Being a 2nd Shooter

I recently read a post over at Jasmine Star’s blog where her husband, JD, talked about being a 2nd shooter. In case you all are unaware that I am actually one of WeddingStory‘s 2nd shooter and I do 2nd shoot for other photographers as well, I thought that this post came about as very real and useful for those of you out there who wants to be 2nd shooters as well.

Note that the words in “italic” were taken from the blog post on Jasmine Star’s recent entry.

10. Dress Appropriately
Don’t be afraid to ask the main photographer what to wear on the wedding day. Some weddings are casual, others more formal. The most important thing is to always be a reflection of the main photographer’s attire and blend in with guests as much as possible. I always dress according to the Three Piece Rule: Wearing a tie/jacket/pants or tie/vest/pants…and I guess a jacket/shirt/pants works as well, but Jasmine definitely prefers a tie!

This is one point I totally agree with it. I really dislike shooters who dress so casually for a wedding shoot looking scruffy and untidy! Come on, the bride and groom are dressed so nicely and their guests are all dressed up, coming up for a shoot in your t-shirt and jeans and slippers totally makes you look unprofessional as well as you make the main photographer look bad. Unless the theme of the wedding is jeans and casual wear. But the best possible solution is to follow what the main photographer wears, no, not exactly the same (I don’t wear a dress and shoot!). If the main photographer is going to be in all black, don’t come wearing a chicken suit or a fluorescent glow-in-the-dark shirt (no matter how cool it looks). The keyword is be professional.

9. Same Day Slideshow
If the main photographer creates a same-day slideshow to display at the reception, make sure and find a nearby work station (i.e. chair and outlet). I usually find a place just outside of the reception so we can hear what’s going on and be easily accessible.

Now this is a very subjective matter especially if the main photographer is going to show their same day slide show at the reception area rather than during the dinner event itself. Help set up the slideshow either by preparing the laptop or DVD and making sure that it runs well before the dinner starts. This can be done either with the help of the audio visual crew (usually at the hotel) and the key is to do a couple of test runs. The last thing you want is for the wrong slideshow to be played from the laptop or the DVD just doesn’t work. Also, don’t get too engrossed watching the slide show and feeling good when you see your photos being displayed. You might just miss the moment capturing the guest’s reaction.

8. Gather the Family
It’s so important to help the main photographer during family formal photos. There’s a really short amount of time to execute the photos, so be sure to find grandma and Uncle Kevin (who’s usually at the bar) so the entire group isn’t waiting for one person.

Group shots are always the hardest especially when there is a large crowd. People will be talking and the noise levels just go insane. This is where you can definite help the main photographer to help organize the group, assist the guests by guiding them where to stand so that their faces can be captured and not just part of their ears. You can also help prepare the next group waiting to be photographed or carry lighting equipment during this time.

7. Taking Care of Vendors
During a wedding day, I usually don’t have time to cultivate friendships, but I always make sure to include every vendor throughout the day. If they need anything, I offer assistance. If the vendor dinner is served, I try to make sure everyone knows. It’s small things that ensure everyone feels like we’re on the same team…and there’s a high probability we’ll work together again in the future, so make sure to have everyone’s back.

Definitely a good tip, getting to know the vendors is a great way to widen your network and your connections and offering your assistance can be beneficial as well. But constantly be aware of the time you assist so that you don’t forget your main job. The last thing you want to do is either quarreling with the videographer or worse, the wedding planner! Remember, what goes around comes around. A little help always goes a long way.

6. Offer to Carry Bags
I’m kinda particular about this because it reminds me of my role as a second shooter…to make life easier for the main shooter. I’m not saying every second photographer MUST carry the bags, but it’s nice to offer. I always carry and maintain the main photo bag on wedding days and I know Jasmine appreciates it.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with helping to carry bags! Although I definitely need to learn to balance that together with my own bags but whenever the team is moving from various locations and when the main photographer is taking portraits, offer to carry all the equipment and bags.

5. Get Water
Here in Southern California, peak wedding season is during the hottest time of the year, so keeping ourselves hydrated is very important. I always make sure Jasmine has a cold glass of water waiting for her: 1. Before the ceremony; 2. After the ceremony; and 3. After cocktail hour. Usually these are the hottest (and most stressful) times outdoors because there’s so much juggling going on for her. Every time she finishes her glass, she’s recharged (and in a better mood!).

Water is very important especially when you work in Malaysia where humidity levels are usually off the charts. I usually like to buy extra bottles of mineral water before any shoot which helps keep everyone hydrated throughout the day. Its not guaranteed that you might have easy access to water all day so preparing water beforehand is really useful and helpful for the team. Just over last weekend I had to thank Nigel for constantly bringing water for both me and Grace. It was godsend!

4. Smile
Jasmine usually has to remind me of this one…and when she does, I usually give her a sarcastic smile. In all honesty, I know she’s right. Jasmine reminds me that guests are looking at us even when we don’t realize it and we’re a reflection of the bride’s desire of have us document her dream day. If we look hot, unhappy, tired, or annoyed, it’ll be a poor reflection on our brand. I’ll admit is sometimes hard to smile after hearing
We Are Family…I’ve got all my sisters with me! for the thousandth time that month, but I then smile knowing Jasmine’s probably off dancing with the DJ! (just kidding…i had to throw this in here!)

Constantly be happy, a good impression to your guests as well as to your clients (ala the bridge and groom). What JD mentioned above is absolutely true, do you want to be known as the “grumpy photographer” around? Smile!

3. Find New Angles
Don’t shoot over the main photographer’s shoulder! When I first started shooting with Jasmine, I shot behind her and captured–basically–the same photo as she did. Okay, just not as cool. She finally explained that she didn’t need another version of her photo…she needs an entirely photo of the same moment. I’ll admit this is harder than it seems, but I know she appreciates creativity and a different photo from the exact same moment.

Being a second shooter might depend on your level of skill and what the main photographer would want you to capture. Sometimes I have been given the tasks to take all the official shots, meaning the cake cutting, pouring of the champagne, capturing the official shots of the tea ceremony where I have to get everyone in the shot whilst the main photographer will capture the artistic shots. Other times I get to do both so its good to find different angles, different locations. For example, if your main photographer is shooting downstairs, why not try to take a shot from upstairs (only if that is available but you can change the context to a low and high angle).

One of the first weddings we photographed together, we had another photographer tag along with us. The night was flowing nicely until I overheard the third shooter pass his/her business card to a wedding guest…and passed his/her studio name along. I can’t explain how rude this is. On a wedding day, a second and third photographer is just that…an accompanying photographer to the main photographer’s studio. If a guest asks for a business card from a second shooter (which happens often!), the second shooter should
always pass along the main photographer’s business card. Period. The end.

I’ve actually experienced this quite a number of times before where I have been second shooting for another photographer and when the guests seen some of the photos especially after the slideshow was shown, the one thing I always ensure is that you carry cards of the main photographer around to pass it. If you don’t have, kindly tell the guest that you will get back to them with the card (which is what I do most of the time). Giving your own card really does portray you in a very bad light.

1. Leave Ego at the Door
This one doesn’t need much of an explanation as it’s more a rule for life in general. Just remember, as a second shooter, your number one goal is to shoot the best you can and make the main photographer’s life easier…even if it means missing the best photo opportunities at the wedding. Yes, everyone prefers to shoot the bride getting ready, the bride and groom portraits, and getting the First Kiss standing in the center of the aisle. But chances are, it ain’t gonna be like that. So own what you got and make it work. In the words of my main photographer and mentor,
“Just be FABULOUS!” 😉

If you got an assignment to do, make sure you can complete it to the requirements that were given to you. I know everyone wants to create those beautiful shots but if your job is to help carry bags, swap lenses and carrying lighting equipment, do it well and don’t sulk. If your job is to take group photos and get the photos printed, do it to your best ability and with the right ATTITUDE!

With all of my comments, I believe that every one of us is constantly learning and it is through the right ATTITUDE that we can excel in what we hope to achieve.

If you want to read another article written by another assistant, I was quite lucky when today’s guest blog on Kelby’s blog was from Drew Gurian, Joe McNally’s assistant. Check it out in the link below.

6 thoughts on “Being a 2nd Shooter”

  1. Mark,

    This is why you are one of the most important contributor to Wedding Story. You are always thinking as you go and strive to become better every time.
    Appreciate you LOTS LOTS LOTS!

    Kee Sitt

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