Tips for Second Shooting

A shared blog by Oak+Olive Co. and Hannah Love Yoon Photography

We wrote this blog based on our own experiences, both of working together at weddings + shooting with others and swapping stories. Of course, you as a main photographer (or second!) might approach this differently, and that’s great! Overall, we think communication is the most important thing; set expectations, and as long as those are respected it should be a great experience.

This article, though beneficial to those looking to second shoot, is also very much for those hiring second shooters. Our mindset: When you’re an employer and you hire, it’s not the employee’s job to ask “so what do i do here?”. It’s your job to tell them “this is why we hired you”.

 Same moment, but both photographers stood in two different spots and used different focal lengths

Same moment, but both photographers stood in two different spots and used different focal lengths

Second shooting.. Most of us have probably done it and needed someone to do it with us. When you have a good person with you, it makes a long day so much easier. You have a friend and a comrade with you to support you.
However, this relationship doesn’t necessarily come together on its own. Even an accomplished second shooter will need to have expectations set while working with a new main. (Sounds obvious, but that doesn’t always happen!)
We think the responsibility should be on the primary photographer to be clear on what they want and expect from their second shooters. This doesn’t need to take a lot of time, but sharing the how-to-work-with-me guidelines will help work out any discrepancies before the day even starts, and hopefully end up making the experience a win-win for everyone!

 Two different photographers, but the second went to a different spot to get a totally different view.

Two different photographers, but the second went to a different spot to get a totally different view.

Before the Wedding

We often hire second shooters based on their portfolio (or even, how much we admire their instagram feed). But their success in their own style doesn’t necessarily translate to providing you with exactly what you are looking for.

We know everyone approaches the wedding day differently. Some are drawn to candids, while others are drawn to details.

If we, as the primary photographer, aren’t clear with what we want photographed, the second could easily spend the day capturing things that won’t be complementary to the gallery and your client’s expectations.

Communication is key. Loving someone’s portfolio, knowing they have great gear and will love your clients will only get your partnership so far. Explain your style and what your priorities are for the day. Sharing a full gallery to your second can be helpful for them to see an indepth look at your style from start to finish. Provide some notes to help them understand what you deliver to your clients. It’s best to be direct and very clear with what you want. (want the groom details shot by a window? Tell them. Want a good reaction shot of Grandma at dinner? Tell them). Tell them what gear you use (and expect of them), what light you seek out and when you think it’s time to pop a flash on.

We have found a contract to be vital for keeping things professional and everyone on the same page. Even though we are friends, trust each other and shared guidelines ahead of time, we still signed a contract to ensure that we had documentation of the expectations that were given. From pay rates, to delivery of files, to image use, to post-wedding relationships with the clients; it’s all written out and agreed to for us to reference.

 The photographers were in two totally different spots and even used different lenses and focused on a different view to provide very different images.

The photographers were in two totally different spots and even used different lenses and focused on a different view to provide very different images.

Seconds, especially those just starting out: when you hear about the wedding and the couple and the barn etc it can be really exciting to think about having those amazing people/details/locations in your portfolio. Depending on your agreement with the first photographer, you might be able to use images in your portfolio, social media, etc. Great! This is an awesome side benefit of second shooting, especially if you are trying to build your portfolio while starting out.

All that being said though, please remember that building your portfolio shouldn’t be your prime goal. It’s quite frustrating to work with a second who is trying to get shots for their website, and as a result overlooks what might be most valuable for a client. Perhaps shooting candids at cocktail hour doesn’t seem like the most glamorous job if the main photographer is out shooting portraits. At the end of the day having those memories captured is a value-add for the client.

Remember that you were hired to accompany the main photographer (and learn from them) and support a couple on their wedding day. Anything else is just gravy.

 Th second photographer snaps a similar photo to main photographer. still a beautiful photo, but not really a value add for the client.

Th second photographer snaps a similar photo to main photographer. still a beautiful photo, but not really a value add for the client.

During the Shoot

An important note for second shooters, especially if you’re just starting out, is to remember you are there to supplement and provide different images for the primary photographer. For example, it’s probably best not shoot over our shoulders. Just to put it bluntly, we will not be giving the client a second copy of a photo that is shot at less of a good angle. While it can be tempting to shoot a cool pose that the primary just set up, if you’re shooting over our shoulders, you’re shooting for yourself, not the client. Find a different angle, and if doesn’t exist, find a different story to capture. Get the details while the primary may be focusing on a wider shot.

Second shooting is an opportunity to let creativity shine. The primary might have assigned you certain responsibilities - such as shooting groom prep solo - but in our experience, most of the day is spent with the freedom to shoot what you think is interesting/adds value to the client gallery.


Remember, you are there to compliment the main photographer’s work.

There are countless different storylines + moments happening on a wedding day - find the ones the main photographer may not have the opportunity to see, and document. Pay attention to where the main photographer is and go to a completely different spot. Go behind, go around, go up, go down - go anywhere the main photographer isn’t.

 Th second photographer changes their angle and decides instead to tell two different stories; a shot of the main photog at work, and some detail shots

Th second photographer changes their angle and decides instead to tell two different stories; a shot of the main photog at work, and some detail shots

After the Shoot

Don’t become friends with clients on facebook, or start following them on instagram. It is true that many clients might search you out and start following you on good ole social media. Realistically there is very little to prevent that, and it is nice to see our clients supporting our photography friends! But remember that your job was to show up, shoot, and pass your files to the main shooter. The main shooter will go on to take care of the client, to craft and curate a gallery for them and make sure they feel celebrated as clients. Some mains might choose to do that by befriending clients, and others may not. Either way, you have fulfilled your part of the job - so leave the client management up to the person who booked the clients.

Feedback

One of the most important steps to take after shooting a wedding is to seek feedback or give feedback.

While delivering feedback may seem intimidating, if we plan on working with our second again it’s good to take a step back and say “hey, this is what went well… and this is what we should change up for next time!” For us, this has meant commenting on camera settings, on positioning, on cropping and framing.

Feedback doesn’t mean just the negative either; we have found things to praise just as easily as we have found things to tweak for next time.

On the flipside, as a second photographer, requesting feedback on your images is another way to take advantage of second shooting as learning experience from a different photographer. Whether you’ll be working together again or not, receiving feedback can give you a new perspective on your work. And of course, you don’t have to agree with everything the primary tells you, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in it.

If you get to keep a copy of the files as a second photographer, make sure to cull the images for yourself, or at the very least take a good look through all of them. While you may only end up pulling one or two beautiful images to use for your portfolio, you won’t learn anything about how you actually contributed to the gallery unless you look. As a primary shooter, it’s hard to give feedback to someone who doesn’t know what their images looked like; you might think you nailed the candids when in reality many were unusable. This isn’t glamorous work, but there can be so much learning in this space. Take advantage of it!

 Go far or go close, but find something different from the primary. This is how you add value to the gallery for the client.

Go far or go close, but find something different from the primary. This is how you add value to the gallery for the client.

Ultimately, the second shooting experience comes down to communication. Setting expectations before and signing a contract for reference; being attentive during the wedding and supporting the main photographer + clients; following up with or requesting feedback on the whole set of images (and not just the “pretty” ones!).

This list isn’t everything - please feel free comment on your experience and offer other insights. We’re all in this together!