Some professional wedding photographers have no problem handling a wedding on their own, but most prefer having a second shooter on location to help out in various ways. Maybe you’re a seasoned photographer who wants to try out wedding photography or maybe you’d like to dive head first into creating a wedding photography business. Whatever your reason, being a second shooter provides a rich learning experience, in which you can learn a lot about the industry while working beside someone else.

So what does it take to be a second shooter at a wedding? Here’s what you can expect when taking on the job of supporting photographer.

Photo of a bride and groom holding hands in a vintage car, photographed by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen

Dress for Success

Weddings typically have dress codes, but even if the one you’re shooting is a casual dress kind of affair, show up looking clean and put together. You’re a professional, after all, and are representing the main photographer and his/her business. Ask the primary what the dress code is and if he/she has any suggestions. If you’re not sure about an outfit, show it to the primary for a thumbs up or down and go from there.

Play the Supporting Role

Show up with a friendly attitude and do your part to make things easier for the main photographer. Always look to see where you can be of service, whether that means bringing a glass of water to the primary photographer or providing a bandage to the bride. It’s the little things that stick out in people’s minds. Even main photographers try and go out of their way to provide assistance, even if only in small ways. These things aren’t necessarily expected, but they are definitely appreciated and can result in stellar reviews and more jobs.

Photo of a canon camera lens for shooting a wedding

Prepare Your Gear

As a second shooter, we can assume that you know enough about photography and the different types of gear, but make sure you have the right gear for a wedding. If you’re not sure, ask the primary photographer what kind of lenses, filters, etc. are expected and suggested. Since you’ll likely be further away from the action, consider packing an extra focal length lens so you can capture ceremony and reception moments. And don’t forget little things like backup batteries, memory cards, tripods, and the like.

Related: Essential Wedding Photography Gear

Capture Candids

One of your most important jobs as a second shooter is capturing the moments that fall through the cracks - those moments the main photographer might not get to or notice. These include candid shots of the guests and wedded couple. Candid shots are a great way to round out a wedding album and are a welcomed addition to a photographer’s portfolio.

Related: How to Capture Candid Wedding Moments

Photo of a wedding ceremony from a birds eye view, photographed by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen

Add a Different Perspective

Another way to be a great second shooter at a wedding is to photograph moments from different angles than the main photographer. A different point of view adds creativity and is the whole point of being a second shooter. You’re not there to shadow or photograph exactly what the primary is shooting. Your job is to capture moments and details from a different perspective so that the couple gets a complete picture of their wedding day.

Photo of a bride and groom in a forest, photographed by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen

Final Thoughts

As mentioned above, you’re in a supporting role as the second shooter, so leave your ego at the door. Don’t pass out your own business cards or try and get the best shots. Make the main photographer’s job as easy as possible, hand out his or her business card should someone ask, navigate politely around guests, and don’t try and one-up the primary shooter. You’re not being hired to get more or better photos. If you go into the job with that understanding and an open mind that’s willing to learn and support, you’ll do just fine.

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