How to Begin Second Shooting

Let’s be real – it is not the easiest thing in the world to break into the wedding industry. It takes practice, equipment, experience, practice, a great portfolio, and a lot of time. Did I mention it also takes practice?

Weddings are beautiful and they’re so fun to be a part of. The story of two people falling in love and choosing to spend the rest of their lives together is an amazing one to capture! But amongst many other things, they can be unpredictable. You have less control over the light. You have the opportunity to give direction into how the day goes, but once it starts, you have to roll with whatever happens – and make sure it looks great. All that to say – they take a lot of practice, and experience, to be able to give your clients the best possible experience they can receive.

The inspiration for me writing this blog series came from experience. I’ve second shot many, many weddings, and I’ve also shot many, many weddings of my own with a second shooter. When I first began as a wedding photographer, I made plenty of mistakes, and learned from them. When I first began as a second shooter, I made plenty of mistakes, and learned a lot from them too! This series is here to help you as you begin on this journey of getting experience/building your portfolio in the wedding industry.

Second shooting is a GREAT, low-pressure way to gain experience and build your portfolio, while learning from another photographer how a wedding day goes. Some photographers are totally open to having beginners second shoot for them, while others expect you to have some experience on your own.

Tips for Booking Jobs as a Second Shooter

My biggest tip is this – offer your help as an assistant, for free! Crazy right? I know it sure sounds that way! But this will get you a lot of experience and training, quickly. Because wedding photographers make a living producing a quality product that their clients love and trust, it’s not always possible for us to trust someone we’ve never worked with before. But after learning from the photographer you’re assisting, they’re so much more likely to be willing to have you as a second shooter! You may just carry their bag, or they may allow you to shoot (totally depends on the photographer). But the most important thing is, you’re learning!! You’re learning what a wedding day looks like from a photography perspective. You’re learning how to troubleshoot when the timeline gets off track. And most of all, you’re learning how another photographer does the whole thing!! Being an assistant is such a great way to gain experience in shooting weddings!

Next, even if you do have some experience shooting weddings of your own, or second shooting, I think it’s really great to build relationships with photographers around you. Community is so much better than competition, and we all have something to give and something to learn! As you do build that community, second shooting opportunities usually come up naturally through the course of the relationship! You can still offer yourself as an assistant, or if you feel confident in the work you produce, you can even offer to second shoot!

My Personal Process for Working with Second Shooters

  • First, I look at their work. Not just the highlight reel, but full galleries when possible. I look for consistency throughout the wedding day, as well as similarity to my style. I ask what brand of camera they shoot with and what equipment they use.
  • Before I work with anyone as a second shooter, I’ll always have them assist me for a couple weddings. Here’s a few of the things I look for while they’re assisting me:
    • How’s their attitude? Are they willing to do what’s needed to provide the best experience for the couple, or are they only trying to get the perfect shot for their portfolio?
    • How do their photos turn out? Are they properly exposed? Good composition?
    • Were they able to keep up with the day and flow as it happened, or did it feel like I was held back?
  • Once I feel like they would be a good fit with me and my couples, I have them second shoot a wedding with me. I walk through the entire wedding day in a meeting with them prior to the day so that we’re on the same page, and then from there, we shoot together!


The Biggest Key

Here is the biggest key with breaking into the wedding industry – we’re there to serve. The day isn’t about us, or what we can capture for our portfolio (don’t worry, we’ve all thought that at some point or another). It’s about being there for the couple at the most important time of their life, and capturing moments that they get to keep with them forever. It’s about putting the couple first, and making them feel as comfortable, calm, and confident as possible. Because at the end of the day, these are the photos they’ll keep with them forever!

April 17, 2019