Being a second shooter is no easy task. It not only involves a ton of focus on the photographs you’re taking, it also requires focus on the primary photographer’s needs as well. But with this responsibility comes so much freedom in creativity! I second shot Adriane and Tony’s wedding with the marvelous Katie Jackson this June. I have to say, I haven’t been a second shooter in almost 10 years. Since starting my own business, I’ve hired a slew of second shooters and assistants. Currently my love, Shelby, is by my side. His job isn’t as glamorous as you may think. I watch him tirelessly switch out lenses, load my cards, pack and unpack the gear, all while capturing a beautiful second perspective of the day. I guess you can say he’s an assistant and a second shooter rolled into one. I couldn’t ask for a better partner. Putting myself in his shoes for a day with Katie Jackson allowed me to step away from the responsibilities of the primary shooter. I was overwhelmed with the freedom to create something different than what Katie was capturing. Moving freely around our subjects and not having to direct, or think about what was next was exhilarating. I felt no pressure, no need to please, and none of the stresses of the timeline. I was able to more fully engage the artistic element of wedding photography. I really enjoyed this experience and trusted Katie to set up the shot in the best way possible, which she always did. In turn, she trusted me to lighten her load by taking getting-ready shots with the guys, individuals of the groomsmen and bridesmaids, and the cocktail hour. What I learned from this experience has made me a better primary photographer and mentor. Thank you, Katie Jackson, for letting me come along side you and to participate in the day. You are so unbelievably talented.
For all of you photographers who may be reading this, here are a few tips and tricks on hiring or being a second shooter:
1. Choose someone whose style and skill set is similar to your own. You may not have the opportunity to hire someone who is also running a full time photography business on their own, as you are. Regardless, choose someone who you not only get along with but someone who can match your style and who will be sensitive to your choices as the primary.
2. Use the same camera platform. Now, this may not be a priority for all photographers, I know. However, I find that if my second shooter is photographing within the Canon platform as I am, there is much less of a discrepancy between the work in the editing process. This applies to color correcting and quality of the photos taken. I require my second shooters to use Canon camera bodies of the 5D Mark ii range or better with lenses that are of the same quality as the contents of my camera bag. Equipment consistency is key because I don’t want to spend more time editing my second shooters images than I do my own.
3. Set a wage you are BOTH comfortable with. Second shooter rates vary with each photographer and project. Communicate your worth as a second so you don’t feel overworked for too little pay. As a primary photographer, pay your second shooters a fair wage based on the amount of the package you are selling to your client. There are many industry standards depending on experience level, work load, and size of the job. However, I’ve found that expected payment for a second shooter can range between $250-$400 for the day’s work.
4. Sign a contract. I cannot stress this enough. COMMUNICATION with anyone you’re working with is so important. Be up front about what you expect. What is the agreed upon wage for the day? How many hours of work are expected? What are your responsibilities? Is the second shooter allowed to use their images for their own businesses? If so, in what capacity? Who retains the copyright and intellectual property of the second shooter’s images? What rules are in place for working environment conduct? What happens if the second shooter violates this conduct? What is the second shooter responsible for if they fail to deliver? You want to have clear answers to these questions for yourself so that you can communicate them to your second long before the wedding day.
For second shooters:
5. Be available to your primary. Remember this is THEIR job. They acquired these clients and are in charge of making them happy. Whatever your primary photographer needs, do it. You’re getting paid to. This means assisting in moments if you have to. Being a second shooter means you’re not above being an assistant at times. If you’re uncomfortable with what the photographer is asking of you, tell them in private, not in front of the client. However, if your contract is clear and concise, you most likely will not run into this problem.
6. Create Variety. Let’s be honest, editing can be tedious, especially when there is a lot of repetition. Move around the primary photographer and access different angles or focus in on some details happening in the background. Whether or not you are using the same cameras, pay attention to what lenses the primary photographer is using and challenge yourself to shoot on something different. This will create variety even if you happen to be shooting from the same direction as the primary.
I hope this sheds a little light on the second shooter experience. You can check out my perspective as a second shooter below!