendations on what to (and not to) do.

Before the wedding

Ask questions 

Make sure you communicate entirely with the lead photographer before the day of the wedding. You do not want to show up on the wedding day without knowing key details and expectations. Here are a few questions to ask the lead photographer before agreeing to be a second photographer:

  • What equipment do you expect me to bring, and will you provide any equipment?
  • Can I use the images I create for my portfolio?
  • How do you want me to deliver the images?
  • What is the pay rate for the day?

Prepare

You can do a few things to impress your lead shooter and set yourself up for success. Before the wedding day, ask your lead shooter which photos they’d like you to focus on- this will usually include the Groom details & getting ready in addition to other parts of the day.

Then ask for a sample gallery of theirs so you can see how your lead likes to have these photos taken. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Other things to ask your lead:

  • Are there any other unique things about the wedding that you should be aware of that may not have already been mentioned, such as family issues, fine details, or backstory on the couple?
  • Do you have a preference as to which lenses you’d like me to use?
  • Do you have a preference for how I dress? (Some leads may want you to come dressed like a business professional, while others are more laid back. Remember you are representing their brand, so when in doubt, dress professionally!)
  • If I am shooting cocktail hour solo, what sort of images would you like? (Your lead may send you to capture the guests at cocktail hour while they shot Family Formals. Some leaders prefer more candid photos, while others want posing, looking at the camera shots of the guests)
  • How would you like me to share the images with you?
  • How will I receive my payment from you?
  • Are there any notes about parking or the venues you’d like me to know?
  • Would you like to meet up before sync our camera clocks?
  • If you have a dietary restriction, now would be a good time to give your lead a heads up to tell the coordinator who is organizing vendor meals. Don’t wait till the day of the wedding to mention this!

Don’t forget to print out the timeline and family formal list and save a photo image copy to your phone in case that paper gets lost during the day.

Know the lead photographer’s shooting location.

Wedding Photographer

One of the best ways you can help your lead is not getting in any of their shots. If they move around the dance floor during a first dance, make sure you are not moving in the same direction. Often leads are so focused on their couple that they won’t always notice their second photographer. It’s best then to notice where your lead is shooting and make sure you are not in their shot. If you see them on your camera, they will see you in their photo.

Dress for the job.

Remember to dress appropriately for the situation. If you rarely dress in all black as some photographers like to, dress as though you were going to be a guest at the wedding. 

Pro tip

Make sure nothing you’re wearing could lead to a colour cast. Anything too bright may reflect on the couple, mainly if you’re shooting at midday. If you’re not sure what to wear, always ask your leaders for their thoughts and advice.

During the Wedding

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Your lead has a lot to worry about and think about on their client’s wedding day. The last thing they want to be added to their plate is worrying about their second shooter. So it’s always best to be super communicative with your lead throughout the day! Text your lead when you are on your way to the first venue of the day (be sure to leave early to accommodate for parking & traffic!), when you arrive, and if and when you go for the next venue. Always reach out if you have questions.

The lead photographer needs to communicate with the second shooter. You must know precisely what is expected of you. Discuss the wedding with the lead photographer. Be ready for any scenario that comes up. Assist the main photographer whenever possible, but also aim to take pictures on your own.

Behave professionally

If you are uncertain about how to get something done, consult with the lead photographer. Don’t be embarrassed to do it in front of others, including the clients. Remember that the lead photographer has the final say in everything during the shoot. If you find a flaw in his plan, let him know discreetly.

Review your images

You’ll need to retake a picture if you miss it the first time around. Even the most outstanding photographers miss shots from time to time. Don’t be discouraged by admitting to missing a shot. You can always claim that someone’s eyes were closed or glare from the sun inhibited the initial photo taken.

Add variety

Your lead usually does NOT want you to capture the same shots as them. You are there to add variety to the client’s gallery, and you aid your lead in anything they need. Be sure to move around when both you and your lead are shooting, such as the ceremony, couple portraits, and the reception. If your lead is focusing close to the couple, walk back and capture a wide shot. If your lead is shooting straight on, try a side angle. When in doubt, focus on any smaller details your lead may miss. Do be afraid to ask, “What would you like me to focus on during the ceremony, Family Portraits, Couple Portraits, Bridal Party, and the Reception?” Sometimes your lead may not want you to shoot at all and instead help coordinate, such as during the Family Formals, and that’s okay!

Keep your lead hydrated & fed!

As a lead photographer, your primary focus of the day is capturing your couple. It’s widespread to forget to eat and stay hydrated throughout the day! It’s so helpful to have a second shooter who anticipates their leads needs and offers to fetch water and check-in about vendor meals.

When there is a suitable lull in the day, find the venue water station and check in with the coordinator overseeing meal service. When mealtime comes, offer to cover the reception first while your lead grabs a quick bite to eat and then switch out. 

Bonus tips: never drink alcohol at a wedding unless your lead mainly permits you. If you want to be even more thoughtful, offer your lead some mint after dinner!

Be a great partner to your lead photographer.

Remember that you are there as a representative of your lead photographer’s business, not your own. It is not appropriate to solicit work from any of the guests or families in attendance while working for another photographer. You are not there to create images for your portfolio (though bonus, you probably will!), so it’s best not to stand in the same position or shoot with the same lens as your lead. This will lead to duplicate shots and a lack of variety.

Instead, you have the freedom to move around a bit and get more creative! Grab whatever moves you. Often, second photographers will be tasked with photographing the groom getting ready while the lead works with the bride. This may also include some formal poses with the groom and groomsmen.

Looking for a wedding photographer in Melbourne? Look no further. Vines of the Yarra Valley has compiled an ultimate list of wedding photo companies to help you choose. 

After the Wedding

Respect their sharing and crediting rules

Photographers have a wide variety of wishes for how they may or may not want their seconds to share photos from that wedding day. Be sure to ask your lead exactly how and when you are allowed to share these photos. Nothing is worse than the bride seeing a sneak peek from the wedding day from the second shooter first. If the lead wants you to wait 30 days before sharing, set a reminder on your calendar and wait it out. Also, be sure to ask how your lead wants to be credited! Most will want you to mention “Second Shot for @yourleadsprofile” in your social media captions.

Remember to have fun!

Wedding days can be long and exhausting. The bottom line is that it’s your job as a second photographer to support your lead photographer and capture all the love and happiness of the day for the couple and their family. A smiling, happy second photographer can take the pressure off the lead and leave the couple and guests feeling great about their photos.

Wedding days are full of smiles and joy and love! You get the opportunity to witness the beginning of a couple’s life together, so remember to enjoy yourself, too.

Bonus Tips:

  • Ensure you never hand out your biz card. Instead, ask your lead for one of theirs to keep in your pocket in case someone asks!
  • Ask your lead if they’d like you to take any “Behind The Scenes” photos of them working.
  • Make sure you aren’t in the background of your lead’s photo! This happens most often during the ceremony if you are both covering opposite sides.
  • Keep an eye out for the little things. If the bride’s dress needs to be fluffed for a photo, or the groom’s boutonnière is crooked, ask your lead if you can jump in to fix it before they take the shot.
  • Help the lead stay on schedule. Wearing a watch and letting your lead know when the next item on the timeline is coming up can be super helpful.
  • Ask for feedback! If you’d like to shoot with this lead again, ask them how you can improve to be a better assistant and shooter.

Tips For How to Be a Second Photographer at Weddings

Wedding Photographer 3

Learn what the lead photographer is doing

Keep your eyes on the groom, bride, and the main photographer. Attempt to ascertain his approach and study it. Make queries about his lens focal length, framing, shutter speed, and aperture. Why is the shooting in a particular direction? Why is he standing for a specific spot?

Study the behaviour of the lead photographer

Getting a great shot is only one aspect of the gig. A wedding photographer also needs to handle the clients’ expectations and engage with them to earn their trust and reassure them. Please make a note of how the lead photographer talks to clients and pay attention to how he approaches people for the sake of taking a picture. Observe his behaviour, demeanour, and dialogue.

Create a powerful portfolio

As a second photographer, you’ll have a chance to work without as much pressure as the lead photographer has and establish your portfolio in the process. Consult with the main photographer to learn precisely what is expected of you.

There will more than likely be opportunities to take pictures of specific items (details, portraits, etc.), as well as some time to take shots of the things you want. As far as you know, only a single photographer may be necessary. You won’t need to shadow the lead photographer to get the same shots. Use this time for personal growth.

The opportunity to select a more artistic perspective

For instance, when the bride walks down the aisle with her father, just one photographer will be required. The bride will need a conventional picture, likely to be taken by the lead photographer. You can use this moment to make an artistic photo. Select an unanticipated perspective, play with shadows, create a reflection – in other words, get creative.

Prepare yourself before the shoot.

As a wedding photographer, you need to adapt to several scenarios and work under pressure quickly. You’ll move from a sunny exterior to a dark church or a peaceful ceremony to a lively dance. You need to make the changes required to adapt to each scenario you find yourself in!

It’s prudent to train yourself before the wedding to develop reflexes automatically. Quality photographers with extensive experience can modify camera settings on the fly. Much like driving an automatic vehicle, you’ll need first to consider what you’re doing while you’re focused on what’s in front of you.

Typical errors to avoid making

Don’t show up in your favourite attire; dress accordingly as per the environment and the event. Be patient. Don’t act like you have all the answers and wait for the right moment to take a shot. In the daytime, synchronize your camera with the lead photographer’s so that all the photos will be organized and easy to sort in the processing phase.

Don’t be in the lead photographer’s pictures and leave him alone (i.e. don’t ask constant questions). It would be best if you weren’t waiting on the principal photographer hand-and-foot for directions. However, if this is your first shoot, it’s okay to ask questions. Don’t get in the lead photographer’s shots. Know where he will be and get his guidance on where to stand.

Before the wedding, ensure your lenses and camera sensors are clean; bring materials to clean your camera. Ensure your battery is recharged; keep a pair of batteries and a charger on standby. Have another battery as a backup in the event the one you’re using fails. Know your camera inside and out. If you’re not sure how to operate your camera on the day of the shoot, you’re not giving the client their money’s worth. It would be best if you were on the ball with your equipment – that’s why you’re being paid. At Vines of the Yarra Valley we have compiled a list of the Best Photographers in Melbourne to help you choose who captures your magical day.

Conclusion

In closing, you can enhance your skills by being a second photographer at a wedding. Take some time to learn as much as you can. By doing so, you’ll be able to take beautiful pictures anywhere, anytime, and build a robust portfolio in the process.

Scroll to Top