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by Bart Arondson

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I'm wanting to know what others might say are good guidelines to follow for second shooters? I was asked to be a second shooter for a wedding and I plan to have my own second shooter when I start shooting weddings professionally. I've shot 3 weddings myself so I have a little experience but I would not consider myself a "pro" since I've only had my entry pro camera for just under a year (I have a Canon 60D). I would just like to know what I should expect as a second shooter and what I should offer when I need one.

I know it's broad, but it would be great to know what common expectations are of them/us, and how you might figure what they/we should be paid. And is there a certain amount of shots I should be expected to edit and produce as a second shooter?

Also I'm assuming there is a difference between an assistant and a second shooter? It sounds like there should be. I feel like I'm being asked to do a little of both. The person I'm working with said that she is thinking that I will help watch gear and move people where she wants them to be in family photos and what not. Is that stuff normal of second shooters? I told her that I will be keeping all my gear on me and I recommend that she do the same.

Also I can't really find anything on how the second shooter should interact with the lead photographer. The person I'm shooting with has never shot a wedding before and during the ceremony she said that she wants to shoot them in the center isle while I shoot from the side and then once the bride and groom are up in front she wants me to fall back with her and just float behind her and shoot. Is it just me or does it seem like we are just going to get totally similar shots then? Should I say something? Is it fair to say that I'll stay behind her line but that it might be a good idea for me to move to different angles so we are covering the ceremony from different views?

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This might be helpful: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/7443/… –  TheIndependentAquarius Dec 30 '11 at 11:49
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This is a duplicate of the already great question above. I don't get that you are second shooting for someone who has never shot a wedding before? That doesn't really make sense. Shouldn't it be the other way around if you are the more experienced one(barely)? –  dpollitt Dec 30 '11 at 15:28
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Thanks for that post! I read through the other post and it covered some of my questions but didn't offer (as far as I could find) what second shooters are expected to do. There seems like there is a line drawn somewhere as far as the duties of an assistant and the duties of a second shooter. Is there even a rule of thumb for that or does every lead photographer just decide? –  Lacy2 Dec 30 '11 at 20:33
    
Dpollitt - She was asked to do the wedding (she is a pretty successful portrait photographer and it's her friend who is getting married so that's why) and I'm trying to build my wedding portfolio and experience so I'm happy to go and do that there. –  Lacy2 Dec 30 '11 at 20:33
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This is perhaps an outdated data point, but when we got married, we hired a photographer who was known for her work on B&W film. Her second shooter shot color film, which was nice for all the family members who couldn't fathom why we wanted B&W wedding pictures. –  coneslayer Jan 1 '12 at 1:44

2 Answers 2

It depends on who asked you.

If you were asked by the main photographer, she's your boss. Generally, you do what she asks you to do, and if you have your own ideas, you may express them, but she has the final word - because she has taken the responsibility for recording the event. If she asks you to assist her, so be it - you have the common goal of delivering good photos. Bringing an assistant and second shooter would stretch the budget too far for most couples.

If you were asked by bride/groom, the main photographer is more like a colleague for you - you may discuss ideas with her, but since you have your own promises to keep, you have full freedom of choice as long as you don't get in her way. In this case, it's best to discuss together with the hosts and lead photographer what is expected from each photographer. These agreements may include assisting each other for some critical shots - your common goal is still to ultimately provide memories recorded in the nicest way.

Pay should be negotiated with the person who asked you, and should be such that it feels fair compared to your responsibilities (including how much time you will be expecting to spend during and off the wedding) and how the images will be licensed. So it's a good idea to discuss the pay together with responsibilities and licensing.

When you are the main photographer, you have your own goals for which you bring the other person, and these goals will be basis for your agreements with him/her.

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+1 It would help a lot, too, to become familiar with the primary's style in a general sense -- look over previous albums if you can, and ask questions. As the second, you are somewhat subordinated, but you're also both the solution to the two-places-at-one-time problem and the disaster recovery plan. It's not the time to be making photographic statements of your own -- one or more of your shots is going to have to fit in seamlessly with the primary's. –  user2719 Dec 30 '11 at 23:48
    
Here is a recent blog post on the subject: picturecorrect.com/tips/wedding-photographer-assistant-tips –  MikeW Jan 3 '12 at 5:40
    
Very nicely put. –  AJ Finch Jan 10 '12 at 14:17

Just be there to help

(@Imre nailed this, but here are a couple of extra observations)

The bottom line is to ask what is expected of you before the event. On hearing the answer, you might feel that you don't want to be "second shooter" if the photographer really means "dogsbody".

Other than that, your job is to do whatever will be the most help to the person you are helping. Do whatever will make their life easier and the end product better. If that means holding reflectors and lugging tripods, then so be it. The more help you give, the more likely you will be asked back next time. The guy who throws himself happily and enthusiastically into every task is on my "must hire" list for the next event.

Practically

Here's what I want a second shooter to do when I'm shooting a wedding (or other event):

  • Shoot the posed shots from another angle
    • They're my back-up
    • There is a fleet street saying: "Never set up the shot", because you'll spend your time setting up the shot and everyone else will get the shot. The second shooter can get the shot if you miss it.
  • Mingle and shoot casual images of guests interacting
    • This can be a gold mine, because there are loads of guests and you can't be everywhere
  • Help with all the other stuff
    • This is not glamorous, but having a second pair of hands can save the day. If I've left some kit in another room, but I can keep shooting and let a helper get it for me, how great is that?

I am compelled to humbly mention the time that I was convinced my camera had been stolen, only for one of my seconds to find it lying on a table in the middle of the wedding breakfast... where I had left it.

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When I was a second shooter for a wedding, it was agreed before hand that I would try to get more of the casual shots. Even as you mentioned, a moment may happen while the main is simply trying to get everyone ready for a posed shot and not with his/her camera, but having a second shooter allows it to be captured. –  Vian Esterhuizen Jan 10 '12 at 17:24

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