Second shooting an integral part of breaking into the world of wedding photography. Most people don’t want to hire someone to shoot their wedding who hasn’t shot a wedding before. So what do you do? You second shoot. Seconding isn’t just for beginners either, I love to take a break from leading and be a second shooter. There is an etiquette that comes with second shooting that you might not know if you haven’t been a second before or ever hired one. Here are some do’s and dont’s to help you in your quest to be the best second shooter out there, and in turn continue to get second shooting jobs.
I really can’t say this enough. If the lead is holding a bride’s bouquet while also trying to photograph couple’s portraits, take that bouquet and hold it. If the lead is trying to get that killer veil shot, help them achieve it by holding the veil wherever they see fit. While its wonderful to get images for your portfolio by second shooting, that’s not the main objective when being a second. Your main objective as a second shooter is to help the lead.
Wait to post, and wait however long the lead prefers for you to. Personally I just ask that my seconds wait to post until after the delivery date of the images, but some leads prefer you to wait for as long as six months. Don’t be that person who goes against what the lead shooter wants you to do. Never tag the couple, don’t friend request them, don’t give them your contact information. It’s very bad etiquette and word gets around when a photographer breaks these guidelines. No matter how saturated with photographers your area is, it’s actually a small community and we all know each other in some way.
There’s a do and a don’t here. Do: capture some behind the scene photos of the lead working. These are seriously invaluable. I absolutely love when people who second for me do this, and I always try to do it for others when I second. The don’t here: don’t shoot behind the scenes for yourself. Don’t shoot anything with your phone, no quick video for reels or tiktok. Unless you have an incredible working relationship with the lead and you second shoot for them often and they have explicitly expressed that they’re ok with you doing this, just don’t.
Yes, I really have had a second do this. If you’ve ever attended a styled shoot then you know that you gotta get in there and speak up if you’re in a group with someone who is taking the lead. A wedding is not a styled shoot. Don’t treat it as such. Don’t talk over the lead. Don’t call out poses. If there’s time for it I will sometimes ask my second if they have any ideas or poses they’d like to try, but there’s not always time for that. And again, you aren’t there to lead so don’t be upset if you don’t get to suggest a pose.
If I notice something that might seem off to me I discreetly mention it to the lead. If I were to call out in front of the entire wedding party “Don’t you want the groomsmen’s hands facing this way towards the groom?” that would likely kill the vibe and it’s a way of sort of undermining the lead. The lead might not prefer the wedding party to be posed in that way, and that’s totally ok. If you see something that you think might need fixed, discreetly whisper it to the lead and ask. Don’t give the couple or the wedding party or anyone else in attendance the impression that you know better than the lead shooter.
This should be common sense right? Unfortunately, it does need to be said. Don’t take on a second shooting job and then refer yourself to people at the wedding. It’s just in bad taste.
I always ask a myriad of questions when I second shoot. Do you prefer me to shoot from this side during the ceremony? Do you want me to shoot family formals along with you or is it more helpful if I call out names? Do you have a preference on which lens I shoot with? Do you want me to shoot wide open? This all goes back to just being helpful. The answers you get will be different from one lead to the other and even from one wedding to another with the same lead, so just always ask.
This is such a problem among some photographers. I’ve actually had one person cancel on me and then use a different account to say they could second for a different date, and then cancel for that date as well. Never again will I try to hire that person. I’ve also had someone cancel after they had told me which location they were going to start shooting at (the reception in this case) and I responded that I actually needed them to be with me at the portrait location. They cancelled the next day, and I had to last minute find someone else. With that being said though, I do suggest not taking second shooting jobs too far out. I wouldn’t say yes to a second shooting job that’s six months from now because I could potentially book that date myself.
Now with all of this information go out there and be the absolute best second shooter there is.
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